Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tortured Thoughts: When the End Justifies the Means, the End of Justice is Near

I'm down on torture. Partly because I think it's a moral atrocity, but even more so because I'm a genuine wimp and am honestly afraid of being tortured myself. If a society becomes so degraded that it will justify the brutal torture of a human being in the name of some alleged greater good, when the end is easily assumed to justify the means, then the end is near - the end of justice, the end of compassion, the end of humanity, and the end of human rights. It always begins with a violation of the rights of apparent fiends and hated minorities (call them hated "enemy combatants", guilty by accusation alone, and lock them up without a trial - who could oppose that when it's for our own protection?), but those ranks are easily expanded. When a government relies on torture for state security, everyone should feel insecure, especially those of us who have big mouths, minority opinions, offensive religious and political views, and trouble with authority. Not to mention having a couple blogs and a Website or two. No, I'm not being so egotistical as to think that anyone cares about what I say and do right now. But ten or twenty years from now? What if my occasional defense of and respect for the Muslim faith gets me listed as an enemy sympathizer? What if I attend a political meeting that gets accused of being radical? What if religious enemies accuse selected Mormons of being enemy combatants of some kind? I know all this sounds extreme - but more extreme is the present possibility that innocent men may be locked up and interrogated with extreme measures without due process. If it can happen to people we don't like and who look funny, then I could be next in line someday.

Just writing this post might justify a little waterboarding someday, just to make sure I'm still a real patriot and not some whacked out enemy of Big Government (which I really love, for the record). I know some of you macho guys think you'd be strong and manly through it all, imagining how tough you'd be while someone punched you a few times in detention and maybe knocked out a tooth or two, but that's kid stuff. I know enough of the innovations of monsters in our day to know that the vast, dark, lonely chasm between life and death when in the hands of professionally trained demons can eventually be too much for almost anybody. And I truly don't want to find out where my limits are, and especially don't want any of my family to probe that chasm either.

My father, at the end of the Korean War, returned to the United States on a ship with hundreds of American soldiers that had been prisoners of war who had just been released by North Korea. Over the next few weeks en route, he tried his best to talk to them and be friendly, but they were like zombies (my word), just barely able to go through a daily routine. The abuse and even torture they had been through affected them in many ways. It was chilling to see the damage that could be done at the hands of an enemy, and that impression has been passed on to me in the form of a fearful respect for what unkind captors can inflict on tough and courageous men. And that was with technology and methods that are archaic by today's standards. I'm opening up here, sharing a weakness with the world: I'm genuinely frightened of what can be done by those who enjoy torture.

I think and hope that fellow American agents would be fairly decent in their use of waterboarding or whatever other extreme measures they use. I'm worried about that still, but not nearly as much as torture that is outsourced. We can say we don't use the really brutal methods and technically be correct, but I'm most concerned about those who get shipped to other nations for interrogation, nations where anything goes. This happens. And it terrifies me.

Here's an excerpt from "Outsourcing Torture: The Secret History of America’s 'Extraordinary Rendition' Program" by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker:
On January 27th, President Bush, in an interview with the Times, assured the world that "torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture." Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush's statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture. When Arar described his experience in a phone interview recently, he invoked an Arabic expression. The pain was so unbearable, he said, that "you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother."

Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man's brother. Arar, who was not formally charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet. The plane flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of "the Special Removal Unit." The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board.

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, "just began beating on me." They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. "Not even animals could withstand it," he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. "You just give up," he said. "You become like an animal."

A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause.
I know there are people who refuse to believe this, but there are enough pieces of evidence pointing to the use of this kind of "outsourcing" that it needs to be taken seriously ("renditions" is the term). And it's not just left-wing radicals screaming about torture. Many genuine conservatives - that's where I place myself on many issues - share this concern. A friend of mine, Chris Bentley, has written a chilling view of the future in a highly conservative publication that weaves factual details and documentation from today in the account. And I think it's fair to be concerned. It's a problem of government out of control, which is not an innovation of current leaders and, I fear, is not likely to go away when the next gang of power-seekers takes the throne.

