George W. Bush is not a man of God

George W. Bush is not a man of God…at least not my God. There is a possibility that he is devoted to some other God. I may even speculate about that as we move along.

I was away this week. I wasn’t near a radio or a television when George W. Bush admitted the “secret prisons” and the torture that took place there. I didn’t hear the press conferences and the speeches wherein he explained the tactical advantage that had been gained by by “waterboarding” detainees. I missed the assurances that this would end now that they were being transferred to the relative safety of Guantanamo, not that anything illegal or regrettable had been done, of course. This is good, because I likely would have broken the radio or TV.

When did America become a place wherein its chief executive could blithely acknowledge torture and there be no public outcry? Why did I hear two NPR correspondents chatting this morning about how President Bush used the admission to make a “bad news day” into a “good one”? How is this possible?

When I’ve talked with fellow Mormons about their support of George Bush, they have often cited his public religious stances. Recently, he came to Salt Lake City and cited God and religion in a speech to the American Legion in which he justified the record of his administration thus far. He is publically very religious, respectfully of differing paths to God, but proud of his own Christian tradition. He has spoken at Bob Jones University, a center of Christian bigotry, and he has met several times with the First Presidency of our church, whom I don’t believe that he believes are actually Christian. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that President Hinckley likes and respects him (although I may be wrong).

Thus, Bush cites Christ as a model. He publically tries to emulate him. He fails. He fails spectacularly. He fails to the degree that I am now wondering if he is conscious of Hitler’s advice regarding big lies.

I am utterly, utterly serious and I wish I wasn’t. I see absolutely nothing of Christ in Bush and very little of Christ’s influence in his rhetoric. I see an awful lot of Molech, the god of the Ammonites, who demanded the sacrifice of children for the maintenance of universal peace.

I believe that my God believes that human worth is inherent, that the loss of any human life is regrettable. Bush seems to believe that some people are worth less and therefore may be treated as inhuman, treated in ways that he would not treat his dog.

I believe that my God demands compassion, even for enemies, who are, after all, God’s children. Bush seems to believe that we should revel in the deaths of miscreants, miscreants created, in some cases, by our own government, but when they worked for us, of course, they were heroes.

My God demands that we act in humility, acknowledging his hand in all things. Bush seems to believe that he will single-handedly change the world for the better on his watch. I remember a scene a few years ago, when Bush was asked what his greatest mistake as a president was. He paused, chuckled, and then answered that he couldn’t think of anything. Most people so inclined thought that this was an act that revealed his hubris, an inability to acknowledge his errors. I disagree, I think that he is realistic enough to know his mistakes. I think that he just couldn’t figure out a way to plausibly admit a mistake, to maintain deniability so that his political ambitions would not be hurt. His need to save face is greater than his need to be Christian.

I know that NPR has a “liberal” reputation (as does this blog). I know that the correspondents I listened to could be misrepresenting the reasons behind Bush’s revelation. But is there any Christian justification for torture? Any appropriate response to the public revelation of torture on Bush’s watch, condoned by him, than apology and resignation? Any less appropriate response than to tout how well it worked?

Bush, from the beginning of the war of terror, has demanded death, both from his allies and his enemies. He condones torture; he condones the dehumanization of human beings. He asks us to sacrifice freedoms, but I don’t believe he has or ever will make a sacrifice that he hasn’t already calculated will be painless. He asks of us our children; He offers his control.

If the election of Bill Clinton represents the ultimate victory of the Communists, as I believe it does, Bush’s election represents a trend slightly more disturbing to me. Clinton represents those who value things only for their monetary worth. Compassionate programs are to be jettisoned if they fail to produce results in a scheduled timetable. We can only give if we expect a great return in the future. Giving just to give is now foolish, wasteful. We must calculate the gain and loss of every act of charity in order to determine the net result for our pocketbook and theirs. When compassion was commodified, Marx turned out to be right.

Furthering the process, we have the commodification of women and sex. The sex trade thrives in America; kidnapping and prostituting young women thrives throughout the world. I won’t blame an American president for this (although Clinton might be an appropriate stand-in), but it shows that when we only value items and people financially, we fail them. We no longer worship our God.

Bush seems to see the soldiers in these wars as just numbers and as such represents the commodification of life itself. When the decision to enter a war is based entirely on the likelihood (real or imagined) that the war will “pay for itself”, haven’t we simply turned people into numbers? Hasn’t their death become another ledger that simply requires balancing? Bush is the greatest of Marxists, as the people will be happy with an opiate of sure jobs at home and deaths overseas.

Certainly, despots should be ousted. I have no love for Saddam Hussein. But does anyone really believe that Bush’s sole concern was the suffering of the people in Iraq or the potential of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands? Don’t most people think oil might have been somewhat influential? Elections in Iraq were a wonderful step forward; were no-bid contracts for Halliburton necessary to attain them? The great good you do (or rather send others to do) that coincidentally fills your pockets (or the pockets of friends who will take care of you when you lose this gig) doesn’t seem like that great a good. Do we fight and kill now because the human losses involved mean financial gains?

I don’t wonder whether Bush sleeps well at night. Don’t we all assume he does? Does there seem to be even a trace of concern for the loss of the lives involved, US and Arab? The whole point of the war in Iraq is to have the killing take place there, not here. But he doesn’t seem that put out by the killing. Is this a man who can appeal to the “better angels of our nature”? A man who counts his accomplishments in the published photos of the men he has killed or captured?

If Bush worships a God, it isn’t mine. I will not vote for him in the upcoming election. I will not vote for anyone whom he endorses. I recognize that this may leave me without options regarding candidates, but I will manage.

That said, I am willing (deseparate, really) to be wrong. If you can convince me that Bush is Christian or that Bush is working for a God I believe in, I will let him off the hook. I just don’t see it right now. When I see him, I don’t see the light of Christ in his eyes, just the reflected flames of the fiery sacrifice he commands.

Comments

  1. JDC, thanks for the impassioned post. I’ve had similar feelings for years now; the only thing that changed recently is that Bush has finally acknowledged some — although not all — of what the best evidence has indicated we’ve been up to for quite some time.

    Of course, you realize that the two of us are, as the saying goes, “well outside the mainstream of American opinion.” Presumably, the 54% of Americans who disapprove of Bush’s job performance in the most recent Gallup poll are also outside the mainstream.

  2. Thanks for the support, JNS. We initials need to stick together.

    BTW, I do know that Bush can’t run for President again. I just meant that I wouldn’t support him for City Council or anything should he move to the greater Utah County area.

  3. Also, for the curious, here is a link to the NPR piece I heard.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Makes me wish I went by initials, too! Interesting stuff.

  5. The use of the word torture to describe water-boarding is both extreme and duplicitous. Until a few years ago, torture referred to acts that induced extreme physical pain. At some point, propagandists have been trying to stretch its meaning to include acts that induce panic. Then pseudo-intellectuals like you get to pretend to be principled by using this new, stretched meaning with the hope that it retains the same rhetorical force that it used to have when it referred to pulling people’s fingernails out.

    If this your God is willing to engage in this kind of duplicity (not to mention idiocy), then as far as I’m concerned He can shove it. I don’t care to worship Him, and I don’t care to have a president that does either.

  6. Steve Evans says:

    DKL, is that all you got here, man? A definitional quibble? C’mon. That strikes me as a minor kerfluffle in light of the larger post.

  7. DKL, perhaps a touch of duplicity is also at work when you say that water-boarding wasn’t called torture until recently. It was a favorite torture tactic of the South American dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, it was denounced as illegal torture by many within the international community — including the US government under Carter.

  8. DKL,
    My standard is whether I imagine George W. Bush would consider it torture if inflicted on US soldiers. Whether I would consider it torture if it was inflicted on me. I don’t know of any other criteria for defining torture that I would respect. I am however willing to listen to alternate labels.

    Also, focussing your argument on me is really missing the point, isn’t it?

  9. Don’t play games, Steve. Without J’s accusation that torture occurred, little is left of his critique but some milquetoast rambling about humility. The fact that he’s using the term torture in a trivial sense fatally undermines the basis of his righteous indignation as well as the moral significance of his purported God.

  10. Steve Evans says:

    …and I label it a minor kerfluffle because the question of what constitutes torture was resolved decades ago by the UNCAT in 1987 and the four Geneva Conventions. If the U.S. didn’t intend to stand by those documents, it shouldn’t have voted for them.

  11. DKL, I don’t understand your claim that waterboarding is trivial. John McCain — no torture novice or softie he — calls it “very exquisite torture.” See this story for more.

  12. DKL,
    Do you believe that God would endorse “waterboarding,” which, I admit, seems to me to be the most tortuous of the interrogation methods used by the US that I have heard described?

  13. Jonathan Green says:

    JDC, I think what you’re experiencing is best described here:

    http://dir.salon.com/story/comics/tomo/2003/02/10/tomo/index.html

  14. JG,
    I agree. The vein in my forehead began to throb when I heard those NPR idiots discussing the political ramifications of the admission.

  15. ‘Without J’s accusation that torture occurred, little is left of his critique but some milquetoast rambling about humility.”

    The use of human life as a commodity seems a significant charge to me.

  16. The CIA has prisons? Well lordy! More tax dollars! Wouldn’t it be more economical to interrogate their murderous detainees at the nearest coffee shop? And why all this costly drug-stuff? Sheesh! You can by a nice pair of pliers for less than ten bucks.

  17. HP/JDC: My standard is whether I imagine George W. Bush would consider it torture if inflicted on US soldiers.

    If George W. Bush had charged Saddam with torturing US Soldiers because he water-boarded them, liberals and Democrats would laugh it off as propaganda–and they’d be right.

    Whether it’s Dan Rather’s forged documents or the accusation that Bush was taking revenge on Wilson by “outting” his wife or the accusation that Bush lied about British intelligence about Saddam’s attempt to find Nuclear material in Niger, liberals always have an excuse: What Rather said about Bush was true, even if the evidence was fraudulent; it’s been shown that there was no malfeasance in Novak’s naming of Plume as a CIA agent, but Bush & Cheney are still misusing executive authority to threaten opponents; Bush may have been right that Saddam was trying to buy fissionable material, but he was still wrong about Saddam’s intent.

    Liberals come up with one conspiracy theory after another to prove that Bush is evil. Then, when the theories are exposed as false, they try to pretend that nothing happened, and still claim that he’s evil. This does not lead me to believe that the liberal opposition to Bush is generally principled or intelligent.

    Your misuse of the term torture fits this pattern perfectly. You’re inventing a reason to hate Bush, and when it’s questioned you try to pretend that your case still holds when it’s primary accusation has been undermined.

  18. Then pseudo-intellectuals like you

    DKL, that’s low man, and it’s wrong. Ol’ JDC is bona fide. I’m just sorry he lives on Orem; he must get ulcers.

    People should read the post and the article it links to over at headlife. It’s a very sensible discussion of torture. But Bush is more than torture, so let’s not get hung up on that. There’s much more rope.

  19. he lives on Orem

    Sic.

  20. DKL,
    I remain confused nor do I believe that you have significantly undermined my argument. I am perfectly willing to call any use of water-boarding evil, as I believe torture is just that. I did not invoke “liberal” or “conservative,” except to acknowledge that there may have been some bias in the snide manner in which the events were reported. You are assuming quite a bit about me.

    For that matter, I am willing to be unconvinced. If there is a compelling Christian argument for the use of waterboarding, I would love to hear it. Please, enlighten us.

  21. er…switch “nor do I believe” to “and I do not believe” and I think the first sentence up there will make sense

  22. “…I’m just sorry he lives [in] Orem…”

    Now *that’s* low.

  23. Here is an article (found at the headlife link Ronan gave) that talks about the restrictions by which interrogators try to abide. It is a fascinating read.

  24. On whether God would sanction water-boarding: You’re “God of Kindness” is more the Regent of Refuse than He is any deity depicted in the Bible. According to the scriptures, God’s capable of sanctioning things much worse than water-boarding; e.g., what happened to Job to test him was much worse than water-boarding.

  25. Brent Hartman says:

    The question:

    “Do you believe God would endorse waterboarding?”

    The answer:

    Not anymore than he would endorse chopping a man’s head off, or the chopping off of men’s arms.

  26. Hey, JDC, as you mentioned Moloch, let me introduce you to Bohemian Grove…

  27. DKL,
    Thank you for your response (and yes, I am laying it on thick).
    First, am I misreading you or are you saying that God isn’t interested in compassion? In that, I am including compassion towards one’s enemies.
    Second, I agree that there are situations in which God might use methods that I would find disturbing. For instance, the rules regarding “holy war” in the Bible could be read as an endorsement of the wholesale slaughter of non-combatants. In those situations, he tends to make it clear that the order is derived from Him, usually by speaking through his designated prophet and through personal revelation. I am unfamiliar with anything from the First Presidency that would constitute an endorsement of waterboarding or an irrevocable endorsement of Bush. I’ll admit that I haven’t prayed over the issue of waterboarding; perhaps I should give it a try. In any case, is your compelling argument that waterboarding is okay with God related to some sort of revelatory experience that heretofore you have not mentioned?

  28. Thanks for the link, Ronan and JDC. That’s an excellent article.

  29. Uh, guys, the UN Convention Against Torture can be found right here. It’s a quick read. It mentions water-boarding exactly as many times as the Bible mentions chocolate.

    It bars intentionally inflicted “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.” The suffering and pain of water-boarding was so severe, that CIA tested it on its own officers to see how well it worked. Some torture!

  30. DKL,
    Or does your compelling argument hinge on “It’s not that bad”? Do you expect waterboarding to become a kind of ride at Six Flags?

  31. JDC: “My standard is whether I imagine George W. Bush would consider it torture if inflicted on US soldiers. Whether I would consider it torture if it was inflicted on me.”

    Do you think your standard should include some consideration of the culpability of the person being interrogated?

    If we take it out of the realm of war and think in terms of criminal punishment for a moment, I know that I would consider it unjust to be jailed if I never did anything wrong, but I consider it just to lock up a criminal. I consider it unjust when an innocent person is put to death, but I don’t consider it unjust when a mass murderer is executed.

    I tend to think something like this should apply when we talk about what is done to detainees. Your standard above says you consider it torture based on how you would feel if it was done to you. If I was one of these people who devoted my life to killing unsuspecting innocent people in horrendous ways, strapping bombs filled with nails onto women and sending them into crowded busses to blow the passengers up, I would think I had it coming to me. Don’t you think the culpability of the detainee plays into the moral calculus? It seems to me that God does.

  32. Secret Prisons + George Bush = Evil

    Cutting off arms + Ammon = Evil?

    Slaying Israelite idolaters + Moses = Evil?

    Rethink your arithmetic guys.

  33. Jacob,

    A “detainee,” unless he has been tried for a crime and proven guilty, does not yet have anything “coming to [him]” and is not yet “culpable.”

    Oh, I know, it’s a real pain in the arse to have all this namby-pamby, innocent-til-proven-guilty, don’t torture the terrorist crap, but it’s the way we do things in the enlightened west, and I for one think it should stay that way. It’s in Saudi Arabia that they arrest you, torture you, then find you guilty.

  34. Mr./Ms. Amused,

    Not roughing up terrorists = liberal hogwash?

    Turning the other cheek = liberal hogwash?

    Doing good to your enemy = liberal hogwash?

    Oh, the contradictions!

  35. A man’s words spoken in supposed privacy betray him.

    GWB, one year before Iraq was invaded: “F**k Saddam. We’re taking him out.”

    GWB, ten months before the invasion: “I intend to kick [Saddam's] sorry motherf***ing a** all over the Mideast.”

    GWB, on the 2000 campaign trail: “There’s Adam Clymer, major league a******e from the New York Times.”

    Conversation between lobbyist and then-Texas Governor GWB:

    Lobbyist : “You know, Governor, I represent a dear friend of yours from West Texas, a gentleman by the name of Bobby Holt.”

    GWB : “Is that right?”

    Lobbyist : “Yes. In fact, we’re discussing something that is near and dear to Bobby Holt’s heart, and that is the law of joint and several liability.”

    GWB : “You know, Mike, I’ve known Bobby Holt all my life. Grew up with Bobby Holt. One of my warmest, closest personal friends. F**k Bobby Holt.”

    GWB to Tony Blair in 2006: “See the irony [irony???] is what [the UN] need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s**t and it’s over.”

    Now, I know words like this are in today’s culture widespread and not very shocking.

    My point, however, is that someone who speaks like this in “private” is most certainly not a man of Christ. And if such a man pretends to be in public, that also makes him a hypocrite.

  36. Ronan,

    Are you responding to my comment, or just imagining what you think my point is and arguing against the thing you imagined? Your sarcastic tone seems entirely unjustified as a response to my theoretical question about whether culpability should play into our ideas what is considered torture.

    I said that if I was a certain kind of evil person, I would feel I had it coming to me, which would make me view JDC’s standard in a different way than he seems to think it will apply. I didn’t say we should torture people and prove them guilty later. Please.

  37. Ronan: “A ‘detainee,’ unless he has been tried for a crime and proven guilty, does not yet have anything ‘coming to [him]‘ and is not yet ‘culpable.'”

    Must I point out the obvious fact that guilty people are culpable whether or not we know it or can prove it? The statement above is uncharacteristically sloppy.

  38. Jacob,

    W brings out the worse in me. I apologise.

    my theoretical question about whether culpability should play into our ideas what is considered torture

    Not in this sense: we cannot know (in any way that is satisfying to western legal ethics) of someone’s culpability until we have tried them. So, no.

    I said that if I was a certain kind of evil person, I would feel I had it coming to me.

    Except the average jihadi doesn’t consider himself to be evil.

  39. Ronan, “turn the other cheek” is mostly hogwash. It works in avoiding the kind of revenge mentality that fuels (say) the plot/conflict of Aeschylus’s Oresteia. But you can’t very well use it to apply to any activity of moral significance that impacts anyone but ourselves. You seem to envision something like this, “When someone compels you to walk a mile, walk two. When someone tries murders your first child, offer him your second one also.”

    Some people want to say that Jesus is limiting his admonitions to the sphere of personal behavior toward purely personal offenses. But what he’s really advocating is the notion that if we have enough faith, worldly consequences do not matter; God will take care of everything for us. This is a terrible philosophy.

    Interpretational issues aside: Christ’s admonitions are manifestly unworkable in any moral system that conceives of individuals as responsibility for others’ well-being.

  40. Jacob, you’re the sloppy one. “Guilty” refers to a person who has been tried and found guilty. Someone who has committed a crime but is not found guilty is not, in fact, guilty. They may have some moral guilt, but no legal guilt. That’s the distinction that is critical to remember here — or are you suggesting that legal guilt is somehow irrelevant to questions of torture? You “didn’t say that we should torture people and prove them guilty later,” but you are trying to redefine guilt to refer to something other than a legal standard — which has the same effect.

  41. Eric Russell says:

    Ronan #34, here’s one more for you,

    Anyone who disagrees with liberals = unchristlike?

    HP/JDC,

    I found the following line extremely difficult to believe; indeed, given your tone, I don’t believe it at all.

    “That said, I am willing (deseparate, really) to be wrong.”

  42. Oh, I agree, DKL, that “turn the other cheek” is totally unworkable. But I also do not think that slaughtering idolaters (assuming the historicity of that account) is a good way for society to operate.

  43. Steve Evans,

    If you can’t tell that I am referring to moral guilt and not legal guilt then it is your desire to find fault in my comment and not my sloppiness. Why is this thread so heated? Seriously folks, I was just interested in discussing an interesting question, but it seems everyone has knives drawn.

  44. Anyone who disagrees with liberals = unchristlike?

    Er, yeah! :)

  45. “I’m not defensive! You’re the one who’s being defensive!”

    Jacob, you talked about Ronan being sloppy — I was pointing out that you had something of mr. pot/kettle thing going on. And yes, I could not tell that you were referring to moral guilt — in fact, so far in your comments you refer to them almost inseparably, so I have a hard time following you or answering your question.

  46. I just can’t see things as so black-and-white.

    George Bush isn’t evil. I don’t admire him, but I don’t think he is entirely motivated by greed or hatred or powermongering or whatever. I certainly don’t envy him. I don’t know what I would do differently if I had his job, but the President must protect the country against hateful, violent agressors and that’s not a pretty business. It often requires violence, which, as we all know, is sometimes justified. I’m not at all confident in my ability to determine what God thinks of many wartime actions.

    And Orem is a wonderful, beautiful city and JDC should be envied, not pitied, for living there.

  47. Ronan: “Except the average jihadi doesn’t consider himself to be evil.”

    The standard suggested by JDC for torture (which spurred my comment) was whether he would consider it to be torture if it were done to _him_. If I believe incarceration is a just punishment for murderers, must I abandon this attitude if the murderer doesn’t consider himself to be evil? I don’t much care what evil people think of themselves (at least it doesn’t play into my own moral calculus).

  48. I disagree with most policies of Bush 43 (particularly the war and his “my way or the highway” foreign policy); his personality also rubs me the wrong way. It alarms me that so many of my co-religionists think he is a man of God.

  49. I agree that Bush is evil and not a man of God. Unless we stand for something, for what’s right, then why even fight? Is our goal only that one set of thugs should win out over another set? I have no such aims. Any side that embraces torture is not a side I am on.

  50. Jacob,

    I think if JDC was tortured, either because he was actually a terrorist or because he was accidentally picked up in Syria whilst on a dig, having grown his beard and wearing a ghalibeya, he would still consider it to be torture.

  51. Eric Russell says:

    HP/JDC, it comes down to this. If you believe that conducting a noninvasive, non-damaging psychological technique on known murderers and conspirators in order to save the lives dozens, hundreds, possibly thousands of other people is morally wrong, then you have some interesting ethical theories. And that’s fine.

    But to assume that your very strange ethical theories are everyone else’s ethics, to assume that your interpretation of what is morally right is also Christ’s, and then to condemn others for not believing as you do, and thus imply that those who do not believe as you do are not followers of Christ, well, I think that’s the most unchristlike thing I’ve heard all day.

  52. Ronan (#50),

    Ok, very interesting. I wouldn’t want to be tortured either way (because I don’t like pain or discomfort), but I would certainly feel differently about the two cases. As I said, if I were a terrorist I would feel I had it coming. Nevertheless, I am glad to understand your position, thanks.

  53. DKL, long-standing international interpretation of the UN Convention on Torture and other relevant international law considers waterboarding to be a form of inducing severe mental suffering — so torture. The counterargument that waterboarding isn’t torture is the recent novelty, not the definition that considers it a form of torture.

  54. Tom,

    I’m sure Orem is a fine place, where the sun always shines, the cows happily moo, and the girl always gets her man. I imagine Pleasantville in my mind.

  55. Eric, a large number of the detainees at the Guantanamo prison are not known murderers or conspirators — they’re known to be basically innocent. Torture techniques aren’t known to produce reliable information that saves lives — but they are known to produce a lot of false information. These are important ideas to keep in mind.

  56. JNS,

    Ditto. Eric, you cannot be a “known” anything under law (and that’s all we got, man) until you have been tried. Which is why torture is so reprehensible and, well, un-American. And water boarding sounds like torture to me.

  57. Eric Russell says:

    JNS, Ronan, so the U.S. military is systematically harassing random Arabs just for kicks? If that were true, that would be very sobering information indeed.

  58. Nope. I suspect that the majority of them are in fact jihadis. But that is not, and can never be, the point.

  59. There have been a few comments about the Savior’s Gospel not working in all instances. The Savior’s gospel works in all instances. Jesus’s teachings to turn the other cheek were obviously not intended for all circumstances as shown by followers of Christ such as Captain Moroni and all the Christlike generals in the scriptures. When do you turn the other cheek? Or when do you go to war? How do you handle any crisis? You use the Gift of the Holy Ghost to discover the Lord’s will. In some instances the Lord will tell you to turn the other cheek. In other instances the Lord will tell you to defend yourself.

