Disappointed In Not Seeing More Mormons Decry Torture

April 17, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

It’s disappointing. Jay Bybee, a Mormon, is given the task to write enough mumbo jumbo that muddies otherwise clear waters on what constitutes torture and what doesn’t. Mormons believe every single human being on this planet is a son or daughter of God. We believe every single human being on this planet made a choice in the pre-existence to follow God’s plan by coming to this earth, getting a body, and going through a test of faith in order to be exalted. We believe every single human born on this planet will be judged according to the lives and environments they lived. That means that someone born in Afghanistan who never heard the gospel has the same equal opportunity to be saved in the afterlife as a white male born in Utah to loving Mormon parents. We believe that God is on our side. That means that we believe that God will fight to defend us from our enemies. We believe the gospel is restored and will never be taken from the earth again, come hell or high water. No enemy of ours on this planet would, therefore, constitute such a threat to our faith and our religion, that we would have to resort to any tactics that indicate our very survival is at stake. How can it when our prophets raise our hopes by saying we will actually survive, and not just survive but flourish! How can we flourish if our very existence is at threat of annihilation? That’s a contradiction. Knowing what we know about humanity, how can we in any way shape or form approve or recommend torture? I’d like to see more Mormons speak out against it. But I am not holding my breath.

What Was the Purpose Exactly?

April 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Hilzoy asks:

Suppose, for instance, a detainee who has been deprived of sleep (but not for more than 180 hours!), and is now being subjected to “walling”, dousing with water, and nudity. There is a mass of detail about how this should be done: the water must be no colder than 41 degrees farenheit; when slamming the detainee into the wall, he will wear a collar to protect against whiplash; when the detainee is deprived of sleep by chaining his hands to the ceiling to prevent him from lying down, medical personnel shall check at all times to ensure that he is not developing edema in his feet; if he does, they will switch him to a special horizontal no-sleep position. And yet, somehow, the obvious question never arises, namely: what on earth are we doing repeatedly slamming this naked and sleep-deprived guy into a wall and then dousing him with cold water? How can this possibly be OK?

There are some sick people working for the CIA.

Tying the Hands Of Future Presidents

April 17, 2009 at 8:43 am | Posted in American politics | 6 Comments

Ah, some truths come out from Hayden and Mukasey.

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

Torture was approved by the CIA director. That means George Tenet. And George Tenet does not tie his shoes without express approval from the President of the United States.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president’s task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president’s executive order is effectively permanent….By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack.

We can only dream! Thank you Obama!

Although evidence shows that the Army Field Manual, which is available online, is already used by al Qaeda for training purposes, it was certainly the president’s right to suspend use of any technique. However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

But, General Hayden, Mr. Mukasey, surely you realize that these bad asses over there already know of our techniques as NONE OF OUR TECHNIQUES ARE NEW!!!! You stupid idiots! Not only that, but even the techniques used by the CIA pale in comparison to what other countries do right now. So… well, what exactly do we have to hide?

Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens.

Who gives a fuck what our enemies think? What the fuck do you care what they think? This has NEVER BEEN ABOUT THEM!

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don’t work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal.

But you do get false confessions. You also have to weigh the action against the political cost of that action being revealed to the world. In terms of that political cost, it was never worth the effort to use torture on our detainees. This is something you will never understand. How the hell did you guys get into the position of power that you did? You guys are dumb.

The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA.

Once again, torture was approved by the director of the CIA.

Even when the government disclosed that three members of al Qaeda had been subjected to waterboarding but that the technique was no longer part of the CIA interrogation program, the court sustained the government’s argument that the precise details of how it was done, including limits and safeguards, could remain classified against the possibility that some future president may authorize its use.

This is EXACTLY why it was important to get these memos out in the open so NO FUTURE PRESIDENT could enact them! So Fuck You Michael Hayden, and Fuck You Michael Mukasey!

There is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the claim that our interrogation of some unlawful combatants beyond the limits set in the Army Field Manual has disgraced us before the world. Such a claim often conflates interrogation with the sadism engaged in by some soldiers at Abu Ghraib, an incident that had nothing whatever to do with intelligence gathering.

That’s what we get for muddying up what was quite clear before 9/11. The Geneva Conventions worked quite well. When you have the Defense Secretary and the Attorney General saying that the Geneva Conventions were quaint and outdated, what the fuck do you think the lowly soldier was going to think?

Indeed, the Army Field Manual was created with awareness that there was an alternative protocol for high-value detainees.

Really? Where does it state that?

Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits

No, what they are told is that the previous administration went out on flimsy legal ground and got burned. They never should have gone out that far. Hence why it is important to prosecute Jay Bybee, John Yoo, Stephen Bradbury, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and any others closely involved with war crimes.

Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk?

None, thank God!

Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Exactly right.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the OLC as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism.

