December 16th, 2014

Torture is okay, because hey, we’re awesome!

After four years and forty million dollars, a Senate committee released a report last week summarizing its findings and views of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture against alleged terrorists held captive by the agency in hopes of extracting useful information.

The report contains a number of startling (but perhaps unsurprising) revelations, such as sleep deprivation, forced rectal hydration, threats made against detainees’ family members, extensive waterboarding, knowingly innocent people still being held and tortured, and a concerted effort by the CIA to evade transparency and accountability.

The reactions to this report have been voluminous and varied in their degree of dismissal or objection. One commentary on the issue, however, encapsulates a response that I believe to be held widely by Americans. It was passionately offered up by Andrea Tantaros of Fox News who justified torture because it was “what the American public wanted” the Bush administration to do in order “to keep us safe.” Dismissing the report as being solely “about politics,” she launched into a jingoistic spectacle of American cheerleading.

“The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome,” she said, then arguing that “the reason [Democrats] want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are.”

I cannot help but draw scriptural correlation to current events, so, let’s have at it.

The prophet Nephi, speaking in his trademark plainness, wrote of a future time in which “the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance.” In that day—our day—some would be stirred up to anger, full of rage. Others, Nephi says, would be pacified, lulled away into carnal security—in Thomas Jefferson’s words, embracing the “calm of despotism.” The mentality of these individuals is reflected in a simple statement, indicative of an entire mindset: “All is well in Zion.”

Of course, this position of pride (with its corresponding arrogance and abdication of personal responsibility) is not merely a byproduct of the modern age. We observe its patterns and effects in the lives and times of Nephi’s posterity. It is, as President Uchtdorf notes, “the original sin, for before the foundations of this earth, pride felled Lucifer, a son of the morning ‘who was in authority in the presence of God.'”

“If pride can corrupt one as capable and promising as this,” Uchtdorf says, “should we not examine our own souls as well?”

The Andrea Tantaroses of the world would have us overlook our mistakes and justify our misdeeds by comparing ourselves to others and esteeming them as less “awesome” than us. While this woman spoke in absolutes—”we are awesome”—she likely meant, as so many others do, that we are simply more awesome than others. Government violating your rights? Put up with it, citizen—because where else would you go? Freedoms vanishing? At least they’re not vanishing as fast as they are elsewhere! Be grateful that the tyranny you are seeing spring up around you is not a deluge. Bask gleefully in the softness of your enslavement.

This pride by comparison was most notably exhibited by the Zoramites. While today propagandists claim we are “awesome” from digital media platforms, they built a physical platform to proclaim a similar message.

“We believe that [God] has elected us,” they said, “that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by [God’s] wrath down to hell.” For this perceived comparative advantage they repeatedly thanked God “that we are a chosen and a holy people.”

Alma and his brethren, serving as missionaries among this group, were “astonished beyond all measure” at this self-aggrandizing pride-fest. President Uchtdorf suggested that we should examine if we are guilty of similar behavior. As one data point, consider recent polling after the release of the CIA torture report and the corresponding media firestorm. The general response by Americans to the reports of brutality and inhumanity was a collective “meh.”

The prophet Mormon knew that things in his day were anything but awesome. He extensively documented a long list of atrocities implemented by prideful people excusing away their wickedness. It was done to show what people who are “not awesome” do. It was done to help us learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.

Have we learned from—and avoided repeating—those mistakes?

The self-aggrandizing status quo is clearly comfortable for people who otherwise would have to admit their incorrect beliefs—or worse, their complicity. Thus we see widespread whitewashing of wickedness using deceitful, dismissive claims that the criticisms are irrelevant; one sees no need to change when he feels that he already is “awesome.”

We Latter-day Saints are held to a higher standard in this regard, being called as a peculiar people who have made covenants to live more closely in accordance with God’s laws. And yet we remain, like the Israelites who we love to criticize for their misguided waywardness, an idolatrous people who are under condemnation. We, of all people, must recognize and reject even the semblance of self-deception. We are not awesome because we are not acting like it.

Andrea Tantaros was evidently not upset that the torture happened—that the rights of innocent people were violated or that the government approved and implemented inhumane treatment against suspects. What she was upset about was that the conversation about the CIA torture was being driven by individuals of a differing political ideology, and more generally, that the conversation was happening at all. “This makes us look bad,” she argued. “And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us.”

Laughing? If I’m an Afghani father whose teenage son was randomly rounded up by a bounty hunter in the chaotic aftermath of the American occupation, detained for over a decade without being able to contact me, and now I have further evidence—admissions from the U.S. government, no less—that my son was tortured at the hands of this foreign government, my emotional response would not be laughter. I would be uncontrollably outraged.