  60. (A little off-topic)

    Jonjon (#35) says:

    Now, I know words like this are in today’s culture widespread and not very shocking.

    My point, however, is that someone who speaks like this in “private” is most certainly not a man of Christ. And if such a man pretends to be in public, that also makes him a hypocrite.

    I have to disagree with this statement. I find it troublesome to claim that because someone uses foul language (which I HATE, don’t get me wrong), then that person cannot possibly be a man of Christ. It’s like saying that because someone wears sleeveless shirts or co-habits or drinks coffee, that person is definitely NOT Christian. That is a narrow, prideful way of looking at others’ actions.

  61. Holy macaroni!

    What kind of insufferable moralization is this that has caused us to be shocked to our foundations at learning that relatively mild forms of coercion have been used to extract vital life-saving information from murderers or those who support murderous terrorist cells?

  62. Ok. First of all, please stop putting words in my mouth. I said that torture was evil; I never said that Bush was. It may be not be much of a leap for me for you to see me saying that, but it is a leap I did not make and did not intend. Bush is attempting to do what is right, which doesn’t make him evil in my book. I think the source he is turning to for advice ain’t Christ, but there is that.

    To all those who are judging me unChristlike for saying that Christ would not condone torture, please give me a compelling argument that there is a good Christian justification for it and I will go with you. Really.

    To Eric Russell, who peers unblinkingly into the dark recesses of my soul, you, like DKL before you, don’t know me. I have no great desire to think that the leader of our great nation is a hypocrite or someone who casually orders the torture of detainees. It is repulsive to me and bad for the country. I would love to be wrong about this (ask Ronan, before whom I have defended Bush in the past). Please refrain from telling me my own mind. You don’t know it. Oh and I am careful to acknowledge that we are dealing with a battle of my interpretation of God vrs my interpretation of Bush’s interpretation of his God. So, please refrain from further straw men.

    Jacob,
    Even if guilty, I don’t think we should torture people. Even if they “deserve” it, I don’t think we should torture people. It is a line in the sand, I admit, but not one I believe we should have crossed, and certainly not one our President should be bragging about. As to my definition, if it helps, I wouldn’t consider sleep deprivation or the good cop/bad cop routine torture. I might not consider implied threats torture. Waterboarding is not an implied threat; there is the real risk of drowning someone if the interrogator’s calculations are wrong. It would be a horrible way to go. We rule out “cruel and unusual” punishments for our criminals for this very reason.

    Jack,
    now that I understand where you are coming from, I ask, Are you saying that the fact that we could be chopping off their fingers but aren’t means that we are morally justified to do lesser tortures? I don’t find that particular argument convincing.

    All,
    I am generally pro-Orem. Please don’t let Ronan’s hopelessly European preferences stain me also.

    Once again, it is waterboarding, which I consider a form of torture (and which is widely recognized as such), that is the central issue here. Well, that and a president who brags about using it.

  63. From the very beginning this struck me as a really weird post. The assumptions just seem a bit weird.

    Who is an example of contemporary man of God that you want as president?

    What policy should a man of God president have towards terrorists?

  64. #60

    Keryn, I think you need to go back and consider the context of some of the quotes. It’s not just that GWB is using foul language. Look how he uses the foul language to refer to others who he disagrees with or who are his enemies. Christ-like behavior this is not.

  65. JDC,

    I’m sorry that you are getting the usual conservative treatment when rightfully criticizing Bush and his policies. This is what us more moderate and liberal folk have been dealing with from the start.

    Anyways, in regards to torture, DKL, you may bring up all the times in the Old Testament where the Lord has commanded the Israelites to completely destroy all living life in Canaan, or in the Book of Mormon where Ammon chops off the arms of the sheep thieves, but using those to justify torture is misleading, incorrect, false, a bad analogy, and using two scenarios that have nothing to do with one another.

    Moreover, I would guide to you what the church has said about torture, here.

    The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances,” said church spokesman Dale Bills. “The church has not taken a position on any proposed legislative or administrative actions regarding torture.”

    The church took it one step further, and not talked just about torture, but also included “inhumane treatment.” My guess, just taking a shot in the dark, but “waterboarding” would probably be considered “inhumane” by most civilized standards. I think the church’s stance is as follows: “If you yourself don’t want to be waterboarded, why would you do it to others?” And it seems a pretty good policy. After all, didn’t the Savior say something to the effect of: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

    Furthermore, the church left no loophole open. “under any circumstances” would pretty much cover everything, including the ticking-time bomb scenario incorrectly used as a justification for general torture policy.

    If we are truly fighting for freedom and the liberties our fine nation stands for, then why are we lowering those standards in the fight? Is that not undermining the very reasons we are fighting?

  66. danithew,
    I have no idea what man of God would run for political office in the US. We all seem to agree that the process weeds out the genuinely good people early on. That said, I would like a president that couches his rhetoric in overtly religious terms to not torture people. Otherwise, what is it exactly that separates us from Iran (ideologically, that is).

    I tried to answer both questions with the above. But to reiterate, I believe that a genuine man of God should not ever condone torture, even on a terrorist. If it happens, which is conceivable, I certainly do not expect him to brag about it in speeches thereafter, using it to score political points.

  67. When do you turn the other cheek? Or when do you go to war? How do you handle any crisis?

    Actually, the Lord gave permission to go to war in a defensive position to protect family, country, religion, etc.

    Alma 43: 46
    46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.

    To all those who are judging me unChristlike for saying that Christ would not condone torture, please give me a compelling argument that there is a good Christian justification for it and I will go with you. Really.

    Let me say that I’m not thrilled about torture we have learned about or seen in the past, but I’m not sure we can necessarily and neatly dismiss Bush’s choices as patently ungodly. God is not always one to be nice to everyone. Sometimes tough decisions are made and violence is justified. Whether this applies to torture per se is open, of course. For example, note the above scripture and the following as possible examples of scriptural justification of violence:

    D&C 98
    31 Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.
    32 Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.
    (This section also gives more specifics about when war is justified, but I’m focusing on addressing the question above.)

    1 Ne. 4: 13
    13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.

    Alma 30: 47.
    47 But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; therefore if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee…. (May or may not apply. I’m interested in times when the Lord has justified harming or cursing or killing someone to protect others.)

    1 Ne. 17: 37 (33-38).
    37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.

    etc.

    I’m not saying I am convinced that what is happening is good. But I do think it’s important to realize that the Lord isn’t always all red, turned cheeks and compassion. Anyone who reads the OT will know that, and the BOM also testifies of this as well.

    If you were Bush, what would you do? I would like to hear someone go beyond attacking him and suggest solutions that would also keep safety and well-being and protecting of truly-innocents (morally and legally) in mind. I’m not sure turn-the-other-cheek compassion for the enemy is always the right answer scripturally. So why do we expect that it would always be so in our day?

  68. I agree that the political process pretty much weeds out those who would be man of God presidents. Or perhaps they never choose to run in the first place.

    Couching political rhetoric in religious terminology is the least of the sins committed by Iran’s Islamic fanatic government.

    George Bush using religious rhetoric in speeches does not turn the United States into a de facto mullahcracy akin to Iran.

  69. mullingandmusing,

    #67: you say,

    Whether this applies to torture per se is open, of course. For example, note the above scripture and the following as possible examples of scriptural justification of violence:

    The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstance.” Is it inhumane to kill someone who wants to kill your family? I think that one is pretty clearly answered by the scriptures you quoted. It is okay to take the life of someone intent on taking your life.

    But, what happens when that person has surrendered and is now in your custody? Is he capable of killing you or your family while he is in your custody? Would then any kind of inhumane treatment be justified on that person? The church seems to say quite clearly, no. You might be worried though about one of his accomplices with some ticking time bomb ready to kill you and your family. Should you torture the person you have in your custody in order to get information on the plot? The church seems to say quite clearly, no.

    Besides, studies and reports have shown that information garnered from a man tortured tends to not be reliable. After all if you are in excrutiating pain, wouldn’t you tell your captors and torturers anything they want to hear? If you are simulated to drown to death (waterboarding), would you not say anything to make it stop? How can you even trust the information is correct?

    Most of the time when “tough tactics” are used against a detainee, they are based on a preconceived notion (ticking time bomb), that the captor believes the detainee knows something about, when it could turn out that this particular detainee has no clue about it at all. How would you know this if you torture the man and he yells out what you want to hear?

    I am actually ashamed that my country, the United States of America, the “light on a hill” to other countries, is actually discussing legalizing “inhumane treatment.” I thought we were above that.

  70. #67:

    you also ask:

    If you were Bush, what would you do? I would like to hear someone go beyond attacking him and suggest solutions that would also keep safety and well-being and protecting of truly-innocents (morally and legally) in mind. I’m not sure turn-the-other-cheek compassion for the enemy is always the right answer scripturally. So why do we expect that it would always be so in our day?

    The first thing I would do is never lower my standards, irregardless of how low standards my enemy has. Who cares if my enemy chooses to use terrorism to hit me. Why should I lower myself, not necessarily to his standard, but anything below mine. None of us would lower our religious standards, say to take a sip of alcohol, for anyone. Why lower our moral standards?

    The best thing America could have done after 9/11 was to put all the money and effort that was diverted into Iraq, put that all in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is America’s greatest failure of the new century, far worse than Iraq, because in Afghanistan, we had the support of the entire world. We could have done anything there. If we asked the world for full assistance, we would have had it.

    Put all 150,000 Americans we sent into Iraq, into Afghanistan instead. Completely purge Afghanistan of the evil that has infected that poor country since 1981. Most Afghans alive today have never seen a world of peace. They have seen war for the last 25 years of their lives. Take out Bin Laden. The fact that he is still alive and taunting the United States FIVE YEARS after he attacked us is reprehensible to our leaders. He’s a CAVE DWELLER! How can he escape the mightiest military in the history of the world!

    Pour all our money into Afghanistan and turn that country around. Not only will this show the world that we mean business, and that if someone were to attack us, we would completely wipe them out, but it would be the example of what we want the Middle East to look like.

    Forget about Saddam. Those who wanted to go into Iraq missed the bigger picture. The irony is amazing. By taking Saddam out, America took out the only thing that kept Iran at bay. Now, by removing Saddam and failing in replacing Saddam’s Baath regime with a stable government, America has handed Iraq to Iran on a silver platter. Leave Saddam be. Let him rot in his palaces.

    Focus on Afghanistan. Remember the bigger picture. Iran is our main threat in the Middle East. By keeping the rock in Iraq, and creating a hammer in Afghanistan, you corner Iran far better than by taking both Iraq and Afghanistan out and failing to create stable governments in both countries. Now, Iran, a stable government, has strong influence in both countries, rather than the other way around.

    Moreover, a stable and flourishing Afghanistan would be good news for Pakistan and the troubles Pakistanis (especially those tribes that hate Musharraf) have against the West. They’ll finally see that America is not quite as bad as Bin Laden purports them to be. Right now they trust Bin Laden and give him sanctuary in Pakistan. Furthermore, they also agree with the Taliban and give them and Omar sanctuary too, over in Pakistan, our bestest buddy in the war on terror. Oh the ironies! A repressive dictatorship with nuclear weapons that has no control over a region that protects and shelters both the Taliban and Bin Laden, and they are our best ally on the war on terror. If it wasn’t tragically bad, I’d laugh at the irony.

    But that’s what I would have advised the president to do, (and what I’ve advised on my blog).

  71. For mullingandmusing, I’ve come to believe that this is the relevant scripture here:

    Matthew 24:24.

    “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that (if it were possible) they shall deceive the very elect.”

    And I do mean that the many church members who still trust and support Bush are the elect who are deceived, and Bush is the false prophet. He has certainly wrapped himself in a cloak of religion to deceive. Dan in #70 has done a very good job of answering what Bush could have done differently.

  72. m&m,
    I think that it is pretty clear that God will occasionally condone war or capital punishment. I don’t know that he has ever condoned torture nor can my finite mind conceive of a situation in which he would. Even when God condones war or a killing, as I stated before, such things come through the relevant prophet and will be confirmed by personal revelation. I do not believe either standard has been met for me personally, although I am willing to allow others their own revelation.

    danithew,
    I too believe that the crimes of Iran are not limited to religious rhetoric. I believe that they routinely torture, detain, and kill people in ways that we find deplorable and which would be illegal here. If we torture people, we are on a slippery slope that has places like Iran at the lower end. That was my point.

  73. George Bush has never claimed to be Jesus Christ or a prophet. I don’t know any Mormons who claim to believe that he is either. To be a false prophet, you have to claim to be a prophet. By the way, if an American president were to claim to be a prophet, that is exactly the sort of thing that would play into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists … since they believe that Muhammad is the seal of the prophets and that there can be no prophet after Muhammad.

    I’m sure there are Mormons who think George Bush is some kind of instrument in God’s hands for these times. But there is a significant difference between that sort of perspective and believing that George Bush is a prophet.

    I’m sorry Paula, but a Mormon casting a vote for Bush did not fulfill negative or positive Biblical prophecies. I just don’t buy it.

    Hatred for Bush seems to make a lot of liberals lose their minds — they turn hysterical and begin to claim all kinds of outrageous things. Hating Bush is probably just as fine and acceptable (in the arena of American politics) as supporting him. But don’t lose your reason in the process.

  74. “Hatred for Bush seems to make a lot of liberals lose their minds — they turn hysterical and begin to claim all kinds of outrageous things. Hating Bush is probably just as fine and acceptable (in the arena of American politics) as supporting him. But don’t lose your reason in the process.”

    Although I am not sure if this is directed at me, I feel a need to address it. I do not hate Bush (although I can easily see you getting that from my over-the-top post). I think that he tries to do right. But I don’t think he does right. And, with the torture thing, I don’t think he is a very good Christian.

    I knew a woman once who responded to Bush in a manner that made me think he knew here personally and had come over and slapped her mother or something. She passionately hated him, refusing to use his name without adding an expletive or two. I am not her.

  75. Dan: “Leave Saddam be. Let him rot in his palaces.”

    You might as well accept the reality of the American invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam’s government. Please, stop moaning about foreign-policy decisions that have already been executed.

    Saddam being overthrown and apprehended is one of the few positive things that has happened in the Middle East in the past fourteen centuries. It’s something to celebrate.

  76. danithew,

    #73,

    I dislike Bush and abhor his policies, and will do what I can to get him fired from his job. His policies are destroying my country.

    That said, please read my #70 post and show me where I’ve said anything “hysterical and begin to claim all kinds of outrageous things.”

  77. Dan,
    be fair. danithew was addressing me (and paula) with that. After all, I did accuse Bush of worshipping Moloch. If that isn’t hysterical, I don’t know what is.

  78. Eric Russell says:

    “I wouldn’t consider sleep deprivation or the good cop/bad cop routine torture”

    Why not? It can be pretty mean. It’s not very christ-like. It’s not turning the other cheek. I don’t suppose the ones being interrogated enjoy it very much. Certainly no one who engages in such techniques can be good Christians.

  79. #75:

    Handing control of Iraq to Iran is NOT “one of the few positive things that has happened in the Middle East in the past fourteen centuries.”

    As this report shows, our actions in Iraq has only strengthened Iran.

    “There is little doubt that Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the War on Terror in the Middle East.”

    “The United States, with coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments – the Taleban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 – but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures.

    Furthermore, my #70 was in response to a question of what I would have done if I were Bush. That is what I would have recommended he do.

    What would I recommend Bush do right now if I were his adviser? Quit his job, go to the justice department and turn himself in for violating the Constitution and the War Crimes Act of 1996.

  80. JDC

    #77:

    my apologies, my comments are strongly against Bush, so I assumed he was talking about me.

  81. HP/JDC: “Now that I understand where you are coming from, I ask, Are you saying that the fact that we could be chopping off their fingers but aren’t means that we are morally justified to do lesser tortures? I don’t find that particular argument convincing.”

    On rare occasions I have swatted my children for such reasons as seemed (imo) to merit such action against them. (running out into the street and what-not) While I am loath to admit that I am doubtful as to being morally justified in meeting out such judgement in every instance, you can sure as hell guess that if I had horse-whipped them until they bled that my actions most definitely would not have been justified in any one of those instances. Not one.

    This, to me, implies an obvious moral division–the former being justified at times while the latter is always reprehensible–even though the two differ ostensibly only in degree. (and before anyone cries “strawman!” Let me add that my father was horse-whipped by his father until he bled)

    I happen to think the term “torture” to be somewhat misplaced in this debate. We’ve become so soft in our ethics that even those who oppose the death penalty are likely to believe that a death sentence is more appropriate a fate for terrorists than the “questionable” milder forms of coercion employed by their interrogators.

    I don’t believe Capt. Moroni was out of place when he threatened his foes with extinction in the fiercest of language (without the “f” word I assume–he being one of the few to whom the jaws of hell were shut) causing no small amount of psychological stress on the part of his enemies–so much so, that many caved and threw down their weapons. And those who were more resistent to Moroni’s words he simply killed until they caved as well.

    Our tactics are milktoast by comparison.

  82. Jack,
    “I happen to think the term “torture” to be somewhat misplaced in this debate. We’ve become so soft in our ethics that even those who oppose the death penalty are likely to believe that a death sentence is more appropriate a fate for terrorists than the “questionable” milder forms of coercion employed by their interrogators.”

    I don’t know. I do sometimes think that death is better than torture, when death can be quick. That said, if I ever were a “torturee,” I can easily imagine going both ways on the issue.

    Regarding Captain Moroni, I had him in mind when writing this. I can see him giving detainees a dressing down and I can see him looking to score psychological trauma. I just can’t see him waterboarding anyone (although, obviously, I could be wrong).

    Since we seem to be disagreeing over whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture, we may have to agree to disagree as, hopefully, neither one of us will ever endure it and produce firsthand evidence.

  83. Without a doubt Iran exercises significant influence in Iraq, particularly among the Shi’a population. However, to say we have wholly handed control of Iraq over to Iran is a major exaggeration.

  84. Eric,
    Frankly, I don’t mind them because there is little to no risk of people dying while being subjecting to sleep dep or good cop/bad cop. I do not believe this to be the case regarding waterboarding. So no, I don’t feel like I am using a double standard.

  85. In a further development, I would like point out that I am not Tom Cruise and you are not Jack Nicholson, so please stop telling me that I can’t handle the truth.

  86. In another further development, I may be wrong about the possibility of drowning from “modern” waterboarding techniques (I had “medieval” techniques in mind). Here is the wikipedia article on the subject. As it is, I am not sure how I feel about it. If you can’t breathe, does it matter that water won’t actually get into your lungs?

  87. I could entertain doubts that Captain Moroni would have pulled anyone’s fingernails. But I can easily imagine him depriving Lamanite prisoners of sleep if he thought it would be a useful way to get information that he needed.

    Don’t forget that Moroni forced Lamanite prisoners to build his fortifications. This was serious manual labor.

    I wonder how we could apply that sort of policy to al-Qaeda prisoners.

  88. Manual labor is one thing. Making one feel like he is dying to lean information out of him is another. One is not inhumane and the other is. I have no problem if you put al-Qaeda prisoners on a chain gang. Let them sweat it out. I have no problem. That is actually productive. But with the fact that the information gleaned from torture is unreliable, what’s the point of using torture?

  89. Dan,
    Thanks for your thoughts in response to mine. Again, my scriptural citations were more in direct response to the question I quoted. I think the Church’s statement is a pretty good standard by which to judge the issue of torture.

    That said, I still would like to ask you what someone asked above:

    What policy should a man of God president have towards terrorists?

  90. Danithew, (#73), isn’t your answer about what you would say if you were deceived?

  91. mullingandmusing,

    #89,

    I agree that the church’s official stance on torture and inhumane treatment is the standard we should go by today, and what a “man of God president” should go by.

    The question is this:

    What policy should a man of God president have towards terrorists?

    The first thing to realize is that these men we label “terrorists” are first and foremost human beings, sons and daughters of God, who chose out of their own free will to come to earth and follow God’s plan. They may have chosen despicable acts here in this life (and we’ll get to that) but they are still here because they chose to follow God.

    The moment we begin to dehumanize a group of people with inhuman labels is the moment we make it easier to justify killing other human beings. Nazis had no problem justifying in their minds killing Jews because they saw Jews as cockroaches and animals. Few have an abhorrence to killing cockroaches and animals. The Hutus called Tutsis cockroaches also in Rwanda, and that led to the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis. Muslim extremists like Bin Laden call westerners infidels, a Muslim label that does the same thing, makes it easier to justify killing someone.

    I fear that if Americans keep going down the road of calling all their enemies terrorists, they will find it easy to go and kill anyone named a terrorist.

    The problem with such labels is that such labels always oversimplify a complex situation or group. And in regards to terrorism, history has shown that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. At what point is the line drawn? Is it okay for America to have used the precursors to the Taliban to fight against the Soviets? Some would argue that we were fighting a greater enemy, so some leeway was needed in our morals and standards. After all, America supported Saddam’s war of aggression against Iran, because in America’s eyes, the bigger danger was Iran. It was okay for America to turn a blind eye when Saddam gassed Kurds and Iranians in the 1980s, because in America’s eyes, Saddam was fighting against a greater evil. Was that right?

    Is it right for America to back the Uzbekh dictator who last year killed almost 1000 protesters in his country, where the United States had a military base? Is that not a terrorist?

    The problem right now with the word “terrorist” is that it is ill defined. This vagueness works well for those who advocate war, because you can, with ease, slap that label on anyone you dislike. Plus you can alter history so that your terrorist back in the 1980s wasn’t really a terrorist because he was fighting for you. But those he was killing still see him as a terrorist.

    A man of God would treat all his enemies the way he would want to be treated by them. Basically said, if I don’t mind being killed if I don’t want to stop my fight against my enemy (such as the Lamanites who did not agree with Captain Moroni’s demand), then that’s the standard I would use on my enemies. I personally do not want to be tortured, plain and simple. I would rather die. There are extreme negative psychological effects on a human being who is tortured, not to mention that if I’m tortured, I’m going to tell my enemy exactly what he wants to hear (very unreliable information).

    A man of God will do what he can to achieve peace, not victory, with his enemy. Captain Moroni never invaded Lamanite country. In his entire war against the Lamanites covered in chapters 46-62 of Alma, all the fighting took place in Nephite territory, which when analyzed gives the impression that Moroni’s intents were simply to defend his home country, and not defeat his enemy, merely driving his enemy back to his land. Notice that no righteous Nephite ever invaded Lamanite lands.

    A man of God will try and work hard with moderates in his enemy’s country, men who, though imperfect in their views and previous statements, prefer their country to be at peace with mine. So what Mit Romney did to rebuff Khatami by not offering him any assistance for his visit to Harvard is quite childish, and if an example of Romney’s foreign policy, will mean Romney will not only not get my vote, but will have me actively against him for president. A man of God will vie for peace at all times while defending his country.

    A man of God will let his enemy come to him, and not go on the offensive. This is evidenced in the Book of Mormon when the people under Gidgiddoni in What policy should a man of God president have towards terrorists?

    The first thing to realize is that these men we label “terrorists” are first and foremost human beings, sons and daughters of God, who chose out of their own free will to come to earth and follow God’s plan. They may have chosen despicable acts here in this life (and we’ll get to that) but they are still here because they chose to follow God.