As it should have been in the first place. The OLC don’t work in a vacuum. They must abide by the laws of this country. They didn’t under Bush, which brings us to the point we are now.

It’s nice to see such idiots as Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey squirm for once. They know they are on shaky legal ground and are making a full court press to protect themselves politically. They deserve our scorn.

Jay Bybee, Mormon, Advocated Sleep Deprivation, and Medical Personnel To Assist

April 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Posted in American politics | 1 Comment

These are things to be angry at. A Mormon lawyer (now a judge in the 9th Circuit), argued the following in the newly released torture memos:

Sleep deprivation may be used. You have indicated that your purpose in using this technique is to reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with lack of sleep, to motivate him to cooperate. The effect of such sleep deprivation will generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. You have informed us that your research has revealed that, in rare instances, some individuals who are already predisposed to psychological problems may experience abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation. Even in those cases, however, reactions abate after the individual is permitted to sleep. Moreover, personnel with medical training are available to and will intervene in the unlikely event of an abnormal reaction. You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than eleven days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours, from which no mental or physical harm resulted.

1. The purpose of using sleep deprivation is supposedly to “reduce the individual’s ability to think on his feet,” and to supposedly “motivate him to cooperate.”

2. Sleep deprivation’s effects remit after a couple nights worth of sleep (which they don’t really).

3. Depriving someone of sleep could induce “abnormal reactions to sleep deprivation.” But hey,

4. “personnel with medical training are available” to make sure the person doesn’t die.

5. They wanted to deprive Zubaydah of ELEVEN DAYS of sleep (which they most likely attempted, because after all, no “mental or physical harm resulted” from 72 hours of lack of sleep).

Of course those who researched sleep deprivation forgot to research how those who were deprived of sleep tended quite frequently and consistently to tell their captors exactly what they thought their captors wanted to hear, just so they could get that sleep they so badly longed. That’s because the purpose of using sleep deprivation was never to extract actionable intelligence but TO GET FALSE CONFESSIONS!

It is really sad that Jay Bybee, a Mormon, would write such crap. He studied at BYU. He went on a mission. He knows the Gospel. He ought to know right from wrong. It makes it much harder for someone like me to identify myself with Mormons when Mormons have so strongly supported torture. Torture is EVIL. It is NOT of God. We are taught in the Mormon church to seek after good things, and to avoid the bad. Why would a Mormon advocate for torture? Why would a Mormon who believed that God was on his side, would ever think he needed to stoop to that level, the level of our previous enemies?

UPDATE:

Five worthy posts on these memos. More to come, I’m sure.

Spencer Ackerman, who quotes Jay Bybee:

… you [the CIA] have informed us [the Office of Legal Counsel] that he [Abu Zubaydah] would spend at most two hours in this box. You have informed us that your purpose in using these boxes is not to interfere with his senses or his personality, but to cause him physical discomfort that will encourage him to disclose critical information. Moreover, your imposition of time limitations on either of the boxes indicates that the use of the boxes is not designed or calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality. For the larger box, in which he can both stand and sit, he may be placed in this box for up to eighteen hours at a time, while you have informed us that he will never spend more than an hour at a time in the smaller box. These time limits further ensure that no profound disruption of the senses or personality, were it even possible, would result….

[Y]ou would also like to introduce an insect into one of the boxes with Zubaydah. As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar. If you do so, to ensure you are outside the predicate death requirement, you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain. If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing him that you are doing so, you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce severe pain or suffering or even cause his death.

Anonymous Liberal, noting:

I wish I had more time to write about the truly revolting Bush administration torture memos that were released today. They really need to be required reading for everyone. I think the line that probably sums them up best is on page 11 of the Bybee memo, where he casually observes that “[t]he waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering.”

With that wonderful bit of “analysis,” our government lawyers concluded that the most iconic example of torture in human history–a technique that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition, if not earlier–was not in fact torture. That’s like writing a memo concluding that forced sexual intercourse doesn’t constitute rape so long as you make it quick.

hilzoy, noting an obvious comparison to 1984.

Glenn Greenwald, who has pressed on this issue tirelessly.

Jeff Toobin noting that Jay Bybee keeps a low profile (guilty conscience mayhap?)

The author of the memo, which is dated August 1, 2002, is Jay S. Bybee, who was the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Bybee concludes that all of these various techniques, including waterboarding, do not constitute torture under American or international law.

Bybee is generally the forgotten man in torture studies of the Bush era. The best known of the legal architects of the torture regime is John Yoo, who was a deputy to Bybee. For better or worse, Yoo has been a vocal defender of the various torture policies, and he remains outspoken on these issues. But whatever happened to his bossë/p>

Today, Bybee is a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2003—some time before any of the “torture memos” became public. He has never answered questions about them, has never had to defend his conduct, has never endured anywhere near the amount of public scrutiny (and abuse) as Yoo. It is an understatement to say that he has kept a low profile since becoming a judge.