Torture, of course, plays an interesting role in the scriptures. Christ was tortured, but triumphed, though He died and suffered intense agony beyond our comprehension. We read in Alma 27:29 in the Book of Mormon that the converted Lamanites, the pacific Anti-Nephi-Lehies, would "suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take up the sword or cimeter to smite them." Some of them were not just killed instantly but were obviously tortured. And later, as the Nephite civilization erodes into a corrupt and warlike society increasingly like our own, the Nephites themselves took delight in torturing their enemies. Our example of military excellence, Captain Moroni, on the other hand, hated bloodshed, hated brutality, and surely would not consider torture to extract information.

The "end-justifies-the-means" mindset of many of our leaders and their supporters on talk-shows and blogs seems akin to the repulsive "values clarification" programs that have been in our public schools for many years. In these programs, kids are challenged to come to terms with their own values by facing highly contrived, monstrous life-and-death dilemmas that they must resolve pragmatically. A typical version posits that there are ten people on a boat with only enough water and food for eight to survive, or some similar scenario. The traits of the ten people are listed: engineer, prostitute, teacher, athlete, a diabetic, etc. Two must be sacrificed for the greater good. How do you pick which two? It is such an ugly and vile exercise. I applaud the few students who reject the premise of the problem and would rather take an F on the assignment than play executioner and God. They are asked to assume the mindset of a social engineer, preparing them for a state that assumes life and death power over its herd of citizens. Repulsive.

In real life, I believe that good people can usually find other solutions to those rare difficult dilemmas that arise without having to sacrifice basic values. Not always, perhaps, but there is certainly no justification for making kids deal with such grotesque possibilities in the name of education. It is about education, of course, but not the kind that most parents want. We want our kids to learn their values from us, not from pragmatists ungrounded in moral principles from God. But I think this kind of thinking finds its zenith in the attitudes we see flaunted today: "We have to use extreme measures against these beasts. What if a whole city was about to blown up, and we had to find out where the bomb was? Wouldn't any form of torture of any suspect be justified if it would save a million people?" And if it is justified to save a million people, what about a thousand, or a dozen, or perhaps a bald eagle or spotted owl? Or what if it would save a million dollars? I mean, a million dollars could be used to save thousands of lives with vaccinations, right?

I don't care how much good someone might claim would be done by torture. I don't want to go through it, and I don't want anyone in my family to go through it. In fact, I can't think of anyone that really needs it. Some people may need to be executed, after due process of law, but even then, no matter how heinous the crime, I think it should be done humanely.

See what a wimp I've become?

24 comments:

Mormanity said...

I just deleted a comment from a regular poster because I found it too insulting to deserve a place here. It started off with a compliment, but then, rather predictably, turned to an attack and insinuated that Latter-day Saints were selling out to accept totalitarian "religio-political power just to remain" members of the Church. As if we aren't one of the groups with the most to lose when freedom is lost. As if we are one of the more popular politically correct groups in the world. And as if we don't have a track record of facing persecution from government and mobs anxious to protect the country from the likes of Mormons. Ugh.

This blog is not a forum for insults against my Church. Debate and intelligent questions from skeptics, yes, but snarky insults aren't welcome.

Marc said...

I'm glad to hear somebody who's a conservative LDS church member speak out against torture. It seems rare to me to hear non-liberals speak out against it, which is sad because it really is a moral issue to me.

As our church spreads out into the world more and more, I'm especially concerned for members in countries like Russia, where terrible things like coercive psychology (putting people you don't like in a psychiatric institution) are happening again.

It can make us feel a bit like loonies to say, "I'm afraid that someday this will be turned around on me" but history has shown that we have reason to be concerned.

Robert said...

If you've never toured the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I highly recommend it once. More than once I imagine would be hard, because it is a place filled with such sorrow, but your post reminded me of how I felt when I visited there. The quote that still rings out in my mind, and which your post reminds me of, was by a Lutheran minister who (If memory serves) wrote this on the wall of his prison cell, "When they came for the Jews, I said nothing, because I was not a Jew. When they came for the Polish, I said nothing, because I was not a Pole. When they came for me, there was no one left to say anything."

Whenever we take a step towards accepting the terrorists' methods as an appropriate response to dealing with them, we lose a piece of ourselves. Your post definitely wakes me up a bit to the reality that the United States has lost itself somewhat in the war on terror. I do not denounce the war itself, nor the effort to curtail further aggression by keeping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I can definitely tell the time has come for us to assert our morality and cease condoning torture.

