This past week, the Washington Post released the full text of a fifty-page Department of Justice memorandum, prepared for the White House at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, discussing the legal justification of torture. Academic commentators analyzing this memo have characterized it as “a legalistic, logic-chopping brief for the torturer.” The memo attempts to set out possible legal justifications and defenses that might be asserted by the government after they have physically and psychologically abused detainees (and, presumably, been found out). The legal theories presented might be charitably described as dubious, including a fairly implausible theory that Congress cannot restrict the activities of the executive branch in wartime.
The analysis of this memo was picked up in a subsequent Department of Defense memorandum on the justification for torture, which in turn appears to have set the stage for the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib, and for the matters complained about by the International Committee of the Red Cross, concerning the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the memo is that it appears over the signature of a former government official, an LDS Brigham Young University graduate who has since taken a positon as a federal appellate judge.
Whatever one’s political affiliation, I cannot believe that the practice of torture is acceptable to anyone who claims to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There seems to me something seriously awry in a government that is stockpiling legal justifications in preparation for such activity. But the support and leadership of at least one, and possibly more Latter-Day Saints in such preparations is deeply troubling. There is an oft-quoted prophecy, attributed to Joseph Smith, that when the Constitution of the United States hangs by a thread, the Elders of Israel will step forward to rescue it – not sharpen the scissors of those endangering it.
Which leaves me to wonder: at what point does a Latter-Day Saint governmental official have, like Mormon of old, the moral obligation to resign his position rather than participate in the conduct of his superiors?
I’m so pleased to see someone raise the “hanging by a thread” quote in an LDS forum in a context other than church/state separation or gun control. :)
Very tough question! I completely agree on the troubling aspect in your introductory part and on the view that torture is never justified. Obviously in every government and administration things are going on that are on the verge of illegality (is that the right word? English is not my mother tongue…), or have even crossed that line. I don’t think there is one fixed point that a Latter-day Saint in general shouldn’t cross. What I believe to be important is the correct mix of ethics of responsibility and ethics of an ultimate, as Max Weber puts it. Consider this quote from “Politics as a vocation“:
Surely, politics is made with the head, but it is certainly not made with the head alone. In this the proponents of an ethic of ultimate ends are right. One cannot prescribe to anyone whether he should follow an ethic of absolute ends or an ethic of responsibility, or when the one and when the other. One can say only this much: If in these times, which, in your opinion, are not times of ‘sterile’ excitation–excitation is not, after all, genuine passion–if now suddenly the Weltanschauungs-politicians crop up en masse and pass the watchword, ‘The world is stupid and base, not I,’ ‘The responsibility for the consequences does not fall upon me but upon the others whom I serve and whose stupidity or baseness I shall eradicate,’ then I declare frankly that I would first inquire into the degree of inner poise backing this ethic of ultimate ends. I am under the impression that in nine out of ten cases I deal with windbags who do not fully realize what they take upon themselves but who intoxicate themselves with romantic sensations. From a human point of view this is not very interesting to me, nor does it move me profoundly. However, it is immensely moving when a mature man–no matter whether old or young in years–is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of his conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. He then acts by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere he reaches the point where he says: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other.’ That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding himself at some time in that position. In so far as this is true, an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility are not absolute contrasts but rather supplements, which only in unison constitute a genuine man–a man who can have the ‘calling for politics.’
I find this text a pretty good foundation to continue the discussion on.
Thanks for your support guys. Frankly, I’d rather see a few nude iraqi’s than a few dead marines. Hopefully your strong support will keep me alive if I do end up getting shipped out with the rest of my unit. I love it when the right/wrong of a matter is decided not by it’s content, but post-hoc, by whether or not we get good results.
Oh, and before your criticize; let’s make a fair comparison. We all agree torture is wrong. Fine. We all agree that criminals (if convicted by evidence) should be punished. Fine.
before you start celebrating, perhaps a good comparison between the Bybee memo & the tactics of criminal defense lawyers whose work is often described as “a legalistic, logic-chopping brief” designed to counsel criminals & potential criminals how to escape conviction and/or avoid doing acts that are criminal…while still doing them.
I agree that there are probably things an LDS attorney should not do. Everyone’s line in the sand is different. Some people are more than happy to fire Archibald Cox, while others choose to resign instead.
Writing a memo on how the administration could legally justify torture — and doing so knowing that the memo had a not insignificant chance of being used — is far past my own line.
On the other hand (and perhaps this is just the lawyer in me speaking again), I think it may be possible to be a church member and write such a memo. One might believe that the value of ready access to torture-obtained intelligence outweighed the negative; one might think that the government was unlikely to torture anyone except in the direst emergency.
Post Abu Gharib, these assumptions may not look realistic. But it seems possible to have had them ex ante, without having to resort to wilful self-deception. In which case, it would be possible for a church member to honestly and faithfully write such a memo.
All that said, I know that I could not write such a memo in those circumstances, and I’m definitely not thrilled to see a member’s name on it.
Let me get this straight — you’re defending the torture memo?
But lyle, isn’t that the double tragedy of Abu Graib?
Not only were the means of torture horribly wrong. They also didn’t produce much usable intelligence — if any. In other words, both the content and the results were messed up.
It’s also not clear to me that a few nude Iraqis leads to less dead Marines.
Now this not to say that there hasn’t been a lot of post-hoc-ing going on, but I think that is more centered around the overall mission in Iraq itself and the question of how many troops to send.
The issue here is whether Bybee’s excuse about how it was his job to support the Bush administration and not inject his personal opinion into the situation is warranted or not.
Lyle, I am kind of new here, so I don’t know you very well, but have tried to read over some of your previous posts on T&S as well as on your own blog in order to understand your comment.
Having done so, I still really can’t make much sense of it. I understand that you may be anxious about a potential deployment to Iraq, but this makes your comment all the more surprsing to me.
On your blog you have some entries about your willingness to fight and make personal sacrifices in order to bring freedom to Iraq. This doesn’t seem consistent to me with the statement that you’d “rather see a few nude Iraqi’s than a few dead marines.” No matter what one’s view on the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, I think we all agree that the physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners — for any reason — is inconsistent with the values that America stands for and with the purposes for which our armed forces are purportedly there.
I believe the same can be said of the premises behind memo discussed in my post.
Whether or not the abuses at Abu Ghraib are repugnant to American values, I think it should be clear that they are repugnant to Christian and LDS values. As I gather you are a member of the LDS Church, your comment about “a few nude Iraqis” is even more surprising to me.
And if nothing else, you as a U.S. serviceman should have some very selfish reasons for not wanting to see “a few nude Iraqis.” The treatment that we mete out to our prisoners is very likely to be reciprocated if and when U.S. soldiers are captured by enemy forces. Our conduct has endangered our ability to demand humane treatment when the tables are turned on us. This is why John McCain, a former Vietnam POW who was subjected to prisoner abuse, has been so excercised on this topic.
Finally, I can’t see that your comment engages the question that I posed. I recognize that the acceptability of torture is an antecedent to my question, but I am surprised that this question is not settled, at least for Latter-Day Saints.
I am not necessarily convinced that torture is never justified. I think that a ticking bomb situation presents a real moral dillemma rather than an easy application of an obvious moral slogan. Of course, this is not an argument for or against the Bybee memo (which I am reading right now).
Kaimi: Yes. Absolutely.
William: You don’t know what Bybee did/didn’t say to his superiors, incl. Bush. Knowing him, even if only slightly, [and even if I didn’t, I would hold the same as a sign of respect], why dont’ we give him the innocent til guilty presumption that he did the right thing?
Dan: I abhore torture. Heck, I’m somewhat of a trial lawyer & am involved in several international human rights suits involving torture! However, as liberal justices are so in favor of doing…there is a balancing test to be done here. That it, saving lives vs. personal humiliation/fear.
I don’t like humilitiation or fear. But I dislike the loss of life _far_ more. What happened at the Prison was unfortunate, but…hardly something to get so worked up about. I dont’ see the same level of angst over Saddam’s brutal crimes. Guess we’ll have to wait for his trial to see.
1. The means were sad, but not a problem for me vis-a-vis the potential (not post-hoc) for saving lives & ensuring peace for not _just_ Coalition soldiers, but also Iraqi civilians who are dying…not because of Coalition mistakes (which the media is all caught up about) but by insurgents who are willing to kill their own countrymen.
2. The results? We dont’ know. Frankly, for all we know, they got lots of actionable intelligence from the prisoners who were hooded & denuded. Also, check with an islamist, but…the shame factor is worse when your face is visible w/the naked body. So, the US forces appear to have been trying to minimize the shame imposed on the prisoners. Of course, you don’t hear about that either.
All: I’ve still to hear a measured response that considers how closely the memo resembles what many attorneys, my hypo was involving criminal defense lawyers, who ‘counsel’ their clients on what they _can not_ do…and what they _can_ do; knowing full well that this info will be used to _bend_ the law to the max.
Hi Nate —
The memo is not directed to the “ticking bomb” situation, but rather to routine detention. But I personally do not believe that there is justification for a Latter-Day Saint to engage in torture, even in that extreme situation. It seems to me that if there is one message that Mormon, that seasoned general and military genius wanted to get across to our generation, it is that atrocity is never justified, no matter how desperate your situation. In the eternities, physical death is far preferable to spiritual death.
With regard to Kaimi’s comments, I think it is important to understand that this is not a memorandum intended to answer the question “What is the definition of torture so that we can stay away from it.” It is not even for the most part a memorandum intended to answer the question “What is the definition of torture so that we can get as close as possible to it without going over the line.” It is largely a memo devoted to answering the question “How can we legally justify or excuse torture once we’ve done it.”
For me personally, I think — I hope — that if my boss at DOJ asked me that question, I would reply “I don’t know the answer to that question sir, but the fact that you are asking it tells me that it is time for me to resign and go back to my nice cushy job as a tenured law professor.”
Dan: It is largely a memo devoted to answering the question “How can we legally justify or excuse [X] once we’ve done it.”
Yup. Which is exactly why I asked the question that I did. Perhaps the law professors here, who have more likely than not worked in large firms & were tasked with giving the exact same advice, except as to: patent applications, patent fraud, tax liability, etc. can give a coherent answer about how they feel about their own profession before condemning the work of another in a more morally repugnant field than intellectual or tax theft.
Dan: As I said, I am not certain one way or another. If a bomb was ticking in an orphanage about to kill hundreds of innocent children and nuns, and we had a person unwilling to give the information that would stop the bomb, I don’t know what the correct answer would be.
As you point out, the Bybee memo is not directed at this question. However, a substantial portion of the memo does seem to be directed at the meaning of torture under the statute. The last half of the memo, however, where they raise the issue of affirmative defenses seems out to lunch.
I guess we don’t have much to talk about. If you seriously feel that you could look the Savior of the World in the eye at the end of your life and say, “Yes, I beat and humiliated Iraqi prisoners, mocked their religious practices and forced them to masturbate in front of me, and I think it was justified,” then there really isn’t much left to say.
With regard to the criminal law comparison: this is not a memo that asks how can we push due process and the rule of law to the point that a guilty person might go free. It is a memo that asks how can we avoid due process and the rule of law to the point that the innocent can be made to suffer. That seems to me a very different kind of question.
Lyle: Point taken. And certainly it’s easy for armchair pundits to claim that people should stand up against their superiors — our careers aren’t at stake (although as Dan points out — both tenured law faculty and judgeship are nice positions to be in).
And I’m not a lawyer ;-P
Still. Although there may be mitigating factors — it doesn’t look good to me.
And for what it’s worth, I have the same feelings of outrage over the ethical challenges and hypocrasies of liberals. I find Michael Moore, for instance, to be a dissembler and poseur.
Dan’s insistence on the no torture for Mormons position raising an interesting question: Does the Gospel commit us to a particular ethical approach. For example, torturing the guy with the information in the ticking bomb case may well be morally justifiable if we are utilitarians. It is probably not morally justifiable if we are Kantians. Dan seems pretty confident that good Mormons must be Kantians. On the other hand, one can point to fairly utilitarian moral claims in scripture. For example, God’s defense of his…ahem…”creative” use of the word “eternal” when referring to punishment and more dramatically God’s argument to Nephi justifying the killing of Laban seem fairly utilitarian. At the end of the day, maybe we ought to be Kantians, but I am not sure that it is the Gospel per se that gets us to that position.
By “What happened at the Prison was unfortunate” I take you mean something stronger than underserved bad luck. No?
And do I understand correctly that “why dont’ we give [him] the innocent til guilty presumption” does not apply to, say, detainees not charged with crimes?
And please clarify: hooding naked detainees was a conscious effort to minimize the “shame factor” in Abu Ghraib? What of posing with photos of dead detainees? The dead feel no shame.
Nate — I hope we don’t get too far diverted from the actual memo, but here is my problem with your ticking bomb in the orphage scenario: On what grounds are you justifying the torture? If you are a utilitarian and if preventing the explosion justifies torture of the bomber, then I suppose that saving all those lives would also instead justify torture of the bomber’s spouse or children in order to get him to talk?
(There is also the utilitarian problem that torture just doesn’t seem to work, but set that aside for now.)
If it bothers you to torture the bomber’s “innocent” child instead of the “guilty” bomber in order to get the information, then it seems to me that you are operating on some kind of desert theory. And I simply don’t think torture can be justified as punishment, even setting aside any uncertainty as to the bomber’s guilt.
Jeremobi: Read about the muslim faith, that’s all I can say. Unfortunate = wrong, but a wrong that is a 5 on a scale of 1-10, and not a 10 (Saddam) nor the killing of innocent civilians to put your people back in power (9) or humiliating someone so that you can try to save lives (5).
Dan: Would you be able to look at the Savior & say “Lord, I had the choice whether to strip a man naked so that I could save the lives of innocents & soldiers, waiting to be car bombed, but instead…I grew a soft heart & said that I’d rather the innocents & soldiers died so that I could protect this man’s pride…this man who was arrested & put in jail for attempting to kill soldiers & innocents.” If so, then you are right…we have a fundamental difference.