But we should not concern ourselves primarily with what our “enemies” think about our actions. We should be concerned with whether God approves of our behavior. “What Would Jesus Do?” is a common question sporadically pondered by Christians, but very infrequently applied in the context of public policy. Would Jesus condone the actions of the CIA? I doubt it. (That tells you, tangentially, whose side Dick Cheney is on…)

The scriptures speak of “perilous times” in these latter days when “men shall be lovers of their own [awesome?] selves,” and point out the Pharisaical trend of “lov[ing] the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Paul likewise noted that many would “after their own lusts… heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” and “turn away their ears from the truth, and… be turned unto fables.”

The allegation of our collective awesomeness is unfounded. It is, rather, a fable—a concocted myth designed to ameliorate our conscience and circumvent conversation about apologies and reform. Latter-day Saints should instead wholeheartedly and vocally reject modern-day Rameumptoms.

When Moses was given a grandiose vision by God, what was his takeaway? “Now… I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” The Andrea Tantaroses of the world could stand to replicate this humility and recognize our faults and weaknesses. Chances are, you and I need to as well.

35 Responses to “Torture is okay, because hey, we’re awesome!”

  1. December 16, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    “And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;” Alma 48:11

    One of the key characteristics that distinguished a righteous people in battle from a wicked, was whether they delighted in the shedding of blood or not. The wicked usually seem to, while the striving righteous do not. I think that is an important precedence set forth that can be likened to our day.

    Great article.

    ” Man is like unto vanity; his days are as a shadow that passes away.” Psalms 144:4

  2. December 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Beautiful, Connor. Amen.

    Is there a scripture or quote somewhere about a people who assume that “whatsoever they do is good because *they* are good” ? I once heard something along those lines, and I can’t help but think about that, every time I think about US foreign policy.

  3. Thomas Dyches
    December 16, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    The moment you start proclaiming your greatness – you’ve lost it.

  4. December 17, 2014 at 6:56 am #

    While I agree generally with the Libertarian stance against torture, when combatants(terrorists) do not follow the Geneva conventions they have no claim on its protections. Nothing we did to our prisoners as “torture” is even close to what they do to theirs.

    As for scriptural evidence of the Lord’s support for the same I would point out D&C 98. Where in the Taliban and Al Qaeda has not sought forgiveness for their crimes, then we are justified in taking the war to their soil.

    Whether it is wise to do so is another question. Whether our leaders are doing so for righteous purposes, obviously they are not. However, for “the people” to support the troops and the use of force and “torture” in Afghanistan is not immoral.

    The attacks on the WTC and our embassies and the USS Cole removed any reason for us to withhold our hand from smiting these cowards.

    Please do not assume that this post supports our campaign in Iraq.

  5. December 17, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    LLP, Do you ever wish for something higher than all this?

  6. John Fronk
    December 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    I never heard about any innocents being tortured. They say only three people were even water-boarded. I’m torn on this one. I don’t believe in torture and I think civilized nations should meet some standard of decency when it comes to prisoners of war. But maybe I’m a hypocrite, because if my son were being held by bad guys and I had one of the bad guys, I probably would do whatever it took to get the information I needed. I don’t think I would show a lot of compassion. Perhaps, as a nation, we need to be held to a higher standard than myself. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Is that what you were thinking of Eric?

  7. James D
    December 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    This whole “America is awesome no matter what – No Apologies” mentality that many conservatives (and therefore many members of the church) have is inconsistent with the Book of Mormon scriptures that point out that this land’s “awesomeness” is contingent on our righteousness (2 Ne 1:7). And even if we were righteous, it wouldn’t justify rameumptom-style pride.

    Those who defend torture (I’m looking at you LLP) sound like Osama Bin Laden in his 2002 “letter to America”:

    “If we are attacked, then we have the right to attack back. Whoever has destroyed our villages and towns, then we have the right to destroy their villages and towns. Whoever has stolen our wealth, then we have the right to destroy their economy. And whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs.”

    D&C 98 does not justify LLP and Bin Laden’s point of view. The purpose of the war section of D&C 98 is to avoid war if at all possible- not to justify perpetual vengeance. The only way war that is justified in D&C 98 is as a matter of self defense to avoid extermination. And even though a people are “justified” to defend themselves after three attempts for peace, this doesn’t mean they have to. We are blessed if we forgive. The aim is peace, not vengeance.

    Along those lines, LLP, you say we are justified in taking war to the terrorist’s soil; the Book of Mormon counters that philosophy when dealing with bands of murderers. Read 3 Ne 3 to understand that the Lord forbade the Nephites from leaving their own land and attacking the gadianton robbers in theirs but instead they were encouraged to wait in their land and the Lord would deliver them:

    “But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.” (3 Ne 3:21)

    How has our nation’s (and LLC’s) war on terror strategy been working out for us? What does it make us when we use the same standards and justifications as terrorists?