One other comment and I'll conclude. My father rented a documentary called Why We Fight which begins with a speech by President Eisenhower, which he made just as he left office. It warns against the buildup of a military complex because it will perpetuate the need for war. At first it seemed to be a pro-war piece, but by the end it definitely seemed against the war. The point, though, was broader, in that it suggested we perpetuated this war. It does not suggest we literally flew the planes into the buildings (as some have posited), but that think tanks considered in the late 80's what might cause us to go to war, and those think tanks were populated by many of the people in the Bush administration. Where I can see that this war probably stems from America's own mistakes in handling foreign policy with the Middle East in the past. By placing the Shah in Iran, we gave rise to the Ayatollah, which gave us reason help Saddam rise to power (which many forget we had a hand in), and now we (as a nation) had a responsibility to remove the evil tyrant we helped put in place. That's called "blowback" by the CIA in the documentary. In that way, at least, I can see why we need to be fighting the war on terror, and in Iraq specifically. But to get back to your point, if we lose our morality in the process of fighting, then what are we fighting for?

Thanks for giving us reason to think. I, too, am a conservative, for the record.

J. Davis said...

I have disagreed with you many times on other issues, but on this subject I am 100% in accord. You have eloquently stated my exact stance on torture and the frightening repercussions it can place upon a society.

As Robert has mentioned, the Holocaust Museum in DC is very much a warning to us of what can happen. I would suggest anyone who disagrees with our stance on torture to first visit that museum and then try to morally defend the use of extreme measures upon captives. No matter the reason, or lack thereof, for their imprisonment.

teranno4x4 said...

Hi Jeff,

The comment was not intended to be snarky. Revelation quite clearly predicts that these events are going to happen - like it or not ! If you took it as snarky and insulting - then I immediately apologise - it was not intended that way.

When you can identify the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth, it gets even more frightening.

You are right to look at the political aspect as you described, but please DO understand that there is a more meaningful agenda by a religious organisation that is looking to global control for the dragon power.

I was not insinuating anything. I am more concerned that the LDS denomination may just happen to get caught up in the whole global religio-political deception before you as a single church member have a chance to bat an eyelid to react in the best interests of your family and loved ones. I thought that that was where your major concern lay ?

For the record - I will compliment you again. It is a well thought out and concerned post! Freedom / salvation in Jesus at what price to the earthly powers?

Teranno4x4

NM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am LDS, a returned missionary and a Vietnam vet. You have expressed my feelings about torture from a moral view point. I am also concerned about torture for the same reason Sen. John McCain is against it. He suffered many years at the hands of the North Vietamese. If we indulge in torture we lose the moral high ground. We can never again claim the benefits of the Geneva Convention. Yes, I am aware that many countries, usually our enemies, don't even though they are signatories. Because they do does not justify us. Also my support for the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with the NRA or hunting. I am not a member and I don't hunt. The main reason is a certain level of mistrust toward the federal government. An unarmed people are at the mercy of the government. I know that sounds kooky (even to me) but just look at what the current administration is doing with our civil rights. There is not a lot of wiggle room between freedom and enslavement.

Anonymous said...

Do you suppose that SOME of those who "lock up innocent men and interrogate them with extreme measures without due process" will be members of the 'honoring, obeying, and upholding the law' church?

Norma said...

I would hope that no honest Christian (that includes LDS) would be a part of torturing another human being -or an animal, for that matter. I also don't see the LDS church becoming part of the many headed beast.

We are leading in calling for love and respect of our brothers and sisters, yes. That does not mean we will not fight for our rights --or the rights of others.

And -- a distaste and aborrance for torture does not mean we are unwilling to die if that is what is called for. While I would prefer to live for Christ, I would indeed, die for Him.

I, too, am a deeply conservative Latter-day Saint. --mawcawn

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely against torture. It is satanic in every way. However (you were waiting for that) in debating the issue with my wife neither of us could come up with a valid argument against pre-emptive action intended to secure rights through harming others (Ie. self defense). If shooting someone in self defense to keep them from killing oneself is right then inflicting harm on another in order to stop greater atrocities from occurring seems justified by the same law.

Anonymous said...