Dan: So you couldn’t ignore it so easily, I also put the question in the realms of tax & IP law. The job of a zealous lawyer, which most corporate types & criminal defenders are, is to push the boundaries of the law. Your characterization of “push” vs. “avoid altogether” is simply that. If you don’t want to confront the comparison, fine. But if I were to condemn Bybee, I’d have to condemn just about every other lawyer I know…who spend their days telling MNCs how to cheat on their taxes & IP guys who are trying to invalidate other folks valid patents, etc.
“But if I were to condemn Bybee, I’d have to condemn just about every other lawyer I know…who spend their days telling MNCs how to cheat on their taxes & IP guys who are trying to invalidate other folks valid patents, etc.”
Works for me.
I read an interesting editorial about a similar memo and its writer (John Yoo). Here’s a selection I found particularly relevant to this discussion:
“Interoffice memos, on the other hand, are designed to explore and give both sides of an issue. Any conclusions will be tentative so as to allow readers of the memo the maximum possible flexibility to question or disagree with the conclusions of the memo. Even if the lawyer does not like what he/she finds in the course of researching an issue, even if the findings are not favorable for the lawyer’s client, the lawyer’s duty is to fairly and accurately report the law in the memo.”
To all who are interested in this issue, I recommend reading the whole piece, found here:
“Read about the muslim faith, that’s all I can say.”
Yes, I suppose it is all you can say. I’m not well versed in comparative religion, but I do now a little something about Arab politics.
That given, the two Muslims (one Egyptian, one Turk) in the office next to mine tell me that you are mistaken regarding the “shame” felt by Arabs and Muslims. The “minimized shame” message isn’t getting through. Hey, they may be wrong.
What evidence do you have that any torture or humiliation in Abu Ghraib saved lives? Perhaps it did, but on what basis do you make this claim?
Lyle, so you honestly believe that stripping people naked, piling them up, forcing them to masturbate, having pictures taken with a “thumbs up” in front of their genitals or having them on a leash was more to get serious intelligence to save lives, rather than entertainment of people that had no perspectives in life and were frustrated with their whole situation (read the biographies of the accused). The whole smiling, grinning, and taking pictures – was that for safety reasons, to save Iraqis or G.I.s? I think that’s just a little naive there….
And about the “innocent ’til proven guilty” – as far as I know George W. Bush is still president of the United States and thus has not been found guilty yet. The question is, if he is found to be guilty (9/11 commission etc.), will you be willing to accept that? Will the 88% of Mormons that voted Bush in 2000 be willing to accept that the man they voted president turned out to be guilty of war crimes? I’m not saying that will necessarily happen, I’m just hypothetically speaking…..
John David Payne — Bearing in mind that Professor Yoo’s op-ed is meant to defend his own complicity in the matter (there have been calls for his resignation), the general point is correct. A lawyer does have a responsibility to fairly and accurately report the law.
But Yoo is being quite disingenous here. The memo is not a balanced legal analysis; as Nate pointed out, a good deal of it is simply what Wittgenstein termed “language gone on holiday.” It appears to be largely an exercise in telling the client what he wants to hear. In my opinion that makes it not only a poor piece of lawyering, but an even poorer piece of legal analysis. The links I provided to Michael Froomkin’s critique are well worth reading on this point.
And, contrary to Lyle’s rather wild claims, rendering legal advice on how to commit tax fraud or other crimes is both illegal and unethical.
But even if one believes that the memo was within the duty of a lawyer, my primary question was not about a lawyers’ ethical obligation, but that of a Latter-Day Saint and a Priesthood holder. So I’m not sure that Yoo’s apologia has much to say on the core question.
Dan: These are good arguments. My point is that they are not particularlly Mormon arguments, Christian arguments, or gospel centered arguments. They are Kantian arguments. Indeed, they are Kantian arguments that seem to be pulled rather cleanly from Rawls’s _A Theory of Justice_.
A utilitarian would respond that one’s moral intuitions do not provide a sufficient answer to the children who will be killed because you refuse to torture someone’s innocent wife. Both vicitims are innocent, and in such situations, so the argument goes, one ought to minimize the amount of innocent suffering. This is hardly a self-evidently false position.
There is an argument, of course, that torture is not justified because it fails to produce reliable information. This would be a happy fact were it true because it would relieve us of any moral or theoretical dilemma. Torture would never be justified regardless of the circumstance or the moral theory. However, it is this deus ex machina, just-so quality to the claim that makes me suspicious. I suspect that in many situations torture is a fairly effective way of extracting information. Hence we are thrown back on the theoretical and moral problem and can’t dismiss the issue at the level of efficacy. (I also suspect that there is an implicit ad hominem in many uses of the efficacy argument, since it carries the half-veiled accusation that one’s interlocutor is really sadist.)
Lyle — I continually pray that I will be able to stand before the Savior and tell him that I “grew a soft heart.” Perhaps I’ll pray that you will be able to as well.
I sympathize with your position, but I’m not sure that LDS theology or belief requires us to adopt the Kantian / Rawlsian position you suggest. In fact, one scriptural passage, the Nephi-Laban interaction in 1st Nephi 4, strongly suggests that we should instead adopt the kind of utilitarian calculus that Nate seems to be advocating. “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” is a strongly utilitarian statement. It’s not too far to go from there to “it is better that one detainee be tortured for intelligence than that a battalion of troops be ambushed.”
Now I think we can agree that there was _not_ a ticking time-bomb in this particular case, so even if it might be justified in the abstract, the torture that troops inflicted on detainees is not within the scope of justified torture.
But I think that church members are not necessarily beyond the pale, theologically and morally, should they refuse to adopt a general position that there can be no justifiable torture.
Julien: Yes. Although, the credibility of the 9-11 commission is about 0% when it doesn’t even bother to read the memos & reports that its support staff puts out w/o doing fact checking first. Also, the yes is a hypo. Bush is as much a war criminal as you are…or I. :)
Dan: Glad that my claims are wild. Better wild than factually & practically false. Probably that is news to most law professors who teach ehtics & who have their classes spend considerable time debating the morality & ethics involved in counseling clients, where it is, as you point out “highly illegal & unethical” to tell clients _how_ to commit tax fraud, but it is ok to tell clients _how not_ to commit tax fraud, while still achieving the same results for your clients (wink wink, nudge nudge). And if you practiced in any large corporate firm…you should be well aware of this.
re: The duty of the PH holder and/or LDS citizen. Their are two duties at either end of the spectrum; both seem to be defensible.
1. Protect each individual at all costs; regardless of whether they are in jail for trying to kill innocents or not.
2. Protect the agency of individuals by liberating them from dictatorships. My suspicion is that I, and everyone else, would prefer a little torture, let alone humiliation, even to me personally…if it would buy _freedom_ for me & millions of others.
Nate — I actually posted my comment before I saw your comment on Kant et al. I certainly wasn’t intending to channel Rawls, although I understand your comparison.
I actually think that the gospel does commit us to certain ethical principles, and that they are at some points contiguous with temporal philosophical systems, deontological, utilitarian, or otherwise. But I think it may be a mistake to claim that the gospel maps to any one of them.
For example, as I mentioned earlier, I think that Mormon tells the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis in order to warn us against the commission of acts that preserve physical life but endanger our spiritual life. I think Moroni included his father’s description of the Nephite and Lamanite atrocities for the same reason.
These principles might be classified as sense “utilitarian” in the sense that the eternal costs outweigh the temporal gain — there is a certain type of cost-benefit analysis, on a time scale that assumes eternity. But it is a “utilitarianism” based on certain immovable principles dictated by the Lord — a sort of deontology.
This suggests that mortal ethical systems may be useful in examining different portions of our gospel obligations, but we need to avoid mistaking the trunk or the tusks or the tail for the whole elephant.
Jeremobi: Granted, I only lived in Palestine for 6 weeks & Egypt for two; and don’t speak very good Arabic, but the literature I’ve read indicates:
1. What was done in the Prison was _very_ offensive…esp. to a Muslim.
2. However, ultimate humiliation would only have come if the individual’s face was recognizable also; i.e. #1 was “bad” (although I think potentially justifiable in a non post hoc sense)…but #2 would be like an insult to the Muslim faith.
Of course, neither #1 nor #2 is anywhere close to the “insult” & shame heaped upon Iraqi’s by Saddam. So…in a comparative sense, I think your co-workers should get over it.
Dan, the editorial about Yoo was written by Pejman Yousefzadeh, not by Yoo himself. My apologies for not making this sufficiently clear in my earlier post.
As to whether the memos written by Yoo and Bybee are good law, I can’t say. I’m not a lawyer. But as you say, the more important question for us is whether or not Bybee fulfilled his obligations as a Christian, not his obligations as a lawyer.
As for whether he fulfilled this former set of obligations, that’s a question too tangled for me to unravel in a short comment. We are all approaching this with different assumptions, which we are not discussing, which means that this thread will continue to be full of angry people talking past each other. (Digo yo.)
Help me out here. Isn’t the utilitarian effort to minimize the amount of innocent suffering in our case of the bomber’s wife problematic in another way?
Timing seems to matter. Can we justify torture of the innocent now on behalf of potentially more innocents who may, or may not, be harmed by the bomber in the future?
Real suffering occurs in the present and without divine guarantee, e.g. Nephi and Laban, isn’t suffering in the future only a possibility?
Kaimi — The flaw in your Laban story reasoning is that Nephi did not undertake himself to slaughter Laban. Nephi was quite rightly repulsed by the idea, as it violated the gospel principles that hold unless specifically countermanded by the Lord.
I agree that if the Spirit ever instructs us to beat an Iraqi prisoner to death or force him to masturbate in public, then perhaps we’ll have to do so. I don’t think that we are permitted to make that call on our own. Otherwise we end up with Caiaphas’ version of the cost-benefit that it is better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish.
Kaimi: As it happens, I am not a committed utilitarian or a committed Kantian. I just wanted to problematize all of the well-of-course-torture-cannot-possibly-be-justified-especially-by-Latter-day-Saints talk earlier on this thread.
Dan: I am not sure that the Anti-Lehite-Nephite story will do the intellectual work that you have assigned to it. In particular, I don’t think that it yields a clear conclusion as to ones attitude toward moral risk in the defense of others. Indeed, one can read the story of the Army of Helamen as addressing precisely this question, and coming to a different answer than that offered by the Anti-Lehi-Nephites. Finally, the ALN story is further complicated by the fact that they had sworn an oath not to take up arms. We lack a clear theology of oaths, but it clearly seemed to be a big part of the Anti-Lehi-Nephite’s pacifism.
John David Payne — Sorry, my mistake, I thought you were referencing Yoo’s own recent editorial. Same response, though.
Put it this way: I understand that near the end of World War II, Hitler determined that Allied Commandos were to be treated as what we would now call “enemy combatants” and he issued a “Kommandobefehl” that they were to be shot on sight. He asked his legal staff to produce a memo justifying this order, which even before Nuremberg would have been illegal under the law of war.
Under this scenario: was Hitler’s legal staff morally justified in producing a legal analysis for the activity of their “client”?
Jeremobi: The ticking bomb hypothetical is designed to avoid precisely these problems of termporality and uncertainty. Once the value of the information extracted via torture becomes attenuated then the utilitarian argument for torture obviously loses whatever force it may have had. I can’t say that I know enough about the ins and outs of utlitarian theory to understand how it deals with questions of time and uncertainty. One can imagine discounting suffering according to some temporal function and further discounting it according to some probability function, but you need some one with more background in moral philosophy than me to figure out if this is coherent.
Hi Nate — The only intellectual work I am asking the Anti-Nephi-Lehi story to do is precisely that which you identify: 1) they took an oath to foreswear arms, 2) they believed (as later, apparently, did Helaman), that violating that oath would endanger them spiritually, and concluded 3) that it was better to risk or suffer physical death than to place themselves in spiritual jeopardy. That’s all.
I also don’t think that’s a very controversial gospel proposition. In our worldview physical death is temporary and relatively trivial compared to the big picture. Lyle’s rabid insistence on avoiding deaths at any cost seems to me pretty inconsisent with LDS belief. You can do far more damage to yourself (and, I think Mormon would say, to your nation) in the eternal sense by the way you act in the face of death than death itself does to you.
I wonder if anyone involved in this debate remembers the interesting story in Alma, where Moroni, concerned that “gifts” of wine from the Lamanites might be poisoned, actually gives said wine to his Lamanite prisoners, because if it’s safe for them, it’ll be safe for the Nephites. Now, Moroni is held up as an example of what all men should be, but here he engages in an act that, if it were committed today, would be a direct violation of the Geneva convention (and the Hague convention as well, I believe). You simply cannot put prisoners in your care in danger in such a manner. I served 8 years in the military (infantry), and I remember our training on the treatment of prisoners. So, Nate’s arguments about “divine utilitarianism” seem to have something to them.
That being said, I have to say that the whole Abu Ghraib episode looks like one, great big snafu—improper training, improper oversight, lack of planning, and a reflection of the deterioration of Western morality. I believe there were good reasons to go to war with Iraq (and not just Iraq), but from the moment the decision was made to wage war without a congressional declaration of war, this thing has gone down hill. Our troops won a great victory, overthrew a beast, and if properly reinforced and led could still leave the country better than they found it, and with the ability to defend itself after we leave. I don’t trust this administration to do that, though, nor do I think the Democratic alternative would be any better.
That being said, though, I think Lyle makes a good point on the hypocrisy of much of the critiscism of the torture issue. However, Lyle, your arguments are not persuasive to me. It may be justifiable, in a moral sense, to aim a weapon and fire it near the head of a prisoner, frightening him into revealing info about an ambush. It may be justifiable, morally, to give water or food your troops need, but which you think may be poisoned, to your prisoners to see if it is safe (if you have no other means of testing it). However, could it ever be right, to rape a prisoner? to force him to violate the Law of Chastity? to take photographs of your self and others, grinning, as you humiliate a prisoner? In other words, isn’t this a case of a priinciple that (perhaps) is correct, but has simply been abused? I think so.
Dan: It seems that you are doing more with the ANL story than you suggest in your post above. You are also suggesting that it forbids making utilitarian trade offs to avoid the deaths of others. It is one thing to say that it is better to make decisions that cause your own death rather than do things that are morally questionable. It seems an entirely different proposition to say that you should make decisions that result in OTHER people’s deaths rather than do things that are morally questionable. Thus, I could concede that the ANL provides an argument not to torture in the ticking bomb example if I am the only one who will be blown up. It doesn’t necessarily provide me with an answer in the orphanage hypothetical.