  8. December 17, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    Connor,

    We agree on many things here — (torture is *not* okay – PERIOD, we ought to acknowledge, apologize for and seek to redress our wrongs, partisanship of any stripe tends to blind rather than enlighten) — but we ought also to admit a few disclaimers:

    1) None of us, in this forum, is privileged to know all the facts regarding what really happened. Some of the facts may now be lost forever.

    2) The report itself was authored chiefly by several individuals who are deeply partisan, and thus are steeped in biases, often of their own making. Despite any honest effort they made towards determining the truth, the foregoing factors make it highly likely that the result cannot be relied upon as the authoritative, and accurate account of what transpired.

    I might add; while it may be easy to make a whipping-boy out of any institution whose typical response to criticism or praise in the public square is stone silence (most of the intelligence community), it doesn’t seem very intellectually honest to make blanket judgments like the following: “Would Jesus condone the actions of the CIA? I doubt it.”

    You don’t know all the things that have been done by “the CIA” (or any of it’s partner agencies) – and further, even if you did, I don’t think you would be as confident in making a blanket judgment of that kind. I hope what you meant by the “actions of the CIA” you were specifically referring to the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ spoken of in the report.

    Far from weaving myself into the ‘we’re awesome’ (what a regrettable quotation, in such a context, to be known by) crowd, I maintain a healthy skepticism of the rectitude of our foreign and domestic policies. All is *not* well in Zion — least of all any portion of it which might overlap with the political borders of the United States.

    As I’m sure you’re already aware, but for the benefit of those reading along, the CIA falls under the authority of the Executive Branch of the US government (National Security Act, 1947) — which means that the CIA is essentially one of many policy execution instruments available to the President of the United States. The sitting President is responsible for dictating what goes on at the CIA — no one at the CIA makes policy recommendations, or conducts operations of their own invention (at least, not without express permission from the White House). The interrogation program, as is borne out in the report, was conducted at the behest of the President at the time. When ordered to cease, it was done. Director Brennan was explicit in his admission that wrongs were done, both in the detention and interrogation of the innocent, and failure to discipline those who went beyond instructions and abused those in detention. I consider it a step in the right direction – that I *hope* is followed upon by rigorous reform.

    Much as I abhor what has been done, I’m leery of heaping too much blame on a single institution, or group. Consider, for a moment, the example of Nephi, who upon being commanded to kill Laban (after having attempted several other ways to obtain his objective), obeyed. He then went on to appropriate Laban’s property, impersonate him to gain entry to his home, took yet more of Laban’s property, and essentially kidnapped his servant, and promptly fled the country with all of the above. Stripped of context, would you condemn Nephi as a murderer, a thief, a trespasser, a kidnapper, and fugitive of justice? (Further, if a modern court were to try the case, do you suppose they would consider Nephi’s account, complete, accurate, reliable, let alone exculpatory? Would he be accused of a “concerted effort … to evade transparency and accountability”, or to ‘whitewash’ the record in his favor?)

    To be clear, I’m not implying that the President, the CIA, or any other agency, was operating under a Divine mandate of any kind – but I do hope it at least presents an alternative way of looking at things… that absent certain critical facts and context, actions that would otherwise be utterly reprehensible, can alter their appearance, and meaning.

    In its imperfect record, the CIA has much in common with any institution administered by imperfect people — it has numerous faults, and a troubled history, interlaced with much that is otherwise praiseworthy. Oversight of such institutions is further troubled when it those charged with its oversight seem to have different personas in private than in public – especially when they have good reason to believe they are not likely to be contradicted in public by the object of their criticism.

    I want to re-iterate that I *do not* condone or excuse the interrogation program mentioned here, such as it was. I find it reprehensible, and I’m glad that it has been done away with, and that policy makers appear to have taken a sincere interest in making sure it doesn’t happen again. With all of this on the table, I still think we ought not be too hasty in casting stones – or place too much stock in what the ‘oversight’ committee chose to include in its report.

    Connor, you are an exceptionally talented and intelligent man – I admire your way with words, and credit you for the remarkable things you have accomplished. I hope your success continues — and I think it would only be to your further credit to ‘call your own fouls’ and caveat some of your writing with warnings to the reader that “What follows is speculative, or relies on assumptions which cannot be proven either way…” or something to that effect.

    – Alan M. Taylor

  9. James D
    December 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Alan, your comment reminds me of the Duck Puzzle cartoon:

    http://i.imgur.com/1BXxi.jpg

    Hmmmm, which one are you…?

  10. December 18, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    @alan said:

    “Stripped of context, would you condemn Nephi as a murderer, a thief, a trespasser, a kidnapper, and fugitive of justice?”