    The moment we begin to dehumanize a group of people with inhuman labels is the moment we make it easier to justify killing other human beings. Nazis had no problem justifying in their minds killing Jews because they saw Jews as cockroaches and animals. Few have an abhorrence to killing cockroaches and animals. The Hutus called Tutsis cockroaches also in Rwanda, and that led to the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans, both Hutus and Tutsis. Muslim extremists like Bin Laden call westerners infidels, a Muslim label that does the same thing, makes it easier to justify killing someone.

    I fear that if Americans keep going down the road of calling all their enemies terrorists, they will find it easy to go and kill anyone named a terrorist.

    The problem with such labels is that such labels always oversimplify a complex situation or group. And in regards to terrorism, history has shown that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. At what point is the line drawn? Is it okay for America to have used the precursors to the Taliban to fight against the Soviets? Some would argue that we were fighting a greater enemy, so some leeway was needed in our morals and standards. After all, America supported Saddam’s war of aggression against Iran, because in America’s eyes, the bigger danger was Iran. It was okay for America to turn a blind eye when Saddam gassed Kurds and Iranians in the 1980s, because in America’s eyes, Saddam was fighting against a greater evil. Was that right?

    Is it right for America to back the Uzbekh dictator who last year killed almost 1000 protesters in his country, where the United States had a military base? Is that not a terrorist?

    The problem right now with the word “terrorist” is that it is ill defined. This vagueness works well for those who advocate war, because you can, with ease, slap that label on anyone you dislike. Plus you can alter history so that your terrorist back in the 1980s wasn’t really a terrorist because he was fighting for you. But those he was killing still see him as a terrorist.

    A man of God would treat all his enemies the way he would want to be treated by them. Basically said, if I don’t mind being killed if I don’t want to stop my fight against my enemy (such as the Lamanites who did not agree with Captain Moroni’s demand), then that’s the standard I would use on my enemies. I personally do not want to be tortured, plain and simple. I would rather die. There are extreme negative psychological effects on a human being who is tortured, not to mention that if I’m tortured, I’m going to tell my enemy exactly what he wants to hear (very unreliable information).

    A man of God will do what he can to achieve peace, not victory, with his enemy. Captain Moroni never invaded Lamanite country. In his entire war against the Lamanites covered in chapters 46-62 of Alma, all the fighting took place in Nephite territory, which when analyzed gives the impression that Moroni’s intents were simply to defend his home country, and not defeat his enemy, merely driving his enemy back to his land. Notice that no righteous Nephite ever invaded Lamanite lands.

    A man of God will try and work hard with moderates in his enemy’s country, men who, though imperfect in their views and previous statements, prefer their country to be at peace with mine. So what Mit Romney did to rebuff Khatami by not offering him any assistance for his visit to Harvard is quite childish, and if an example of Romney’s foreign policy, will mean Romney will not only not get my vote, but will have me actively against him for president. A man of God will vie for peace at all times while defending his country.

    A man of God will let his enemy come to him, and not go on the offensive. This is evidenced in the Book of Mormon when the people under Gidgiddoni in 3 Nephi 3:20-21:

    20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
    21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.

    This means that a man of God trusts his God for protection. Spencer W. Kimball talked about this in his talk “The False Gods We Worship” which has been discussed here on BCC earlier. Can we risk trusting in the Lord for our protection? I think some people fear stepping into, what they perceive, as the unknown. They have to have faith that the Lord will actually be there. Whereas, with a missile or a gun, they see their protection and can feel it in their hands. Which one is the best protection though? I’m going to go with the Lord for my protection. I trust he will keep me alive until it is my time to go. Such is a man of God.

    This man of God does not shirk in his responsibility to defend his home and his nation. Relying on the Lord for protection does not mean we don’t have to do our part. Service in the military is honorable and good. Knowing how to protect our families is a good thing. Using that to go and kill our enemies is not good. Let them come to us. God will protect us. Of that, I have full confidence.

    Such a man of God will never be elected as president of the United States, because 95% of Americans don’t have that kind of faith in their God. It is unfortunate, but there it is. They would rather trust their gods of steel in the military industrial complex.

  92. dang it, sorry about the HTML screwup on my post. :(

  93. Re comment #70:

    Guess I’m leaving lurkerdom and butting in here…but you sound like you’re saying, “When Bush has spoken –executed his foreign policy — the thinking can stop.” Is that what you’re saying?

    Are you saying that the study of history and foreign policy decision-making is nothing but “moaning?” Just curious.

  94. Sorry, should have said comment #75, NOT 70. You get rusty out in lurkerdom. Apologies.

  95. I don’t blog, but I often end up glancing at blogs over my wife’s shoulder while I wait to check the TV listings. Sometimes I have to wait for a long time. Tonight, this resulted in me seeing several references to something called “waterboarding”. I am not an expert in torture, and am not familiar with this technique (though I gather from the above posts that some perceived or actual risk of drowning is involved). Is it at all related to “wakeboarding”? I have never been wakeboarding but I have known people who have and I think most of them liked it even though I understand that there is some risk of drowning.

  96. No one should be allowed to comment on this thread until they’ve read the article Ronan recommended above. It is here.

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_1_terrorists.html

    In an earlier comment HP/JDC said he realized God was disposed toward capital punishment but doubted that God would ever use or condone torture. HP/JDC was not mindful of the 10 Plagues when he wrote that comment. Our “stress techniques” — even waterboarding — don’t hold a candle to God’s torture. WWJD? Escalate from boils to locusts to killing the eldest in each family when people are belligerent, apparently. (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.)

    Finally, concerning the liberal myth that tough interrogation techniques don’t produce anything of value: please read Ronan’s article — it’s here: http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_1_terrorists.html — before embarrassing yourself further.

  97. Having read all the comments that have been made whilst Europe slept, I have to say how happy I am that the Mormons are once again brushing aside Jesus’ commandment to treat their enemies well, suggesting the Master is hopelessly naive and, to use the mot du jour, rather milquetoast. That Jesus fellow! Such a sap.

  98. Matt,
    I also love the way you and others reach back to the Old Testament for your moral cues. Memo: for 2000 years, Christians have largely considered the new law to be of more value. (Of course, when they want to wage war, they usually go all OT.) The New Testament is pretty unequivocal. Do good to your enemies = don’t torture.

  99. Dan (91)
    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with much of what you said.

    I still feel they might be a bit incomplete, however, because there are also times in the BoM when wars were fought and killing took place to pretect lands, family, religion, etc. The Lord doesn’t condone offensive strikes, but He has condoned defensive fighting in certain situations.

    I am trying to sort out my own thoughts and yours have contributed to that mulling. I was reminded also of Pres. Hinckley’s words when the war on terror began shortly after 9/11.

    For the first time since we became a nation, the United States has been seriously attacked on its mainland soil. But this was not an attack on the United States alone. It was an attack on men and nations of goodwill everywhere. It was well planned, boldly executed, and the results were disastrous. It is estimated that more than 5,000 innocent people died. Among these were many from other nations. It was cruel and cunning, an act of consummate evil….
    Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions….
    We are people of peace. We are followers of the Christ who was and is the Prince of Peace. But there are times when we must stand up for right and decency, for freedom and civilization, just as Moroni rallied his people in his day to the defense of their wives, their children, and the cause of liberty (see Alma 48:10).

    (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72)

    How might that fit into your opinion? (I wonder if he thinks we have accomplished some of the goals for which he expressed support. He clearly recognized that this conflict might go on for a while.)

    Also, while I’m seeking your opinion, do you ever think it is right to try to help others who may not be able to fight their own wars against oppressive governments, which would then take armies to other lands? The Anti-Nephi-Lehies wouldn’t fight, but others fought for them, right? (I’m speaking in generalities, not trying to assess the current war.)

    I think that regardless of our opinions about the war, we should respond to Pres. Hinckley’s words from that same Conference talk:

    “Unitedly, as a Church, we must get on our knees and invoke the powers of the Almighty in behalf of those who will carry the burdens of this campaign.

    I pray the fighting can stop soon. I hope and pray we can have more peace in the world. Maybe we could all do a little more of that rather than criticize something over which we have no control right now. :)

  100. “Christians have largely considered the new law to be of more value.”

    So God doesn’t follow the higher law?

    No real strong opinions on all of this. I think Bush’s actions are pragmatically unfortunate. I have a harder time seeing them as immoral as some do. But they were stupid.

    Arguments against the OT though like the above seem weird. It’s akin to saying God wasn’t really God since he wasn’t following the higher law. Now you can say the OT is irrelevant or perhaps historically inaccurate. But when you say God’s acts don’t matter then that’s harder ground. I think those appealing to the OT have a harder time demonstrating relevance. But some of the counterarguments are far worse.

    Me, I just appeal to Brigham Young and Porter Rockwell as as examples of how men of God act. (grin)

  101. Clark,

    It’s a bitter cup, but it seems clear that at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was somehow saying the older law was deficient. Make of that what you will. It’s unlikely to sit well for many Mormons.

    I don’t think it’s a “weird” observation, btw: the apparent contradiction between the God of the OT (actually, the God mostly of the Pentateuch/Deuteronomist; the God of the prophets is much different) and the God of the NT (Jesus) has bothered Christians for centuries.

    Given this contradiction, I admittedly choose the option that feels better to my conscience, and the one that appears to have the greater weight of history, i.e. that Jesus preached in such a manner is much more likely than the bombastic myths that surround the emergence of the Israelite nation.

    In an act of full disclosure, I should say that I believe that relying solely on OT stories to form moral judgements for 2006 is not too far off robbing a bank, giving the money to the poor, and saying “Robin Hood made me do it.” For me, there has to be more than just an ancient tribal story to underpin my opinion on torture. The Old Testament contains the word of God; but it does not follow from that that the genocide narrative therein necessarily reflects historical reality (archaeology and the Book of Judges suggest it doesn’t), nor that it reflects the will of God rather than the patriotic writings of Jerusalem theologians who mingled philosophy with scripture.

    Which is all to say, given the choice between Yeshua of Nazereth, or Yeshua ben-Nun, I feel compelled to pick the former. Not that the NT is a sure-fire thing of historical truth, but this is a difficult balancing act we play.

    Incidentally, I do not believe it is a case of picking and choosing the scripture that best supports my views: it is a case of noticing that Jesus is saying something different than Joshua, being a little puzzled by that, but concluding that Jesus is the one to be trusted. I also realise that Mormons believe that it was Jesus who was giving Joshua his marching orders, but as the Book of Joshua is not historical, I simply call that into question.* (Or you can be happy that God is so bi-polar. You pays your money, you makes your choice.)

    __________

    * I’m not calling into question that Jesus and Yahweh are one, but that the God reflected by the Deuteronomist is truly God. Incidentally, prophets such as Amos seem to be concerned about the very same thing. The OT itself is full of contradictions.

  102. Paula (responding to her comment #90):

    My answer: No.

  103. I think I read about the first ten comments. These legalistic definitional quibbles are really becoming tiresome.

    Waterboarding was one of the things the Dept. of Defense recently disallowed. The reasoning of the JAG lawyers?

    Physical duress doesn’t work.

    If torture, physical duress, waterboarding, whatever you want to call it, actually worked, Bush might have a leg to stand on. Might.

    But it doesn’t.

    So now, not only is Bush immoral. He’s also a freaking moron.

    “Freaking moron”…. That’s really the only reason you need for opposing Bush. The immorality arguments are just a bonus.

  104. Matt Evans #96

    The story you linked to doesn’t prove anything. It just repeats the same tired rhetoric within the framework of a nice piece of storytelling. I don’t feel embarassed in the slightest.

    People under duress will tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

    You get the best intelligence from willing informants, not people you beat up.

    You don’t need a Phd or an expensive study to figure that out. Just common sense.

    Something that seems to have abandoned the political right as of late…

  105. Matt,
    I understand the importance of interrogation and how confessions are received. I don’t think the article claimed that interrogations always produce good data, it just noted some instances when it did (actually, it noted instances when people “broke” but did not comment on the issue of relevance of the data thus obtained, if I remember correctly). Further, the article never mentions waterboarding, but rather focusses on less frightening interrogation techniques (making people stand for long periods, letting them think you aren’t abiding by Geneva conventions by touching them). Remember, I directly linked to the article. There is no cover-up occurring.

    Second, you can use the OT to justify just about any act. You are right to bring up the plagues. This can be read as an instance wherein God decided to torture the Egyptians (including many innocent Egyptians) in order to accomplish his goal. However, this raises a couple of questions. You have a God who is willing to torture the innocent. Does this mean it is okay for anyone to do it, so long as they have a good reason? If God, in his infinite wisdom, sees fit to torture some people, does this justify Pres. Bush condoning it? If so, why is it bad when Iran or Saddam Hussein does it?

    Ronan,
    The law that Jesus found suspect is specifically the law of Moses (of which Deuteronomy is one example). The plagues occur prior to the mountain, so it is hard to know if we should read them as pertaining directly to Christ’s reassessment of the law. That said, the God of the OT (particularly, the God of the Pentateuch) often appears entirely unconcerned with the suffering of his children. This is in direct contrast to his appearance in all other scripture. It makes one wonder what plain and precious truth got left out.

    Finally, I am interested in the rhetoric that I lampooned in bringing up A Few Good Men. Why are you all calling me “liberal” and “soft” when I am not (as far as you know)demonstrably either?

  106. He’s a man of my God.

  107. HP/JDC,

    Indeed the Sermon on the Mount was the new law (of Moses). You are also right to point out that the “early” God of the OT seems to lack compassion at times; this is something else that Jesus (through his life) directly contradicts.

    On a related point, I am coming to realise that the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, is probably the least important Mormon scripture. I lament this.

  108. As long as we are all just engaged in a dispassionate attempt to understand the gospel, and since this thread has nothing, absolutely nothing at all to do with partisanship, I think we call all be glad that GWB is president and not his opponent. He was enaged in an enterprise where, in his own words, they “had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam…”

  109. Mark,
    I know who JDC voted for as governor of Maryland, and it wasn’t the Kennedy girl. He’s not a partisan hack. In fact, I have no idea where his party loyalties lie, and I’ve spoken about politics with him many times.

  110. As for your Kerry-bash, are you actually saying that Kerry participated in these atrocities? Even the SBVT didn’t go that far. Did I miss something?

  111. Julie M. Smith says:

    “On a related point, I am coming to realise that the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, is probably the least important Mormon scripture. I lament this.”

    I’m hoping that you meant “Mormons treat it this way but shouldn’t” and not that it really is the least important.

  112. Ronan,

    You’re probably right, friend. My point is that this post’s title is unnecessarily inflammatory, that it detracts from the substance of the post, and that the shabby politicking that ensued in the comments was predictable, don’t you think? For me, reading some of the comments and trying to follow the some of the self-righteous arguments has risen to Gitmo level torture. GWB may not be a man of God, but I have very few doubts that he is a better man than some of the people dumping on him on this thread.

    I just got out of priesthood meeting where I learned that Heber C. Kimball sometimes beat his children with a cowhide whip for failure to do their schoolwork. I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing a post at BCC anytime soon stating that HCK was not a man of God.

    To my mind, a much better title for a post would be one that says Mark is Not a Man of God. Now THAT is a proposition we could all agree on.

  113. Ronan, in answer to you question in 110, my answer is no, I am not saying Kerry did those things. I was just trying to demonstrate how easy it is to make someone an offender for a word, but maybe my example was gratuitous. After all, there are plenty of other examples of that in the comments.

  114. Steve Evans says:

    “I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing a post at BCC anytime soon stating that HCK was not a man of God.”

    Mark IV, if HCK did that, he’ll doubtlessly be held accountable for it before God. Offending one of those little ones — let alone beating them with a cowhide whip — surely is conduct ill-fitting someone calling themselves a follower of Jesus. I would be surprised if anyone would disagree with that.

  115. Julie,
    The former.

  116. Mark,

    I think the title is fair because there are people who seem to think that because Bush speaks the language of faith, he is a “man of God.” As we all know, Rove has always courted the Evangelical vote and plays off of this. If we were having a go at Clinton, the title would be silly, because no-one believed him to be a man of God. “Adulterous twit,” perhaps.

    The title is fair.

  117. Steve, HCK certainly did do that, if his son J. Golden Kimball is to be believed. And I agree with you – it is certainly behavior that is beneath any of us. And it is just as certain that the title of this post could be applied to any of us at our worst moments, which I think was JDKs very good point.

    I just really, really hate food fights in the ‘nacle, and that title just about guaranteed one.

  118. JDK, d’oh.

    I meant JDC. Sorry.

  119. Can I just say that I love ‘nacle food fights. Wanna piece of me, Mark? “Bring it on.”

  120. I disagree with that, Steve. We, in our ultra-sensitive liberal culture, cannot possibly imagine such behavior ever being justified. But when one is in a situation where death (by starvation or what-have-you) is the likely result of ambivelence, then it is not too difficult to image why more stringent methods of punishment (comparatively speaking) might be employed as a means of inciting young people to action.

  121. But Of Course says:

    I believe that my God believes that human worth is inherent, that the loss of any human life is regrettable.

    He does? Then why does death exist? The “loss” of human life – you mean when He decides it’s time for His children to come home? THAT loss of human life?

    Like God didn’t see this whole thing coming? This isn’t part of His plan? It’s a total shock to Him that we’re at war? Like God is a “come on, kids, play nice” kind of wimp?

    And to blame all the events that led up to 9/11, 9/11 itself, and our current war on Bush – and to suggest that torturing for information is a little too inhumane for a group of people who want all Americans dead and work frantically toward that end –

    Eccch.

  122. Ronan (#98), I wasn’t taking my moral cues from the Old Testament, I was asking WWJD? Jesus tortured the Egyptians until they gave him what he wanted, continually escalating their pain until he found their pressure point: killing their kids. Rather than toss out those parts of the Old Testament that offend our modern sensibilities, the Mormon view, it seems to me, is to look at God’s behavior as well as his words. Sometimes he kills the wicked (by flood or fire) when they don’t comply. And I agree that we most value the new law — that’s why our nation is so mild in it’s interrogation and punishment. We get no delight in seeing people suffer, and wish that everyone would work win-win so no one had to lose.

    Seth, you wrote “people under duress will tell you whatever they think you want to hear,” as if that’s a bad thing. The interrogator tells the person under duress EXACTLY what they want to hear: who paid you, who are your buddies, where are your supplies, etc.

    The liberal myth that I complained about before is the myth that duress doesn’t cause captives to provide useful information. The myth rests on the faulty logic the because sometimes captives give bogus info, they never reveal useful information. The truth is that interrogation techniques cause detainees to provide information, which sometimes proves to be true and sometimes doesn’t. The techniques are useful because, in sum, the information is better than what the detainees would provide without pressure.

    Finally, your claim that informants provide better info than detainees is beside the point and a false dichotomy. There would be no need to pressure an Al Qaida detainee to tell us where Bin Laden is if an informant had already told us. The military uses informants *and* detainees because both are better than either one alone.

  123. Ronan, you are either for me or against me. It may be a long, hard slog, but I have not doubt I would be able to declare “Mission Accomplished”.

  124. B.O.C.

    Um, how do you know that the person you are torturing is a terrorist?

  125. Matt,
    I don’t believe Jesus/Jehovah/God/Allah tortured Egyptian children, and it’s not (just) because the notion is offensive. It’s a question of historical likelihood.

  126. And as JDC has wisely pointed out, even if you believe that God tortured innocent Egyptian children (making him a hypocrite of the vilest order — shall we cast God into the deep?), why the hell do you think that would give you or anyone else the right to do the same? This is a terrifying logic. And, btw, it’s exactly the same logic used by pious Muslim torturers in Saudi Arabia as they lash your feet. Allahu Akbar!

  127. “Um, how do you know that the person you are torturing is a terrorist?”

    When they yell JIIIHHHAAAD!!! while they’re being carved up…

  128. Yeah, I agree with Ronan. That’ scary logic. The OT is replete with activities that we modern folk universally abhor. Or so I thought! I’ve seen Christians of various stripe argue about whether the OT events actually occurred, or debate the underlining meaning, or whether it was really God’ will, etc…but can’t say I’ve run into the sentiments described in #122 before. WWJD? Kill the Egyptian kids! Yikes!

    But maybe I’m too sheltered here in Uberliberaland.

  129. “Jesus tortures children.” T-shirts anyone?

  130. BOC,
    stop putting words in my mouth. Really, you are finding things that I didn’t say. Please read carefully.

    Matt,
    I’ve thought some more about your Egyptian analogy. I don’t think it works for other reasons aside from the fact that none of the people involved here are Gods. You could make an argument that all life is suffering (as the Buddha and BOC both have done). Is cancer less of a torture than waterboarding? I don’t know. Using the plagues as a form of torture strikes me as being a way to render the concept of torture meaningless. We don’t call Hurricane Katrine torture, we call it an act of God or of random nature. I think that we have to restrict our definitions to human vs. human activities.

    Of course, that wasn’t the point of your analogy in any case. You wanted to point out that God could torture people and feel okay about it. Perhaps the issue is whether we should understand what we find in Exodus as an explanation of God’s own will in all things or an example of someone else’s attempt to explain God’s will in terms that we frail, vengeful humans understand. Humans understand revenge and jealousy very well, so these terms may be given to explain the acts of God even though his ways are not our ways.

  131. Oh, and to address another fallacy within the comments, I didn’t complain that Bush was unchristlike. I said I thought he was a good Christian, that he was a very bad one (specifically because he endorsed torture and then bragged about it). I don’t think of anyone aside from Christ (and possibly a very select few) as being Christlike and I wouldn’t dare hold myself or President Bush up to that standard.

  132. er…i meant to say that I thought he “wasn’t” a good Christian. So you know.

  133. Talk about putting words in peoples mouths, where did Matt say that Jesus tortured children?

  134. OK, man, we’ll have another T-shirt printed up just for you:

    “Jesus kills children.”

  135. Mark Butler says:

    I am perfectly willing to accept some probability of my being tortured or even executed unjustly if it means that a considerable number of innocent civilians from whatever nation or culture are spared an even worse fate.

    Isn’t that the ultimate ethical basis of a necessary (defensive) war in the first place? The idea that it is better to willingly suffer and even die than have a larger number of others do so? Any person who takes on the attitude of a real soldier should consider the possibility of something like waterboarding a necessary part of the cost. If his cause has anything to be said for it at all, it is a minor one.

  136. “Jesus kills children”

    Kewl. And, no doubt, the ACLU would defend my right to wear it at BYU.

  137. Ronan, HP, MikeIWH, I agree that we have no right to torture people, even if God did it. That’s why I ended my comment first raising the Ten Plagues example with “tongue-in-cheek.” It was only to answer HP’s question about the possibility of God sanctioning torture — according to the bible, he’s done it. I should add, in case it’s necessary, that I don’t think we should torture anyone, either, and the key fact in Ronan’s City Journal article is to show how cautious and respectful the US is when interrogating detainees. I personally don’t think it’s torture to scare the bejeebees out of them, or thump them on their chest. I’ve seen the Tower of London — that’s torture. (Not only that, it was usually retributive, too.)

    I should add here that

  138. I wanted to write a comment to this thread that included this cartoon, but I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about it. I hope you all don’t mind my posting it anyway.

  139. Mark Butler,
    You express a noble sentiment, but it is the sort of sentiment that one should be loathe to express on behalf of others. It is one thing to say “I am willing to die for my beliefs”; it is another to say that that guy over there should.

    Matt,
    In that case, we might be on the same page. I am specifically against waterboarding; I don’t have much of a problem with the methods discussed in the article, nor do I feel anyone should.

  140. mullingandmusing,

    #99,

    The Lord doesn’t condone offensive strikes, but He has condoned defensive fighting in certain situations

    That is correct. I have no problem with a very strong defense. Let my enemy come to me and see just how long he lasts. With the Lord as my strength, he will not last very long. This is not only the ideal, but what we should be striving for.