Apology: I’ve been lurking in this wonderful community for months now, usually overawed by the resident denizens. But I think I can screw up the courage to intrude here. By way of very quick bio, which is only relevant because it sheds some light on why I barge in on this particular topic: While I am an attorney, I have made my professional way in the intelligence community. I have first hand knowledge of these issues, from both a legal and ‘technical’ perspective.
Dan, I don’t think that scripture or history provide us with an ethical atmosphere that you advocate. The scriptures are replete with massacres, assassinations, and horrific tactics in defense of selves, families, religions, and freedoms. I share your ideals, but don’t believe that all men are free to pursue them, given the situations that our Adversary puts before us.
Before I’m pilloried for situational morality and ethical relativism, I’ll say that in the case of interrogation methods, there is a legal standard that exists. I’m not a big fan of it’s quality from a legal workmanship perspective, but it is there. One big issue in the public debate is that the U.S. code torture statute is different from the U.N. torture definition. The U.N. definition has several ‘personal dignity’ provisions that the U.S. did not adopt. This leaves the government in the position of being able to mine personal weaknesses arising out of the psyche and culture of our enemies to prise intelligence from them without becoming ‘torturers’ in the legal sense. This doesn’t, however, mean that the means always represent the highest embodiment of the golden rule.
Secondly, while it is correct that professionals in the fields that this topic abutts — Arms, Intelligence, Law, Politics, and even Medicine begin their analysis with “Torture doesn’t produce useful intelligence”, that is the beginning of the real work. Much like a lawyer begins with the position that homicide is murder. While true, stopping there can have devastating consequences, for you client, as well as your future. . .
Finally, to rebut the assertion that torture never produces useful intelligence, I refer you to the following: http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol48no1/article06.html (Sorry, not horribly talented in html.)
I hope you don’t begrudge my intruding into the discussion.
Rabidity ends. I didn’t know I frothed at the mouth so much re: life, but I’m glad ’tis consistent with my pro-life politics. My thanks to Dan & Gary et al. for insights.
Frankly, in order to get more info, I’d rather do what 99.9% of U.S. troops already do: i.e. win the good will of the Iraqi people…whether through operation give, U.S. public affairs officers paying for needed repairs to schools, roads, electricity, water, etc. or by playing soccer with local kids who then warn them about insurgent attacks.
Nate — I was citing the ANL story primarily for the general proposition that physical death is preferable to spiritual death. But I do think it provides support for the more specific proposition you are looking for, that is, that it may be better to allow others to suffer physical death than for the individual to spiritually taint himself. Recall that the ANL endangered not only themselves, but the their Nephite benefactors by not taking up arms. While they did what they could to “support the troops” logistically, it seems clear that Nephites died who wouldn’t have had the extra troop strength been available.
Again, this maps to an odd type of utilitarianism: the eternal cost of allowing someone else to physically die is relatively small, as opposed to preventing that physical death at the cost of a spiritual death, which cost scripture suggests may be infinite.
XON — I’m sure that we’re all happy to have you join the conversation
I’m afraid that I don’t quite buy your characterization of scripture. The Book of Mormon in particular appears to be crafted to either 1) warn us to avoid massacres, assasinations, and horrific tactics, or 2) maintain our moral integrity when we are surrounded by them.
I also have to say that if you believe the Adversary somehow prevents us from pursuing our ideals, then you have a rather different understanding of agency than the LDS Church normally teaches.
Viktor Frankel would be disappointed in you, too.
On the question of the U.S. treaty obligations on torture and “cruel and unusual” tactics, again, I know of no pithier discussion of the problem than the Froomkin critiques linked to my initial post. See particularly the analysis of the DOD memo.
Dan Burke: Wouldn’t you agree, however, that sometimes Scripture does seem to espouse things we moderns would find horrifying, e.g. putting to death anyone who won’t take the Pledge of Allegiance?
Hello all, I have enjoyed this thread very much, but I must say that I am surprised that one of the most persuasive arguments (in my view) against torture has not been raised, especially since it has a strong gospel foundation. Namely, that we don’t engage in torture becaquse we don’t want our troops to be tortured.
I must say that I agree with Nate that I don’t think that the scriptures commit me to either a deontological or utilitarian ethical perspective. It seems that one can find all sorts of counter-examples to either one of these positins. Besides, both of these positions trap us in extremely difficult dilemmas.
That said, I think that the argument that we don’t torture because we don’t want others to torture us is probably most like Kant’s categorical imperative, which doesn’t seem to be to be strictly deontological. This ethical rule isn’t based on an inherent value of the other, but based on a desire to protect the self. (I admit that I haven’t given much thought to ethics, so I may be totally screwing up Kant’s argument). Additionally, though not a perfect match, the categorical imperative does bear resemblence to Jesus’ injunction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Mt 7:12).
Another issue is that we run into the problem of definitions. “Torture” is what the bad guys do, we are doing “intelligence gathering” or “interrogation”. It seems to me that there are a lot of legitimate practices that most people would categorize as torture, even though they aren’t legally defined as such.
Also, there is a fairly robust LDS reflection on war-making in the D&C. Has anyone ever done much with this?
“It seems that one can find all sorts of counter-examples to either one of these positins.”
I remember a pro vs. anti Gulf War debate carried on in the Daily Universe between Prof. Eugene England & Prof. Kelly Ogden. They both appealed to the BoM for their side, & as I recall Prof. Ogden came out looking stronger (at least, Prof. England’s reaction was that of a man who’d been trounced). It seems kind of a sticky thing to rely on the BoM one way or the other.
(Dr. England, of course, was anti!)
re: 1) avoid — no doubt; abandon — no. 2) Nephi loses his moral integrity at Laban? Teancum, and by implication, Moroni with Ammoron? (This one in particular, since BoM combat appears to be much more formalized/ritualized/individualized than 19th century guerilla-style tactics, seemingly making assasination all the more heinous.) The Moroni episode mentioned by Gary Cooper?
The point about the Adverary was intended to avoid a couple of pages of unnecessary explication of precisely that free agency. The righteous actors who carry out difficult and aggressive acts, if they are indeed righteous, almost always are put in the situation to have to do so by the previous machinations of Satan and his followers. Indeed, free agency, and its attendant requirement of opposition in all things would seem to require us to face intractable problems, otherwise we’re really just picking the battles/decisions we’ve already overcome.
As to Mr. Frankel, I think Nate addresses this infinitely more ably than I would be able to.
Still working through Froomkin, et al. Thanks for the ref.
Amen on the D%C 98 referral, Taylor! I found this to be one of the most neglected scriptures in the Mormon community so far! You know, I’ve heard a lot of talk in here about having had good reasons to go to war, and liberating the Iraqi people and all that nice and “we Americans are saviors of the world” talk in here, but I have not found one good argument in favor of the war. Don’t people realize that the Bush administration has lied all the way? WMD = none (it came out that there was hardly any CIA intelligence in Iraq before the war, although it claimed to be), no Saddam-al Qaida ties, no threat for the U.S., not half as many terrorists as now after U.S. “liberation”.. People, please, if you have all the facts that the world outside of the U.S. hasn’t, please NAME THEM! Show us what you got! And who was talking about the U.S. soldiers winning the hearts of the Iraqis? Well, how many Iraqis were in favor of U.S. presence right after Saddam was toppled, and how many are now? How many terrorist attacks in the first weeks of the war, how many now? A daily rise of terrorist attacks sure isn’t a sign that the winning-the-hearts thing is really working… And – sorry to sound so harsh, no personal offence, please – the fact that U.S. soldiers let the huge library of Baghdad, with centuries of cultural achievements be plundered, the fact that they treat the Iraqis with the least bit of respect when searching houses, just shows the disregard of many arrogant Americans towards foreigners and the culture of different peoples. Those people are so self-sufficient and ignorant that I find it repulsive. For a comparison: look at how much more quieter it is and has been since beginning of the war, in the zones protected by the British, Polish, and Spanish (you may argue they are not in charge of critical regions – the British zone was critical, until they managed to actually win the hearts of the people).
Please don’t take it personally, but I feel like these are some very basic issues that are easily overlooked for the sake of turning every stone around to find a pro-war argument.
Julien: Please don’t take it personally, but I feel like you’ve taken some very complex issues and oversimplified them awfully for the sake of turning every stone to find an anti-U.S. argument.
Dan: Having read the first half of the Bybee memo (where it lays out the construction of the definition of the term torture in the statute), I don’t think that XON (or Bybee) are being so far out.
First, there is the textual matter of how one construes the language of the statute itself.
Second, there is the matter of what the treaty that should be used to interpret the statute means.
A couple of points here:
1. The treaty is not self-executing, so what matters is not the meaning of the treaty but the meaning of the statute. IOW, the criminal violation occurs by violating the statute not the treaty.
2. The treaty is invoked as an interpretive aid to the statute.
3. The treaty was ratified with reservations by the United States.
4. The intention of the President (Reagan) who negotiated the treaty was to give torture a fairly narrow definition, and this is entitled to particular weight (over against later administrations and congressional interpretations).
Froomkin has a bit of fun beating his fist against the table about 4, but I don’t think that he really has grasped the argument, which actually seems pretty good to me. It goes like this:
The constitution vests in the president the sole authority to negotiate treaties. Hence, when construing the treaties we give deference to his views as to their meaning. The idea is that he is analogous to a legislative draftsman, and we give deference to his views the way that we would give deference to the views of the author of a particular bill as to its meaning. Furthermore, my understanding is that the later Bush I administration interpretations of the treaty are entitled to less deference as to the interpretation of the treaty because: 1. They were not the “authors” of the treaty as it were, and, 2. Their interpretation was directed toward the implimenting legislation, of which they were not the authors. Froomkin rushes past all of this and seems to claim that Bybee argued without any justification that ONLY Reagan’s interpretation (for some inexplicable reason) was entitled to deference.
It seems to me (and I confess that my knowledge here is limited to reading the Bybee memo and the Froomkin response) that the argument that only the most extreme sorts of physical abuse are covered by the torture statute seems quite solid. Furthermore, that interpretation of the statute seems quite consistent with American treaty obligations.
Despite Froomkin’s studied outrage, the section of the memo seems reasonably solid to me. I am considerably more skeptical about the claim that the inherent authority of the commander-in-chief confers anything like the affirmative defense envisioned by the memo.
Julien: (For those of us with friends, family in Iraq, it’s your rhetoric that’s repulsive.)
Julien: I think that you make a very good point about the British Zone of occupation vis-a-vis the American Zone of occupation. I think that the British military has clearly shown that they are more adept at policing than is the American military. However, I think that this has less to do with the differing levels of moral and cultural sensitivity than it does with differing military histories. The British Army has a long imperial tradition, which means that — at least since the battle of Waterloo — it has been tasked mainly with subduing and policing “natives” rather than with fighting and winning wars against opposing armies. For example, the largest long term commitment of British troops in the post-war period has been to Northern Ireland, where they were primarily tasked with policing a largely hostile population. In contrast, the American military since at least 1941 has been primarily concerned with developing tactics for finding, attacking, and destroying an opposing army. In other words, the American experience has simply not built up the reserve of experience and skill upon which the British Army draws. I suspect these sorts of explanations are more useful than dueling assertions of continental virtue.
note to all: I am not the Jeremy or Jeremobi that occasioanally post here.
Nate, Kaimi, etc.: I tend to agree that the Kantian position which has been presented here, that torture is never justified, is not directly entailed by Christianity or Mormonism (though the morality of Jesus does seem to be more intentionalist than consequentialist). It may be that torture is justified in some cases by impending disaster–I think that this can be done through a form of utilitarianism or through a modified Kantian position (e.g. there are real Kantians who nevertheless reject Kant’s insistence that lying is unacceptable under any circumstances).
An important distinction to make under the utilitarian defense of torture in some circumstances, however, is the distinction between rule and act utilitarianism. One can imagine a circumstance where the greatest good of all would be served by the torture of one or a few. But empirically it is hard to formulate a workable standard which would lead you to torture in these cases but few or no others. It is hard to know both that a particular person does have a piece of crucial information (without knowing what this information is), and that this information will save lives. Most people cave under torture, but not everyone has the information we think they might; in some cases the information produced under torture is false. I do not know of any militaries or police forces who have successfully implemented a workable practice of torture only in legitimate exceptional circumstances. When torture has been brought under control, it has been by the implementation of exceptionless rules of conduct, besides a general decrease in the need for it. Perhaps legal scholars can correct my history here if it is wrong.
The Nephi-Laban example seems to me to be a perfect limit case, since Nephi’s decision to kill based on the good of a whole nation was not only commanded by God but informed by God’s perfect knowledge about what would result from Nephi’s action. We don’t have this kind of knowledge generally. In many other cases we seem to have enough knowledge to reliably formulate rules which tend toward the greater good of all. But in the case of torture in interrogations, where the problem is basically a lack of knowledge, on rule-utilitarian grounds, torture is probably never justified.
At any rate, the Abu Ghraib debacle seems a prime example of the utilitarian defense of torture turned into a sloppy and reckless policy of generalized sadism.
Lyle: “What happened in the prison was unfortunate…but hardly something to get so worked up about. I don’t see the same level of angst over Saddam’s brutal crimes.”
Though it may not be unChristian to accept torture in some circumstances, it seems opposed to the very core of the moral teaching of Jesus to judge our own actions by comparing them to the sins of others–much less those of tyrants or moral monsters. Jesus calls us to be much better than even the typically good person, not to be somewhat better than the worst person.
Besides that, the “angst” about Saddam’s atrocities is, and must be, fundamentally different than that outrage about crimes that we ourselves, or at least those who act as the agents of our country. This is because we are politically (as well as in some senses legally, practically and morally) responsible for the actions of our military in a way that we were not responsible for those who tortured and killed under Saddam (though I do think some moral responsibility still exists in the latter case as well). One’s sphere of influence and repsonsibility fundamentally affects the immediacy and import of the moral question at hand. It’s a very simple ethical principle which is used by most people every day, one which seems to have been missed by most of those who think that the comparision between American torture and Iraqi torture under Saddam is a very interesting one. It seems to me to be the mark of a mature, moral person (and nation, for that matter), that she spends a greater amount of time and effort contemplating the righteousness of her own actions than railing against the obvious and well-known crimes of those with whom she happens to be at war.