    To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what point you were trying to make with the Nephi/Laban example, but the quoted comment makes it sound like, given context, we should assume Nephi was justified in killing Laban. Personally, I’ve never felt like Nephi killing Laban was justified. I always got the Sunday School response that “better should one man perish, etc etc” anytime I questioned it, but I think it’s time we stop trotting it out as an example of justified killing. If someone is threatening imminent harm to you or someone else, and you take them out, I’ll give you a pass. Drunk dude passed out, not so much. Are we really supposed to believe that Nephi had no other option? Seriously, he couldn’t tie him up and stuff him somewhere while they grabbed the plates and ran? And now, to use it as an example (presumably) to support justified torture because we don’t have the full context is shameful in my opinion.

    James’ link nails it.

  11. December 18, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    Jared,
    I have read commentary on this story. Another way to look at it is that he wasn’t really inspired by god to kill Laban, he just thought he was. You are absolutely correct, there could have been some other way and some other time to obtain the plates. If its really important it would happen, and without the stain of blood.

  12. December 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    @ James – I guess I’m the one that doesn’t try to make straw-man arguments through internet memes. I don’t know if you were trying to impress or persuade someone with your comment, but if neither was your goal — then, I’ll just bid you “Merry Christmas” and leave it at that.

    @ Jared – for clarity’s sake, I brought up the example not to justify anything (I made that abundantly clear in my comment), but to illustrate that it can be unwise to make blanket judgments, one way or the other, when there’s a good chance that you may not have all the facts at your disposal. I’ll reserve judgment on what Nephi did (or didn’t do) — all I have is the record as it is — extracurricular commentary that must, of necessity, rely on speculation or assumptions I’ll leave to someone else — I’ll not dabble in it.

  13. December 18, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    @Iimx

    Higher than this? Explain please

    @JamesD

    Arm chair critics can “safely” accuse other people in the comfort of their home while others go and die to protect them.
    For scriptural reference I will point you to the king men and others who did not send supplies and troops to Moroni and Helaman. Please take Moroni’s letter to Pahoran to heart. War should be avoided if at all possible, but when someone else initiates the use of force then the initiator has no claim on the “protection and rights” of civil society.

    If your only knowledge about how our war is waged in Afghanistan is what you saw on CNN stop commenting on blogs and spreading your ignorance. Our soldiers don’t intentionally destroy villages and non-combatants. When the cowardly terrorists hide behind their women and children, there is collateral damage, but our troops do the best they can to limit it. The non-uniformed combatants bear the responsibility.
    However, what our troops are over there trying to do is teach the native people who don’t support the Taliban and Al-qaeda to defend themselves and create their own peace that will allow the Afghani people to establish the institutions of a free society.

    BTW, We are not seeking to retake our lands like unto the wicked Nephites of Mormon’s time, nor seeking after Gadianton robbers in the mountains (they are in Congress and the financial institutions). So 3rd Nephi does not apply.

    Our leaders have hamstrung our soldiers in their efforts because their objectives are power and gain. Read Major Jim Gant’s account about his approach to teaching and training the Afghani tribes, as well as how his efforts were discontinued and why.

    I’m unapologetic about our troops, they are not what you make them out to be. If it is deemed necessary at times to use psychological “torture” tactics to get info out of the cowardly leaders of terrorist groups I am also unapologetic. Torture isn’t ok because we are awesome, it’s ok because the enemy forfeited their rights to civil protections. If we choose to afford them those protections because we are good that is great, but we are under no obligation to do so.

    Sorry Connor, I have agreed with pretty much every word you have written, but war by its very nature is the collapse of societal rules and different rules apply. Which is why it should be a last resort and quickly ended by the best means available so that civil society can be re-established.

  14. December 18, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    @Iimx

    Higher than this? Explain please

    @James

    3 Nephi doesn’t apply, Gadiantions are in Congress not Afghanistan. Helping afghani people develop institutions of a free society by teaching them to protect themselves is not comparable to wicked Nephite reprisals.

    Protection from so called “torture” is a right for combatants who follow Geneva conventions, terrorists don’t qualify. Avoiding war is best. Ending it (if unavoidable) quickly by the best means available is next best. I am still unapologetic as water boarding may well have been the best available means.

  15. December 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Alan Taylor your attempt to rationalize that what happened might not be as bad as the report discloses because (1) No one on this forum knows “all” the facts and that the authors of the report are “partisan” is laughable. In this line of thinking the fact that no one knows all of the facts about what happened during the Holocaust and the reports of the atrocities were authored by people with a bias toward one side should make us cut the Nazis some slack. I’d wager that if a Democratic President and administration had been in charge when the torture took place and a Republican lead committee had conducted the report, you would be singing a much different tune.