"The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood...we should be careful of them."
Author: J. Reuben Clark, Source: Church News June 15, 1940

If anything that has become more true today.

We cannot be so protective of the church as to support our enemies efforts therein.

Anonymous said...

"If shooting someone in self defense to keep them from killing oneself is right then inflicting harm on another in order to stop greater atrocities from occurring seems justified by the same law."

Maybe that explains the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's actions?

Perhaps self defense is justified only in truth (that acting preserves the greater good) and hence becomes dangerous ground to tread. Does the same reasoning apply to torture? If not why not?

Regardless, I know of no individual (save seers only) with the ability to acceptably discern when such could be justified in either case.

Jon said...

Jeff-

Before I read this post, I was in favor of torture or "intense interrogation" or whatever you want to call it.

Congratulations; you've changed my mind.

le35 said...

Jeff,

I agree with the idea that we can't torture people who are not found guilty first. But everything has a definition. Humane is also a word where the line differs for different people. What is humane in a prison system? People think that Sheriff Joe Arpaio in AZ is cruel because of things like Tent City and his pink clothes. Everyone has a line where torture is and every one has a line where humane is. To the Lamanites who were captured by Captain Moroni and made to work building walls, it was phychological and physical torture to do something as lowly as serve their enemies. I feel like, all in all, you have a great point about torture, but I think that the situation flip-flops once someone has been found guilty in a court of law. When is capital punishment OK? Only when the person has committed murder or treason and found guilty in a court of law. However, it's also OK in the case of self-defense. If your life is in danger, you can defend yourself. Therefore, in moral issues, situations matter. The reality is that everyone has a different line about where things are OK. In the end, we need to draw realistic lines but err on the side of caution and draw the line before where we really think it's OK.

Jayleen said...

le35 - Tent City in Arizona is hardly cruel. Neither is pink underwear. Our Military personell endure far hotter temperatures while in places like IRAQ, and that while wearing all their gear, etc. If it's good enough for our Military Men and Women, it's good enough for criminals.

And the pink underwear are so if they escape, they can't just ditch the striped outfit and blend in like has happened so many times in the past.

Go Joe!

Can you tell I'm from Arizona? lol

Anonymous said...

T4x4, said:


"I am more concerned that the LDS denomination may just happen to get caught up in the whole global religio-political deception before you as a single church member have a chance to bat an eyelid to react in the best interests of your family and loved ones."


We thank you for your concern. But in my thirty years as a convert and reading all the church history, I can say thatmany LDS leaders have held many strong religio-political ideas but when they became Prophet they have set those ideas aside and guided the members and the church as Our Heavenly Fathers restored church. He has always reminded the members that they follow Jesus Christ and His Kindom is in His hands and we are to follow His example reguardless of the changing religio-political.

But so you can rest easer we will keep an eye out.

Inkblot said...

It is interesting to read all the comments and viewpoints here. I would just state that it would not be correct for any true 'Christian' to defend themselves with anything other than words and the power of the Holy Spirit. That is taking the example of Jesus Himself. 'Greater LOVE hath no man than this, than He lay down His life for His friends'. That's you and me identified.

I am intrigued by T4x4's comment on Revelation and the two beasts coming out of the earth /sea respectively. It seems that they do want to oppress God's people.

Can anyone identify these powers?

Zera said...

This is one of those areas where I truly believe its too easy for the line to become blurred. I cannot say I fully support either viewpoint. I do know that this to me isn't a clear cut right or wrong issues as there are way to many moral variables to say definitively that it is either wholly wrong, or wholly justified. I think the important thing to realize though is that there is a world of difference between justified and right.

MG said...

This is a difficult question. While we all point to the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's in the Book of Mormon, there are other examples of equally righteous people who did not subject themselves to death. In fact, the Nephites did come to the defense of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's. Taken to the extreme, the entire world would be run over by those with evil designs if good people didn't defend truth. President Hinckley said as much in a recent conference either after 9/11 or the beginning of the Iraq war.

"Yea, and this is not all; I command you by all the desires which ye have for life, that ye deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us. And now, if ye do not this, behold, ye are in our hands, and I will command my men that they shall fall upon you, and inflict the wounds of death in your bodies, that ye may become extinct; and then we will see who shall have power over this people; yea, we will see who shall be brought into bondage." (Alma 44:6-7)

Here is a threat to take action and kill these people if certain terms are not met. In dealing with dissenters from within during a time of war:

"And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom." (Alma 46:35).