Julien perhaps does not acknowledge the full complexity of US involvement in Iraq. But the stated feeling of repulsion was for those who “treat the Iraqis with the least bit of respect when searching houses” and “show[s]… disregard…towards foreigners and the culture of different peoples.” You may disagree who these offenders are, but many good Americans no doubt find disrespect and disregard troublesome.
My limited sense is that there are many of us with friends or family in Iraq who may not be terribly repulsed (though not necessarily in agreement) by Julien’s comments. Speak for yourself. I’m afraid your casual dismissal of the interests of the Iraqi public may prove Julien’s point!
Nate: Having spent over a year in U.S., and meeting many Americans here in Europe, I have to say that I have been shocked – as most Europeans that have made U.S. acquaintances – at the ignorance and indifference towards foreign cultures. So the hatred toward Americans in Iraq compared to that against other soldiers down there doesn’t seem quite coincidental. Good point on the historical differences, though!
Kingsley: Two things – first, yes I did simplify things, which I admitted in my initial post, an argumentative rebuttal has still not been found, though. Please answer to my points then and prove me wrong. I’m looking for truth, and I’m willing to take it from anyone that will give it to me. Second, I have close friends in Iraq as well, so that argument doesn’t work here, and not only Americans are in peril down there, there still is the Iraqi population that is suffering lots more than the G.I.s. I’m not criticizing individual soldiers in Iraq (although there will be thugs there, as anywhere else in the world), I’m criticizing the training and mentality put into their heads (drastically said) that leaves them with an indifference towards foreign cultures. I have heard of many soldiers writing home to their families saying how poorly everything was organized, and that the initial purpose of the war could not possibly have been a liberation of the Iraqi people, cuz they would have gone about it quite differently.
Nate: The more I think about it, your point WAS good! ;)
There’s another post right there about my not acknowleding the complexity of US involvement in Iraq – could it be explained to me then?! I feel well-informed (I’m a daily paper read and dig deeper than the mainstream media for most things). You are making me feel naive, but somehow nobody seems to be willing to give me the information they have. And I have not heard one substantial and content-full rebuttal of my arguments..
Jeremobi: Didn’t mean to casually dismiss the interests of the Iraqi public; I did mean to casually dismiss what seemed like another smarmy little Rolling Stone-esque editorial against those Awful, Awful Americans, delivered on the pretext of answering Taylor’s casual D&C reference.
P.S.: Won’t hear from me for a while, bed-time here in Belgium! Have a good day, y’all…. (Can you tell I spent a year in deepest hick-country in Missouri? Love it! ;)
Julien: try reading the mormon blog re: Chief Wiggles & info re: operation give that was supported by T&S, among others.
That might give you just a ‘wee’ insight into how much the LDS community in America feels about the Iraqi people. Or you might ask one of the T&S members, Matt Evans, who might have even been to Iraq.
In the mean time: why don’t you try & defend your own position; i.e. how you justify leaving over 50 million people in the grasps of tyranny simply because it’s convenient for you &/or your country to just sit back and do nothing. Frankly, I don’t care if Bush lied (ok, I’d be upset, cuz I expect more of a U.S. President). However, I’m more concerned about his moral _courage_…which seems much higher than those who sit back and say they will use “diplomacy,” to solve problems…which said problems dont’ get solved & millions suffered over a decade more than necessary. So, if we are going to talk about LDS Doctrine, War & peace…why don’t we start with agency & the plan of salvation & the need for emancipation & freedom to be exercised in every country in order for God’s kingdom to roll forward. eh? If you dont’ feel that my characterization of the LDS faith is ‘truth’ or truthful, please explain why.
OK, one last one (this IS an addiction!): I think we’re over this “you think all Americans are bad” and “all Europeans are anti-American communists” thing, don’t you think? … Let’s leave that level to others. I know lots and lots and lots of Americans, and in no country have I been welcomed as warmly as in the States (having travelled to 15 other ones in Europe), so I feel like I have the right to say stuff about “Americans” (never generalized of course) without being accused of being anti-American…
Julien: “Don’t people realize that the Bush administration has lied all the way? WMD = none (it came out that there was hardly any CIA intelligence in Iraq before the war, although it claimed to be), no Saddam-al Qaida ties, no threat for the U.S., not half as many terrorists as now after U.S. “liberation”.”
Just a few brief comments. The no Saddam-Al Qaida ties appears to have been the work of some staffers in the investigation and most of the actual members of the investigation didn’t read the report that was partially leaked to the press. Even then the press did an atrocious job reporting it. (Especial mention to the LA Times and NYT – how much lower in respect can the print papers get?)
Indeed one of the more interesting bits coming out of the investigation was that a senior member of Sadaam’s Fedayeen was a very prominent member of Al Qaida and was involved in the planning of 911. John Lehman was interviewed about this on Meet the Press on Sunday. There are numerous other ties as well. There appears to be no direct involvement of Sadaam in 911. However one should point out that the Fedayeen lietenant may be a case of mistaken identity due to names. Lehman said that at this point they don’t know for sure. The commission also didn’t deal with Azzawi being an Iraqi agent.
As for it being a Bush lie, Bush never said that Sadaam was responsible for 911. Rather he said that given his connection to chemical weapons and terrorist ties (Abu Nidal, among others) that there was justification for a *preventive* attack.
I thought then that he went in far too early and didn’t do enough serious diplomacy. But I think that people felt so betrayed over no WMD being found (although there was the Jordan chemical weapons attack) that they’ve now tried to read the worst into everything. While I understand that mindset, one would hope that the press would try to be more objective.
As for the number of terrorists before and after. First off I’d say it is a little too early to make such judgments. While I’m very critical of Bush of late, I do think one big problem is America’s MTV-generation attention span. If Iraq isn’t a full western democracy in less than a year and all terrorism is down then we’ve failed. It is an odd standard to make. I think Bush and Rumsfeld in particular have made some egregious errors. Yet the cries of lies and dismal failure seems to be taking hyperbole as fact. It is unfortunate that the media has tended to convey this to the public. I suspect that in large part it is due to it being an election year.
Great discussion topic! Three questions/thoughts:
1) Isn’t it torture to spend several hours under a heap of rubble suffering from severe powder burns and shrapnel wounds? Would Dan say it would have been better for our bombers in WWII to die a physical death rather than inflict the kind of “torture” that accompanies killing during war. Or are warriors wielding weapons of mass destruction somehow exempt from Dan’s ethical edicts which he imputes to “the gospel?”
2) Can Dan or someone else deliniate the moral distinction between torture of the enemy to achieve a military objective and killing of the enemy to achieve a military objective?
3) I think it is important to remember that lyle was defending Bybee’s memo, first and foremost, (and, to a degree, his standing in the Church). That must be viewed differently then defending renegade soldiers making “thumbs up” signs next to detainees private parts or otherwise sexually abusing detainees.
After a couple of tries, I just abandoned the ‘academic commentary’ after one too many bald assertions of either facts or law that are either wholly the unfounded opinion of the commentator and/or completely opposite the actual facts as the programs were put into motion. (While I realize that saying this seems to be the unfounded opinion of one commentator; well, I was there, he wasn’t.)
On a new tangent, I find myself with roughly the same concern as Dan, but for wholly different reasons. I do agree that this incident is a rather severe blow, among the tattoo of blows that are eroding what we all thought our Constitution and our unique position in the world meant. But rather oppositely of Dan’s concern that we are becoming somehow debased, I am wondering if what is really being lost is that sense of just how large, dangerous, and ambiguous is this world where our Father put us to see what we would do. I submit that what really moves us when we hear the stories of the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Pioneers, and even of Paul and the early saints, was that they had before their eyes daily the immediate spectre of death, murder, hunger, and natural catastrophe that we just don’t have here, and part of our soul wonders if we are missing the whole point of this probation.
Now I’m not just rambling on in random themes (at least on purpose). This debate brings to the fore the idea that not only have we been trained by at least 60, if not many more, years of ‘government-of-a-certain-type’ that we are expected to defer to government on all issues of real import, but lately, that it is unfashionable and perhaps seditious to desire our own compass in these matters. Is our Constitution hanging on a thread because we have too many opinions on what it means, or too few?
Hi Nate —
Without turning this into a legal forum, and setting aside the question about the moral reprehensibility of the memo’s premises, a couple of thoughts:
First, I think we’re all on the same page that that analysis of defenses and executive power in the latter part of the memo must have been drug-induced. So focus on the statutory interpretation part.
Unfortunately, the statutory interpretation part is at least somewhat infected by the approach that is problematic in the goofy latter part — specifically, the argument that only the executive’s interpreation (either Reagan or Bush, or both, take your pick) of the implementing legislation is relevant. This is one theory, but not the only one, nor even necessarily the most plausible. Most particularly, eliding the Senate language on cruel and unusual punishment is, I think, an extremely serious mistake. If our obligations track the Constitution then most of the memo’s other conclusions make little sense. At a minimum, that line of reasoning should have been seriously explored.
The memo also makes an elementary mistake (as in, lose lots of points on your 1L crim law exam) by confusing specific intent and wilfulness. This distorts a several of the later conclusions in bizarre ways. See Kyron Huigen’s notes on this problem here.
Consequently, I continue to think that the memo is not only of questionable morality, but not a good piece of lawyering.
Speaking of which, can anyone identify for me any LDS higher-ups in the Bush Administration? I think the #2 or #3 guy at DOED is Mormon, but I could be wrong. In addition to the lawyers in this post, who else do we have? (Up until a month ago I was the second lowest-ranking official at USAID, right below the guy who fixes the copier and above the guy who works at Sbarro in the Ronald Reagan Building food court).
Nate would know better, but:
1. Judge Bybee used to be at DOJ.
2. Kyle Sampson is still associate WH Counsel; while Tim Flanigan used to be Deputy WH counsel (for the first 2.5-3 years of Bush 43′)
3. Bart Marcois used to be a DOE Principal Deputy Assistant General (PDAS)(highest appointed level official that does NOT require Senate Confirmation).
4. Tom Lee is at DOJ, and while the title is different, it is at the PDAS level. Note…Tom’s position is fairly prestigious though; or at least I think deciding appellate litigation for the Federal govt is kool.
5. You could count Michael Young, but…that isn’t really an “administration” position, i.e. being on the USIRFC.
There are lots of others…but not nearly enough, nor as many as under Pres. Reagan. Alt. if you ask a different source whom I could name [but won’t, for fear of spam comments], I’m sure she has a complete list. :)
Maybe this isn’t the best time to bring this up…but one thing about this debate (at least in earlier posts on this thread) that I am interested in is the responsibility lawyers (or other contracted workers) have to their employers.
Does a LDS lawyer have an obligation to the gospel that is higher than his/her obligation to standards of legal practice?
Does a LDS soldier have an obligation that is greater than his/her chain of command?
I was troubled by Pres. Hinckley’s comments in General Conference after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan…comments that seemed to imply that a soldier (in a volunteer army!) is not responsible for killing people if he is sent to do it, regardless of the cause.
If you enter into a contract (with the Army recruiter, your corporate legal firm, whatever), and then are bound by that contract to violate gospel principles, haven’t you signed a devils bargain?
Whatever happened to love your enemy and Christ’s example of turning the other cheek–even to the point of being crucified? And D&C 98–a close reading seems to indicate that allowing yourself (and even your family) to perish rather than retaliate is the preferred option–with war justified under very limited circumstances for those who can’t rise to the ideal standard.
And if I see Captain Moroni brought out one more time to legitimate violence I think I’ll puke. Just because Mormon notes that Satan would be bound if we were all like him (seemingly implying a Terrestrial state of affairs, not the ultimate aim for many of us) does not mean his actions should be construed as normative in all cases. In the wine/Lamanite prisoners case we seem to have another strong testament to the depravity of war–even “good” men (and women?) can get sucked in to committing atrocities in times of war. What a great testimony the BOM gives about the awful nature of war.
The BOM is a warniing message, not always a guide to Christian living.
Lyle: Why fear spam comments? Lunge forward, my friend!
Rob: Pres. Hinckley being the current Pres. of the Church, Chief Apostle & Prophet etc., I’ll take his words, rather than Moroni’s (thus saving you the trouble of puking), as a way to approach the complexities of Saints at War.
Oh, re: Whether Tom was unethical or practiced law w/o a license while at BYU, perhaps today’s story with quotes from the UT Bar saying Tom didn’t do anything wrong will soothe the naysayers here. Although, it could be too late & another good man might have been tarred & prevented from serving merely because he supports “adjudicating” rather than “legislating” the law from the bench.
Kingsley–First of all, Pres. Hinckley made it pretty clear that his comments about saints at war was his personal view rather than binding upon the church.
That said, I obviously don’t want to dismiss it out of hand. That’s why it troubles me.
Since when did honor thy job responsibility (as lawyer, soldier, etc.) become a higher calling than following Christ’s example?
I know this is a tough subject, but it looks to be related to the original topic of this thread.
Is there a new line now for the saints? We’re getting a lot from Pres. Hinckley about fulfilling our obligations to our employers (there was more on that as recently as the world leadership training broadcast on saturday).
I agree that we should be diligent and honest employees…but as Dan asked, when do our job responsibilities conflict with our standards to the point that we resign?
In the case of soldiers (which keeps getting brought up here), in a volunteer army, with fallible national leaders, when is enlisting possibly signing a devil’s contract to serve an organization dedicated to ruling with blood and horror on this earth?
When does loyalty to job/nation/political party trump obedience to the gospel?
i’m glad that the ‘personal views’ of prophets at least gives some folks pause. yet, i have to wonder why a prophet would share such to the entire church during conference (we aren’t just the U.S…i thought liberals were hyper-aware of this?)? mayhap the wisdom of the man closest to God on this earth has some weight since it is his ‘personal view’ and that this is an emphasis rather than a detracting point to his statement?
“Since when did honor thy job responsibility (as lawyer, soldier, etc.) become a higher calling than following Christ’s example?”
It hasn’t (or it shouldn’t have, at least): but Christ never gave us an example of how He would have behaved as a soldier in wartime, because he never was a soldier in wartime. & he never was a lawyer or a police officer etc. etc. etc. That’s why some find examples of prophet-warriors like Moroni, or Pres. Hinckley’s words, helpful in situations like this. WWJD is like CTR: complicated.