  16. December 19, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    @ Saxoclese

    I’m afraid you’ve fundamentally misunderstood my remarks – either from not reading, or not comprehending them. No where in my remarks will you find a ‘rationalization’ that ‘it probably wasn’t as bad as the report makes it.’

    Instead, you’ll find that I find the practice of ‘torture’ (not ‘interrogation’) reprehensible. I condemned it, in no uncertain terms, several times — either you did not read, or simply saw what you wanted to see.

    The intent was to express disappointment in what I perceive as Connor’s choice to use a partisan-authored document to make blanket statements about a highly complex organization. Just as the LDS Church insists that there is more to their history and character than the much-debated Mountain Meadows Massacre (or Blacks and the Priesthood, or Plural Marriage, or whatever topic their adversary chooses in the moment) — there is more to the CIA, and it’s companion institutions, than some of its critics choose to admit. If you choose to base your judgments off of a narrowly-selected, partisan-sponsored history – then so be it, but it would be best for one’s integrity to admit that is what you’ve done, up front.

    You seem to think, for some reason, I am somehow taking a partisan stance? (“I’d wager that if a Democratic President and administration had been in charge when the torture took place and a Republican lead committee had conducted the report, you would be singing a much different tune.”) For some time now, I’ve been a equal-opportunity critic of whoever occupies the Executive office. If you were, as you imply, a betting man — you’d have lost your wager. I have no affiliation with, or loyalty to, any political party – as a matter of choice, not by default. I try to support laws which promote liberty and accountability, and reform those that do not.

    It would serve both you, and Connor, well to take more care in the assumptions and speculation you engage in — at the very least, Connor has the courage to put his name and real reputation behind what he writes.

  17. James D
    December 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Alan, the point I was making by linking that cartoon is just because someone doesn’t have “all the facts” doesn’t mean there isn’t sufficient evidence to make reasonable judgments about what transpired. I understand you want to be prudent but the evidence (circumstantial, testimonial and common sense) is sufficiently clear about our country’s torture policy. I agree with Saxoclese- your logic infers that we should take no stance on any subject since a certain level of ignorance to “all the facts” will always exist.

    Also, what makes you believe that cartoon is making a straw-man argument:

    Alan: “None of us, in this forum, is privileged to know all the facts regarding what really happened.”

    Cartoon: “It’s a duck. Until you have every piece, you can’t be sure it’s not a duck.”

    Alan: “…it can be unwise to make blanket judgments, one way or the other, when there’s a good chance that you may not have all the facts at your disposal.”

    Regardless of that, it appears that you’re alluding that certain facts might justify torture. If that’s the point you’re trying to make, what “facts” could man possibly use to justify immoral acts in your mind? A fantastic talk given by Elder F. Burton Howard addresses the philosophy that righteous ends justify unrighteous means: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/05/repentance

    He specifically addresses the ‘Nephi killing Laban’ example that many members use in attempt to justify the “ends justify the means” philosophy. The key difference between Nephi’s apparent cold-blood killing and any man-made justification of evil that Elder Burton points out is the fact that God made the call. As men, we shouldn’t be making that call:

    “Some seek to justify their actions by quoting scripture. They often cite Nephi’s killing of Laban as an example of the need to violate a law to accomplish a greater good and to prevent a nation from dwindling in unbelief. But they forget that Nephi twice refused to follow the promptings of the Spirit. In the end, he agreed to break the commandment only when he was convinced that “the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes” (1 Ne. 4:13; italics added) and also (I believe) when he knew that the penalty for shedding blood had been lifted, in that one exceptional case, by Him whose right it is to fix and waive penalties.

    The truth is that we are judged by the means we employ and not by the ends we may hope to obtain. It will do us little good at the last day to respond to the Great Judge, ‘I know I was not all I could have been, but my heart was in the right place.'” -Elder F. Burton Howard (Repentance)

  18. James D
    December 19, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    Alan, I think I see what you’re saying if we’re relying completely on one “partisan” investigation and calling it truth… But, like any puzzle ;), there are plenty of other pieces that confirm a story. Listen to this podcast for more evidence than just this one senate report:

    http://tomwoods.com/podcast/ep-304-the-torture-report-and-what-it-left-out/

  19. James D
    December 19, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    LLP, I agree with your assessment that our government has more in common with the secret combinations spoken of in The Book of Mormon than Al Qaeda does. Regardless of what you call them, 3 Ne 3 (and the whole Book of Mormon for that matter) makes it clear to me that we don’t have the Lord’s protection when we wage war on the offensive.