    President Hinckley’s comments in October 2001 were about our response to the 9/11 attacks, which was to go into Afghanistan. As I stated earlier, in comment #70, I proponed right from the start, back in 2001, that our main focus should have always been Afghanistan right from the start and let Iraq be. Afghanistan was where our enemy was located, not in Iraq. The ones who attacked us were in Afghanistan, not Iraq. We had no business entering Iraq to go after our enemies because they were not the ones who attacked us on 9/11.

    Also, while I’m seeking your opinion, do you ever think it is right to try to help others who may not be able to fight their own wars against oppressive governments, which would then take armies to other lands? The Anti-Nephi-Lehies wouldn’t fight, but others fought for them, right? (I’m speaking in generalities, not trying to assess the current war.)

    This gets a bit tricky. You chose the example of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, but if you look at that example, the Nephites did not protect them when the ANL were in Lamanite land; only after the People of Ammon moved to Jershon, part of Nephite territory, did the Nephites do something to protect them. Beforehand, it was all in Ammon’s hand. He never raised his sword to protect the ANL, but was astute enough to listen to the Lord who said that the Lamanites were evil enough to kill the ANLs anyways, irregardless of their lack of desire to defend themselves, so Ammon brought them to the Nephites.

    At what point do we fight the fight for others? America’s record is very spotty. We don’t choose to fight the fight for others except out of self-interest. America’s policy is rather Objectivist, which is not very Christian. Objectivist philosophy states that all actions must be done with the object of increasing the gain of the self, including possible altruistic actions. We didn’t mind overthrowing a democratically elected government in Iran back in the 1950s, nor in Chile back in the 70s. We don’t mind right now backing a nasty dictatorship in Pakistan–which has nukes–nor in Uzbekhistan, nor in Kazakhstan, or Kyrgystan. Yet we go in to Iraq with the supposed goal of “freeing” the Iraqis. Why the disconnect? Why the discrepancy?

    Are the lives of Uzbekhs not worth as much in America’s eyes as the lives of Iraqis?

    So at what point do we fight the fight for others?

    Here’s where the libertarian in me comes out. Let others fight their own fight. Support them peripherally, but let them break free their own chains.

  141. They tell the interrogators what they think they want to hear. Sometimes that turns out to be what the interrogators really do want to hear. Sometimes not. Generals, from ancient Rome to 20th century America have often remarked that torture produces inconsistent and unreliable results and a general would be a fool to rely on it.

    What hasn’t been discussed is what we are giving up when we save ourselves via dubious means.

    What sort of moral transformation occurs when we become willing to torture in the name of security? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the “torture foils the bomb” scenario isn’t ridiculously contrived.

    Let’s assume you could prevent a nuclear detonation by torturing someone. You torture, you stop the plot.

    What have we become in this instance?

    I’ll tell you:

    A fearful, faithless, spineless, pathetic race of infidels who have turned from the divine guidance of the One True Living God in order to save our own wretched hides.

    Like Mormon’s Nephites, we spit upon the protection of God and turn entirely unto the arm of the flesh. And we curse our misfortunes and die.

    I would rather endure 15 repeats of September 11 than see our nation deny the faith and become the societal and political offspring of cheap and superficial religious showboating and Godless self-interest.

    Apparently we no longer believe that righteousness is worth dying for.

  142. Seth,

    Hear! Hear! Well Spoken!

  143. Tragically, torture has been the official position of the U.S. Government beginning with the Irag war when the Attorney General’s office produced a legal brief exempting us from the Geneva Conventions. The reported torture of detainees in prisons in Afghanistan (where an innnocent cab driver was detained and tortured to death by U.S. personnel) and Baghdad, leading to military sanctions against guards, brought this to light. At that time, I was appalled that any Mormons could support Bush.

    I am sure many of us were aghast a few months ago when the United States Congress actually debated the merits of torture and, led by Senator John McCain, passed a law against it. (By all accounts, the President’s signing of this into law was less than enthusiastic, but he added his own interpretation in his “signing statement”–a practice openly termed as unconstitutional by the American Bar Association).

    Like many Americans, I never thought I would live to see the day when our government would actually consider legalizing torture–which, by the way, produces most unreliable results. Islamic Jihadists are religious extremists. They suffer and engage in suicide bombings for the promises of the hereafter, and have proven their resistance to torturous interrogation methods. They knowlingly give false information as often as not, if any at all. Don’t count on torture to reveal any plans for nuclear detonation.

    The Republican Party has managed to use the Religious evangelicals for its own political advantage. Led by professed atheist Karl Rove (“Bush’s Brain”), there is nothing religious or sincere about this–it is pure partisan politics. Fortunately, some evangelicals are seeing the light and beginning to blow the whistle on this blatant use of religious faith to further political ambition. Bush’s highest approval ratings are in Utah. Too bad so many LDS fall for it.

  144. Eric Russell says:

    Ronan,

    Your references to loving your enemy in relation to a situation such as this are highly disingenuous. We imprison people. Is that loving our enemy? It is, actually, possible to love and forgive the person who killed your child and still insist that they be imprisoned for the act. In such a situation, it is not vengeance that motivates the desire, but a wish for the protection of others.

    Similarly, it is neither vengeance nor anger which motivates a thorough interrogation process. It is possible to use sometimes harsh interrogation techniques on someone and still love them. One does it out of love for the lives of those who may be saved.

  145. Eric Russell says:

    HP/JDC,

    You still have yet to give us a single good reason why someone who would support an interrogation process that included waterboarding is not a good Christian.

  146. Eric,

    #144,

    Similarly, it is neither vengeance nor anger which motivates a thorough interrogation process. It is possible to use sometimes harsh interrogation techniques on someone and still love them. One does it out of love for the lives of those who may be saved

    Hmmm. I would like to see evidence that those who use “harsh interrogation techniques” show love towards those they torture. Any evidence?

    I also remind you of what the church said:

    The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances,” said church spokesman Dale Bills. “The church has not taken a position on any proposed legislative or administrative actions regarding torture.”

    You decide what is inhumane.

  147. Eric,

    Sorry, I’m thinking further on your comment:

    Similarly, it is neither vengeance nor anger which motivates a thorough interrogation process. It is possible to use sometimes harsh interrogation techniques on someone and still love them. One does it out of love for the lives of those who may be save

    Your logic doesn’t make sense here. You first say that it is possible to use harsh techniques on someone and still love them, but then you say, “one does it out of love for the lives of those who may be saved.” So which is it? Does the interrogator who uses waterboarding show love towards the detainee or towards those he would possibly save? How can you love someone you treat inhumanely? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

    Like Laurie, I’m rather saddened that my country is even debating the use of torture, inhumane treatment, “harsh techniques” etc. I really thought our standards were much higher than this.

  148. Eric Russell says:

    Dan, I don’t understand what you’re saying so I’ll asume to you don’t understand me. Let’s go back a step. How can one love someone he imprisones? Is not putting a man behind bars for life inhumane treatment? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

  149. DKL is not the first Mormon to parse the word “torture” and reduce it to meaninglessness in order to justify the horribly cruel acts perpetrated by U.S. officials. But Mr. Bybee’s version is considerably more articulate.

  150. Dan wrote:

    How can you love someone you treat inhumanely? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

    Not really. Abusive husbands do it all the time.

  151. Who best fits “I will take the treasure of the earth, and with gold and silver I will buy up armies and navies, and reign with blood and horror on the earth!”

  152. Ronan, if one believes Moses parted the Red Sea, that Jesus rose from the dead, or that angels spoke to Joseph Smith, it seems to me that a reluctance to accept the Ten Plagues as historical stems not from concerns of “historical likelihood of fantastic stories,” but from an attempt to define God by our personal preferences.

    I don’t think it’s appropriate, either, for you to suggest the disagreements here stem from a failure to appreciate the New Testament. The NT simplly doesn’t define the proper limits of military interrogation techniques. Jesus taught us to “resist not evil,” but unless you’re campaigning to dissolve your local police department, you too interpret as something besides it’s plain meaning. Our disagreement stems not from your greater appreciation for the NT but from our different views on how it is to be applied to diverse political problems.

  153. Seth (141), righteousness is always worth dying for. That’s why we honor the brave men and women who lose their lives fighting to end injustice and evil in the world.

    Your analysis of the ticking bomb scenario begs the question. You’ve assumed it’s immoral to torture a person, even to save a million lives, when you say that even if our torture successfully foils the bomb plot, the procuess has caused us to act immorally. But you’ve only assumed the answer, not made a persuasive argument for it.

    Here are two scenarios to consider:

    1. If you’d been on American Airlines 11, five years ago tomorrow, and you found a gun on board, would you have put bullets in the heads of Mohammad Atta and his buddies? Why or why not?

    2. Why did God command Nephi to behead Laban? Our all-powerful God could easily provide a more humane way to ensure their family had a copy of the scriptures — so why did he want blood on Nephi’s hands?

  154. I would bet dollars to donuts that our methods of interrogation today are far more docile than they have ever been in U.S. history–not to endorse any kind of torture, mind you(Caveat! Caveat!)–and yet “W” is considered the slimiest of slime-balls.

  155. HP/JDC: like DKL before you, don’t know me

    I’ll tell you what: If you’ll stop hiding behind your shield of unstated beliefs, I’ll stop trying to fill in the blanks.

  156. Steve Evans says:

    Laurie (#43): “torture has been the official position of the U.S. Government beginning with the Iraq war when the Attorney General’s office produced a legal brief exempting us from the Geneva Conventions.”

    written by a Mormon, as I recall.

  157. My understanding is the memo was written primarily by John Yoo, although it went out under Jay Bybee’s name, as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (this does not let Jay off the hook for a memo with which I completely disagree). I also understand that David Addington and others in Cheney’s office and in the White House routinely dealt directly with John Yoo, doing end runs around not just Jay, but around Ashcroft himself. Perhaps my understanding is incorrect, and some other commenters closer to the Bush DOJ can comment more precisely.

  158. Mark Butler says:

    HP/JDC (#139),

    All I am saying is that whether drafted or as a volunteer, a willingness to suffer and die if necessary is part and parcel of the necessary horrors of war. If some perceived injustice is so severe as to provoke these men to treat others lives so callously, then whether their cause is just or not, I say they have made their own decision. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.

    And in this case the idea of proving guilt is ridiculous – the only thing that need be established is that the person was engaged with the forces of an enemy in practice of giving bodily harm to others. We certainly do not inquire of the individual guilt of enemy soldiers when directing artillery fire on their positions.

    Now if this quasi-torture was intended as a punishment, I would readily agree that it was cruel and unusual. But if there is a reasonable chance of lives to be saved, inflicted psychological horror sounds every bit as justified as the sorrowful necessity of inflicting death on an enemy in active conflict.

  159. Bush has been lying since the begining. He lied about Saddam, he lied about not having secret prisons. He lied about how many books he read. Anyone with half a brain can tell that he hasn’t read “three shakespears”. The man condones torture. The man is not Christlike. If he is, then he is from the vengeful Jesus sect of Christianity.

    The one question that keeps coming to mind when thinking of Bush; What would Jesus Do?

    Actually perhaps Jesus would have said “I intend to kick [Saddam’s] sorry motherf***ing a** all over the Mideast.” as he sent other peoples children off to fight his war.

  160. Seth,

    #150:

    How can you love someone you treat inhumanely? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

    Not really. Abusive husbands do it all the time.

    actually that husband doesn’t then love his wife. it is impossible to abuse someone you love.

  161. Eric,

    #149:

    Dan, I don’t understand what you’re saying so I’ll asume to you don’t understand me. Let’s go back a step. How can one love someone he imprisones? Is not putting a man behind bars for life inhumane treatment? Is that not a contradiction in terms?

    imprisoning someone for committing a crime is neither abusive, nor inhumane, but a direct consequence of the application of righteous principle of law. Torture or inhumane treatment is additional “punishment” not related to the crime that one particular individual has committed, but based on the crimes of another. To punish one for the sins of another is against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read Ezekiel 18 for further enlightenment. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

  162. Matt Evans,

    #153:

    I wonder why people keep trying to use the “ticking time bomb” scenario to justify a general policy of torture. How often does such a scenario actually occur? Yeah it plays well in a dramatic episode of the show “24” but it is not reflective of real life.

    In real life you don’t catch an operative who knows os a plan about to be executed. Even if you did, you think the man you captured will reveal the plot just moments before it happened?

    Let’s play a scenario shall we:

    Matt, you are a Special Forces op scouting your next terrorist target to eliminate. You just sent the coordinates to your base when you were ambushed by terrorists. They take you in some torture chamber and start torturing you for the moment the strike is happening. You know the operation will happen. Do you talk under duress? Do you tell them the truth?

    Ponder on that before you talk of justifying a general torture policy for my country.

  163. Matt,
    “You’ve assumed it’s immoral to torture a person, even to save a million lives, when you say that even if our torture successfully foils the bomb plot, the procuess has caused us to act immorally.”

    Turn to Kant. There is a possible persuasive answer. In any case, I have no qualms about saying that torture is immoral and that it is never justified. When it is engaged in, it should be as a last resort (if then) and it should never, ever be bragged about.

    To those who think that Christ’s teachings are absolutely unworkable, don’t ever accuse others of having too little faith in the commandments of the Lord.

    “Here are two scenarios to consider:

    1. If you’d been on American Airlines 11, five years ago tomorrow, and you found a gun on board, would you have put bullets in the heads of Mohammad Atta and his buddies? Why or why not?

    2. Why did God command Nephi to behead Laban? Our all-powerful God could easily provide a more humane way to ensure their family had a copy of the scriptures — so why did he want blood on Nephi’s hands? ”

    These are both false analogies. Now, if the question was, “should you shoot Atta in the knee, then the groin, then the gut, then the shoulder, and then should you gouge out his eyes with a spork?”, then I would say you have made a proper analogy. God asked Nephi to kill Laban as quickly and as cleanly as was possible in the situation (after all, Nephi had to wear Laban’s clothes soon thereafter). He didn’t ask him to torture Laban for the whereabouts of the plates.

    I stand by my statement that it is always immoral to torture. People who condone torture, people who boast of it are not good Christians. That seems to me to be a common sense, rational of itself, argument. I believe that the burden of proof is on those who wish to argue that torture can be justified in a Christian context (which I don’t agree that you have done).

    Regarding the plagues, I don’t think that Ronan (and myself) were disputing their historicity, but rather the accuracy of the author’s ideas regarding the motivation behind the plagues. You haven’t addressed that.

    DKL,
    I think torture in all forms is evil. I think that those who endorse torture are bad Christians if they claim to be Christians. What other beliefs are relevant to this discussion? Let me know and I will state them.

    Eric,
    I am now curious as to what would fit your criteria regarding good reasons “why someone who would support an interrogation process that included waterboarding is not a good Christian.” I feel like a quick read through the New Testament indicates that we should love our enemies. I feel like the Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust. I feel like the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. I feel like the Lord weeps over his children when he sees them doing wrong. I do not feel like people stop being children of God because they have committed a horrible crime. I believe that vengeance is the Lord’s and of me it is required to forgive all. I believe that the last is relevant to our discussion because people, not me mind you, have been bringing up the issue of the guilt and innocence of possible torturees.

    As I said before, I believe that the statement that torture is always evil and that Christians who endorse it (or brag about it) are bad Christians is self-evident. The burden of proof is on those who argue otherwise.

    Mark Butler,
    “If some perceived injustice is so severe as to provoke these men to treat others lives so callously, then whether their cause is just or not, I say they have made their own decision. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword”

    Fine. But do you think they are being good Christians?

  164. Steve (#156), yes, this is correct–I am glad you pointed that out. I think the person to whom you refer is a BYU Law School graduate. No reflection on BYU–most any staff attorney so instructed by the Attorney General would have done the same.

    Dan’s expressed outrage is well taken. As we all know, the announcements by the President last week is old news (thanks to those pesky reporters!)–so why is he making these statements now? My sense is that the White House, now seven weeks before the midterm elections, is calculating that it is better to be public about the torture and secret prisons now, rather than risk Congressional investigation if the Democrats take the House in November. Their hope is that any outrage now will soften by November. Also, these announcements help to solidify the Republican base around the strongest area of this Administration (according to the polls): terrorism.

  165. Laurie,

    My sense is that the White House, now seven weeks before the midterm elections, is calculating that it is better to be public about the torture and secret prisons now, rather than risk Congressional investigation if the Democrats take the House in November. Their hope is that any outrage now will soften by November. Also, these announcements help to solidify the Republican base around the strongest area of this Administration (according to the polls): terrorism.

    exactly. Bush is playing politics here with 9/11, trying to ratchet up the fear factor, saying “if you vote for Democrats, you will be killed by terrorists.” They don’t say that specifically, but all their actions and words speak to that underlying strategy.

  166. George Bush is not perfect. He has committed sins, he has made mistakes. He’s a deeply flawed human being.

    Not unlike most of the people here. If only perfect men are men of God, then no one is a man/woman of God.

    He is doing the best he can, as he sees it. It’s really easy to say what you would do, but then you are not doing it. I don’t know what I would do in his shoes. I think some things differently, some the same.

    Bottom line: You can’t condemn a person as not being worthy to call themselves a man of God until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

  167. Anne,

    but what about when that person tries to portray himself as a man of God, but his words and actions belie that portrayal? Can we then criticize him?

  168. It’s a free country. You can criticize anybody you want.

    But whose actions do not belie their own self portraits at times?

    Who among us is without sin? Who is not hypocritical? Who is not wrong?

    Especially strong willed opinionated bloggers. It’s easy to say what you would have done. But you didn’t have to do anything except sit back and judge.

  169. There is one important thing in this particular scenario. This is the most powerful position in the world we are talking about here. This is the President of the United States. We should hold the President to higher standards than others. We should watch his every move. What Bush did in Iraq could conceivably start WWIII.

    We did it to Clinton (watched his every move trying to find any mistake possible), it should be done to Bush. His actions reflect on all of us. The world now hates Americans thanks to that (faux) cowboy in office.

  170. HP,

    The analogies to Atta work because someone unwilling to point a loaded gun at someone and threaten to kill them (i.e., torture them) would be unwilling to pull the trigger. Similarly, if you and Seth would be unwilling to pour water over Atta’s, you’d certainly be unwilling to swap the water for bullets. Seth went so far as to say that even if a million lives would be lost if unless he poured water over someone’s head, or threatened them with a gun, he’d watch the Al Jazeera news reports of the obliteration of the east coast and pat himself on the back for his superior righteousness.

    The question about Nephi and Laban is to probe the depths of Seth’s opposition to utilitarianism. God gave Nephi a utilitarian answer, even though Laban’s death wasn’t necessary for obtaining plates.

  171. Anne,

    I understand. I don’t criticize normal everyday people around me for saying they are men of God when their actions belie their rhetoric, because I am not perfect myself. But Bush’s actions and words affect me because he represents America. If his actions do irreprable harm to my country, I will indeed criticize and ask for his resignation, or impeachment. A person in a position of power and influence is not immune from criticism of this kind when he claims to be one person but is in fact another. The harm he does to me and my country is far more damaging than any other regular citizen.

  172. Matt,

    1. You are totally and utterly misconstruing people’s aversion to torture. Just because we consider waterboarding to be cruel and unusual, does not mean that we would sit back and let Atta work his mojo. This is a typical hawkish tactic: “you don’t like Bush’s War on Terror, you must be a terrorist.” It’s lame.
    2. HP made a point a while back that demands consideration: just because “God kills children to torture their parents” (a favourite FHE lesson in the Evans’ household?), and just because the Book of Mormon tells us that God told Nephi to kill Laban, DOES NOT MEAN that you, I, the CIA, or George Bush have the right to torture or kill, ESPECIALLY when the Church today has called for all people to be treated humanely.

    To all the pro-torturers: I just cannot believe that you think torture is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus. (Forget millennnia old ur-stories and go with the actual, bona fide, “do this, don’t do this” morals generally considered to be required of Christians.) It’s so unbelievable that I’m sure that this is what’s happening: you would rather make Jesus into a torturer than Bush into a sinner. Bah to all of you.

  173. Matt:

    #170,

    “threaten to kill them (i.e., torture them)”

    Now, I realize death is painful and all, but to kill someone is not to torture them. Please don’t fudge the lines to try and find new and interesting ways to justify something grotesque.

  174. And again, a reminder from 2006:

    Dale Bills: The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances.”

    I take this as self-evident. What remains is to decide whether water-boarding (for example) is inhumane. I think it is. I guess some of you disagree. Perhaps you will volunteer to prove how humane it is and report back.

    Actually, there is one more thing to decide: if you think that God can condone torture in some circumstances, how can we know that God condones it in this instance. Has God spoken to Bush the way he did to Nephi? Is he telling Bush to torture, but the Church (via Dale Bills) that “inhumane treatment” is to be condemned. Is Bush a prophet?

  175. re: 172
    Welcome to 21st Century Mormonism in America, Ronan !!
    It’s not without reason that the membership of the LDS Church is perceived as the most consistently right-wing, pro-Bush group in America….way more solid than the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. As bbell has aptly pointed out in another thread, the Mark Butlers and georgeDs are mainstream in the Church. People who share your views are in a distinct minority.

  176. Mike,

    I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always see eye-to-eye with Church policy (gay marriage is one example). But I’m fairly open about it. On this thread the people who generally bash us liberals over the head with Church statements are ignoring Dale Bills unequivocal statement against “inhumane treatment.” I can only come to one conclusion: George Bush is sacrosanct above all else. Wow.

  177. Matt,
    It does not apply (at least for me) because I believe that there is real risk of death or permanent physical damage in the instance of waterboarding and I do not believe that to necessarily be the case in the implied threat of a loaded gun. I believe it to be much easier to accidentally drown or do permanent damage to someone while waterboarding than to accidentally pull a trigger. Also, in pulling a trigger, I believe that you are looking to kill someone, not torture them. Death and torture ARE two different things, in spite of your attempts to conflate the two.

    If Realpolitik represents the politics necessary to succeed in the world, it is no wonder whose ideas they remind me of.

  178. Ronan,

    I haven’t misconstrued anyone. Seth and HP have said that they would never torture. “Never torture” precludes pouring water over Atta’s head to keep him from flying a plane into an office building. Holding a gun to someone’s head and threatening them with their life is torture, too, under the Geneva conventions, so we know the “never torture” camp wouldn’t point a gun at Atta, let alone pull the trigger.

    I agree that we can’t model our behavior on God’s because we don’t have his knowledge, but God’s behavior does show that it’s sometimes moral to escalate pain until people comply. (With the caveat that this doesn’t necessarily mean that *we* can know what those sometimes are. But I personally would have readily done some harsh things to Atta had I discovered their plan.)

  179. If your younger sister is a big tease, then I think torturing her is perfectly okay — as long as it consists of nothing more serious than noogies.

  180. Eric Russell says:

    “What remains is to decide whether water-boarding (for example) is inhumane.”

    That’s correct, Ronan. That’s what at hand here. The only thing. Thus, issues of “loving your enemy” and making Jesus a torturer and all the other irrelevant crap that has been thrown out is completely irrelevant.

    Some people think sleep deprivation is inhumane. Some people think even more benign things are inhumane. On the other hand, some people have narrower ideas of what is inhumane. But in the end, it’s all personal taste really, as I see no objective evidence for drawing the line in one place or another.

    Let’s stop throwing mud at people who would draw the line in a slightly different place than we would.

  181. I think the academic term for it is “sibling torture.”

    I just thought it was important to introduce an example of torture that is acceptable. There are way too many people here are expressing complete and total opposition to torture when it clearly serves an important function in family diplomacy.