Lyle–“mayhap the wisdom of the man closest to God on this earth has some weight since it is his ‘personal view’ and that this is an emphasis rather than a detracting point to his statement?”
Maybe…that’s what I’m asking. Am I seeing a blind acceptance of Pres. Hinckley’s comments because they agree with your personal political ideology? I’m trying not to reject them because of my own personal ideological biases. What I’m looking for is a discussion of his comments relevent to the topic of this thread. Pres. Hinckley seems to be fostering an idea that loyalty to country and job trumps other gospel ideals.
I’m not sure he would agree with this view. I’m not sure you agree. Though you seem quick to argue from Pres. Hinckley’s authority rather than address the implications or merits of the statement.
I believe Pres. Hinckley is a prophet. I believe he speaks for the Lord. I believe I should take his statements seriously, even when he goes out of his way to make sure we know that these statements he made were only his opinion. I mean, when else has he ever been so clear that a statement was only his opinion.
I’m trying to give his statement here as much thought and attention as possible. What I’m looking for is more than that “he’s the prophet so anything he says is exactly what the Lord would say”. He denied speaking for the Lord in that talk…now I want to know what that talk means.
Or maybe you think he really was speaking for the Lord when he specifically said he wasn’t. I don’t buy that…mainly because it would be dishonest and misleading. If he said his comments were merely his opinion, we have to take that at face value.
Now, on the face of what he said…since it was merely his opinion that soldiers in war are not held responsible for killing people they are contractually bound to kill because of their position in the military, I’m going to question that. Even international law will not support you if you follow an order that is illegal. So the question, once more is…where’s the line. When does an act by an employee become too much for an LDS employee to take? Do you have to wait until there is a legal line (don’t torture people) or should the line for a saint come sooner sometimes?
“WWJD is like CTR: complicated.”
Agreed…but maybe the complication comes because we don’t want to live with the unpopular results of living Christ’s teachings.
“Turn the other cheek” is unpopular if someone has a gun pointed at you.
So is “love your enemies, do good to them that spitefully use you and persecute you.”
In all fairness, living the gospel isn’t always as clear as this…but we seem to muddy up the waters a lot when we let job/nation/party loyalty come between us and the Lord’s teachings.
Rob: Short of becoming Amish, there just seem to be certain practicalities to being a citizen of nation x & a Latter-day Saint, & soldiering is one of them. B. Young was quick to send 500 men to join the war in Mexico, & plenty of Apostles have fought (& presumably killed) in battle, just as Joseph Smith fired a gun repeatedly at Carthage defending himself & his brethren. I think these men strove to follow Christ as well as any; but from time to time they came up against the brutal practicalities of living in this world. I wouldn’t accuse them of avoiding the Gospel, just like I don’t accuse current LDS soldiers of avoiding the Gospel. There are, of course, lines to be drawn (& debated, as proved by this thread).
How much fighting did the Mormon Battalion engage in?
How effective was JS and his handgun in Carthage?
I wouldn’t accuse these men of avoiding the gospel…but I’m not sure I would want to call on their example, either.
Like I said, its hard to live the gospel. Especially when it isn’t convenient politically, financially, socially, etc.
But where is the line? I’m not asking this question to judge anyone else.
For me, the teachings of Christ are pretty clear. But if I don’t live up to them, any excuses I might make about “the real world” just seem to fall pretty flat. I may fail to live the gospel every day. But I wouldn’t expect to justify that failure on more than my own unwillingness to pay the true price for following the Lord.
Rob: Not sure what’s meant by your first two questions: Was JS missing on purpose in order to be Christlike? etc. You say it’s hard, inconvenient to live the Gospel, & I agree with you; but it’s also hard, inconvenient to die bloodily in battle, or to kill bloodily in battle, for that matter. For me, the teachings of Christ are not pretty clear on this subject: & therefore I am grateful for living Prophets & Apostles who, by word & example, offer solace to soldiers having to deal with the reality, say, of Nazi death camps. The overwhelming majority (if not all) of the modern Apostles have given the same “opinion” that Pres. Hinckley gave. Christ said, “Judge not that ye be not judged (Matt. 7:1),” but there is also a divinely approved system in place for doing just that. If it were simply a matter of taking axioms & applying them wholesale to every situation, there’d be no need for living interpreters.
Rob: (Sorry! After this I’m done for the night.) It seems to me that you are going to have to find a way to respond to BoM stories like Helaman & his warriors, etc. The BoM was written for our day (I have seen you), & it doesn’t seem too whacky to interpret certain stories (yes, Moroni’s is among them) as specifically intended to help us navigate some of the complexities, perils & paradoxes of Saints at war while telling us that yes, sometimes Saints must go to war.
This is backtracking up the chain a bit, but…
Lehman was totally off the mark in alleging on meet the press that the Fedayeen figure was an al Queda “fixer.” The former was Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad; the latter was Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi. The former was a high-ranking officer in Saddam’s military; the other guy picked up people at the airport in Malaysia and took them to terrorist meetings. Both bad dudes. But not the same bad dude. The conflation was first made by a reporter for the Weekly Standard last year, then quickly discounted by U.S. intelligence, but somehow floated to the surface again recently. (See WP article here.
Kingsley, I think the question is not too much whether you will be held accountable for have killed somebody in a time of war, when you were engaged in fighting. I think the question is more along the lines of, will you be held accountable for acts committed on command of your leaders if your moral sense (or even inspiration, if you may) tells you they’re wrong. Stupid example: An officer, of whom it is known that he’s racist commands you to kill an entire black family without any obvious reason – will you be accountable for that atrocity or not? It’s hard to tell, and I don’t have the answer, but my feeling tells me yes, you will be accountable. A more extreme case: You have enrolled in the army, and now are commanded to enter a war, of which it is known that it’s for conquest and territorial expansion (I’m not talking about the Iraq War here, just to make that clear) – is it your responsibility as a moral person (or as a Christian) to refuse, or are you more loyal to your commanders? Simpler example: You work for a company, have a late-night meeting to go to (attendance required by the company), and your funny boss has decided to do it in a strip joint – do you go, or do you refuse and might be subject to penalty? (Not that I know of such an example, it might not be the best one, but I think the point is clear…) For a possible answer, compare my quote of Max Weber in the fourth post of this thread.
Kingsley, with your permission?
1. Stupid example. Yes. That is what we in the military call a war crime. Something that Sen. Kerry said he engaged in. The words Mai lai (sp?) come to mind. However, the example is only stupid because the so-called “racist” officer wouldn’t be in command of such a unit, because if it was so clear he was racist…he would have been removed from command & stripped of rank long long before your example comes along. The U.S. military has rather strong internal controls & regulations vs. discrimination.
2. More extreme case? Well said. very extreme case. Frankly, the answer is that it does _not_ matter. God is bound by his word; and asks that we be also. Whether a war is for _conquest_, etc. is a _political_ decision…made by someone, as we say “far beyond my pay grade”. It isn’t about loyalty to commanders. It is about loyalty to your own integrity, your own word…when you affirmed your allegiance to your country & promised to serve as a soldier. Unless you would prefer that LDS soldiers become oath breakers? Dan’s vaunted ANL/Prophet-General Helaman example seems to suggest a No. Oh, and Mormon/Moroni’s situation is different than a soldier…officers typically serve by _will_, not by term of service. I.e. an officer is allowed to resign at will for the most part. And the general? Well…Generals are known to do whatever they please, i.e. if one wants to quit…he quits. He is either then thrown in jail or let go. Oh, and don’t forget that it makes a difference whether your hypothetical occurs “in the field” or “at home.” At home…refusal to serve = AWOL & jail. In the field…refusal to serve is also known as aidding & abetting the enemy, desertion, etc. & is punishable by death (since you are putting the lives of your fellow soldiers at risk by refusing to do your part).
3. Simpler example. At least in the U.S., we have legal protections for such. One could launch a sex and/or religious discrimination suit (or retaliation, if fired, not promoted, etc.). However & regardless…obv. your boss can’t order you to participate in a mtg. in a place “outside of the office” that has nothing to do with your work. Unless of course, you happen to work for Victoria’s Secret, a strip club computer application company, etc…which would make the venue work related.
Any other smart/stupid/simpler hypos?
Note this morning that the White House is in full spin control mode repudiating the memo, and DOJ says it is being “rewritten.”
Yes, and what Dan calls “spin,” some call “media course correction”; i.e. as in a media, that if not liberal, chooses to selectively report on the facts & needs to be reminded that they are leaving facts out that the party being attacked/reported on feels are pertinent & refuses to permit the media to be a censor.
I think Safire has an admirable example of that in todays NYT re: the UN’s decision to audit the U.S. in retaliation for our scrutiny of their rip off the Iraqi people for Saddam oil program.
OK, lyle, I guess it’s time for me to quit on this thread. Tearing comments apart for the cause of tearing them apart is not very productive. I was trying to back off my emotional mood, but apparently you haven’t, and are just trying to throw mud because you seem to have noticed that I don’t have that blind trust in the military that you do. Rob was trying to get the course of argumentation back on the initial subject, so did Kingsley, I commented, and you get all snappy again, cuz you don’t seem to agree… If I recall it was your rather unfounded comment on “I’d rather see some nude Iraqis than dead soldiers” that started it all turning it away from the subject…. My time at T&S lasted for about 48 hours, but if that’s the level of discussion of some, then that was it. Would have been nice to talk more to intelligent people such as Nate, Dan, and the other perms to get something out of it, but if some people are only out to tear apart, then that was it – I’ll leave it with Dan and pray for you. God bless!
Julien: Sorry to see you go. I respect & admire any & all who are willing to state an opinion & then defend it. I don’t understand what you mean about tearing about for it’s own sake.
Maybe nate, dan, kinsley, et al. who you feel are more intelligent & considerate will also respond to your hypos. Please note that I only used your words to identify them. I certainly was not insulting you personally or your hypos. I tried to treat them with the same respect & analysis (or more) that you gave them.
Dan: I don’t want to get into a debate about the intricacies of the memo’s legal argument, but as I read it, it does not make the claim that that only the President’s interpretation of the implimenting statute matters. Rather, it makes the claim that the President’s interpretation of the treaty itself should be granted a deference analogous to the author’s interpretation of a piece of legislation. The treaty, in turn, is invoked as a secondary interpretive aid for construing the statute. I think that Froomkin simply misrepresents the argument on this point.
I hope that everyone will dial it back a notch on this thread. In particular, I don’t want anyone to abandon T&S because they feel flamed here. Lets be civil and nice folks. Remember…nice.
Alright lyle, you got me! I’m being laughed about (in a positive way) a lot, because I can’t stay mad at people very long, so I guess that means I take it back, and will not take your (or anybody else’s) comments as personally as I have. You know, it’s hard to understand how people feel about things and to identify the “tone” of somebody’s reply when it’s actually only written and you can’t see the person face to face. So I guess if I could see you that means I’d extend my hand right now, you’d take it, and it would all be good. – I never meant to say I felt like nate etc. were more intelligent. I just felt that they answered more objectively. I felt like your replies to my hypos didn’t sound very respectful or admiring, but from what you said I just must have understood them wrong, and I ask for forgiveness.
Forgive me if I’ve done something wrong, let’s be civil and treat each other with respect, and I guess that means my absence from T&S lasted about 46 hours less than my previous presence…;) And I will respect your opinion more than I have! Forgive me again!
Lyle–>It isn’t about loyalty to commanders. It is about loyalty to your own integrity, your own word…when you affirmed your allegiance to your country & promised to serve as a soldier. Unless you would prefer that LDS soldiers become oath breakers?
OK…this is exactly what I’m talking about. Why would anyone make an oath that might place them in a position where they have to chose to break an oath or break a commandment? Maybe that’s why Christ said not to make oaths? It’s a devil’s bargain. And again, you mention the costs of breaking the oath–prison, courts martial, etc. Is that a higher cost than losing your soul? The Anti-Nephi-Lehis weren’t willing to pay that price, so some of them willingly gave up their lives so as not to kill again.
I think we are in a position now where good men are being forced to support unjustified actions because of their leaders. Whatever the “real world” justifications for war in Iraq…they don’t raise to the level of justification for war given in the D&C. So if you think that war is justified, you’re pretty much on your own. No matter who agrees with you, it isn’t scripturally justified.
Kingsley–as for the BOM examples of “righteous” warriors (Moroni, Mormon, Heleman, etc.)–how do you know these are role models instead of cautionary figures? Where is the–be like them commandment from the Lord? The closest we get is Mormon’s note that if we were all like these guys that Satan would be bound. When you contrast that with all of Christ’s statements about peace and war, Mormon’s comments and Moroni’s example just don’t seem to measure up. Their examples appear to me more like cautionary tales of what horrible things will happen if you allow yourselves to become embroiled in warfare.
I know this isn’t the standard reading of BOM warfare. However, I’d like to see an argument for using the warfare chapters as providing normative warrior figures for us…something that isn’t just harkening back to our popular LDS cultural positions, which President Kimball told us were too warlike, something that takes into account Christ’s statements about turning cheeks, loving enemies, better to suffer than to cause suffering, etc.
I can admire Heleman and Moroni and see them as tragic figures at the same time. I don’t have to see them as role models. And as I’ve argued before, if the Sons of Heleman were so great, why did they apparently all fall away by the next generation after going to the land northward?
It’s easy to justify war…people have been doing it for ages. It’s really tough to live the gospel and proclaim peace. That’s why we don’t live in Zion. Narrow is the way.
All: While it may take a few more years before I meet all of you (pun intended), I want to apologize for any unintended offense my comments have given. As I recognized in my apology to Kaimi the other day, my tactics have started to resemble pundits that I do not admire. SO…
I’m cooling off & promise to add more smiley faces to indicate that while my point is serious…I mean it in a good spirt & not in a tear the other guy apart. I do not believe in winning points or being right…being right has never gotten me anywhere :) [pun intended].
>being right has never gotten me anywhere :)
Me neither. Choose the left ;)
Rob: if you didn’t catch Nate’s earlier plug for Mormons for Equality & Social Justice (MESJ), they sell a very very funny (or blasphemous, depending on your persuasion) t-shirt:
CTL (Choose the Left) in the shape of a CTR logo.