    As far as your comments about me disrespecting the troops- I never wrote that or even alluded to it. I was criticizing policy. The very government that you (and I) criticize of being part of secret combinations is the same government that enacted this policy. Please, have the capacity to understand- critiquing a wicked policy is not the same as “accusing” my “protectors”.

    Along those lines, yes- torture is wicked. It’s not a question in my mind about the geneva convention or any man-made law. The thing that matters is God’s law. You seem to be subscribing to the “ends justify the means” philosophy which Elder F. Burton refuted. I linked it to Alan but here it is for you too: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/05/repentance

    In a letter to the Romans, Paul also shed light on the false teaching attributed to him—“Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8).

    Lastly, I believe in viewing history and current events through the lens of principles. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and all other networks are not guiding my world view.

  20. December 20, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    Reading some of these, it would seem Captains Moroni, Lehi, and Teancum were warmongers. As well as Mormon and Moroni.

  21. December 20, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    @ Alan M. Taylor

    There is nothing wrong with my reading comprehension. You wrote:

    “The report itself was authored chiefly by several individuals who are deeply partisan, and thus are steeped in biases, often of their own making. Despite any honest effort they made towards determining the truth, the foregoing factors make it highly likely that THE RESULT CANNOT BE RELIED UPON AS THE AUTHORITATIVE AND ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF WHAT TRANSPIRED.” [emphasis added]

    “With all of this on the table, I still think we ought not be too hasty in casting stones – or place too much stock in what the ‘oversight’ committee chose to include in its report. ”

    You clearly made your point that since the committee was chaired by individuals who are deeply partisan (Democrats), that the report cannot be relied on as an accurate accounting ie. “what actually happened is not as bad as the report makes it appear.”

  22. December 20, 2014 at 7:37 am #

    Perhaps some of you that believe in a modern day prophet will remember two talks given by President Hinkley in 2001 and 2003.

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/the-times-in-which-we-live?lang=eng

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2003/04/war-and-peace?lang=eng

  23. December 20, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Support for these practices can only come from a lack of empathy (“I’d be outraged if American troops were tortured but because some Muslims somewhere did something terrible then we’re justified in doing anything to anybody of the same ethnicity or religion”), ignorance of reality (believing that torture has lead to or traditionally leads to real, actionable information; and that the information you’re likely to gain can be known in advance in some contrived “24”-like situation which never happens in real life), or a lack of understanding of human nature and the background behind conflict such as this (solving barriers to education and opportunity and cleaning up our destructive foreign policy will deal with “extremism,” while tormenting people and depriving them of the rights we grant to all those we consider human will cement it). Then again, considering the things that even people I know personally say about Gazans and black people on social media, I shouldn’t be surprised that we’re still debating whether torturing nonwhite people is actually wrong.

    The fact that Cheney can go on television and admit to authorizing atrocious crimes against humanity with impunity is an indictment of our system, and the fact that people condone it is an indictment of our national discourse.

  24. December 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    @ Saxoclese –

    Between the report provided by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the response offered by the CIA, which do you consider more accurate or authoritative, and why?

    For whatever reason, Connor seems to have made his choice to throw his lot in with the authors of the report put out by the Committee — and gone further to say that “the actions of the CIA” stand in opposition to what Christ would have done, or at least approved of.

    Simply because I remain skeptical of the veracity of the reports findings as a whole (particularly the accusations of purposeful evasion), *DOES NOT MEAN* that I am seeking to rationalize or justify anything – only that it seems reckless and irresponsible to cast aspersions upon an entire organization, or institution, over the still-contested account of what happened. If you believe that all the relevant facts are in, now that “the Senate has spoken” then by all means, carry on your merry way.

    From the Church Committee to McCarthyism, when people set out on a witch-hunt, often times the innocent end up suffering the mob’s wrath because the collective indignation of the legislative body at the time demands that “someone must be made to pay” — and it is so often the person who carried out the order, not the person who issued the order, who ends up on the firing line. Pardon me if I seem less than eager to hold anyone’s cloak while they cast stones at the scapegoat.

    Connor is right, that torture is not worthy of a nation that espouses principles of liberty – but this ‘ready, fire, aim’ method of assigning blame is not becoming of an individual who espouses principles of liberty, and rule of law.

    At some point, we all must choose what to believe, given conflicting accounts (again, Blacks and the Priesthood, Plural Marriage, etc.) — and I’ve decided that categorically condemning an entire organization based on a narrowly selected, and partisan-sponsored account, qualifies as ‘painting with too broad a brush’ for me. You, ‘Saxoclese’, have apparently made your choice as to what you will believe, as well.

  25. December 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    LLP,
    Ahimsa

  26. December 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Alan D. Taylor,

    I have read and re-read Connor’s post and your comments at least six times. I see quite a few problems with your comments.