    Especially when your younger sister is smarter than you are and knows exactly how to push all your buttons. At that point there is no real alternative but moderate physical pressure.

  182. Matt,
    To be honest, I am not familiar with the Geneva Conventions, so I walked right into your trap. What can I say? You got me. After I had already said that I wasn’t against most of our interrogation techniques (that it was waterboarding in particular), you put me in a situation where you were asking me to do something that I didn’t consider torture (as, under the stipulations I had already made, I didn’t feel that implied harm was as tortuous as the possibility of actual harm) in order to save lives, my own included. Setting aside that the situation inside the planes on September 11 was completely different from the situation inside the CIA prisons and the White House where the decision to waterboard was made and implemented, you have clearly shown the weakness of my argument with your silly, concocted hypothetical irrelevant argument. Good on ya, mate.

    “But I personally would have readily done some harsh things to Atta had I discovered their plan.”

    To be absolutely frank, I believe that I could and would torture someone under some conceivable circumstances. But I would not consider myself a good christian afterward. I would like to think that I would have turned Atta over to the authorities, I don’t know that I would have. I would like to think a lot of things about myself.

  183. Eric,
    My original point regarding the torture is that I believe that Bush would draw the line differently based on whether or not our soldiers were involved. But more damning, and less hypothetical, was my contention that he was bragging about “torture” last week in a speech. Do good Christian brag about the torture that they have inflicted?

  184. Matt,
    Your original Atta anaology was as follows:

    If you’d been on American Airlines 11, five years ago tomorrow, and you found a gun on board, would you have put bullets in the heads of Mohammad Atta and his buddies?

    That’s called stopping a murderer in the act of murder using necessary force. Now you’ve changed the analogy to giving Atta a Catholic baptism to stop him from flying a plane. You’re all over the place, man.

  185. Matt,

    for what purpose would we advocate torture? is it to punish people? Is it not to actually get information from them? Would God torture us to get information from us? You use God’s actions in the Old Testament as justification for torture, but that is an invalid comparison. Most comparisons to other forms of violence, both justified and unjustified are incorrect for torture, because torture is used solely for getting information, and not a form of punishment, at least that is what is claimed by torture backers. Whereas violence in the past was done for the destruction of the worship of Baal, or for the removal of enemies from one’s lands. No violence in the Old Testament, or the Book of Mormon was done for the purpose of exacting revenge or gleaning information by any righteous people of God.

    To justify torture today is unChristian.

  186. (sets aside momentary silliness to once again resume serious discussion)

    Dan asked if God would torture us to get information from us and it occurred to me that Jesus says (in Doctrine and Covenants) that if we don’t repent we must suffer even as he suffered? It sounds to me like extreme tortuous pain and suffering maybe built into the plan for some people … perhaps many people.

    Not that the purpose of that torture is to get information … but still … just thought I’d throw that into the mix.

  187. I think danithew makes a good point. I further feel that perhaps, instead of asking WWJD, we should inquire regarding the possible actions of the chupacabra.

  188. oops, I was responding to the silly comments, not the serious ones.

    I agree that suffering is built into the plan of redemption, but I don’t think that god-given suffering is in the same category as torture. God-given suffering is given us to make us learn things about ourselves; it is not done in revenge or in an effort to get info out of us. I think Dan’s understanding is essentially correct there.

  189. HP,

    According to the Geneva conventions, it is torture to point a gun at someone and threaten them with their life. We could come to a consensus more quickly if you would identify all of the other forms of torture you accept. (In case it’s not clear, you torture the guy as soon as you point the gun at him, or suggest you would, before you could pull the trigger to kill him. Having a gun pointed at you is certainly an implied threat to life.)

    The point of this exercise, in case it’s not evident, is to show that all of us, even those of you who, like me, prize the New Testament, are willing to use “torture” in certain circumstances. (Assuming that those pretending to be in the “never torture” camp don’t *really* think it would have been immoral for a passenger on AA11 to threaten Atta with his life.) Once everyone realizes we’re all willing to use some forms of torture to prevent some harms, we can see whether we generally agree, as I suspect we do, and that our disagreements are comparatively minor.

  190. Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-18
    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

    Maybe from God’s perspective, tortuous pain sometimes does serve an actual purpose.

    I should say that I am by NO MEANS attempting to use these verses to justify humans torturing humans. But it surprises me a little to ponder the possibility that torture has a place somewhere in the plan of salvation.

  191. Matt,
    I still believe that the Atta analogy is false. The situations and possible actions in that case have an entirely different set of motivations behind them. If nothing else, the hijackers were the ones in power in that attempt, whereas it is the CIA officers and their bosses who are in power in the abuses that I am concerned with. The hijackers were not prisoners of war nor were they “unlawful combatants”. In the airline situation, Atta has a chance to fight you. He has an opportunity to alert his compatriots. None of these possibilities are available to the victims of waterboarding in our interrogation rooms. The 9/11 hijacking is entirely different and applying Geneva definitions to that situation is somewhat wrong-headed. Also, I apologize for my rhetoric in the last comment. I have been trying to be civil in all this and I went over the line there. Sorry.

  192. Just remembered: today is the anniversary of Mountain Meadows. Blood, horror, violence, all done in the name of God. And so it goes on.

  193. Dan, torture is the infliction of severe stress or pain until the person complies with a demand.

  194. Feeling morally equivalent this morning, eh, Ronan?

  195. danithew,

    Dan asked if God would torture us to get information from us and it occurred to me that Jesus says (in Doctrine and Covenants) that if we don’t repent we must suffer even as he suffered? It sounds to me like extreme tortuous pain and suffering maybe built into the plan for some people … perhaps many people.

    What is God’s purpose in making one suffer in this case? Is it not as punishment for one’s sins? I’ve said before, it is just and fair to be punished for one’s sins. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can avoid that punishment if we follow the Savior and repent of our sins, because he suffered for us. If we don’t, well we’ll suffer for our own sins. But this is not torture.

    Torture is meant to extract information or mete out vengance. At its heart, torture is cruel. It does not exact punishment on an individual for his sins or crimes, but rather, in the case of getting information, exacting punishment for the sins and crimes of another (a plotter about to execute his diabolical plan). You are torturing one person who surrendered his life to you for the crime another is about to commit. The second part is vengance. Torture is also when you go and beat the snot out of someone who did something to you that was very harmful, and that person had already surrendered to you, his life is in your hands.

    To say that if I had a gun pointed at Atta’s head while he is on the plane ready to direct it into the Second Tower (or whichever tower he hit), is not torture. Torture is when Atta is in my custody and surrendered, and then I point a gun to his head and threaten his life. It is EXTRA punishment. It is beyond the norm. He has already given up and cannot harm me. If I hit him, or threaten him with his life, or waterboard him, what is the point? He has surrendered. His life is mine to control. What’s the point of the extra violence except to gather information or to exact revenge.

    That is ungodly and unChristian and inhumane. Now, if we truly are Christian and follow Christ, then we must follow the Articles of Faith.

    13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

    What is the good of torturing someone? If it not good, why do we seek after it?

  196. Matt, I think I would agree with that definition to some extent, though I think torture could take place without any demand. Even by that definition, I’m not sure how that would change the way I was interpreting the verses I quoted.

    I’m not sure Mohammaed Atta is the right guy to be talking about.

    I’m fairly certain, however, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad got some seriously rough treatment after he was captured. I remember reading about his capture and thinking pretty immediately “I’m glad I’m not him.”

  197. Matt,
    No, I’m just sad that violence seems so endemic in this awful world. And it’s evening here in Vienna. A lovely, sunny evening. The birds are singing and the waterboards have all been put away.

  198. Well, if you are suffering anything akin to what Jesus suffered in Gethsemene or on the cross, it may not really matter to you what the purpose is behind it … it would still … feel … like … torture.

  199. danithew,

    it doesn’t matter what it feels like. trying to make you see the truth is torturous to me right now, but it doesn’t mean it is torture. ;)

  200. HP,

    Okay, now we’re making progress. Realizing that an act’s morality is determined by it’s context, and not the act itself, is the key step. And now that we agree on that we could go on to identify circumstances that bear on the contextual morality — you mention Who Is In Control and Has a Chance to Fight Back as considerations, and I’m sure I’d find circumstances where those mattered to me, too.

    It’s also to find times when these would be hard to answer: who is “in control” — the twelve armed officers arround an unarmed man in a police interrogation room, or the unarmed man surrounded by twelve armed officers who knows the the nuclear bomb is 200 yards away?

    Anyway, we can end this discussion knowing that we both identify circumstances when we would accept the use of torture as defined by Geneva, and times we would not. Because we both recognize the inherent dignity of all people, understand our obligation to protect innocent life, and try to live by Christ’s teachings, we would quickly come to near-consensus on this issue, were we to work through the possibilities.

  201. Dan, LOL.

    In all seriousness though …why do the unrepentant have to suffer so much? Demand and coercion are certainly present. They are being required to become humble, to abhor sin, to become pure. Obviously there is no choice in the matter and they are suffering the most exquisite kind of pain. Divine purpose is behind it. That doesn’t make the pain less real.

  202. George Bush is not a man of God. No kidding. For this we gave you a license to blog? He’s an oil man and baseball team owner turned politician. We don’t elect men of God to the presidency, thankfully.

  203. gst,
    But there are more than a few people who think that he is God’s candidate. That’s what makes the post relevant.

  204. danithew,

    actually there is a choice in the matter. People choose to commit sin. People then can choose to accept the savior or accept paying for their sins on their own. It is their choice. What we are not free to choose is the consequence of our actions. The price of sinning is to suffer pain. The price of accepting the savior is to be healed of pain and suffering. The price of not accepting the Savior is to pay the price on our own and suffer what the Savior suffered.

    People have a choice to get out of feeling the pain. They just have to accept the Savior. But the choice is never taken from them.

  205. gst,

    boy there are just so many examples, but this one will do.

    God Put Bush in Charge says General Boykin.

  206. Ronan, it was a pleasant afternoon in Vienna five years ago today, too. As I left Washington DC five years ago right now (our offices closed down) I remember wondering why the sky was so clear and blue. Why didn’t the heavens share my grief?

  207. Right.

  208. Then let me add my voice to the heavenly chorus: GOP in 2008, In shā’ Allāh! (Yes, that was me ululating at the convention in ’04.)

  209. Dan, I think we’re dancing around the same set of facts and we agree on those facts. We just interpret them a little differently or use different words to talk about them. So in my book, this isn’t really an argument or even disagreement.

  210. To my friends who support water boarding and sleep deprivation (because they should not be considered inhumane). I assume you have no problem with Americans’ being the recipients of such treatment.

  211. But there are more than a few people who think that he is God’s candidate.

    Americans are religious people. They ascribe things they like to God. They assume that God wants every good thing they want. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

  212. Seems to me you’re holding President Bush to a higher standard than you would hold Joseph Smith, who was as flawed a human being as could exist. Yet he was still a man of God.

    Actually, I’m pretty sure Joseph Smith would agree with torture in this case. He did say “that which is wrong in one circumstance, can be, and often is, right in another.”

    Supporting sleep deprivation or the water thing on Bin Laden isn’t the same thing as wishing it on my neighbor, for heaven’s sake. Although, there are times. . .

  213. Eric Russell says:

    DavidH, if the American were witholding information that would save the lives of others, then no, I would have no problem with it.

  214. “Realizing that an act’s morality is determined by it’s context, and not the act itself, is the key step. And now that we agree on that we could go on to identify circumstances that bear on the contextual morality — you mention Who Is In Control and Has a Chance to Fight Back as considerations, and I’m sure I’d find circumstances where those mattered to me, too.”

    Matt, I’ve spent the weekend reading old President Benson talks, so you’ll have to explain his disgust with moral relativism. I thought that we were discussing categorical definitions of torture (I have only brought up Geneva in response to others).

  215. Anne,
    I respect your opinion more than most and you may be right. There is something in me that balks at the idea that Joseph was involved in torture (perhaps because he was so often the victim of it). This is why I dismiss most arguments regarding his culpability in Danite activities.

    Regarding Bush, I don’t think of him, myself, or most people as being particularly Christlike. As to whether we are good Christians, you should ask God and the people around us. Our testimony is obviously biased. I don’t know that I would liberally apply the label to myself.

    I just don’t think good Christians torture people and they certainly shouldn’t brag about it.

  216. Ronan, it’s a mistake to think of the Sermon on the Mount as any type of “new law.” It reflects some (vastly) oversimplified version of the moral system that had been worked out as a framework for personal morality within Mosiac law by the pharisees in the century before Jesus’s birth. Try telling any reasonably intelligent Jew that Jesus was a moral innovator by virtue of the sermon on the mount, and he’ll laugh at you.

    Dan: [Bush's] policies are destroying my country.

    No, they’re not. The USA will survive this at least as well as it survived Clinton’s tawdry fundraising and his sexual activities with his staff. On the other hand, your extremist histrionics are having a negative the quality of political discussion.

    HP/JDC: I think torture in all forms is evil. I think that those who endorse torture are bad Christians if they claim to be Christians. What other beliefs are relevant to this discussion?

    Evidence that you’re a pseudo-intellectual: When I try to anticipate your screwball beliefs, you hide behind an indignant, “You don’t know me.” When I ask you what your screwball beliefs are, you say, “They’re not relevant.”

    Ronan: I know who JDC voted for as governor of Maryland, and it wasn’t the Kennedy girl.

    That’s a relief. Those Kennedys are frightening. Did you know that her God-father was Joe McCarthy?

    Ronan: The title ['George W. Bush is not a man of God] is fair.

    No. The title is rubbish. It’s as indicative of religious bigotry as the Evangelical mantra, “Mormons aren’t Christian.” I should be ashamed to post on a blog that contained such a post with such a title. It’s the sort of thing that makes me hold the author in contempt.

    ECS: DKL is not the first Mormon to parse the word “torture” and reduce it to meaninglessness…

    And I’m sure I won’t be the last. But I think you have a tenuous grasp on the logic of semantics if you think that arguing for a strong definition of torture reduces it to meaningless. On the contrary, it’s the watered down definition of torture that trivializes it. Indeed, if grounding your teenager child for a week is torture (as some teenagers claim), then torture cannot be said to be an altogether bad thing at all–much less a palpable evil.

    annegb, you’re right on.

    I’d have a lot more to say if I didn’t think that Matt Evans is handing the libs their ass on a platter.

  217. DKL,
    Ask me what you want to know. If you don’t ask me any questions, I cannot tell you any lies. I could tell you that I voted Green in the past two primary elections, but my choice had less to do with the quality of their political positions (which are unworkable at best and ridiculous at worst) and more to do with the sincerity with which I felt they held them. I didn’t (and don’t) find Bush or Kerry particularly sincere or intelligent and I would love a viable third party (if for no other reason than to drive the extremists out of one of the other parties). So I have given you some political insight into me. What any of that has to do with the question at hand is mysterious to me, but I am willing to be taught, as, at least, it may, someday, prompt you to relabel me.

  218. DKL,

    No, they’re not. The USA will survive this at least as well as it survived Clinton’s tawdry fundraising and his sexual activities with his staff. On the other hand, your extremist histrionics are having a negative the quality of political discussion.

    hmmm, on the one hand you ask me to raise the level of the political conversation, on the other you label me an extremist when I’m really a moderate. I claim, quite rightly, that those who advocate for torture as a general and common place practice for my country are extremists, not the norm, nor mainstream. Anyone who advocates torture in my country is attempting to destroy my country, because that is not what my country stands for. Saying so does not lower the quality of a political discussion, but raises it because it shows how strongly I believe in this country. I will fight tooth and nail against those who wish to employ torture in my country.

  219. DKL,
    Please note that I qualified the title in the post. You are right that the title is more inflammatory than it ought to be. That said, it is meant to address the oft-repeated justification that I have heard in my conversations with fellow Mormons that “GWB is a man of God.” If you believe a strong definition of torture is appropriate, then why can I not be allowed my strong definition of Christian?

  220. I have heard the claim that torture by Pakistani services lead to the intelligence that allowed the British to prevent the recent airline plot. Is that true? Shouldn’t it matter whether that’s true?

  221. Steve Evans says:

    on a platter, DKL? Come now. It doesn’t take much to wander into a liberal blog and cause a tizzy.

  222. gst,
    perhaps it is true. I think that makes the Pakistanis lousy Christians…oh wait…

  223. Matt, I’ve simply said that God will uphold this nation while we remain on the side of the angels. If the people and its leaders are righteous, America will prosper and always be defended in the surest way possible.

    The fear and paranoia informing the torture apologists is a direct rejection of God’s mercy and protection by frightened little people who think He has abandoned us to fend for ourselves. If this faithless self-focus continues, they’ll be right. God will leave us to fend for ourselves and this nation will collapse so quickly it will make your head spin – regardless of whether we reform the Department of Homeland Security and no matter who we beat to death in a dark room.

    To clarify however. I would not oppose shooting a hijacker in the head to prevent a suicide crash. But as Ronan said, your hypotheticals are “all over the place.”

    For the record, Nephi was directly ordered by God to kill Laban.

    I can’t think of a single story in the scriptures which is less relevant to our discussion here than Nephi killing Laban.

  224. Then we are lucky to be protected by lousy Christians, reverse-Janissaries, I suppose you could call them.

  225. gst,

    Yes, the tortured him. And they tortured him apparently at the behest of the Americans. Then he revealed the plot (of course the Brits knew about the plot as they have had an informant in the group since July 2005). What he revealed in his attempt to get the Pakistanis to stop torturing him was in fact not true. He revealed that they were ready to go and the plot was imminent. Of course they weren’t ready to go, and the Brits knew this, but went in to arrest the plotters at the behest of the Americans. What was learned was that the plotters did not have any equipment ready. Some didn’t even have passports! They were looking to make a dry run, to see how their plan would work—-all while the Brits had an informant who saw all this, I remind you.

    So what does this reveal?

    It shows that a man under torture told of more than he knew and that what he told was a fabrication in order to get the torture to stop.

  226. I can’t think of a single story in the scriptures which is less relevant to our discussion here than Nephi killing Laban.

    Maybe the dude that fell from the rafters and died in Acts.

  227. gst,

    I don’t necessarily doubt it. That said, the Pakistani’s don’t claim to be good Christians either.

    remember the source of Realpolitik.

  228. Regarding #216 – How about this definition of torture: anything that makes DKL scream like a girl or wet his pants. But under that definition, we’d have to include Daddy long legs spiders and garter snakes. Probably too broad a definition, even for the pansy liberals and pseudo-intellectuals.

  229. I can’t think of a single story in the scriptures which is less relevant to our discussion here than Nephi killing Laban.

    Maybe the dude that fell from the rafters and died in Acts.

    Ruth and Naomi? Zelophehad’s daughters? Judah and Tamar?

  230. OK, OK, fine.

  231. Yesterday I was reading Naipaul’s history of Trinidad, and he mentions that the testimony of an Indian was admissible in Spanish courts only if it was the product of torture. And they were still more humane than the French!

    I don’t advocate this.

  232. Steve Evans says:

    Well said ECS. Also clowns.

  233. Ug, sorry for the broken link way back in comment number 3. Hopefully, this link here will help you all see what got me all riled up.

  234. Confusing stress techniques, like keeping someone awake for days, or subjecting him to loud music, fake menstrual blood, etc., with, you know, actual torture, diminishes the horror real torture. Hell, I use stress techniques when conducting depositions in civil litigation (though I don’t often have occasion to use fake menstrual blood.)

  235. Eric Russell says:

    “Hell, I use stress techniques when conducting depositions in civil litigation”

    Dude, gst. Love your enemies. Haven’t you ever read the Bible?

  236. I do love my enemies. It’s my clients’ enemies that I hate.

  237. A pox on all your houses.

    Of course there are portions of the scripture that go against torture, however defined. And of course there are portions that seem to comply with it just fine. If you’re looking for a concrete answer on torture, or foreign policy, or whatever other modern issue, you just won’t find it in the bible.

    Take a look at Kiskilili’s recent post on biblical interpretation:

    Predictably, a good chunk of the papers dealt either with abortion or gay marriage, and it was clear to me that the students’ own views fell along both sides of the spectrum on both issues. Some students proof-texted the Bible to demonstrate abortion should be illegal, while others examined the same group of texts and reached opposite conclusions. And similar arguments appeared for and against gay marriage.

    But by the end of the course, many students recognized this pattern. One wrote explicitly in his final paper that it seemed to him that everyone was using the Bible to reach conclusions they already held.

    Kiskilili is right, and most of the sound and fury on this thread (“Torture is not Christian! Is so! Is not! Is so!”) is therefore misguided.

    (Is not!)

    (Is so!)

  238. Steve Evans says:

    kaimi, your recruiting methods know no shame.

  239. Steve,

    Is not!

  240. Kaimi,

    I go by what the church says

    The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances,” said church spokesman Dale Bills. “The church has not taken a position on any proposed legislative or administrative actions regarding torture.”

  241. I realize I am pretty late to this conversation, but there has been a line of thought that I think deserves to be followed.

    It seems that everybody agrees that individuals should he held responsible for their actions. To what extent should they be held accountable? When you catch your kid with his hand in the cookie jar, do you take his word for it when he says he wasn’t doing it? What steps, if any, do you take to find out the truth?

    If a terrorist, or (to be slightly less inflammitory) somebody planning any kind of crime, or who had participated in any kind of crime, denies any participation, what do you do? Ask nicely, then send them to bed with milk and cookies when they don’t admit anything? Ask a little more sternly, then send them to bed without supper (incidentally, the detainees in Guantanamo get three squares a day)?

    For the hardened criminal, “terrorist” or not, lying is a way of life. Society has to take steps to protect itself. What steps can a Christian society take? Do we follow the Captain Moroni example and kill them until they surrender and take an oath to never take up arms again?

    Several commenters have said clearly what they would NOT do, but what steps would you take to hold these people accountable?

  242. Just to repeat, probably ad nauseum, I have no problem with “stress techniques” in general. It is waterboarding with which I have a particular problem. I believe that it represents torture (aka actual torture).

    Kaimi,
    I don’t believe that Matt (whom I assume you are referring to as I don’t think anyone else has attempted to answer the question) has offered a compelling Christian justification for torture (I am not sure even Matt believes that). I agree that you are right that the Bible can be used to argue for an awful lot of things that we find objectionable today (including genocide, slavery, polygamy, and other such). I don’t know what any of that has to do with my contention that Bush is a bad Christian because he condones torture.

  243. Seth, God will be with us so long as we recognize him as the God of this land (Ether 2). He does not expect us, fortunately, to rescind sensible laws that allow police snipers to threaten to kill (i.e., torture) thugs taking hostages, or the many other ways we “resist evil.”

    Nephi and Laban is germane to the discussion because it’s the best example of _God’s_ endorsing a utilitarian rationale for killing. (“Better that one man die…”)

    Finally, a lot of commenters have been arguing as though torture is always worse than death. Many forms of torture, perhaps most, are preferable to death. Many of us would go without food and water for 24 hours each month voluntarily, and of course we wouldn’t self-inflict that form of internationally-recognized torture if it were worse than death.

  244. CS Eric, in general, I believe that interrogations should take place under the guidelines laid out in the relevant training manuals/conventions of law, whatever they may happen to be. I have no problem with any of the tactics used in the article linked to by me, Ronan, and Matt Evans. US interrogators, aside from the use of waterboarding, have been very humane as far as I can tell. I think that in dealing with terrorists it is probably very useful to make them think that you are willing to torture them. That said, I don’t believe we should ever actually do it.

  245. Matt,
    your definition of torture remains all over the place, especially because you clearly don’t even believe in it. Please try your best to use analogies that actually relate.