So here is another case of drastic measures to preserve the people. In dealing with the king-men dissenters, we read:

"And it came to pass that there were four thousand of those dissenters who were hewn down by the sword; and those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period." (Alma 51:19).

So here is a case of imprisoning enemy combatants without trial due to expediency of the time.

"And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren. But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them. " (Alma 61:19-20).

Now none of these address means of extracting information or forcing actions of the enemy except the threat of death to those who would not comply. However, what is clear is that it is not cut-and-dry the proper action to take in times of war. The Anti-Lehi-Nephi's are one example, but there are others in the Book of Mormon. How do we bring all these together and come to a conclusion? I don't know. I don't know the right answer. I do know that there are those who would eliminate us if they could, and we cannot pretend that such is not the case. How to deal with that is not an easy question. I'm just glad I don't have to make it.

Mormanity said...

Mg, I think we should consider the context of Moroni's action against the king-men. They weren't merely suspected enemy combatants arrested contrary to established legal principles. They were traitors actively supporting the enemy, men who refused to defend the nation in a time of intense war being fought on their own soil. To deal with the life-and-death crisis they were causing, Moroni did not seize massive power improperly, but dealt with them in a democratic, legal, and even compassionate manner. He sought proper approval from "the voice of the people" and the governor of the land to use force to compel them to stop supporting the enemy and begin defending the nation. As commander in chief, he did not assume that he had the power to do anything. Once he had that approval and came onto the scene, the king-men took up arms against him rather than submit to the requirements of the law. It was then when the bloodshed began. This is much different than nabbing someone on the basis of suspicion alone contrary to our established laws, without due process, a person who may very well be innocent. Moroni's army cut down those who were armed enemies coming against him. When these indisputable enemies surrendered, then, after agreeing to stop such nonsense, they were required to help defend their nation. They weren't slaughtered, tortured, or even jailed, except for their leaders, who obviously would be the most incorrigible. And remarkably, mercifully, even shockingly, these traitorous leaders were not summarily executed, nor tortured, nor sent to a foreign land to be offered up as human sacrifices to some torture-loving god, but simply jailed to await trials. Legal, public trials based on law, not secret tribunals without rights. Captain Moroni, for all his anger against them, showed remarkable restraint and mercy, more concerned with the welfare of the nation than with vengeance against the losers who were putting his nation at risk. And what he did was legal, reasonable, public, and open. Quite a difference compared to the secret "renditions" of our day. Of course, I'm sure the any surviving GCLU (Gadianton Civil Liberties Union) members were outraged with Moroni.

Here's the relevant section from Alma 51:

[11] . . . Amalickiah had gathered together a wonderfully great army, insomuch that he feared not to come down to the land of Zarahemla.

[12] Yea, even Amalickiah did himself come down, at the head of the Lamanites. And it was in the twenty and fifth year of the reign of the judges; and it was at the same time that they had begun to settle the affairs of their contentions concerning the chief judge, Pahoran.

[13] And it came to pass that when the men who were called king-men had heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they were glad in their hearts; and they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country.

[14] And it came to pass that when Moroni saw this, and also saw that the Lamanites were coming into the borders of the land, he was exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them.

[15] And it came to pass that he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring that he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death.

[16] For it was his first care to put an end to such contentions and dissensions among the people; for behold, this had been hitherto a cause of all their destruction. And it came to pass that it was granted according to the voice of the people.

[17] And it came to pass that Moroni commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty.

[18] And it came to pass that the armies did march forth against them; and they did pull down their pride and their nobility, insomuch that as they did lift their weapons of war to fight against the men of Moroni they were hewn down and leveled to the earth.

[19] And it came to pass that there were four thousand of those dissenters who were hewn down by the sword; and those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period.

[20] And the remainder of those dissenters, rather than be smitten down to the earth by the sword, yielded to the standard of liberty, and were compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country.

[21] And thus Moroni put an end to those king-men, that there were not any known by the appellation of king-men; and thus he put an end to the stubbornness and the pride of those people who professed the blood of nobility; but they were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom from bondage.

MG said...

Some good points, especially seeking the "voice of the people" as a commander. A few comments.