    1. Your first paragraph is self-contradictory. You state:

    “(torture is *not* okay – PERIOD,”

    Usually when someone says the word period! They mean it! However you use a comma, instead of a period, and go on with more comments about “partisanship” and want to add “a few disclaimers:” This is obviously illogical. Also you downplay what actually happened because torture is evil, not just “*not* okay-“.

    2. Your first disclaimer is an example of a type of solipsism. It is true we do not know all the facts. However, we know enough to make the judgments regarding the fact that not only torture went on, but the types of torture employed. This is the reality of the situation. Here’s the definition of torture from the Oxford English Dictionary:

    torture, n. a. The infliction of severe bodily pain, as punishment or a means of persuasion; spec. judicial torture, inflicted by a judicial or quasi-judicial authority, for the purpose of forcing an accused or suspected person to confess, or an unwilling witness to give evidence or information; a form of this (often in pl.). to put to (the) torture , to inflict torture upon, to torture. 2. a. Severe or excruciating pain or suffering (of body or mind); anguish, agony, torment; the infliction of such.

    It is well know the CIA, DIA and U.S. armed forces have labeled the techniques they employ as “enhanced interrogation” or “alternative set of procedures”, but both phrases are just euphemisms for torture. It also known that these torture techniques where developed by two psychologists, James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Their services were bought and paid for ($81,000,000.00) by the CIA.

    Just a few interesting side notes: Bruce Jessen is LDS and received his PHD in Psychology from Utah State University. In 2012 he served as an LDS bishop for a short period of time. His partner Mitchell is an atheist.

    3. Your second disclaimer uses two logical fallacies. First you use what is called a red herring, where you are trying to switch the debate from the actual argument to the motives of the Senate committee. Secondly you use what is called a circumstantial ad hominem where you attack the senate committee character instead of addressing the argument.

    4. In the next series of paragraphs you appear to go out of your way to be an apologist for the CIA and other government agencies, while occasionally reminding us that you are against torture.

    5. In your final paragraph you use flattery to try and convince Connor to change his position.

    6. In a later comment you sympathize with the order followers being the scapegoats, which there is some truth to what you say. Specifically, they can be set up by their superiors to be the ones “left holding the bag”. However, the order followers bear as much responsibility as the order givers because they are the ones who actually carried out the evil actions (torture).

    7. In a subsequent comment you continue using solipsism and logical fallacies to try and make your argument. In one specific instance you lump together the Church Committee with McCarthyism. Really? Are you trying to say they are in the same category? I am very familiar with both. Quite frankly, you are being intellectually dishonest here. Also, it is unclear to me why you keep saying that we don’t have all the information and that somehow this information could change how we look at what really went on. How could this unknown information, if know, justify known procedures (torture) which was in fact carried out? Are you saying that the enhanced interrogation techniques were not used or that these techniques don’t constitute torture? Are you are saying that the senate committee made it all up? Some clarification is required because it appears, to me, that you are being a mugwump.

    I believe the one who should go back and rethink their comments is you. It would be a more productive discussion if you would come back with arguments which do not rely on logical fallacies.

  27. December 23, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    Alan D. Taylor asked: “Between the report provided by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the response offered by the CIA, which do you consider more accurate or authoritative, and why?”

    The report issued by the Senate Select Committee of course. Why? Unlike the CIA they have no reason to “cover their ass”.

    @Gary Hunt. I never thought I would see the day that we agree on something.

  28. December 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Saxoclese,

    What’s really amazing is that the world has not come to an end, and Hell (Michigan) didn’t freeze over! In fact right now the temperature is 51 deg. F.

    What I find interesting about this situation is the fact that it was the CIA who provided the documentation to the committee. In other words they condemned themselves. The committee just brought the information out into the light.

  29. Kelly
    December 24, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    Torture is never OK. That being said, I’d like to comment on what many people are saying in their attempt to rationalize the torture we did on “alleged terrorists.”

    Torture will not bring forth reliable intelligence, it will bring forth faulty intelligence. The CIA, Cheney and Rumsfeld all knew this ahead of time. So, why did they use it? Simple – – they wanted and needed this false intelligence for two reasons: 1) they desperately needed to get some false admissions to somehow tie an invasion of Iraq into the 9/11 attacks when Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. 2) The very use of torture was also a pretext used by the CIA to show the common citizenry that we really did have a boogeyman.

    But, truth is, the “alleged terrorists” had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks in the first place. That, was an inside job.

    But, the inside job was only the pretext, and the alleged terrorists being tortured served the purpose of getting the false intelligence needed justify the military complex that is ultimately led by Satan himself.

  30. December 25, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

    I agree with you Connor. I know what I am. When I hear people say that such and such person is a “monster” I can’t join their condemnation because I know I’m capable of being awful and I’m just an average person. Many are probably only three days of hunger and fear away from committing unimaginable acts.