“[A]s for the BOM examples of “righteous” warriors (Moroni, Mormon, Heleman, etc.)–how do you know these are role models instead of cautionary figures?”
One could ask the same question about Book of Mormon pacifists like the Anti-Nephi-Lehites. What one needs is an interpretive principle that doesn’t declare some figures normative or not normative based on pre-packaged commitments. If Kingsley and the rest of the Moroni quoters are simply proof texting their unrighteousness, it is not clear to me that interpretively you (Rob) are doing anything all that different.
Falling back on the appeal to the authority of president Kimball is equally problematic, given that it is quite easy to trot out prophetic statements that suggest that voluntary military service is virtuous and soildiers are not morally culpable for following legal orders.
Kaimi here, trying on his admin hat again.
I’m concerned with the direction this thread has gone. I think some of the concerns arise out of possible confusion over the acceptable bounds of comments, and in particular of the making of non-relevant comments and the problem of “thread hijacking.”
It is common for comments to move a short distance from the original post. E.g., Jim posts, “I just noticed this application from the Book of Alma.” There are some comments back and forth, and at some point Nate says, “That reminds me of a point that Rawls makes.” And comments go back and forth about Rawls theory. It’s not necessarily related to the original topic, but it is part of the natural, organic process of commenting and discussion.
The problem comes when certain pre-set off-topic subjects are introduced in the comments. In particular, when subjects come up like same-sex marriage, the validity of the war in Iraq, the reliability of the media, perceived problems with liberals or conservatives generally, or any number of other hot-button topics.
Jim’s post: “I just noticed this application from the Book of Alma.”
Nate comment: “Very interesting, Jim. By the way, that reminds me that you can’t trust anything the New York Times prints.”
These sorts of comments do not advance any discussion. Worse, they very often derail discussions. These are topics on which many people have strongly held, differing opinions. People are often not particularly willing to be convinced of another’s position in these areas; instead the argument becomes a heated exchange at the sound-bite or radio-talk-show level of development and nuance.
The bottom line: Yes, this thread deals with politics. No, that is not a reason to trot out a laundry list of one’s gripes with Republicans, Democrats, Bush, Kerry, America, Iraq, or the price of rice in Korea.
So, let’s stick to the issues at hand. And, to reiterate Nate’s point, let’s remember to play nice.
I see Christ’s statements as normative.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehis seem to most closely approach Christ’s statements about peace and loving enemies.
Of course, after they moved in with the Nephites they seemed to become swept up in the ideology of justified warfare again, and almost broke their covenants. They then become a tragic story again, as they send their sons off to war. Yeah the lives of the sons were spared, but from what we see later, maybe at the cost of their souls.
And as for Captain Moroni–those who live by the sword perish by the sword. He died a relatively young man only a couple years after his wars. And the peace he established…didn’t last but a few years. The Lamanites took over Zarahemla eventually anyway.
As I was re-reading Alma this week, I was struck by how little we actually seem to look at these warfare chapters. We seem to use the Title of Liberty to justify all of Moroni’s actions…but the title was raised to quell political insurrection–not to fight Lamanites. That initial fight was carried out as more of a police action. Then you get the problem with the people trying to leave the land after the Morianton/Lehi dispute–another case of unrighteous Nephite fighting. This pattern of using force to put down internal conflicts led to Moroni declaring war on the Kingmen. The whole thing escalates until Amalickiah brings in the Lamanites.
By the time you have the Lamanites fighting, you are dealing with the result of years of Nephite infighting and violence. Soon you have Moroni fighting in anger, sending off inflamatory missives to Pahoran (he would have been right at home on this thread!), and using his prisoners as poison detectors. There are atrocities on all sides. It’s a big mess.
Was it justified? Maybe. All of it? Possibly not. Was it Christlike? I’d like to see that argument made.
I’d like to see the argument made that we should follow Moroni (or any other BOM warrior) rather than the teachings of Christ.
Rob: I think you have a very refreshing & novel interpretation of the BoM here. One that I reject, but will think more about. My short answer to your querry:
1. Moroni was a prophet.
2. Helaman was a prophet.
3. If the prophet today can’t/won’t lead us astray; then neither can the former prophts…esp. in a work that was designed for us personally by God via yet another prophet/warrior: Mormon.
4. How does one follow Jesus Christ? By following his prophets. Prophets don’t commit war crimes or participate/create “big messes.”
So, my choices seem to be limited to:
1. attacking the Prophets in the BoM (similar to the types of attacks launched to try & degrade the status of the Founding Fathers); or
2. accepting that war is Christlike. Don’t forget that Christ was a general long before he carried out the atonement; and that him & his bro./general Michael/Adam took out the enemy in what was probably a fairly intense war that didn’t have any geneva conventions. Could it be that the preservation of agency is more primal than the preservation of mortal life?
Wow. I’m not going to backtrack now…but perhaps might latter. I suspect that claiming that: War is Christlike might just rock a few boats.
Rob: I think maybe your approach here is too either/or. Either heroic role models or tragic cautionary tales. Perhaps we’re talking about a combination of both. War is evil, tragic, doing x, y, z will get you there, but if it happens (as it most likely will in a fallen world), here are some men who were undoubtedly righteous (no need for quotation marks) & undoubtedly warriors–simultaneously! In other words, here’s how to behave properly in a worst-case scenario. After all, wars & rumors of wars are a prophesied part of the Big Shebang, & as Lyle & other soldier saints are going to be participating in them (as did Pres. Packer etc.)–thank goodness there’s this guidebook for them, written specifically for them, so that they can (awful paradox) keep their souls on the battlefield, as did Helaman, as did Moroni. Also, I think you are maybe treating the sacrifices of such soldier saints a little too lightly, as if they had chosen to eat, drink & be merry in the world over the rigors of the Kingdom of God.
Appreciate you tracing your logic here. We may be at an impasse here. You seem to have an almost blind faith in prophets which I find troubling. I see more room for human failings in our leaders and try to measure their words and actions against the teachings of Christ. I know that is tricky. I know that I can be wrong in my interpretations.
As for your assertions–how do you know that Moroni was a prophet? And what kind of prophet was he? The kind of prophet that Moses and Joseph Smith wanted everyone to be–someone who got personal revelation, or a prophet like Pres. Hinckley–the leader of the Church? Obviously he wasn’t the leader of the Church, so for sure we should be careful here. As for his motivations, before he leveled the Kingmen to the earth, we are told that he was angry, full of wroth. Who is it that stirs up the hearts of men to contend in anger, one with another?
Like I said before, I can admire Moroni while learning from his failings. I don’t think he should be taken as the same kind of prophet that Pres. Hinckley is.
As for Heleman…he does seem to be the leader of the church at the time, though the church in Alma does not seem to have exactly the same structure as it does now and I’m not sure what kind of prophetic keys or calling he really had. I think we could have a good discussion about the nature of authority and prophets in the Book of Alma on another thread. That said, where do you find evidence that Heleman’s actions should be taken as normative for a) people in his day and b) people in our day?
As for your assertions in point 3–do we have ancient assurances about the prophets like we do about modern prophets, that they won’t lead us astray? I’m not sure about that. You seem to be arguing for a situational ethics–where whatever the prophet says at the time is right. So actions and words of past prophets may or may not be right for us in our situation.
Which leads to your point about the BOM being crafted for us by Mormon. I agree with that point, obviously, but think that your acceptance of the first three questionable assumptions may lead us astray a bit here. Though Mormon tells us that he sees our day and it the BOM was written for us, nowhere does it say that everything in it is supposed to be normative to us for our behavior–et. our missionaries do not carry swords and cut off arms of those that oppose them. We don’t baptize people with the prayer used by Alma at the waters of Mormon.
What we are told about the BOM is that it testifies of Christ to convince us to follow Him. If characters in the BOM violate teachings of Christ, maybe we should see them as humans struggling–and sometimes failing–to follow Christ in their mortal condition.
The BOM is given to us to lead us to Christ. Not to get us to follow the teachings or practices of people far removed from us in time and culture. Sure we should liken the scriptures to us…but we should do so by trying to follow Christ. Not dead prophets.
As for attacking dead or current prophets, that isn’t my intention. I’m trying to understand their actions (as possibly imperfectly given in the BOM) and learn what they may or may not teach us about following Christ.
Lyle, you see Christ as a warrior. That isn’t the New Testament version of Christ. At least not the mortal Christ. If the life of Christ is more normative, then I don’t see any justification for warfare there. The only justification we have for warfare in our day comes from the D&C…which nobody seems to want to read closely, because it shows just how hard it really is to justify war.
As for Christ as a celestial warrior, the war in heaven, etc. I would like to see where that justifies us to kill people here in mortality. Maybe apples and oranges here.
Lyle, I appreciate your loyalty to the prophets. I don’t mean to attack them. Or you. Though I would challenge the notion that blind obedience to every word that they utter is warranted. As mortals, we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, trying to understand the will of God. Prophets can help us. But it is too big a burden to place on them to think that every time they speak we are bound to follow them. But that’s probably for another thread.
As for the topic of this thread…where is the line for members of the church? The teachings of the prophets usually clarify things for us. But sometimes they don’t. We are still stuck with our interpretations of what was said. Lyle, you seem to interpret Pres. Hinckley’s statements in conference as binding, even when he expressly indicated that he was giving his personal opinion. While I value his personal opinion more than any other 90+ year old man on the planet, I don’t take it as binding when he expressly tells me I don’t need to.
Christ was pretty clear about proclaiming peace rather than war. Some of the rest of us aren’t as clear.
You may be right…but I’d still like you to try and show me why I should accept that the actions of the BOM righteous warriors should be normative for us in our day. A close reading seems to show that they are anything but…they show imperfect people struggling in imperfect societies.
And it is exactly the sacrifice that Lyle and others make that gives this topic its gravity for me. Christ was willing to die for a good cause (though he wasn’t willing to kill for one). I just wonder if we aren’t to hasty to cross the line to fight when we get our leaders (Moroni, Pres. Bush, etc.) get their dander up.
“Christ was pretty clear about proclaiming peace rather than war. Some of the rest of us aren’t as clear.”
Lyle clearly isn’t proclaiming war. The BoM clearly gives us examples of righteous warriors. There have clearly been many righteous warriors among the modern prophets. Christ, presumably, called them as prophets, just as Christ, presumably, had a hand in selecting the materials that went into the BoM (the keystone of the Church in the last days). It is not a matter of Christ over here, all you dead prophets over there, or here are the Gospels, there is the dark tale of the Standard of Liberty. If the question is, Can a warrior be righteous, be Christian, then the BoM & the modern prophets answer in the affirmative.
Rob: I dont’ think I have any type of blind faith in prophets or think they are any more, or less, than what they are:
2. Prophets of God
In fact, I rather enjoy Orson Scott Cards books on the Women in the OT, which highlight the very human flaws that some of the prophets likely had. I’m _not_ saying they are perfect.
However, I am saying that Prophets are _not_ cautionary figures. Prophets show us how to live the Gospel & be like our Savior.
Perhaps I’m contradicting myself. It wouldnt’ be the first time for such to occur. :)
arent we all talking about different things here? Admittedly the big snafu at the prison was carried out by a few REMFs – and in my mind does not even compare to the pictures of the ara b terrorists holding up the decapitated heads of Nick Berg and paul johnson and shouting with glee. I am surprised that Bybee and Yoo are being excoriated because of some pages of legal writing they did – most of which probably wont ever bee implemented.
If we ever catch, say, Aal-Zarkawi, or any other arch terrorist, I hape, the soldiers in question have the guts to do whatever is necessary to extract valuable information from them. And not waste time thinking about whether slapping around Osama or Al-Zarkawi is sanctioned by the Scriptures!!!!
I would respect the Arab worlsview a lot a lot more, if they showed soem amout of sadness or if theycondemned the killing of innocent, defenseless Americanand korean prisoners, instead of parading around in their streets yelling with joy!!!!
Rob: Likening the scriptures (& especially those given to Joseph Smith) to ourselves seems a pretty standard & crucial practice. The fact that we are also “imperfect people struggling in imperfect societies” is precisely the reason for doing so. A close reading of the BoM, to my mind, does not result in an either/or view. There are Hitlers & Amalickiahs in the world, & sometimes we’re required to fight them, & kill them. “And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girdled about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God” (Alma 46:21). I am sorry (really) if this example makes you want to puke, but perhaps you are the one resisting something here. Perhaps you are the one taking an extremely simplified view, & not reading things closely (rejecting, or explaining away, large swaths of Scripture preferentially). I agree with you absolutely that our society is too warlike, too quick to want to solve every disputation by force of arms. We rely too much on the false gods of soldiery, like Pres. Kimball said. At the same time, there are clearly cases of righteous soldiers who solved disputations by force of arms righteously. Your unwillingness to even consider this possibility weakens your position considerably, turning it into the sort of cheap & easy pacifism that C.S. Lewis derided. I’m not saying I believe your pacifism is that sort of pacifism, only that your this-black this-white approach gives it that flavor.
Rob: Thanks for being so challenging. I really have never thought about some of this before…most likely because I never thought it was possible to discuss, i.e. [Captain] Moroni was not a prophet? My first thought is shock. THe second is…well…I don’t remember him listed as such anywhere. Third is…I guess I need to look for some evidence; but…how can it be otherwise…unless my primary education was, well, false as santa claus & christmas?
That said, I second your suggestion for a thread on the subject of BoM prophets (or supposed prophets) & their role for us. I won’t go into it more here for now.
re: anger. I seem to remember that the rod by which you measure got angry once also at some folks in a Temple. Don’t think your questioning of Cpt. Moroni’s anger vis-a-vis his Christlikeness have much mileage here. It might even strengthen the comparison?
I dont’ think I’m arguing for situational ethics. I think I’m arguing for the word of god/revelation/living prophet…trumps prior understandings of word of god/revelation/living prophets & that all former actions ahve to be understood in the light of the new ones (i.e. If Christ said X, then that might have changed the doctrine post X, but pre X it was still consistent with the gospel). I could be rong?
“Christ was willing to die for a good cause (though he wasn’t willing to kill for one).”
-I’m not so sure you can make that statement with much assurance or so easily say that the Mortal Christ is more normative than the pre-mortal Christ or the Resurrected or Millenial Christ. Personally, I see them as one.