  246. CS Eric,

    If a terrorist, or (to be slightly less inflammitory) somebody planning any kind of crime, or who had participated in any kind of crime, denies any participation, what do you do? Ask nicely, then send them to bed with milk and cookies when they don’t admit anything? Ask a little more sternly, then send them to bed without supper (incidentally, the detainees in Guantanamo get three squares a day)?

    Normally a criminal can deny he did anything wrong. The burden of proof then lies on the accuser (the prosecutor and the police) to find the evidence and prove the defender (criminal) a liar in court. This is our system of law in America.

    But in our system, there is due process. The accuser has to prove his case that the defendant is guilty. This takes time and effort, something which some don’t want or have anymore apparently. Once someone has surrendered to you, any future violence you apply to that person is not based on his threat to you, but your vengance on him, or your seeking of information from him about something else.

  247. to threaten to kill (i.e., torture)

    There Matt goes again equating torture to killing someone, trying to lessen the grotesqueness of torture.

  248. Mark Butler says:

    Danithew (#190),

    I do not think God tortures anyone, but rather that a proper understanding of hell is that the denizens thereof torture themselves. In other words, hell is what happens when God does nothing.

    Joseph Smith said that the punishment of hell was to go with the residents thereof. Sort of a spiritual free fire zone, where the unrepentant learn the natural consequences of sin, what life is like without the blessings of obedience and salvation through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Sometimes I think there are two versions of Satan’s plan – one is arm-twisting coercion, and the other is absolute chaos. Of course the latter can be used to instill a desire for the former.

  249. Satan’s plan – one is arm-twisting coercion

    Hmmmm….Sounds like torture, doesn’t it? I think we’re finally starting to see who the author of torture is…….

  250. Sometimes I think there are two versions of Satan’s plan – one is arm-twisting coercion…

    Oh, the irony. I almost choked on my Emmentaler sandwich. Don’t do that again, Mark!

  251. Steve Evans says:

    Strangely, the NY Times editorial for today summed up a lot of my feelings about the Bush administration:

    Listing the sins of the Bush administration may help to clarify how we got here, but it will not get us out. The country still hungers for something better, for evidence that our leaders also believe in ideas larger than their own political advancement.

    The torture, the misused tax breaks, misplaced anger and wacky constitutional amendments… we need something better, simply put. I do not know whether the Democrats can provide something better — but I want something better nonetheless.

  252. Mark Butler says:

    Look, if we (as a nation) were righteous enough, the Lord would fight our battles. I am not sure that even the Latter-Days Saints are righteous enough for that yet, however.

    One alternative to quasi-torture would be for the President to ask the Prophet where the terrorists are going to strike next. I suspect if he had that that kind of faith, the answers would be forthcoming, at least in part, according to our worthiness for such blessings.

  253. This blog post and the ensuing comments are a direct violation of the Geneva Convention ban on torture on the grounds of being injurious to the psychological and mental well-being of the participants and readers.

    All participants are hereby summoned forthwith to the Hague for immediate trial and summary execution.

  254. Dan,

    The church’s psition is terribly vague. What exactly _is_ “inhuman” treatment? It’s not made clear. If anything, the church’s explicit refusal to positively link the concept (inhuman treatnment) to other religions’ denunciation of torture weighs against your reading, doesn’t it? If inhuman treatment is torture (as legally defined), then why doesn’t the church join with the other religions you link to?

    (And what exactly does “condemns” mean? Is “the church condemns” equivalent to statement that X or Y or Z is not Christian?)

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that good people should not engage in torture. I’m not convinced, though, that the Bible (or other scripture) really makes the argument that such behavior is per se unChristian. (And if we’re not turning to scripture for our definition of Christianity, then where?)

    Matt Evans will tell you all the day long that scripture outright forbids abortion. Others will tell you all the day long that scripture outright forbids gay marriage. JDC suggests that scripture forbids torture. I’m not convinced of any of these positions. Scripture is largely undecided on most specific political issues, and sufficiently malleable that diametrically opposed camps can each find support for their arguments.

  255. I do not know whether the Democrats can provide something better — but I want something better nonetheless.

    Steve, why not join JDC and vote for the Greens? I’m sure those wacky kids have some great ideas.

  256. Steve Evans says:

    GST, you’re right on. Did I mention that I’m not a U.S. citizen, btw, and really my opinions count for jack-all? True story.

  257. Steve hails from the land of the chupacabra.

  258. One of the heroes in the ABC 9/11 movie last night was a U.S. Customs agent who stopped a bomber trying to cross in from Canada. Good for her, but where was she the day you arrived?

  259. “Scripture is largely undecided on most specific political issues”

    Kaimi,
    Since when did torture become a political issue!?!

  260. gst,
    If it makes you feel any better about it, I live in fear of the day a Green actually gets elected president. Admittedly, it isn’t a great fear.

  261. Since when did torture become a political issue!?!

    Since we delegated decision-making on the issue to politicians.

  262. Eric (and others who support water boarding and sleep deprivation),

    To be certain I understand your position (in post 213), do I understand correclty that you would not object, as a matter of moral principle, if Al Qaeda (or other enemy) used a water board or sleep deprivation on an American soldier to extract information (say information about planned American offensives) that would enable Al Qaeda (or another enemny) to save the lives of many of its members.

    If it is okay for the enemy to use that tactic on our soldiers (or nonsoldiers, for that matter), then I suppose it is consistent to argue that it might be defensible for us to do so.

    My problem is that I do not want it to be lawful (and I do not believe it would be moral) for our captured soldiers (and nonsoldiers) to be subject to such treatment. But I guess I am just too much of a wimp.

    Anne,

    Is it your position that George W is a man of God (post 212)? Is that because all people are, in a sense, “people of God” notwithstanding their sins and weaknesses? (I agree with you that under this definition Bush 43 is a man of God; I hope you would agree that John Kerry is as well.)

  263. gst,
    why should anyone be making this decision?

  264. Steve, I don’t mind ECS mentioning spiders and such, because I’ve gone over that ad nauseum elsewhere. But I told you that thing about clowns in strict confidentiality.

  265. JDC, if your point is, “This shouldn’t be a political issue,” then I don’t understand it. The fact that you think the answer to a question is clear doesn’t remove it from the realm of politics. Elected politicians enact policies regarding how we fight our wars and enforce our laws. How those policies treat torture is a political question.

  266. gst,
    I do believe that it shouldn’t be a political issue. I don’t believe that people should be the “pro-waterboarding” and the “anti-waterboarding” candidate. I do believe that these issues shouldn’t have to be discussed and I am deeply saddened and angered that they are. In any case, all of that is beside the point. Do you think a good Christian can condone and brag about participation in torture?

  267. Okay, I have come up with a scenario in which Pres. Bush is redeemable in my (obviously confused) ethics. If he was bragging last week about something which we didn’t actually do, so that future terrorists will believe that we do it, so that they will be more likely to give good info in interrogations, then I support his braggadicio (sp?). Under those conditions, I believe that he may be a good Christian, albeit a morally conflicted one (just like the rest of us)

  268. Phrases such as “anti-waterboarding candidate” and “pro-waterboarding candidate” should be put in a lock-box, with a chupacabra.

  269. ‘Scuse me. With a sleep-deprived chupacabra.

  270. Phrases such as “anti-waterboarding candidate” and “pro-waterboarding candidate” should be put in a lock-box, with a chupacabra.

    It is because this is likely the only context in which I will ever see this sentence that I love the bloggernacle.

  271. HP and Dan,

    I haven’t been defining torture, we’ve been the definitions from the Geneva conventions, the standard used against Bush by the torture lobby. Witholding food or drink is TORTURE. Threat of violence is TORTURE. Keeping someone from getting eight (consecutive!) hours of sleep is TORTURE. You get the idea. It’s obvious that many forms of internationally-recognized torture are not worse than death. Two forms of torture are easier than Fast Sunday.

    I agree that some forms of torture are so bad that the victim would probably welcome death, but I’d guess that almost all people who are tortured are glad they didn’t die, even if they’d wanted to at the time. (And of course they could always remedy the “problem.”)

    Until you recognize that international torture is “all over the place” it’s meaningless to accuse someone of “torture.” The international definition is so broad that millions of parents are guilty — they don’t let their kids sleep until they’ve received eight hours of sleep. Only specific descriptions of the alleged abuse are morally compelling. Some people think waterboarding crosses the line for playing on one’s fear of drowning, others think it’s morally acceptable to scare the bejeebees out of someone.

    Personally, as a minimum, it’s obviously true that whatever pains drill sergeants are permitted to impose on their troops are morally legitimate for interrogators to employ against Al Qaida operatives.

  272. When our soldiers are captured by terrorists they are horribly mutilated/tortured and then eventually killed.

    We are the good guys and they are the bad guys in my view.

    Anybody disagree?

  273. I can’t help but believe that if I were to obtain a perfect knowledge of the entire plan of salvation, including a vision of that which is to take place for all of us once we have departed from this mortal life, any and all actions that I might take to coerce any type of temporarily desired behavior from my fellow children of a common Heavenly Father could only be seen as a great wickedness. In short, unless God tells me that I’m justified in killing my brother or sister in a particular situation, I’m going to have to assume that no such justification exists. If I am to die as a result of turning the other cheek, then so be it.

    Assuming I have obeyed the commandments and lived the gospel to the best of my ability, it’s not like my death is going to be something permanent. The good news of the gospel is that death has been overcome, and yet so many Christians (and Mormons, it seems to me) really don’t quite believe it.

  274. Do you think a good Christian can condone and brag about participation in torture?

    In most circumstances, no I don’t. But I’m not going to propose an absolute rule on the matter.

  275. Kaimi,

    If anything, the church’s explicit refusal to positively link the concept (inhuman treatnment) to other religions’ denunciation of torture weighs against your reading, doesn’t it? If inhuman treatment is torture (as legally defined), then why doesn’t the church join with the other religions you link to?

    The church stays out of politics on almost all issues and rarely ever supports one piece of legislation. This is nothing new, and not surprising to me. I like the church’s position. They basically teach a person a correct principle, and let them govern themselves. Now as far as what inhumane treatment is, I think they left it open for you the individual to decide what is inhumane and what isn’t. Frankly speaking, if you don’t want to be waterboarded, you probably shouldn’t back waterboarding on others. Or put it simply, listen to the Spirit.

  276. Mythical-legendary creatures such as the chupacabra get to be resurrected too unless they were illegally shipped over the Canadian border.

  277. Matt,

    #271:

    Until you recognize that international torture is “all over the place” it’s meaningless to accuse someone of “torture.” The international definition is so broad that millions of parents are guilty — they don’t let their kids sleep until they’ve received eight hours of sleep.

    All over the place? Really? Can you name examples in the international laws governing torture that are “all over the place?” I realize you like torture to be ill-defined so as to apply it to whatever you desire, but methinks this is not the best way for the United States to go.

  278. If I am to die as a result of turning the other cheek, then so be it.

    Yeah, that’s why we don’t elect “men of God” to manage our defenses, thank God.

  279. rleonard,

    #272:

    When our soldiers are captured by terrorists they are horribly mutilated/tortured and then eventually killed.

    We are the good guys and they are the bad guys in my view.

    Anybody disagree?

    All else being equal, in your scenario, we’re the good guys and they are the bad guys. Now, if Americans start abusing and treating their captives inhumanely, they don’t get a pass just because the bad guys do it worse than them. Sinning is sinning is sinning.

  280. We are the good guys and they are the bad guys in my view.

    Anybody disagree?

    Just your average Muslim, I would imagine. And I bet that he or she would be able to come up with a fine list of reasons as to why you are the bad guy, and he is the good guy.

    The Book of Mormon tells us that the descendants of Laman and Lemuel were absolutely convinced that their ancestors had been wronged, multiple times, and that the Nephites were the bad guys and they were the good guys. They were operating on the best information they had. Assuming Nephi’s account of what occurred between he and his brothers was a complete and truthful one, we’re operating from a position of advantage, knowing who was right and who was wrong in that particular matter.

    Do we all have a sufficient knowledge of history from the Muslim vantage point to truly come to an understanding of why they might view us as the bad guys? Do we know everything that our government has undertaken in secret in the middle east over the years that just might cause someone to have a grievance against us? Who has the entire historical record that will correctly point out who is right on this one?

  281. gst,

    #278,

    Yeah, that’s why we don’t elect “men of God” to manage our defenses, thank God.

    What’s the matter? You don’t think God will protect you if you keep all his commandments? We turn to our gods of steel because we fear that if we don’t see our defense, we somehow will not be defended. But with God at your back, you are invincible, gst, and that is truth.

  282. HP,

    You’re the scripture person here. Is it really your claim that a group of often-contradictory and -disputed statements made to a group of semitic tribes two thousand years ago (and subjected to endless interpretation and misinterpretation since then) really translates unambiguously and without jumping through any hermeneutical hoops into a straightforward, brook-no-dissent normative command in 2006: “No actions are permitted that would violate the Geneva Conventions against torture?”

    Isn’t there any possibility that the translation is something less than definitive? Is it possible that attempts to extract that level of normative certainty from that kind of document are, how to put it, fraught with difficulty and potential complications? Aren’t there _any_ interpretational concerns or ambiguities that might come out of such a strong normative reading?

    Or are you really taking the position that a group of documents notorious for protean inability to answer most specific questions over two thousand years — infant baptism, icons, nature of the trinity, et seq — just happens to give us a plain-as-day normative translation that happens to follow exactly along the 2006 political definitions the Geneva Conventions?

  283. Dan, you’ll only take away my gods of steel when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

  284. Mark,

    #280,

    Do we know everything that our government has undertaken in secret in the middle east over the years that just might cause someone to have a grievance against us? Who has the entire historical record that will correctly point out who is right on this one?

    I don’t know all the greviances, but I do know of one that is pertinent to our current situation. It is called Operation Ajax.

    The reason for its pertinence is that most of the greviances that Iranians have against the United States are directly tied to this one event back in the 1950s. Why did the Ayatollah Khomeini succeed in his revolution in 1979? Because the monarchy the United States installed in place of a democratically elected government the Iranians freely elected oppressed the people and Islam the religion.

  285. danithew,

    Dan, you’ll only take away my gods of steel when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.

    haha. in full disclosure, I do own a samurai sword. :D

  286. Kaimi, I think that Elder Maxwell already used “hermeneutical hoops.”

  287. Eric Russell says:

    DavidH,

    That’s a good question. Certainly anything we do to others we implicitly acknowledge must be justifiable for them to do to us. It’s difficult, because I’m opposed to Al Qaeda even giving an ugly look to a U.S. soldier, so certainly I wouldn’t want them to do anything more. But if I had to draw a line somewhere of acceptable interrogation techniques, I would have to say I would accept their use of waterboarding on us. From what I understand of the practice, it does no real physical damage and only produces a sense of fear. It sucks, but it’s not going to hurt you. So I say it’s fair game.

    Now if we were to start talking about real torture, things would be different.

  288. gst, may I put your name down in the column of those who don’t quite believe that Christ has overcome death, then?

    It’s amazing to me how many Christians there are in this world who claim that heaven is this wonderful, blessed place of peace, and then seemingly do everything they can to postpone their arrival there as long as possible, even if it comes down to taking actions to insure that their brother and sister spirits arrive there first.

  289. Matt,
    Nobody but you are applying international torture definitions to situations to which they simply do not apply. This is why your definition is “all over the place”. The Geneva convention isn’t all over the place because it applies to specific contexts; you are all over the place because you refuse to apply them to the context for which they are intended, choosing instead to apply them to every other conceivable context. And before we go down another “contextual” digression, I do believe that contexts can be written into categories (just not very well).

    Regarding the drill sergeant argument, I will agree with you again, up until the point drill sergeant starts torturing his charges. Now will you stop engaging in this silly digression. It is tiresome.

    gst,
    I am very willing to make an absolute rule of it. Hence the post. We may have to agree to disagree here.

    rleonard,
    I agree that, as far as I now know, terrorists treat their captives far worse than we treat ours. Even if that were the only scale of judgment, I would agree that we are nicer and better than them. Overall, I believe that we are nicer and better people, generally speaking, than terrorists. I don’t believe that this immunizes us somehow from listening to the adversary and I don’t believe that we can torture and remain the nicer, better people.

  290. endlessnegotiation says:

    Dan #279

    “Sinning is sinning is sinning.”

    This might be the most idiodic statement I’ve ever heard uttered under the guise of intelligent, enlightened religious discussion. Failure to comprehend the fact that not all sins are created equal represents a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity and Mormonism. Heck, the very first narrative of our religious tradition is a lesson in this concept.

  291. Mark N.

    Who cares? When there is a threat to exterminate our civilization we need to fight back. There is no moral equivalence between the US and its enemies on this matter.

    The Left needs some spine in its backbone. When the barbarians are at the gate its time to fight them not get mad at your political enemies.

  292. endlessnegotiation,

    #290,

    did I mention anywhere that all sins were created equal? Please show me where I did. I said that if Americans were to start abusing or treating inhumanely their captives, they cannot be good, moreover they cannot use the excuse that the bad guys are worse than them to justify doing bad themselves, because sinning is sinning is sinning. You commit a sin, you are no longer good. Nowhere did I talk about the degree of sin, did I?

  293. Kaimi,
    I never brought up the Geneva conventions and I don’t know what they contain. For me personally, the manner of Christ’s death makes all torture and “cruel and unusual” capital punishment deeply distasteful and possibly blasphemous. I do not deny that other people are entitled to their opinion regarding what the good book says on the subject. The only person who has made a stab here is Matt Evans and I don’t think he did a particularly good job for reasons stated above (several of which coincide with your reasons for questioning my reasons). I don’t personally find the Church’s statement ambiguous either, but that is probably neither here nor there. I certainly wouldn’t argue that the Bible necessarily conforms to Geneva standards.

  294. rleonard,

    #291,

    Who cares? When there is a threat to exterminate our civilization we need to fight back. There is no moral equivalence between the US and its enemies on this matter.

    The Left needs some spine in its backbone. When the barbarians are at the gate its time to fight them not get mad at your political enemies.

    How can terrorists “exterminate our civilization?” Is our civilization that weak? Is it that feeble that a group of cave dwellers threaten it with extinction? Do you realize how much disservice you do to your civilization? Please be realistic.

    The Left has a lot of backbone. Look, we’re standing up to the ridiculous right and their warmongering ways. I say that’s pretty brave. You’ve got the Right putting out ads threatening voters with death. “Vote as if your life depends on it. It does.” That’s the motto of the new ads. Scary stuff.

    The Left backed the real war against terror, our war in Afghanistan. Iraq was a distraction and had nothing to do with terror. Just last week the Senate Intelligence Report disproved basically all alleged ties between Saddam and Al-Qaeda and Saddam and Zarqawi, as liberals have claimed since 2002.

  295. rleonard,

    One more thing:

    When the barbarians are at the gate its time to fight them not get mad at your political enemies.

    Then why are Republicans using scare tactics in their ads against Democrats for the November elections?

  296. Lets take our cue from Josepg Smith himself. He died firing a 6 gun….

  297. Luckily, he wasn’t tied up nearly drowning from having water dumped over his head.

  298. What does a mob coming to kill the prophet of the Lord have to do with gathering information from detainees?

  299. What would you do
    If you were asked to give up your dreams for freedom?

    Freedom costs a buck ‘o five

  300. endlessnegotiation says:

    Dan #292

    Your failure to grasp the concept that it’s more important for the human race to extricate its worst sins first is a clear indicator that you do not understand the concept of moral superiority. It’s a question of marginal gain and your response indicates that you miscalculate the marginal gain acheived by making sure all captured enemy combatants recieve some sense of Western due process to be greater than the marginal gain to be acheived by eliminating enemy combatants with a stated purpose of killing all who do not confess allegiance to Mohamed.

  301. endlessnegotiation.

    can you expound please. This is what I am saying.

    Group A (terrorists) does 100 bad things that equals 1000 points.

    Group B (Americans) therefore does 50 bad things that equals 500 points thinking its okay because at least it is less than Group A.

    Simply because group A does more bad things does not justify Group B from doing the bad things they do, irregardless of the fact that their bad things are fewer than Group A.

    Americans are generally better than terrorists. If they do bad things though, they don’t get to be called good just because the bad guys do more bad things than they do.

  302. Brad Kramer says:

    Matt,
    Your contention that the Nephi/Laban story demonstrates God’s willingness to engage in utilitarian calculations with human life and death is both correct (imo) as well as germane to the discussion. But so is your observation that there exists not discernable link between beheading an unconscious man and acquiring scriptures for a family (or cvilization).

    The justification itself (“better that one man die than en entire nation…”) speaks volumes, for only God is in a position to connect the demanded act of seemingly over-the-top violence with the undesired future outcome–an entire nation dwindling in unbelief. Such a calculation is and of necessity must be based upon knowledge only accessible to God. So yes, I agree that this story shows that God is willing to treat human lives as means rather than ends; but I think it also shows that ONLY God is in a position to do so. For me this story reveals an important weakness in the “ticking bomb” scenario.

    Beyond that, I have a hard time with the whole “what would you do” approach to discussing this subject. I have no problem admitting that I would do things under serious duress that would not qualify as “Christian” in any meaningful sense. If I had the opportunity, I would probably ram a crowbar into the kindey, bash the kneecaps, and slowly remove the genitals and ears of a man that was raping one of my sons. Would I consider it Christian or even remotely ethical? Surely not. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the idea of reducing the governing principles of Christ’s gospel to our own weak, natural-manly inclinations toward violence and coercion. The fact that I would do something surely cannot mean that that something is sanctioned by Christ–can it?

  303. Carlton,

    What would you do If you were asked to give up your dreams for freedom?

    What would YOU do? Would you be tortured?

  304. Freedom isn’t free
    It costs folks like you and me
    And if we don’t all chip in
    We’ll never pay that bill
    Freedom isn’t free
    No, there’s a hefty F***in’ fee.
    And if you don’t throw in your buck ‘o five
    Who will?

  305. WOW! HP you are about as loved and hated as JS was/is for writing this post!

    I don’t understand how anyone can think inhumane treatment, being defined as torture or not, is ok.
    I don’t understand at all how this is a partisan issue. I don’t really think what the Geneva convention should be an issue. As Americans, shouldn’t we be the gold standard?
    Surely any religious tradition and/or philosophy that seeks the best for and of humanity would not condone waterboarding!!! or any inhumane treatment of prisoners, let alone “torture”.
    This really seems to have nothing to do with whether or not one disagrees with the current war–or agrees or disagrees with other presidential administration of policies and practicies.
    Don’t people know that we, as human beings–are supposed to be nice? And if we are not nice–we are wrong?
    (This does not mean not to defend ourselves–so don’t misconstrue)

  306. Eric Russell says:

    aaron, I haven’t seen anyone say that inhumane treatment is ok.

  307. Eric,
    Are you saying that you think waterboarding is humane or humane relative to other potential activities?

  308. Brad Kramer says:

    Notwithstanding the rather casual (and, quite frankly disturbing) willingness of some to dismiss the statements of the Savior on the subject of violence and/or the treatment of one’s enemies, or to simply relegate them to the category of inconvenient or unworkable, they must be considered (imo) as being singularly relevant to the quesetions under discussion here. I find equally troubling the willingness of many to engage in the kind of sectarian parsing/proof-texting of scripture–including modern revelation–thereby turning matter-of-fact statements or those of limited application into sweeping generalities.

