The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favor the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My friend David Rivkin has now co-authored an article with Lee Casey in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of keeping terrorist suspects locked up in Gitmo. My heart is with Rivkin and Casey, but my head tells me that Gates and Rice are probably right at this juncture.
On the merits, Rivkin and Casey have, to coin a term, a slam-dunk case. Terrorists captured on the battlefield can’t be treated with the niceties of normal criminal law. Even if there isn’t sufficient evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some terrorists are so dangerous that they need to be locked up anyway. And Gitmo is as good a place as any to keep them confined. It’s on a U.S. naval base but beyond the jurisdiction of domestic criminal law, and the facilities there are now as nice as any in a domestic prison.
The Pope says that hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more.” In a Lenten homily at a Roman parish on Monday, reports Richard Owen in the London Times, “Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to ‘admit blame and promise to sin no more,’ they risked ‘eternal damnation—the Inferno.’”
That the Pope believes in hell may not strike most people as surprising. But when was the last time you heard a senior Catholic churchman talk about it? The last Pope, John Paul II, was much influenced by the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was a universalist—that is to say, he believed that Christ’s salvation was universal. According to that view, if there is a hell, it is empty. In coming to this conclusion, Balthasar (whom John Paul II promoted to cardinal) was influenced by Edith Stein, the Jewish convert who became a Carmelite nun and was murdered at Auschwitz. She was later canonized by John Paul II as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Her view was that God’s love is so great that it embraces even the most obdurate sinner. As she perished in a man-made simulacrum of hell, a place of mass torment beyond anything conceived by the ancient or medieval imagination, Edith Stein’s words carry considerable weight.
The often percipient Andrew Sullivan was up too early when, at 6:15 yesterday morning, he posted an attack on my attack on Zbigniew Brzezinski’s attack on the “war against terror.” Sullivan said he found it “depressing that Josh retreats to anti-Carter arguments and ad hominem slurs instead of addressing the fiasco that neoconservatives have helped engineer in Iraq.”
As it happens, I have addressed that very subject. In the February issue of the Foreign Service Journal I wrote:
Bush has gotten himself and our nation into trouble in Iraq. For that, he and those of us who extolled his actions deserve to take our lumps. . . . But . . . that does not prove that Bush’s overall strategy of promoting democracy or his decision to treat terrorism as a matter of war rather than law enforcement were wrong.
Brzezinski’s article, however—and here’s where Andrew needs to rub the sleep from his eyes—was not about Iraq. It was about the war on terror. “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’: How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America” was its title. Whatever you think now about Iraq, the question Brzezinski posed was whether our problems with terrorists are essentially self-inflicted and exaggerated or whether there is a real and menacing enemy out there. Andrew has trumpeted his own reversal on Iraq. Does he also repudiate his support for the war on terror?