So…perhaps my need to work through this is paralleled by a similar need to reconcile _all_ of Christ’s words & actions…and not privileging those of the NT over any/all other knowledge of the Savior?
Fun! This is fun! We def. need to explore the items you mentioned more in other threads!
Lyle makes a good point; if we Look at the accounts of Christ throughout his existence, there are quite a few instances of Him killing (or ordering killed) a whole lotta people.
Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, after all. . .Whole lotta people ordered slaughtered by that Deity.
Sid: “I hape, the soldiers in question have the guts to do whatever is necessary to extract valuable information from them. And not waste time thinking about whether slapping around Osama or Al-Zarkawi is sanctioned by the Scriptures!!!!”
I understand this to be your personal admission of failure to live up to Christ’s example. We all could (and should) admit as much. But Dan’s original query centered on what, if anything, sets LDS apart when faced with questions of torture and acceptable levels of abuse. Are you suggesting there is nothing to set LDS apart and that sanction in the scriptures or by the Spirit is easily cast aside? Dan’s question—and the points made by Julien and Rob—lead me to wonder whether my Priesthood would be void if I either practiced or condoned the sorts of offenses recently revealed.
Are there really quite a few instances of Jesus killing and ordering killings, or quite a few cases of mortal peers telling us (after the fact) that God ordered them to kill?
No, I’m pretty sure that when Jehovah told Samuel to tell Saul to wipe out an entire people and all their livestock, it wasn’t just Samuel’s way of manipulating the King. There are lots and lots of such incidents in the Old Testament, if you recall.
Per Rob’s suggestion & per Kaimi’s reminder re: what constitutes hijacking, I’d like to de-hijack this thread, now that Jeremobi put in back on track (in the first 50% of his post) and suggest that the Synthesis thread of Understanding Jesus’ Christs role as both peacegiver & peacekeeper be moved to my blog http://www.speaker4theliving.com under
Jesus Christ: Our Prophet, Priest, & Peacekeeping Enforcer?
I’ve started with a list of his different roles, examples where he ordered people killed, etc. & hope y’all provide more (and counter examples of course :)
[sorry i’m too illiterate as yet to know how to do a trackback or ping]
Kingsley: Before we debate this point further, would you mind giving me some clear “cases of righteous soldiers who solved disputations by force of arms righteously.”
In doing so, please show me why we should consider their use of force as righteous. And in the case you gave of Moroni, it clearly states that he was motivated by anger–over and over. While I admire him in many respects, is it possible that his anger blinded him to other options for addressing the security of his people? When Christ tells us not to contend in anger, what are we then to make of an angry Moroni? Great man with fatal flaw? Or someone to emulate, even while they appear to be acting contrary to Christ’s teachings?
Lyle, as for seeing the whole premortal, mortal, and millenial Christ as a role model…I’m not sure that works in our mortal state. We are limited here in mortality by the veil. I am happy to take the guidelines for righteous war in D&C 98–teachings from the resurrected Christ–as normative for us mortals in the latter days.
However, those norms would seem to indicate that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were closer to the ideal than other BOM peoples (presuming they were given the same or similar standard, which the D&C seems to indicate).
As for the war in heaven, not sure how much we really know about how that took place and what it entailed. Obviously the stakes were very different, and it took place in an environment presumably less ambiguous than our mortal state, where political, economic, and emotional concerns are easily manipulated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and corruption.
So if we want to try and use the war in heaven as a justification for war, I’d like to see how that argument could be made.
As for the war at the end of time…again, I’d like to see a real argument about how that can justify modern warfare.
Christ warlike? I’d like to see that argument.
Meanwhile, I’ll do what I can to proclaim peace. I’m not looking for an easy pacifism. I just think if we spent more time buildign Zion–a refuge from warfare–we’d have a better idea of how to avoid military conflict.
Lyle–OK, meet you at your blog later!
But if we do have such a hard time trying to understand what constitutes normative behavior for a latter day saint, how do we know when we might be crossing the line at work, per Dan’s question?
If the teachings of church leaders can be interpreted so many ways, what is the role of the spirit here?
I’m glad I don’t have to judge Bybee or anyone else…but for myself, I’m interested in what standards the saints are using–
Teachings of Christ (however understood)?
Teachings of modern prophets (however interpreted)?
Whisperings of the spirit?
Maybe some examples? How have any of us found potential limits at work? Presumably we make choices all day long with ethical and moral consequences informed by gospel teachings. Or do we not take gospel teachings to work with us?
Rob, “Christ warlike? I’d like to see that argument.”
Ahem. . .I repeat. . . .
“Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament, after all. . .Whole lotta people ordered slaughtered by that Deity.”
And. . .
“I’m pretty sure that when Jehovah told Samuel to tell Saul to wipe out an entire people and all their livestock, it wasn’t just Samuel’s way of manipulating the King. There are lots and lots of such incidents in the Old Testament, if you recall.”
Do you not accept the fact that Jesus Crist was the Jehovah of the Old Testament? If you do, how do YOU reconcile what Jehovah ordered with how Christ conducted his life?
Rob: O.K., perhaps Moroni & his Standard of Liberty are there to warn us away from such behavior, but I highly doubt it. Amalickiah & his goons just needed peace proclaimed to them, etc. I obviously can’t give you examples of righteous warriors if you’ve already decided that the terms are mutually exclusive. (Would Jesus whipping the tar out of temple salesmen fall under your great man but tragically flawed theory?) Moroni’s position in the BoM is primarily & dramatically that of the righteous warrior, so the “if all men were like unto Moroni” statement seems strange if it’s excluding the majority of his actions; but strangeness is obviously not enough to count out an interpretation. We’re back to either/or again. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies are without question normative, while the Moronis & Helamans are not.
To my mind, a close reading of the BoM results in a more nuanced view. Both kinds of stories are included. Both are normative, depending on the situation. Thou shalt not kill; kill, Nephi, kill. Christ said, “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (D&C 101:80). What on earth does that mean? Was it necessary for a war to be fought in order for the Constitution to be established as normative? Would we have been better off if the Founders had bowed their backs to the British a la the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, or was the Moroni approach more effective in their case?
It is highly paradoxical, but it is possible to proclaim peace & renounce war & still fight if you have to. I think it takes a strained (rather than close) reading of the BoM to absolutely deny this.
Same goes for Hitler, etc.: do you allow the Nazi doctrine to become normative; if not, how do you disallow it without shedding blood?
Lyle: “What happened in the prison was unfortunate…but hardly something to get so worked up about. I don’t see the same level of angst over Saddam’s brutal crimes.”
Um, I may be missing something here, but didn’t we like, fight a war and hunt Saddam Hussein down like an animal BECAUSE of his brutal crimes? I’d call that some serious angst, Lyle.
Heather: good point. you are absolutely correct. thanks for the correction.
I should be more specific, as non-clear point, was in saying that there is unilateral condemnation of the minor shaming/abuse in the prison; yet…not unilateral condemnation of Saddam.
Unless one buys the:
“I condemn Saddam, but I won’t lift a finger to remove him or do anything to protect the people he oppresses or do anything that might endanger my [insert name of European countries opposed to Iraqi Liberation here] investments in said country, or…the cushy payments my friends/party financiers get from oil-for-food kickbacks” & “we should negotatiate more so that we can save the lives of our citizens while more Iraqi’s die under a brutal dictatorship” & “it makes us look good to the _international community_”
I don’t. :)
You don’t buy that theory? I would have never guessed :).
you know…it’s amazing how much more fun T&S is after Nate reminded us all (and me privately) that we need to be _nice_ & I remembered to take _everything_ said here in good faith (i.e. no one is trying to hurt anyone else). :)
whaddya think heather? Do I have a future in talk radio? ;)
Hmm–let’s just not go there.
Thom: “I’m pretty sure that when Jehovah told Samuel to tell Saul to wipe out an entire people and all their livestock, it wasn’t just Samuel’s way of manipulating the King. There are lots and lots of such incidents in the Old Testament, if you recall.”
As you may know, many scholars might say that most of those bloody Jehovah stories come from parts of the bible (Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings) presumably written by the Dueteronomist tradition…those belonging to the tradition of those who changed the temple worship during the time of Josiah. In other words, some of those who took over after Lehi had to flee Jerusalem because of the wickedness of the leaders.
In other words, we need to be careful about the Old Testament. Some of your examples of a warlike Jehovah may come from the round of Israelite apostacy that Lehi preached against.
So apparently nothing in scripture actually means what it purports to mean? If that’s so, why are you so sure you understand the real meaning behind the descriptions of Christ’s life and words? You seem to have an awful lot of confidence in the plain meaning of (at least some)the New Testament.
The NYT ran this article on the “personality” of Judge Bybee today.
When I saw pictures of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison I instantly thought of that verse in Doctrine and Covenants 121:
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”
The Abu Ghraib prison abuses cannot be justified and shouldn’t be linked or compared to anything else that is going on in Iraq. Making these kinds of linkages smells of justification, which cannot be accomplished with these kinds of unjustified acts.
I think once its status as a scene for criminal investigation ends, Abu Ghraib prison should be razed to the ground.
Lyle — Thanks for posting the link; I was about to do so but am in a bit of a rush.
The gist of the article seems to be, what’s a nice guy like this doing writing such a ghastly memo?
yup. it actually suggests that Prof. Yoo did most of the writting; although it doesn’t rule out Bybee’s participation or authorship.
Thom: “So apparently nothing in scripture actually means what it purports to mean?”
That would not be a correct interpretation of what I’m saying. I’m just saying that we need to be careful because sometimes we don’t really understand what the scriptures are telling us. In the case of the OT, it is a very complex text with multiple unknown authors. We don’t know a lot about how we got the OT texts, and the best scholarship on the subject so far makes it very problematic to take it all as history.
LDS doctrine does not bind us to a literal interpretation of the Bible, and even Brigham Young said that parts of it consisted of “baby stories”.
It’s not that “nothing” in the scriptures is what it says to be, just that “everything” in the scriptures isn’t what we might have traditionally thought. We need to be careful.
That means me too. I’m perfectly willing to admit that the current ideas about OT authorship and historicity might be wrong. But in the meantime, the best scholarship may free us of a warlike Jehovah ordering the slaughter of innocents–which many will see as good news, indeed.
Rob: I really do enjoy your capacity to learn & present differing ideas that are far apart from my knowledge. Great stuff.
However, if you want to wish for a revised OT, some of us are wishing for a revised NT,
One that doesn’t have a namby/pamby looks like a sissy (going by old Catholic art) bleeding heart (literally) Savior.
And since both OT & NT have the same problems re: unknown multiple authors, complex text, etc.
and both are only true “as far as translated correctly,” then…
Again, we are at a draw that allows each their own self-serving ideas…
but hey…at least we are communicating & learning! :)
Lyle–I think we can more easily come up with a reading of the combined scriptures that gives us a loving, non-violent Christ (LNVC) than a Kick-Butt-Holy Warrior Christ (KBHWC).
The KBHWC seems to depend on very historically questionable OT sources, Book of Revelations visions of the end times, maybe a few out of context versus of NT and D&C (“I come not to bring peace, but the sword”), and traditional readings of a few BOM stories that I’m arguing actually do not support warfare.
The NVLC is consistent with the gospel and BOM account of Christ’s mortal life and revelations on war in the D&C, a reading of the BOM that shows war to be a violation of Christ’s teachings, statements by modern prophets that war is irreconcilable with Christianity, etc. It is consistent with archaeological, historical, and textual studies that show the OT to reflect the biases of various religious and political factions.
This list could be expanded, and would make a nice essay…much ink and bits have been spent on these topics before. I think with more study, the LNVC view is the most consistent and defensible.
Now, Lyle, you obviously find the KBHWC vision more attractive. Why is that? Are you troubled by sharing this “Onward Christian Soldiers” view with 2,000 years of violent Christianity (Crusades, Conquest of Americas, etc.)? Is it more than because the KBHWC seems more exciting? Is this an Action Flick vs. Chick Flick problem? The NVLC is a “sissy” for you? I don’t want to make reference to your sense of manhood here, but what is this all about?
For sure, most of us see what we want to when we look at a picture of Christ or read the scriptures. The real question is, why do you want to see a KBHWC?
If you can convince me that your vision of Christ is correct, I’m willing to look at it again…I was a pretty militaristic kid growing up.
But since this thread seems to be dying down, maybe we’ll have to wait for the next round…
If you read Talmage’s “Jesus the Christ”, I think you would have a very hard time finding anything “sissy” or “namby-pamby” about the Christ in the NT. In fact, I do think he was a bit of a butt-kicker in the NT as well. Sure, less smitings went on, but basically I get from the gospels that Christ’s message was, “Here I Am. I am the Guy you’ve all been waiting for, and if you don’t believe Me, tough beans. Pull it together, follow Me, or there will be some serious gnashing of teeth later on. The choice is yours.”
I understand that perhaps your choice of words was in reference to some art that potrays Christ in a less than powerful way. But usually, such portrayals involve images of him being crucified, and we all know that he did submit to the crucifixion with a meek and humble heart, one full of love for the sinners who were crucifying him. It was also, as we know, a physically agonizing experience, so I’m not sure why you have a complaint about how he is depicted. Certainly, no matter what you are referring to, I personally would refrain from using the words “Savior”, “sissy”, and “namby pamby” in the same sentence.
“The NVLC is consistent with the gospel and BOM account of Christ’s mortal life and revelations on war in the D&C, a reading of the BOM that shows war to be a violation of Christ’s teachings, statements by modern prophets that war is irreconcilable with Christianity, etc. It is consistent with archaeological, historical, and textual studies that show the OT to reflect the biases of various religious and political factions.”
You’re stating your position very, very generously. The BoM tells us that the Lord has counseled his people at times to “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47). & so, the editor of that book tells us, Moroni & his people took up their swords & etc. Yes, modern prophets have stated the obvious: war is unchristian (who on earth is claiming otherwise?!): but they’ve also stated (very often) that it is sometimes a necessary evil, like Nephi killing Laban. You write, “If you can convince me …” & yet you’ve not really responded to BoM & D&C & modern prophet statements that don’t accord with your views, or shown us why your interpretations of Moroni et al. are more correct than traditional interpretations. I still think that you must logically include police work etc. in your condemnation, or else appear inconsistent.