    I believe that much of the great value of the Book of Mormon lies in its function as a historical commentary or even labratory for testing the viability and applicability of the Savior’s teachings to the murky, complex shades of grey encountered in the hard-headed “real world.” With regard to the specific question of terrorism (and President Packer is quick to point out the presence of the word “terror” in the BoM narrative), it seems to me that the Book of Mormon can be quite helpful. In the past, I have likened our willingness to “take the fight to our enemies” and engage them proactively (in a rather Niblyesque fashion) to the tide-change in Nephite foreign policy of Mormon 3–going after the Lamanites in their own territory–and the ensuing demise of Nephite civilization. Yet it has been pointed out to me that perhaps the efforts of the Nephites to deal with secret combinations–whom they were consistently willing to engage offensively–is more relevant to our current circumstance.

    Ultimately, and notwithstanding the insidiousness of the threat posed by the gaddiantonites or secret combinations in general, notwithstanding the Nephites’ willingness to attack them preemptively, notwithstanding Alma’s injunction to employ “swords” where “words” are not persuasive – notwithstanding all the ample justification for attacking them, settling the question with military means, etc. – the only thing that EVER worked was when a reformed band of Lamanites preached to them and converted them to the Lord.

    Having invoked that specific example, I think we have to step back, not focus on specific statements or events, and look at what the broad overall message of the BoM with regards to violence, war, killing, self-defense, and bloodshed.

    The BoM, as a text, is clearly focused, among other things, on the problem of violence. Its pages are riddled with acts of violence and the efforts of good men to try to understand, rationalize, minimize, and control violence. Overall, I think the whole of the BoM message about violence is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Mormon is a general that embarks on a career confident
    in the belief that violence, when wielded by just men, can be used to secure just ends – that violence can be used to accomplish good, and that the good it brings about can outweigh the bad. He is obsessed with the figure of
    Moroni, whom he lionizes as possible (Jesus aside) the most righteous man to have ever lived. He names his son after him, and tries to emulate his righteous military leadership. (Indidentally, the fact that Mormon thinks Moroni can shut up the gates of hell has not convinced me that this is in fact the case). If anyone is in a position both to believe and to exemplify the proposition that violence can be used for righteous purposes, it is Mormon, who not only has Moroni’s model to follow but is himself a vey righteous man, an inspired prophet, and military genius.

    I think Mormon’s thinking on the subject evolves throughout his life, as he experiences the military failings of his people and his own personal failing
    as a leader who can direct them to righteous victory. His human ideal evolves from Moroni in Alma to the Anti-Nephi-Lehis in Mormon 7. In the end, he comes to believe that the only option for us is to lay down our weapons of war come unto Christ.

    I don’t think that it makes sense to hold up Moroni’s thinking (i.e. Title of Liberty) as the cannonized, immovable ideal about when violence is or isn’t justified. God himself has told us (in the D&C) that, even when
    violence is justified, there is a better way and abstaining from justified but violent acts of defense after the third offense is the path of greater
    righteousness. And the above mentioned story of the Gaddiantonite conversion reveals that no enemy is so vile as to be unredeemable. That was the belief that motivated the efforts of the maybe the greatest fighter in Lehite
    history – Ammon – to lay down his sword and try to convert a people which the Nephites believed to be so evil, so bloodthirsty, so degraded, that the only way to deal with them was to preemptively attack them (see Alma 26).

    In the spirit of Gandhian non-violent direct action, the ANLs layed down before their attacking enemies rather than commit what they considered to be murders (acts of self defense) and many of them were killed. But, as Gandhi
    predicted would happen in all cases of such efforts, the attacking Lamanites were so moved by the action that even more of them laid down their own weapons and joined the ANLs than were killed (Alma 24).

    I propose that the sum-total message of the BoM about violence is that it weaves a careful, complex, and nuanced historical narrative that serves to reinforces the principles about violence taught by the Savior – loving
    enemies, turning the other cheek, all those that take up the sword (as opposed to all those who refuse to take up the sword) perishing by the sword. The Book of Mormon, by showing us examples of deeply personal violence, violence justified explicitely by God, violence both adopted and
    rejected by good, virtuous, god-fearing men, violence on the most horrific, genocidal scale – the BoM has something profound to tell us about violence: that regardless of the ethical justification of violence, and regardless of
    the righteous intent or personal virtue of those who engage in it, it can never be used in a way from which the positive consequences will outweight the negative ones.

    If one truly wishes to dispell the notion that violence can be used to advance righteousness, one does not invoke the Nazis as evidence. One invokes righteous leaders and righteous people who still can’t make it work.

    All roads, in the BoM, lead to the same place. Once you open the door to the myth of redemptive violence, it spirals out of control until the “spirit of bloodshed” takes hold of a people and their destruction is sealed. What’s most promising about the BoM’s depiction of violence is how it ends. Moroni, after closings his father’s account of the fate of the Nephites, and after
    including his own hyper-edited account of the even more breathtaking demise of the Jaredites (an astonishing outcome, unthinkable to today’s military
    planners, in which both sides completely obliterate one another to a single man), he finishes the record by abandoning the subject altogether. Instead, in his closing chapters, we get the sacrament prayers, his father’s sermons on charity and the purity of children, and his own treatise on spiritual gifts.

    I’m not trying to find specific passages or instances in the narrative and point to them as representing any comprehensive theory on violence. The BoM itself, in its totality, is that theory.

  309. Dan,

    The voters feel based on national polling historically that the Left (Dems) is soft on national security since about 1968.

    Hence the curent push by the administration on this issue. It will probably work based on history

  310. Brad Kramer says:

    Sorry for the botched formatting in 308.

  311. I think Carlton has settled the issue with some irrelevant country song lyrics. Let’s move on.

  312. Brad,

    That’s a monster comment but it’s pretty interesting. Cheers. I too think that on the whole the BoM preaches the failure of war to bring about lasting peace.

    Anyway, goodnight from Austria. When I wake up tomorrow, I look forward to seeing 400 comments.

  313. Eric Russell says:

    That’s correct, HP/JDC. There’s no way a technique as non-threatening as that should be considered inhumane. But, of course, there’s no way to prove or disprove it. I think it’s just a matter of individuals’ thresholds of tolerance.

    It’s kind of like how everyone has a different barometer of how many sexually related jokes a movie can have before it becomes too crude or inappropriate or viewing. Then again, I (and apparently Carlton) am amused by Team America, so maybe I’m not a very good standard.

  314. Steve Evans says:

    Carlton, you get 5,000,000 bonus points for citing Team America: World Police. Dan: minus 50,000 points for not getting the reference.

  315. I missed it too. My wife won’t let me watch movies with marionette sex, curse her.

  316. As Borat would say, “your wife is BBBORING!”

  317. Damnit, Ronan, you’re in Vienna, we get it. Stop rubbing it in.

  318. Borat I am allowed to watch, blessedly.

    “My wife, she died in a field.”

  319. And, “Throw the Jew down the well. So my country can be free!”

  320. In our country there is problem — and that problem is transport.

  321. Throw transport down the well.

  322. Brad Kramer says:

    Perhaps our collective affinity for Borat can create a kind of pan-ethical solidarity that transcends the otherwise bitterly partisan rancor that seems to have prevailed through much of the debate on this thread.

    Quick, everyone flood the emails of JDC, Matt, Steve, and DKL with youtube links. Let the healing begin.

  323. Brad Kramer says:

    Er, I guess Steve doesn’t need it.

  324. Eric,
    Thank you for a thoroughly appropriate and unsarcastic response. I appreciate that we can agree to disagree on this issue.

    I too have never seen Team America. I am so uncool.

  325. endlessnegotiation says:

    Dan #301:

    There are several flaws to your scenario. First, you fail to understand that the tactics employed by each side are intended to achieve victory over the other which will result in a dominant paradigm perpetuated by one side or the other. This failure futher leads to commit another mistake by allocating morality points in terms of a finite, event-bound number rather than a calculus. The problem with such an approach is that it assumes that once the conflict at hand is resolved that the tactics adopted and used during that conflict will cease and that the net moral effect on humanity will be bound by that single “event”. A more appropriate calculation would have the net moral affect be somthing along the lines as follows (I changed the positive/negative calculus to represent moral degradation rather than give positive points for depravity):

    -1*(k*t)^2

    k represents a value for “moral depravation” in absolute terms. t represents a time period multiplyer (it could be anything from years to generations) during which the victorious paradigm will exist in practice. Squaring the product allows for some calculation of a “slippery” slope where the “victorious” side becomes more and more depraved. Another potential addendum to this calculus is a provision for the liklihood that the tactics chosen by either side would be abandonded once the conflict ended (I’d be inclined to make it something along the lines of a function of the inverse of k). Substituting some dimentionally similar numbers from your initial scenario makes it look something like this.

    Group A (terrorist) tactics produce net moral outcome of -1*10y^2

    Group B (USA) tactics produce a net moral outcome of -1*5y^2

    The result of the equation is that for the situation to represent any sort of moral equvalence would require huge differences with respect to y– an assumtion I think to be unfounded.

    Why is this important to Christendom and humanity as a whole? Because, Dan and others of his ilk want to fight every battle out there with the limited resources we have whithout any calculation of the MARGINAL good to be achieved by those endeavors. I wish that the righteous could always acheive victory through purely noble tactics but such is not the world we live in and thus I’m willing to make tradeoffs in order to create a net gain to society. After all, that’s exactly what our first parents did.

  326. um, whither the fries . . . ?

  327. LOL Kaimi. That’s my favorite comment so far …

  328. I think it’s time for me to start using “whither the fries” in casual everyday speech … it’s too good not to use.

  329. Steve Evans,

    Carlton, you get 5,000,000 bonus points for citing Team America: World Police. Dan: minus 50,000 points for not getting the reference.

    doh! I guess ignorance is not always bliss. guess I should have watched every single movie ever made.

  330. endlessnegotiation,

    #325:

    Is there such a thing as a good sin? Can a sin ever bring about a good thing? Can something good ever come from something evil? Did not Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother talk about this? Did not Mormon also talk about this?

    You say:

    Why is this important to Christendom and humanity as a whole? Because, Dan and others of his ilk want to fight every battle out there with the limited resources we have whithout any calculation of the MARGINAL good to be achieved by those endeavors. I wish that the righteous could always acheive victory through purely noble tactics but such is not the world we live in and thus I’m willing to make tradeoffs in order to create a net gain to society. After all, that’s exactly what our first parents did.

    You use Adam and Eve as examples of doing something evil to bring about something good. But did it not come at a price? What was the price Adam and Eve had to pay in order to bring about this good? They lost the presence of their Father, died spiritually, and died physically also. Not only that, but unless they turned to their Savior, they would most assuredly have remained in a state of wickedness and been cast off forever. In other words, without the Savior, the price for their sin was immeasurable, wouldn’t you say?

    That sure is a heavy price to pay for one sin, is it not? Moreover, is that not the price we all pay for just one sin? If we lived a perfect life, except for one sin, a drink at a bar, say, would we enter heaven? Nope. Without payment for that sin, we would never be able to enter into the kingdom of God, because God looks upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

    No good thing comes from sin. The good that comes into the world comes from God countering our sinful ways with his marvelous majesty.

    Mormon gets into this topic in Moroni 7:5-6,10,12-14,16,21,24-26

    5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
    6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
    10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
    12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
    13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
    14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

    So to take your example of Adam and Eve, it is not by Adam and Eve that good came into the world, but by the Lord. The Lord created the way for Adam and Eve to repent of their sin and sin no more.

    Paul says to the Corinthians:

    21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
    22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive

    Credit goes where it goes. It is not by Adam that we are made alive, but by Christ. Adam committed a sin and paid a dear price. It is only through Christ that he is alive and can repent of his sin.

    now, to get back to the topic here at hand.

    yes, I want to limit our resources. There are many things we can do. For example, we have the capability to completely wipe out our enemies with our nuclear weapons. Why do we not do it? Because it is a sin. Because it is detrimental and is one of the worst things we could possibly do. Yes, we need to limit what we do because that is what is right and good.

    We cannot justify something bad by the good we do. Bad will always be bad, and is a far greater factor in who we are than all our good works combined. Take for example a young man, righteous, with a bright future ahead of him. One night in the heat of passion, he fornicates with his girlfriend. By this action alone, he tainted everything else about his life, all the good he has done, like a black spot on the sun (sorry, listening to The Police “King of Pain” right now :D ). Anyways, unless this young man turns to the Lord, his whole future will be tainted by that one incident.

    We must avoid the bad at all times, including when we think we are justified. What’s the phrase you keep hearing from your youth at church? If you have doubts, you probably shouldn’t do it.

  331. Hmmmm….John Kerry? I guess if he says so. I don’t like him much.

    Now I don’t like Al Gore, but I think he’s definitely a man of God. I think Jimmy Carter is sort of a moron, but I think he’s a good man of God.

    I guess I get to decide who is or is not a man of God.

    I don’t think any of us know for sure exactly what we would or would not do in this situation because we are not there.

  332. It’s incorrect to state waterboarding is the worst form of torture perpetrated by the US in Iraq, Guantanamo or elsewhere. Like the rest of the world, I was shocked by the pictures of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Grahib. Not all torture is physical. A great deal of psychological torture has occured as well. I can’t imagine any good Christian endorsing making men wear womens’ underwear, attaching “electrodes” to their genitals, having female interrogators dress as prostitutes to humiliate male prisoners, etc. Whatever ground we’ve taken in this war, I’m sure there must be something higher we’ve chosen to avoid.

  333. HP/JDC: I just don’t think good Christians torture people and they certainly shouldn’t brag about it.

    You don’t get around much, do you?

    Seriously, though, you’re begging the question again. It’s been shown over and over that your definition of torture is tenuous at best. Yet you go on and on using it to make unqualified judgments about people’s Christianity. I think that you’ve reached a crossroads in this thread, HP: You should either step out of Troll mode and say something intelligent, or just give up.

    On another note: I’m fascinated to observe that torture seems to have become the new gay marriage in the ‘nacle.

  334. What is the BCC comment record anyway?

  335. Eric Russell says:

    Steve Park, I’m not sure what relevance that has to do with anything here. The abuses at Abu Ghraib were performed by some morons in the Army reserve. The military punished those involved, some of whom received lengthy prison sentences.

  336. I can’t imagine any good Christian man wearing women’s underwear…

    No need to get personal here, Steve Park. Judge not…

  337. Brad Kramer says:

    DKL,

    I don’t think JDC’s definition of Christian is any more or less tenuous than your definition of torture. Maybe the statement “I just don’t think good Christians engage in conduct that could arguably be defined by reasonable persons as torture, that they make people believe that they are about to die by attempting to create the actual sensation of eminent death in order to extract information — even very potentially valuable information; and they certainly shouldn’t brag about it” lacks the brevity or dramatic flare of the statement you criticized in #333, but the substance is essentially the same — at least in my opinion. Or is the line of demarcation between good and bad Christians located right in between behaviors that are universally considered torture and those that are considered tortured by many but not all reasonable and reasonably informed individuals? We can draw the line wherever we feel comfortable, but I think it is incumbent upon those who profess Christianity to attempt to figure out where Christ would draw that line.

    Semantic arguments about the meaning of the word “torture” are a wasteful distraction from the real question of whether it is more plausible that boasting about waterboarding your enemies is consistent with the teachings of Christ than that it is inconsistent with said teachings. Given your apparent disdain for such wrongheaded nicities as “turn the other cheek” or “all those who take up the sword,” I’d have, quite frankly, expected an entirely different reaction from you to JDC’s argument — something more along the lines of “W’s actions not Christian? Who gives a s**t?!!”

  338. I guess I get to decide who is or is not a man of God.

    I don’t think any of us know for sure exactly what we would or would not do in this situation because we are not there.

    Perhaps.

    There is a simple way to meter out coercion. Whoever is in charge sits next to whoever is to be coerced and receives the same treatment, where both can see each other.

    I’m proud of the military response to the latest proposals, which is to request that no coercive tactics be approved.

  339. Ref: #164
    DKL,
    I think torture in all forms is evil. I think that those who endorse torture are bad Christians if they claim to be Christians. What other beliefs are relevant to this discussion? Let me know and I will state them.

    How about having to read through 150+ posts about torture? Surely that is torture all by itself.

    I’m still not getting the whole waterboarding (which sounds like it would be a fun beach activity) as described on Wiki. They cover your breathing passages with a cloth or cellophane, then pour water on you? What purpose does the water serve?

  340. FHL,

    They do it long enough to make you believe you’re gonna drown or suffocate. Scarry as hell.

  341. Brad, it’s JDC’s definition of torture that I’m disagreeing with. I’ve never even mentioned the word Christians.

    There are several things that I find contemptuous about this post–and I really do mean it when I say that I’d be ashamed to post on a blog that hosted this kind of content.

    First of all, this is among the most self-righteous posts that I’ve ever read on the ‘nacle. There was a post at M* that practically called women with eating orders to repentance, and I think that may have been worse. But this one is up there.

    Second, JDC is emphatically not the arbiter of Christianity that he puts himself up to be. And the other pretensions by commenters to know who is and who isn’t a man of God are equally preposterous.

    Third, watching a bunch of arm-chair casuists froth at the mouth over the most recent DNC talking points is a bit much to expect even the most patient readers to bear.

    Fourth, JDC has chosen an admittedly inflammatory title and inflammatory way to convey his message, and he seems to take it ill that commenters have chosen equally inflammatory ways to express their disagreement. I’m no stranger to inflammatory rhetoric, but I can dish it out and I can take it.

    As far as boasting about water-boarding: If I were able to water-board a man to save even one life, I’d boast about it. In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood tortures a criminal who has kidnapped a teenage girl, given her a limited oxygen supply, and hidden her. By torturing the kidnapper, Dirty Harry is able to find out where the girl has been hidden. When I see that movie, I want to stand up and cheer–that’s how good of a Christian I am. I feel that if I didn’t react that way, I’d be a moral leper. Cut the crap about who is and isn’t a good Christian.

  342. Brad Kramer says:

    DKL,

    You can talk all you want about the warm fuzzies you get from violent films — I definitely remember how I reacted to Braveheart the first time I saw it so I can relate. But the fact that you found the behavior of a film character viscerally satisfying is by no means an argument that such behavior can be defensibly termed Christian. On the other hand, the fact that you seem comfortable equating your gut instincts (“When I see that movie, I want to stand up and cheer–that’s how good of a Christian I am”) with Christian morals and those who react less enthusiastically to such juvenile kitch as “moral lepers” certainly explains your apparently profound respect for George W. Bush.

    Then again, maybe the fact that I’m ashamed of how viscerally satisfying I found the vengeful killings depicted in Braveheart, Gladiator, and the likes disqualifies me as someone capable of exercising moral judgment or contemplating Christian ethics.

  343. …he seems to take it ill that commenters have chosen equally inflammatory ways to express their disagreement. I’m no stranger to inflammatory rhetoric, but I can dish it out and I can take it.

    Until you block their email address, that is. Heehee.

    BCC rocks. The only thing I can’t figure out is why DKL isn’t ashamed of wasting his valuable time commenting on a blog that is clearly not meeting his needs. I’m sure he could find a more sympathetic audience for his self-congratualatory piety and Dirty-Harry-inspired Christianity elsewhere.

    I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

  344. ECS: Until you block their email address, that is. Heehee.

    ECS, I promise you that I am very selective about who I put on my junk mail blacklist. In fact, it’s pretty much limited to deranged stalkers. Well, actually, you’re the only real-life person I’ve intentionally put in it. Heehee.

    Great Dirty Harry Quote. I just love that one.

  345. As someone said waaaaaay back in #216, I think you have a “tenuous grasp on the logic of semantics” if you think that a deranged stalker is someone who sends you two emails complaining about your obnoxious behavior online.

    Methinks _your_ particular tenuous grasp on logic equates “deranged stalkers” with “people who don’t appreciate my abusive and insulting comments and aren’t afraid to say so”.

  346. DKL,

    Hahahahahahah.

    True, there are things that bug me from time to time about BCC. It’s not perfect, by any means. But your assertion that you would be ashamed to post at BCC is the laugher of the week. Yea, and I would be ashamed to date Nicole Kidman. She is just so . . . beneath me. I am clearly out of her league.

    The idea of a career clown like you sitting in judgment and pronouncing the entire blog unfit for his posts would be offensive if it wasn’t so damn funny. Wow, it’s a good thing your good sense has kept you away from BCC. It’s a good thing you’ve posted your positive contributions elsewhere.

    Wait . . . when have you _ever_ added a positive post to the bloggernacle? Call me a skeptic, but I just don’t see how six months leeching off of Steve’s prior work in assembling a fictitious site qualifies you for making pronouncements on which blogs would be fit for your hypothetical posts. But then, I’m an elitist that way.

  347. ECS, I forgot how much fun you are. Your public comments really are a blast. It’s your private emails that I found bizarre.

    Kaimi, I’d never presume to entertain the illusion that BCC or T&S would invite the likes of me to post, but you’ve intentionally distorted my words to imply otherwise, ostensibly to buttress your position. It doesn’t much matter how BCC feels about me, my standards of association remain the same, and I’ve enumerated my reasoning above.

  348. It would have taken a hell of a lot more “spine” to “turn the other cheek” after 9-11 than it took to scream about homeland security, and send out the troops. 9-11 was a test of American freedom and democracy. And the Republicans failed that test spectacularly.

    The Democrats failed by lacking enough backbone to tell Bush to go play in the food processor.

    But the Republicans have proven themselves to be just as much a bunch of bed-wetting sissies as the Democrats.

  349. This isn’t meant to downplay the value of your comments, DKL. They’re often witty, and sometimes link to cartoons. But you’re talking about posts, which are a different animal. And you’ve really done nothing in that arena, yourself. To borrow a phrase from the evil spirit in the book of Acts – “Stapley I know, Ronan I know, KHH and Kevin I know. Hell, I even sometimes admit that I know Steve.

    But who the f**k is DKL?”

  350. Yes, Kaimi, everything you say is true: I love my cartoons, I don’t have anywhere to blog, and no respected group blog is likely to invite me. I suppose that there is some value in your stating the obvious here, and perhaps it does bear repeating. But I still don’t see how any of this is relevant to my standards of association, unless you feel that such standards are only appropriate for the bloggernacle glitterati.

    Tell me, Kaimi, should I abandon such standards just because I’m a nobody?

  351. Oh, man, Seth, I just don’t agree. I think that’s easy for you to say, you didn’t lose anybody in the WTC (did you?). I’m sort of Israeli about that sort of stuff, I think you kick their behinds.

    I meant my comment about deciding who’s a person of God facetiously. Is it we all get to decide about each other, do we decide about ourselves, who decides that? I think I’m the last person to decide about person-of-Godness at the moment.

    I think time will tell about Bush, I’m not judging the president yet. He said something like history will say if he was right or not and I think that’s true.

    I mean, God ordered Joshua to kill men, women, and children, didn’t He? I think God sounds kind of mean sometimes. Not that I like it, I’m just saying sometimes it happens.

    D’Nesh D’Souza’s book “What’s so Great About America” talks about 9/11. This guy’s premise is that the only way to defeat terrorism is to demolish them.

    I think what makes our country great is the right we have to sit here and argue openly about an important subject like this. Don’t think they did it much in Iraq before Hussein was toppled.

  352. D. Fletcher says:

    Wow, what a thread! I’m a bit speechless (which as you know is unusual for me).

    Am I the only person in the ‘nacle that sees great value in DKL?

    Somebody’s got to voice the alternative…

  353. “Am I the only person in the ‘nacle that sees great value in DKL?”

    No. The worth of DKL is great in the sight of Steve. But you know, lots of people don’t get him. I suspect he likes it that way. He drives me nuts, sure, but we’ve got history, and I like him.