    It’s more accurate to say, “There is a person who is showing us how far a human can fall”. It should reignite each person’s determination to cleave to goodness and truth/God.

  31. January 8, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    Gary,

    You seem quite convinced of your own arguments, and not very open to considering alternate points of view – I really don’t see much point in responding to your comments in line-item fashion.

    Perhapsfor you, CIA = Torture. I remain skeptical that you are basing this off of first-hand experience. No, I’m not an apologist for anyone – but it does bug me to see someone whose efforts I truly admire (Connor’s) get carried away in drawing conclusions, or passing judgment. Maybe for you, refusing to pass judgment qualifies as solipsism. Perhaps for some it is easy to see the world in terms of black and white — but I don’t share their facile

    I try to be careful in specifying that I’m expressing opinion in my remarks, not passing judgment. I wish I could say the same for other commenters in this forum. Those who are sincerely trying to persuade others (rather than sarcastically mock, tear down, or belittle) seem to be in the minority here, sadly.

    You are obviously welcome to your own opinion. My experience and first hand knowledge lead me to a different conclusion than the one that Connor, and (apparently) most of the rest of those who have chosen to comment here, have arrived at. I’m at peace about my thoughts on the matter, regardless of whether they make sense (or seem ‘logical’ to you?). I hope your own convictions have brought you the same peace.

    ‘Saxoclese’ – If you believe that a Committee of partisans (many of whom were around and involved when this practice began) has no motivation to cover their rear-end in a report like this… then I compliment you on your unflagging optimism and benevolent assessment.

  32. January 8, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    @Alan M. Taylor Your response to me makes no sense whatever. None of the Democratic (partisan) Senators on the committee had any part in the torture carried out by the CIA and approved by the administration of George W. Bush. As such they have nothing to hide or cover up.

  33. January 13, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

    Alan,

    Your continued use of logical fallacies really puzzles me. Who are you trying to fool? Here is a good description of what logical fallacies are and why it’s important to understanding them.

    “Fallacies are statements that might sound reasonable or superficially true but are actually flawed or dishonest. When readers detect them, these logical fallacies backfire by making the audience think the writer is (a) unintelligent or (b) deceptive.”

    https://archive.org/details/LogicalFallaciesHandlistbw

    Perhaps you would benefit from a system of learning called “The Trivium Method”. The following information comes from the website (http://www.triviumeducation.com/).

    The Trivium method: (pertains to mind) – the elementary three.

    General Grammar, Aristotelian Logic, and Classical Rhetoric comprise the first three rules-based subjects of the 7 Liberal Arts and Sciences. As these disciplines are learned and practiced together, they form the overarching, symbiotic system for establishing clarity and consistency of personal thought called the Trivium.

    [1] General Grammar:

    Answers the question of the Who, What, Where, and the When of a subject. Discovering and ordering facts of reality comprises basic, systematic knowledge.

    [2] Formal Logic:

    Answers the Why of a subject. Developing the faculty of reason in establishing valid [i.e., non-contradictory] relationships among facts is systematic understanding.

    [3] Classical Rhetoric:

    Provides the How of a subject. Applying knowledge and understanding expressively comprises wisdom or, in other words, it is systematically useable knowledge and understanding.

    This is the method I use to create my arguments. What method do you use? All I have asked of you is to provide good logical arguments which counter mine. It is possible to make a good argument without agreeing with the other person. However to date you have failed to provide any rational and reasonable arguments to back up your point of view. Again, you can’t create valid arguments by using logical fallacies, such as argumentum ad hominem, argumentum ad populum, argumentum ad traditio, argumentum ad verecundium, argumentum ad misericordiam, dicto simpliciter and ignorantio elinchi.

    The proper sequence for the trivium is grammar, logic then rhetoric. Your comments demonstrate an erroneous sequence of grammar, rhetoric and then logic.

    Again, all I am asking is that you make good arguments. You say, “My experience and first hand knowledge lead me to a different conclusion…”. Then share with us your “experience and first hand knowledge”.

    A person can say something true and use logical fallacies to argue their position. The problem is that the use of fallacies doesn’t prove their point. Good logic provides the proof for their point of view.

  34. January 14, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    It is sad what they are doing to people just to get information. I understand that torture works most of the time but how could you truly know if what they are telling you is correct, they might just be telling you what you want to here because they don’ t want to be tortured any more.

  35. February 12, 2015 at 7:03 am #

    Interestingly, the architects of the CIAs torture program, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and anal rape with a broomstick, are LDS. In fact, one was subsequently called to be bishop of his ward. They remain in good standing with the church, despite being paid $80 million to develop these torture techniques.

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