"Moroni did not seize massive power improperly...As commander in chief, he did not assume that he had the power to do anything." The assumption of this statement is that the US government has done that. This is supposition. Moroni probably would not be considered "commander in chief" but a military leader on the ground, similar to a military leader on the ground in Iraq. Pahoran was the "commander in chief", filling the role probably equivalent to the US Executive branch. Much as a military leader on the ground has to run certain decisions by Washington, so did Moroni. Pahoran, however, _did_ have authority and power to make such decisions.

I think the debate today is whether the Executive has authority to wage war anymore. Somewhere along the line we have assumed that everything must be vetted through the American press. Somewhere we have removed the prerogative of the "commander in chief" to actually make "commander-in-chief-like" decisions.

Just as the Nephites did not consider it wrong to use "stratagem" at times in their efforts, so must the we at times. By definition, "strategem" must be kept secret from the enemy and those within who might divulge to the enemy. Moroni and Pahoran did not have 24/7 press and the Internet to deal with like we do. It is no secret that Al Qaeda and the likes are hooked into the American Media and glean valuable information on how to deal with the US based on some of the things published.

"And what he did was legal, reasonable, public, and open. Quite a difference compared to the secret "renditions" of our day." It is true that Moroni was open in what he did among his people. He did threaten death to dissenters and Lamanites that would not comply to his terms.

Having said that, I go back again to the fact that in dealing with the enemy they did use secret "stratagem" to accomplish their purposes. I think with the almost-guaranteed broadcasting in the media and on the Internet of _anything_ that we put out in terms of strategy in our day, the line between being "open with our people" and "giving secrets to the enemy" is very blurred. Do we really want to publicize every technique used to deal with the enemy and then have them adapt to it?

"This is much different than nabbing someone on the basis of suspicion alone contrary to our established laws, without due process, a person who may very well be innocent." Actually, there were times that, based on the best-information that was available at the time, the Nephites did cut off enemy attacks before they occurred. The assumption of the statement above is that we have little evidence against some of these people. We simply don't know. The suspicion must be based on something tangible, and I don't believe we simply nab someone for a shifty look, but based on at least credible leads that merit further investigation. Now I agree that the US government does not help itself by taking a long time to process some of these people. Efficiency is not something that seems to be the lot of the government.

These are not easy questions. I don't know the answer to these questions. Perhaps this is why the war chapters are here for us. As we can see, even with them, it's difficult to come to a clear conclusion as to the right course. I still believe that in general, are motives are good. I am much more concerned about the weak moral fabric of our society. As the Book of Mormon teaches, as the moral fabric of our society goes, so goes the society. I'm afraid that the best-laid military plans will fall short if we as a people do not repent of our selfish ways and turn to God. This doesn't just include military and government leaders, but all of us. Of course, such is considered "hate speech" nowadays.

MG said...

One other thought, I think one big advantage Moroni and Pahoran had over us is that they both would "inquire of the Lord" to get the final word on what the best course of action was. When they didn't seek to know the Lord's will, mistakes were always made.

To suggest something today would cause a call for impeachment. Our hands are tied to an extent. We are a secular state, although invocation of the name of God was common in the early days of this country. Not so today. Can you imagine a group of military commanders and politicians fasting an praying to know the proper course? No way. At least not publicly. To an extent we are left "to our own strength" because we cannot openly do such things. I understand why we can't, but there is no question that it limits our access to Divine help and leaves us to try to sort it out on our own. All we can do is pray for our leaders and hope the privately they do the same.

MG said...

By "they" I mean the Nephites, not Pahoran and Moroni.

captain moroni said...

I agree with Mormanity here. Mormons may be one of the next targets of torture and government repression. How long will it be until mormons are considered a hate group for excommunicating apostates, opposing gay marriage, and opposing abortion? It may not be long until hate speech laws are applied to any group that says that homosexuality is wrong. When that happens, mormons will be in trouble. The government may try to take action,disenfranchise the church, and imprison its members as they did in the 1880s and 1890s. I believe that in our own self interest we must pass a constitutional ammendment banning abortion and gay marriage or we may find our own rights restricted. For more arguments on restricting gay rights in order to preserve our own, visit my blog and find the article about the constitutional ammendments. Please comment.