  354. I like DKL too. He’s a great husband and dashing as hell.

  355. Brad (#302), I think you misunderstood the purpose of what you call my “What would you do?” scenarios. They are instead intended to probe “What SHOULD you do?” I am arguing that a good Christian is morally REQUIRED to protect innocent life from evil jerks like Atta, sometimes even requiring them to kill. If you sat on your hands while your son was being raped and killed, rather than stick a crowbar through the guys kidneys, I’d vote to sentence you to life in prison if were on your jury. I appreciate your unwillingness to rely on your visceral emotions to determine morality, but in this case your gut is more Christian than your head. There is no virtue in insisting we disband our local police departments since their sole purpose is to resist evil.

    Ronan, again, you cannot kill Atta without torturing him because killing involves a form of torture. You and I agree that morality sometimes demands this form of torture.

  356. “If you sat on your hands while your son was being raped and killed, rather than stick a crowbar through the guys kidneys, I’d vote to sentence you to life in prison if were on your jury.”

    a lifer along with the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, I suppose.

  357. Dave,

    I’m not trying to downplay your contributions, really. I often enjoy your comments, and we’ve had some nice discussions. I just think you’ve overstated your position (not for the first time) and in the process taken unnecessary swipes at what is, for all its warts, a pretty damn good blog.

    Yes, JDC’s post is overstated (and I’ve pointed that out myself, and so have a lot of commenters, you included). But an overstated post doesn’t really merit an overstated repoinse, does it? And “I would be ashamed to post here” is at least as overstated as the original post, probably more.

    (Sheesh, when did I become the defender of BCC? This is embarrassing.)

    SKL,

    Dave’s dashing charm is the only reason I’m being as nice with him as I am. That, and I can’t help but pity someone who suffers from such severe coulrophobia.

  358. I like DKL too.

    Dammit. What’s this thread about again? Whatever it is, it still manages to become I hate DKL/I like DKL…

    Well, I liked DKL when I met him.

    I was about to pontificate about how his comments are unnecessarily abusive and insulting, but then that would

    a) continue the focus on ol’ Landrith, which would…
    b) make DKL’s day.

    So I won’t. But I guess I just did. Damn you, Dave.

  359. re: 355
    Oh come on. Ronan and I (a Euro and a Homo, for goodness’ sake– could it get any worse??!) would both have pulled the trigger and taken out Atta without a moment’s hesitation, if we had not been able to stop him otherwise. Stopping Atta, even if it means killing him, has nothing to do with torturing prisoners under American control. Conflating the two just won’t do.

  360. Indeed, Mike. I think Matt is/was a lawyer. If he cannot see the difference between the use of necessary force to stop a murderer in the act, and the torture of prisoners in US detention, then, well…

    But we have entered Mormon land, where conservatives are turning the Good Shepherd into a torturer and ignoring Church pronouncements (gasp!) in order to save Bush, as well as taking their moral cues from Dirty Harry.
    BTW, I’m not sure about whether I’m a Euro or not. There are some of my compatriots who would shudder at the thought. :)

  361. I saw this post and vowed to stay away frankly because I felt it started out judgmental and only got worse the deeper I entered the comments section. But I care about the issue and couldn’t resist. Sorry if it is long.

    There is an old joke. A man says to a woman, “Will you sleep with me for $10,000,000? The woman agrees. The man asked the woman, “Will you sleep with me for $100? The woman refuses saying, “What do you think I am?” To which the man answers, “We have already determined what you are; now we are just haggling over price.”

    I have always felt this way about pacifists. If you are willing to see your infant daughter slaughtered and not raise your fist to defend her, then you really are a pacifist. But, if you are willing to defend her, as I would my infant daughter, then we are in agreement that violence, however abhorrent, can be justified. Once we agree we aren’t pacifists, from then on, we’re just haggling over the appropriate “price” for violence.

    Just for the sake of intellectual exercise, let’s take the jihadists at their word. Let’s assume that when they say they demand either our submission to their god our destruction that they actually mean it. After all, we are dealing with people who have been remarkably forward with their ultimate goals.

    On a side note, it is rather remarkable that it wasn’t until allied troops stumbled upon the charnel houses of Hitler’s death camps that people actually took what he had written about exterminating the jews seriously…he was forthright about the need to eliminate the Jews, he was organized, he was determined – why wouldn’t he have done what he said he would do? I suspect the reason people failed to recognize Hitler was that he exceeded most of the western world’s willingness to admit such a thing could exist in its midst. How is this different from the proclamations of the enemy we face today? What part of a cartoon exhibit mocking the holocaust shouldn’t send shivers down our collective spine?

    Back to my exercise, if an attack were imminent, would torture of such an enemy be justified to save 1 or 100 or 1,000 or 1,000,000 lives? Dirty bomb, chemical weapons, wide-body jet, you pick the poison (so to speak). If you knew an attack was eminent, and you had someone in your custody that could expose the plot and save lives, would you be justified in torture? At the risk of being judged by you all, I’m afraid I would answer yes. I would do it for my daughters. There are times, however extreme/unlikely you may feel my example is, where torture COULD be justified. I guess I am saying that like the woman in the joke, I have a price. I can be bought – although I like to think my price is high.

    I say this understanding that torture isn’t just immoral because of what it does to victims, it is immoral because of what it does to the perpetrator. I suspect that the scarring on the later is far more profound than the former. I’m not suggesting that the US condone or support torture (although I have grave, grave concerns with the de-facto extension of Geneva convention rights to non-uniformed, non-state combatants) I’m just saying that expansions in definitions that might limit our leverage in extreme cases should be examined…closely. I can respect those who are so confident in God’s will that they will never go that far, and instead trust in God to protect them and their loved ones. Perhaps I am weak, but I have not the faith to expect better treatment than he gave the Jews, the Armenians, the Hutus, the Bosnian, etc. I believe that 6 million Jews did not need to be murdered in German camps; I believe that good people failed them by failing to have the resolve, in ’33 or ’35 to commit violent acts to prevent far more horrible acts. Ultimately, that is deterrence, it isn’t having the weapons, it is having the resolve to use them.

    Torture would be an awful burden to take before our Lord. Five years ago to the day, when you saw people leap from the top of those towers to escape the flames, what went through your mind? Now imagine being the president, knowing that this was at least the third attack on these very same towers (the first such under “his watch”)…think of the sorrow, the sense of responsibility…it must be devastating. An extreme reaction, it can be understood in my mind. They aren’t US citizens and they aren’t protected by the constitution. They aren’t abiding by the laws of combat as defined in the Geneva Convention and therefore shouldn’t receive its protection. A prior administration passed on opportunities to eliminate Bin Laden because of an excessive focus on due process for a man that could have just as easily been thrown out of the open door of the plane over the Atlantic while being delivered back to the states, “Oops, lost in transit”. I have no idea whether Bush is a man of God or not; but honestly, for the job of commander and chief, I’m looking for someone who’s not afraid of getting his sword dirty.

  362. Ty,
    You’ve lost the plot, mate. Neither I nor HP are pacifists. And the ticking-bomb scenario is utterly irrelevant. People have been tortured (waterboarded) by the US without this scenario being at play. We’re not talking about 24-esque hypotheticals, we’re talking about what has actually happened. Torture is “inhumane” (thus condemned by the
    Church in 2006, nevermind what the silly Sermon on the Mount may have to say about it). And here’s the killer: it’s unreliable. I want to stop terrorists (legally, morally, and effectively), so you can stop suggesting otherwise.

  363. Eric Russell says:

    “And here’s the killer: it’s unreliable.”

    Ronan,
    This post was prompted by an NPR piece in which Bush had been exulting in the fact that interrogation techniques, apparently including waterboarding, had been very successful and had “broken up some terror attacks and saved innocent lives.” If they hadn’t been so successful we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

  364. Who did what to whom, when it was done, and how effective it was is difficult to pin down. You have Bush’s word and you believe him. Bully for you.

    I do not doubt that rigorous interrogation has produced results and I am glad that it has. No-one has anything against this.

    But that’s not what is for discussion here.

    The point was that “rigorous interrogation” should not become “torture” (= “inhumane”). I think waterboarding is inhumane and thus torture. This is waterboarding:

    The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner’s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

    It amounts to a mock execution. It is thus illegal under any standard and is prohibited by the US Army Field Manual. (This does not include the CIA, however.) What was JDC’s original point? “Torture is not Christian.” Before Bush started torturing there is no way in the world that any Christian would even suggest it was. But the defense of Bush trumps all. Torture is illegal and immoral and does not become a follower of Jesus. It is a gross mockery of the Man who underwent an exquisite torture to say otherwise.
    So the last question is, has waterboarding (= torture) “stopped a terrorist plot.” Neither you nor I know the answer to that. We do not know what Khalid Shaikh Mohammed revealed after he was waterboarded. But Bob Baer, an ex-CIA man who knows this stuff better than we armchair torturers, has said (in relation to waterboarding): it is “bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture’s bad enough.”

    If you have evidence that waterboarding (rather than rigorous interrogation) has foiled a terrorist plot, let’s hear it. And if it has, we enter a whole new argument about righteous ends justifying wicked means. But maybe we can wait for another day to have that one.

  365. Eric Russell says:

    Ronan, I repeat again that no one is defending torture. No need to go on about its unchristlike characteristics. We all agree there.

    Where we disagree is in the belief that pouring some room temperature tap water on someone constitutes torture.

  366. pouring some room temperature tap water on someone

    Eric,
    Your apalling disingenousness as to what waterboarding actually entails is lame.

    John McCain: the water board technique is a “very exquisite torture” and should be outlawed. His opinion on this is more important to me than yours. So, we’ll disagree. Adieu.

  367. Proverbs 26:11
    As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

    Someone, please. Stop it. For the sake of humanity. Stop. Three days of wallowing in vomit. How much longer?

  368. ED,
    You’re right, man. You’re right. But they keep pushing my buttons. Help me.

  369. the Gospel is supposed to guide and inspire us to do the right thing. What is the right thing when it comes to dealing with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists? people who dont value the Geneva conventions, or for that matter, dont respects the values that western democracies hold dear? well, then you have to deal with them in the language they the Islamists understand. Which, means waterboarding if necessary, or severe beatings.
    Anyone who thinks otehrwise, regardless of whether they are left-leaning liberals or Bush supporters are living in a fool’s paradise.
    BTW, I am not a supporter of the expedition in Iraq – I happen to think it was and is a colossal mistake.
    yet, I think, unless the USA uses the language of overpowering violence to beat radical Islamic terrorists, the USA and the western democracies will be overrun.
    I am a relatively new convert to our Church, and I probably dont have as sophisticated understanding of Mormon and Christian doctrine, but, I know that our US Constitution, and our Gospels are not a suicide pact.

  370. No man knows DKL’s history.

  371. Turn the comments off.

  372. Dan,

    people who dont value the Geneva conventions, or for that matter, dont respects the values that western democracies hold dear? well, then you have to deal with them in the language they the Islamists understand. Which, means waterboarding if necessary, or severe beatings.

    what happens when the West no longer “respects the values that western democracies [used to] hold dear?”

    The rules of law are never about our enemy, but always about who WE are. It doesn’t matter how evil or how terrible or how little our enemy follows our rules, does it? What matters is how WE follow our rules.

    A Christian has no excuse for the mistreatment of another, irregardless of where that person comes from or what that person believes. The Savior never gave a disclaimer on who you can skip out on showing love to.

    In his parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus used the lowest of the low in the eyes of the Jews at the time to show that being good to your neighbor means being good to everybody, as everybody is your neighbor.

    Remember, every single human being born into this world chose to follow the Savior in the pre-existence. Irregardless of the choices they make here on earth, they made the decision you did to follow God. Follow Christ’s example when he said, as he stood suffering on the cross of those who beat the nails into his palms and feet, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    Can you forgive a terrorist even as he is plotting to kill you?

  373. Actually, I take back the name-calling in #348. It’s waaay over the top of course.

    But I do get tired of smug conservative back-patting over having recieved the “tough guy” label that they have done little to deserve thus far.

    The details of the post weren’t really well thought out either. So I’ll admit to shooting wide of the mark and content myself with saying I dislike the culture of fear that is being pushed on my country. Best that I leave it at that since I’m not exactly firing on all cylinders right now.

    You can all return to discussing DKL now.

  374. Nathan Oman says:

    Two quick points:
    1. DKL is evil.
    2. BCC is not worthy of DKL.

    Forget waterboarding and let’s think about something that everyone can agree is torture, like pulling someone’s fingernails out with pliers. Would this really always be unjustified?

    Imagine a situation where you have a ticking bomb that will kill a school full of innocent children. You have a man with the code to turn the bomb off. You just saw him torture an innocent child for the sheer joy of doing so. You know with absolute certainty that if you pull out his finger nails with pliers, he will give you the correct information and the children will be saved. If you don’t pull out his fingernails with pliers then the bomb will explode and the children will be killed. What do you do?

    Clearly, this is an unrealistic hypothetical on a lot of levels, but it is useful because it forces us to confront the basic question of whether or not we are willing to stick by an absolute prohibition on torture regardless of the consequences, or if we are willing to consider the consquences when making our decisions. Are we true Kantians or consquentialists.

    Now some might suggest that Christianity provides an answer to this question because it forecloses consequentialism and requires a Kantian ethic. There are serious arguments to be made in favor of Christianity=Kantianism, but it does require that we leave the bomber with his fingernails and let the children die. In other words, it forecloses the possibility of making trade offs between the suffering and happiness of individuals, which is not always a particularlly attractive position to take.

    On the other hand, if you would pull out the man’s fingernails with pliers, then you are willing to accept the logic of the consequentialist position. At which point, all disagreements become emperical, ie how reliable is the information gained from torture, what incentives does it create to torture our guys when captured, etc. etc. The analysis of these issues, however, will require a certain amount of cold bloodedness rather than impassioned moral posturing.

    I wish that I was completely persuaded that torture never had positive pay offs, but I am skeptical. I wish I was persuaded, because then the moral question becomes easy, indeed in some sense there is no moral question at all, only an emperical conclusion. As it is, I think that we are on the horns of the Kantian/consquentialist dilemma, and I am not sure how to resolve it.

  375. Waterboard the Dorito.

  376. Nathan Oman says:

    BTW, I think that faced with the decision in my hypothetical, I would pull the guy’s finger nails out.

  377. annegb,

    I agree that rash judgement is not a good thing. Some of my past comments have demonstrated that as well as any. I also disagree with the actual implication of JDC’s original post: that we can really say for sure who is a “good Christian.” It’s one thing to make the argument that “torture is inconsistent with Christian teachings and values” and quite another thing to argue that “Bush isn’t Christian because he supports torture.” While I’d be quick to argue the former, I have little interest in speculating on the later.

    Truth be told, both my wife and I actually find George Bush Jr. rather charming. He’d probably be great to have over for dinner. My take on him is more the way I’d regard an exasperating younger brother who regularly makes an idiot of himself in social gatherings and mismanages his finances. I don’t hate Bush, but I am thoroughly exasperated with him. And yes, he does make me angry.

    I’m sure he’s a very nice guy.

    However, I disagree with your point that we ought to withold judgment on Bush as a President. It is our civic duty to judge our political leaders.

    How else are you going to make an informed vote?

    Benefit of the doubt is a luxury enjoyed by totalitarians, never democratically elected politicians. In a democracy, a politician must either sell his message to the public or get out. If you fail to make the sale, that’s a failure of democratic leadership.

    Yes, I will judge whether George Bush is fit to be President. And you’d better do it too as a matter of good citizenship.

    And I judge he’s not fit to lead.

    Whether he’s a good Christian or not is a non-issue to me.

  378. Nathan,

    #374:

    boy the ticking time bomb scenario rears its ugly head yet again:

    Imagine a situation where you have a ticking bomb that will kill a school full of innocent children. You have a man with the code to turn the bomb off. You just saw him torture an innocent child for the sheer joy of doing so. You know with absolute certainty that if you pull out his finger nails with pliers, he will give you the correct information and the children will be saved. If you don’t pull out his fingernails with pliers then the bomb will explode and the children will be killed. What do you do?

    Clearly, this is an unrealistic hypothetical on a lot of levels, but it is useful because it forces us to confront the basic question of whether or not we are willing to stick by an absolute prohibition on torture regardless of the consequences, or if we are willing to consider the consquences when making our decisions. Are we true Kantians or consquentialists.

    you are right, there are far too many unrealistic things in this hypothetical to make it a good enough analogy for real life practice.

    Let me provide you with an analogy from scripture and let me see what you think.

    Imagine that you are in a city where the rulers have such a hatred for your teaching that they not only take you captive but they burn your books, take those you taught and start throwing them in a pit of fire to burn to death. What do you do? Do you try and stop the murdering of innocents? You could, after all you have the power from God to do so. Let’s look at the example in the Book of Mormon. Turn with me to Alma 14. Amulek says the following:

    10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

    What was Alma’s response? Was it to go grab their fingernails and get them to stop burning the people to death? Let’s read on.

    11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the dinnocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.
    12 Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also.
    13 And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not.
    14 Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a blake of fire and brimstone?

    Can you find a more painful and tragic scenario in the scriptures for innocent people? Yet what was the response from the Prophet of the Lord? Did he lower his standards to protect the innocent? Why did Alma sacrifice the innocent in this case?

    Let’s look at another example in the Book of Mormon where innocent people are killed and those that could do something about it didn’t, or let me say differently, they didn’t lower their standard. Please turn to Alma 24. Here the Lamanites come upon the Anti-Nephi-Lehis to murder them. Let’s see what happens here. The Lamanites come upon them, slay about 1000 of them while they were prostrated on the ground praising God.

    24 Now when the Lamanites saw this they did aforbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had bswollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.
    25 And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren, relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.
    26 And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were asaved.

    Instead of continuing the slaughter, these Lamanites were converted, more than had been slain. What did Ammon do during this time? He had previously faced off against a great number of sheep thieves, killing the leader. He could easily have done a William Wallace speech and rallied the ANLs to fight for their freedom against oppressors. But what did he do? Nothing. He let the slaughter happen. Why? As we see, more were converted than were killed. Let’s continue the story, and see just how the two situations are tied together.

    The Lamanites were angry that some of their own had just converted. Their anger led them to go over to the Nephites and quickly murder everybody who lived in the city of Ammonihah, the very town that had just murdered innocent people, throwing them into the flames, in Alma 25. This still did not quelch the anger the Lamanites felt towards the ANLs so they tried to go after them again to murder them. What did Ammon do this time? Did he face them off? No, as we read in Alma 27, this time, Ammon took them to the Nephites. I like what the Lord told Ammon in verses 11 and 12:

    11 And it came to pass that Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said unto him:
    12 Get this people aout of this land, that they perish not; for Satan has great hold on the hearts of the Amalekites, who do stir up the Lamanites to anger against their brethren to slay them; therefore get thee out of this land; and blessed are this people in this generation, for I will bpreserve them.

    Who will preserve them? The Nephites? Nope. The Lord. In all of this, all this murder of innocents, did the righteous Nephites EVER lower their standard? Never. Not once. Not when innocents were being thrown into a burning pit. Why should we?

  379. Everyone,
    I like DKL and I like his comments. I agreed that my original post was over-the-top and while I don’t enjoy random insults I accept them in the spirit they were given (assuming of course that they are restricted to the context of the post and comments). To be insulted by DKL is practically an initiation. Fear not for my ego.

    DKL,
    Fair enough. I have stated (time and again) why I believe water-boarding to be torture. You, obviously, don’t agree. I stand by my definition. You don’t think it is a good one. We are at a bit of an impasse, don’t you think? Now come over here and let me give you hug. It’s okay.

    Nate,
    I probably would, too. But I don’t think I would be proud of that fact.

    Everybody else,
    Chupacabra!

  380. “But we have entered Mormon land, where conservatives are turning the Good Shepherd into a torturer and ignoring Church pronouncements (gasp!) in order to save Bush, as well as taking their moral cues from Dirty Harry.”

    I reluctantly agree with you Ronan. Speaking of personal acquaintances, not commenters on this unworthy [per DKS] blog, I have observed that for many Mormons, it seems as difficult to criticize Bush as it is for Bush himself to admit a mistake.

    However, I do not think the feelings in Mormonland are monolithic. I know many republican Mormons, otherwise conservative politically, who have strong reservations about this president and strongly object to torture. I think the reasons they stay quiet is partially because of the Mormon culture of avoiding public criticism of leaders, which conditioning gets carried to the public sphere for politicians who openly acknowledge God and seem to embrace conservative religious values.

  381. Goofus,

    Try it, Ms. Prudence. Just you come here and try it.

  382. Does my long reply appear to everyone else? It is #378

  383. It is not prudent to impugn Ms. Prudence, you impudent, imprudent prude.

  384. The Sugar Bleat says:

    Hinckley Not Christian, Rights Group Claims

    SALT LAKE CITY. Human Rights Watchers today issued a statement claiming that the way the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints treats its young men aged 19-21 is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention and constitutes torture. HRW spokesman Ed Buttinski released a statement saying that “The LDS church must be considered a rogue regime. It visits cruel and inhumane treatment upon its missionaries for no discernable reason.”

    The statement listed various forms of inhumane treatment, including the following:
    The withholding of food for a period of 24 hours at least once a month. But in some outrageous cases it happens even more often, under the guise of so-called district fasts.
    New missionaries report to a building known as the MTC. All who have ever been there know those initials stand for Missionary Torture Chamber. They are forcibly separated from family and loved ones, and subjected to 12-14 hours a day of indoctrination. This is usually accomplished by forcing them to sit in small stuffy rooms that are either too hot or too cold for hours at a time.
    They are also required to undergo privacy deprivation and have their companion close by at all times. Elder DarNell Richardson of North Forty, Idaho said of his MTC experience: “The first thing they done was take away my passport so’s I couldn’t leave. Then they made me and them other elders set in a room for 4 hours after a chili lunch while some crazy guy kept yelling Hermano! conjugate! past participle! It was all Greek to me. But the night was even worse. They made me sleep in a room with 4 bunkbeds filled with elders still feeling the effects of the chili lunch. Between that, the B.O., the stinky feet and the snoring, hell, I’da rather bunked down with the hogs back home on the farm.”
    When they leave the MTC, it just gets worse. Many of them are forced to live for 22 months in living quarters that do not have toilets, heat, or running water. They are put into hostile environments where their values are mocked and they are often the object of mocking and jeers. Dog attacks and cursing are part of the daily routine. It is not uncommon for them to suffer both mentally and physically for the rest of their lives as a result of the abuse inflicted upon them.

    Buttinski claims that Gordon B. Hinckley is guilty of torture and a poor excuse for a Christian. “He is aware of all of this and allows, even encourages it to continue. He personally signs every mission call. He is as guilty as sin.”

    A church spokesman declined comment. “We are not going to respond to scurrilous statements from so-called intellectuals in the so-called bloggernacle.”

  385. Because I am sure you all not all just totally sick of this just yet, here is a transcript of President Bush speaking regarding the results of the now-abandoned interrogation techniques; here is a transcript of the Department of Defense press conference of the same day that where the DoD explicitly decided to abandon interrogation techniques not in conformity with Geneva, and here is an ABC news report from last year that talks about the “humane” interrogation techniques in detail. For the further curious, here is the wikipedia Talk page on the subject so you can decide whether or not the wikipedia page is in active dispute (okay, it isn’t, but perhaps you believe it should be)

  386. Dude, are there just too many posts? My comment in #378 at first was there (but in the New Comments section at the top right it does not show that my comments appear), then when I came back, they were no longer there. Now I repost the comments in #385, and the old one in #378 appears again, but still both comments do not appear in the New Comments section at the top right……What gives?

  387. J. Daniel Crawford says:

    I’m closing the thread. Thanks to all for their comments. Have a good day!

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