So, war is certainly not Christ-like, but Christ has engaged in war and has counseled (encouraged?) us to do likewise?
Clarify this for me please: Does the Lord Christ Himself sometimes practice and encourage us to engage in unChristian practices? How is it possible that Christ is not a practicing Christian?
Heather: I agree with you; the juxtaposition was merely to draw Rob further out.
Rob: I’m looking for a holistic version that explains the total Christ…not a partial vision. All of your criticisms & questions can neatly be turned on their head (i.e. re: questionable sources, etc.)…so…I’m not going to repeat what I’ve already started on my own thread (still waiting for you…lol :)
Jeremobi: The Lord said thou shalt not kill, yet commanded Nephi to do just that. He was presumably the Lord on both occasions. He used violence to cleanse the temple, & was presumably the Lord before, during, & afterwards. A paradox!
It all comes down to our response to complexity. It would be nice if the world was either/or, but it ain’t.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m finding some of your posts confusing.
Why do you think we don’t have a holistic version that explains the total Christ? Are you looking for more explicit scripture, better art, a resume? You can certainly argue that the NT and OT are correct “as far as they are translated correctly” and therefore don’t give us a full picture of Christ, but I would argue back that as Latter Day Saints, we believe that we are privy to personal revelation. As such, we can use this gift of the Holy Ghost to study it out in our minds, study it out in our hearts, and ask God for guidance about the scriptures available to us. And really, I think most of this entire thread comes down to your relationship with Christ, and what you feel you can do that you can comfortably account for at Judgement. I would go so far as to say that those accountings are going to be very different for everybody. The Anti-Nephi Lehi example has already been brought up, I believe, as an example of how one people can be accountable for an action that is not abhorrent or even sinful to another. I hope the judgement will be on an individual basis…otherwise, we are all in big trouble.
So I guess my question to you is, what is it about what God was chosen to reveal or omit about vast cosmic knowledge that you need in order to have a picture of who your Savior is?
I think what Lyle meant by “holistic” is a view of Christ that includes the gentle teacher and the angry temple cleanser, rather than one or the other. He may be going off to war in a few months, & some have implied that he’ll lose his Christian status as soon as he does so based a highly selective reading of Scripture. Lyle is actually defending the use of of Scripture in its entirety rather than just our favorite passages (the same goes for General Conference quotes, etc.). Your point that I would go so far as to say that “[Christ’s] accountings are going to be very different for everybody” is exactly right, & also what Lyle was defending. (If I’m off, Lyle, please correct me.)
Oops–Heather’s quotation began at “I would go so far as to say that,” not “[Christ’s] …”
“I think what Lyle meant by “holistic” is a view of Christ that includes the gentle teacher and the angry temple cleanser, rather than one or the other.”
Ok, I’ll buy that.
As far as my research indicates, Joseph Smith never made the famous comment so often attributed to him.
The earliest published version of the comment which I have been able to uncover is below.
Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, “The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, p.14 – p.15, Brigham Young, July 4, 1854.)
Please note that this is a quote within a quote. Brigham mentions the constitution; Joseph does not.
If this is the true source of the oft-quoted remark, then LDS speakers and writers have misquoted it for over a hundred years.
I think Yogi Berra’s famous saying frequently applies to Joseph Smith as well: “I didn’t really say everything I said.”
Michael — Yes, I have at least one book and a rather thick file tracing the usage of the particular quote. It appears to have been adopted approvingly by virtually every President of the Church, so if it has been misquoted, the collection of misquoters is really quite distinguished.
Kingsley…you said it all…100%; although I would like to think my motivation isn’t solely personal; unless it is that I dislike 1-sided answers to complex questions.
Dan: “the collection of misquoters is really quite distinguished,”
Lyle: True, but rather than being ‘distinguished’ (i.e. prophetic) ‘misquoters,’… perhaps it indicates that the quote has been ‘received,’ in constitutional parlance, as authoritative. So…whether he said it or not…the Prophets said he did & that is good enough for me and most LDS folks.
Here is a link to a political cartoon that illustrates the bottom-line anti-torture arguement pretty well.
Greg: Do me a favor, eh? When you meet Brother Joseph…please repeat the above & let me know what he thinks? It should be mildly hilarious! :)
My hypo: First, he demands an apology, in a very christ-like way (a la the Temple cleansing). Second, you refuse & he wrestles you to the ground. Third, he gets up & thanks you for the exercise & the good laugh. “yogi bera indeed…i’m going to go to yogi what you said right now. you know that he will be amused…”
If any one wants to read two interesting historical case study of torture in the legal realm, chick out Soulstealers by Philip Kuhn and Treason by the Book by Jonathan Spence.
I only scanned all the comments, so forgive me if I happen to cover old ground.
Nephi was commanded of God to kill Laban, Nephi didn’t come up with that plan himself. God had the right to command Nephi to kill Laban, or for that matter to command the armies of Isreal to wipe out some town and kill every living man, woman, child and animal (which would be a war crime by today’s standards).
The Book of Alma gives examples of many different military actions that are portrayed as acceptable in the defence of liberty. Spies, pre-emptive attacks, assasinations etc. I don’t recall any time that torture comes up anywhere in the scriptures, but there was one time where the prophet was consulted to obtain needed information by revelation.
Given that, I think it is morally wrong (and for the righeous, not requried) for a man to decide to torture a person but there may come a specific case where God commands it as he commanded Nephi to kill Laban.
Such commands are a test of our faith and obedience, like when God commanaded Abraham to sacrifice his son. I am not comfortable with putting limits on what God would and would not ask of us that are not supported by scripture.
As for the memo itself, I have not read it but it is perfect valid and not immoral define the legal boundries between torture and interogation, particularly when the reason for it to ensure you DON’T cross the boundry. Most of what happened at Ahbu Grabe was humiliating, but humiliation is not torture. The whole event was blown WAY out of porportion and politicized by a media desperate to tear down Bush.
Maybe Amulek was right: “And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges.” (Alma 10:27)
On the other hand we have the example of Porter Rockwell and his attempts to get information about the Utah invasion from federal spies…
I am responding to Kingsley’s criticism of Julien.
It is inappropriate to impose your tribal obligations on non-Americans. Not every Mormon needs to be half an American. Just because something is anti-American does not mean it is wrong. “American” is neither a gospel nor an ethical category that can demand submission. If you disagree with Julien then engage his arguments rationally.
It is further illogical to assume that patriotism requires Americans to agree with the Bush administration. Cassandra was deeply unpopular but she knew how to save Troy. The same is true for Lehi. Be careful, before you silence critics with insinuations of insufficient loyalty (to dubious extra-Christian values). The quality of an American is not determined by conformism but by his or her loyalty to the values of the constitution.
I am responding to Kingsley’s criticism of Julien.
It is inappropriate to impose your tribal obligations on non-Americans. Not every Mormon needs to be half an American. Just because something is anti-American does not mean it is wrong. “American” is neither a gospel nor an ethical category that can demand submission. If you disagree with Julien then engage his arguments rationally.
It is further illogical to assume that patriotism requires Americans to agree with the Bush administration. Cassandra was deeply unpopular but she knew how to save Troy. The same is true for Lehi. Be careful, before you silence critics with insinuations of insufficient loyalty (to dubious extra-Christian values). The quality of an American is not determined by conformism but by his or her loyalty to the values of the constitution.
You read an awful lot into my brief replies to Julien, which basically recorded my distaste for “what seemed like another smarmy little Rolling Stone-esque editorial against those Awful, Awful Americans, delivered on the pretext of answering Taylor’s casual D&C reference,” as I pointed out to Jeremobi. Julien and I have since made our peace–so I suggest you take a deep, deep breath, climb down carefully from your soapbox, and join me and Cassandra in a friendly tribal fire dance, followed by a weenie roast.
You should put the “do not press button twice” warning in massive blinking lit up letters right next to the comment box, so that people feverishly anticipating the immortalization of their words will know to step back from the mouse, help is on its way.
Kingsley: Your response is more evidence that I am not far off the mark. You are still not engaging into a rationally honest argument.
I apologize for posting twice. I clicked the post button a second time because I received an error message that your server had not responded.
My dear Hellmut: It appears that you used my brief comments to Julien as a launching pad for a little sermonette of your own. I never attempted to “impose [my] tribal obligations on non-Americans,” nor to claim that “every Mormon needs to be half an American,” “‘American’ is … a gospel [and] an ethical category that can demand submission,” “patriotism requires Americans to agree with the Bush administration,” etc. etc. That would have been silly and stupid of me, because those ideas are silly and stupid. I am therefore not going to go “engaging into a rationally honest argument” (whatever that means) on behalf of such silliness and stupidity—because that would be dumb. So: please: relax: the weenie roast invitation still stands (if you’re ever in Provo).
Jack Balkin notes an article suggesting that law professor John Yoo actually authored the memo. (No surprise — legal memoranda are often researched and drafted by one person but go out under another’s signature). See http://balkin.blogspot.com/2004/07/vermeule-and-posner-defend-torture.html . Apparently, most of the observers now agree on this point.
So, it may mean that Bybee has a little less individual responsibility for the memo.
Will someone please tell me the source of the “Hanging by a thread” quote. I want to believe it but I have never seen its source sited. Is it one of those Three Nephite stories?
I am a graduate of the same fine institution as the federal judge. I assume from your reasoning it is acceptable for terrorists to blow up buildings, kill children in God’s chosen nation of Israel, behead innocent victims, rape women, etc. It is only our duty to look the other way. Put the terrorists in a happy little cell and sing a little peace ditty.
In the old testament the law was given an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. If your short memory is not failing you, you will recall in the Book of Mormon that those who would not take an oath to give up their arms were destroyed. We are being a lot more forgiving than a righteous Nephite Army. Now get of your throne in that state of thoughtless stupor while your enemies spread the work of death all around you.
Re: #145 You’ve got to be kidding. Since when do enemies look at how you do things as a measure of their treatment of prisoners. If you believe that I have a million dollar investment that I know you’ll love.
P.S. Beheading by slowly cutting off your head obviously does not constitute torture in your mind. Tsk Tsk.
There’s something about this thread that silences the moderates & drives those with more extreme agendas to bring out their flame throwers. Perhaps Kaimi or Nate could light another candle or sing another verse of Love at Home (forget Kumbaya–we’re long past agreeing on Kumbaya).
Hijack is too weak a word to describe what’s happened here. How about behead or decapitate, to use some of the vivid language of recent posts. The problem is after the beheading, the mind is gone & so too are all of the thoughtful posts. We seem to be miles away in content & tone from the original post.
It’s another sign, I suppose, of just how divisive this war & this election really are. We have Latter-day Saints of undisputed intelligence & good faith repeatedly talking past one another.
Maybe my kid is right. Maybe we should just Chillax.
It’s clearly set out — if you can’t follow our comment policies, don’t comment. It’s not that hard.
My apologies. I let my emotions get away from me on this one. I had had a discussion with a left leaning individual earlier in the day on the nature of this very thing and I just can’t get the equivalency comparison.
I promise not to let it get away on me again. Sorry Laurie.
http://www.counterpunch.org/wheeler10302004.html bears reading in this context.
Since when do enemies look at how you do things as a measure of their treatment of prisoners.
In fact it makes a great deal of difference as a practical matter. One of the actual, palpable advances in international human rights since WWII is the adherence by the majority of states, the majority of the time, to the Geneva Conventions — even really bad actors, say, the Sudan, tend on the whole to treat enemy soldiers with some degree of restraint. It is in their interest to do so. They know that some day, someone may well capture them, and they are better off if everyone is adhering to some standards for treatment of prisoners.
It is extremely unfortunate that the current administration in the United States has chosen to contribute to the breakdown of such restraint. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only wars in the world (even if the political candidates and the media in the U.S. make it seem so) nor even necessarily the most important. We are already seeing petty regimes warring in parts of Africa and Asia behaving worse than they might have even a couple of years ago, and offering as their excuse, “The United States humiliates prisoners/hides prisoners from the Red Cross/imprisons combatants indefinitely without trial, why shouldn’t we?”
Sooner or later this will happen to an American soldier, and our behavior now not only makes it more likely to happen, but puts us in a poor position to complain when it does. Setting aside the morality of our behavior, we are decidedly not making our armed forces any safer by this kind of policy.
Perhaps it would be more humane to have them lay face down on the ground and shoot them in the back of the head, forty-nine at a time.
Without trying to sound as outraged as I was before, remember that that the same Sudanese you are talking about have a serious problem with ethnic cleansing. There are no foreign soldiers there (other than Muslim radicals). I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of Sudanese refugees ( I even coached with one whose father was a rebel leader trying to fight corruption) and what you relate has little bearing in reality. Remember, the same people you quote as using the U.S. treatment of prisoners as justification for their treatment of prisoners are lying. They are simply using the gullible press for p.r. purposes and hoping you will swallow that garbage.
Unfortunately the enemy that is being fought today has little concern about the Geneva conventions and, in fact, relishes the thought of death in exchange for martyrdom and a hereafter spent with a lot of virgins. That is the fact.
If American soldiers are caught by these radicals, they do not measure their treatment of the prisoner on how they might be treated if caught. They really don’t worry about it. Ergo, how many captured soldiers do you know of and how many are still alive? How many could be visited by the Red Cross or Amnesty International? How many would be accorded a lawyer and granted civil rights?
How many would be adjudicated by a judge that is sympathetic to their cause? How long would that judge survive if he was?
Please don’t equate the humiliation of prisoners with atrocities that are foisted upon humanity by these cowards and animals.
War is cruel. It is evil. There are many atrocities that occur because of the circumstances and the tensions. If your soldiers find themselves doing things that, under normal circumstances they would never, ever do, please don’t condemn them. They will beat themselves up enough. Love them, pray for them and be grateful it wasn’t you in the same circumstance.
This enemy today is far more difficult to fight because they hide behind women and children. They don’t mind killing women and children. They sneak around like rats. They are cowards of the highest order.
There can be no fair fighting under those circumstances. The U.S. soldier can’t win under those terms because he looks like a baby killer when defending his life and those of his comrades. And the press makes sure this is true.
And while we can agree to disagree on the war in Iraq, how would you feel if the battle was being fought on your street by these same people. They want to and will, if given the chance. 9/11 was just the beginning according to them.