It’s a lesson in the vagaries of politics, and timing, that Bybee could slip through the cracks of this story so easily.

Frankly, Jay Bybee ought to be tried for war crimes. Same goes with John Yoo. Same goes with David Addington. Same goes with Stephen Bradbury. These are the men who justified torture. These are the men who told CIA operatives that the torture they were going to perform on detainees was not going to get them into legal trouble, when really, it was. They need to be punished for their crimes if we are to ever get closure on this terrible moment in our nation’s history.

Republicans Hate America

April 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm | Posted in American politics | 1 Comment

Even when someone clearly points out that under Obama most if not all of them at this little protect got a TAX CUT.

There is no other logical conclusion. Republicans Hate America.

It Doesn’t Matter If There Is A “Right of Secession” In The Constitution

April 16, 2009 at 10:01 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

I say, let Texas leave. The sooner the better.

Let Texas Secede From the Union

April 16, 2009 at 7:51 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Just adding a few thoughts to my last post. Governor Rick Perry of Texas is stoking the fires of secession in Texas, as if that is some threat for the rest of America to bow down to him and listen to what he says. I say, let Texas leave. Go ahead. What it means is a huge amount of Republicans gone from Congress. Two more Republican Senators gone from the Senate. There is no chance in hell that a hardcore right wing Republican will ever become president again without Texas. This is one of the best things to happen to America. Let Texas secede from the Union. We’re a better country without Texas.

Republicans Hate America. Clearly They Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore. Let’s Kick Them Out, As They Seem to Desire

April 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

What else do you call it when a sitting Republican governor thinks his state should secede. He hates America.

Let me ask the few who read my blog, raise your cyber hand if you would feel any regret from approving kicking Texas out of the Union. Anyone? I’m all for it, Mr. Perry. Go ahead, Mr. Perry. Create a declaration of secession for Texas and get out. Bye bye. Don’t let the door hit your fat butt on your way out of the Union. Seriously, Republicans, go ahead, destroy America. Divide it. Break it up. It is what you have always wanted to do. Just don’t call yourselves the party of Lincoln.

Putting Tea Baggers In Their Place…

April 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Posted in American politics | 3 Comments

Brilliant

I don’t think the creators of these Tea Bagging Parties realized, or even still realize the double entendre of tea bagging…

David Buckner Passes Out on Glenn Beck’s Show

April 14, 2009 at 5:49 am | Posted in American politics | 26 Comments

things get weirder and weirder on the Glenn Beck show. That’s my stake president. What’s he doing there? I hope he’s okay. I’m not surprised that my stake president shares Glenn Beck’s political views. It shows that, at least at the local level, (and most likely the top level), church leadership opinion thinks it is okay the kinds of things that Glenn Beck says about the world around us.

Here’s one of the youtubes:

Some Conservatives See The Disturbing Nature of Glenn Beck’s Insanity

April 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

He may be a nut, but he’s right.

And this brings us back to the first part of the question that people were asking me; why bother? Beck is an entertainer. He speaks for the little guy. In the large scheme of things he doesn’t matter. Besides, he’s funny. He’s not serious about a lot of the things he says.

All of that may be true. But if you see someone running toward a gasoline dump with a lit match, what would you do? Say, “Ignore him, he doesn’t matter?” Or perhaps, “That’s pretty funny, someone trying to immolate himself.” Or maybe, “Man, this explosion and fireball is going to be so kewl!”

You can argue that I’m an idiot for believing this as many of you have and no doubt will continue to do so. But Beck and others like him, who constantly raise the specter of American doom, of Obama as commissar, the Democrats as Nazis, while imploring listeners to “take the country back” and start some kind of “revolution” are bat sh*t dangerous to the conservative movement.

Let’s see more conservatives say things like this.

And They Continue Killing Civilians in Afghanistan

April 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Remember 9/11? Yeah, we weren’t too pleased that our civilians were killed either…

Glenn Beck is Utterly Insane!

April 10, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Posted in American politics | 1 Comment

What the hell?!?!?!

Glenn Beck’s Insanity Continues to Get Worse

April 10, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Posted in American politics | 11 Comments

when even Little Green Footballs thinks this stuff is whacked, that should tell you something. I mean, really, “burn books?”

At a “Project 912 Glenn Beck Tea Party,” an unnamed speaker rants about “infiltration by the Communist Party” (a John Birch Society talking point), says that digital cable boxes are “brainwashing machines” planted in our homes by the government, and swears to stop paying taxes. The rant begins at about 1:58.

This is some really deranged stuff, and the audience is eating it up.

And notice the comment about evolution at about 5:00:

Woman: [Shouts] “Burn the books!” [applause]

Man: “I don’t think you were serious about that, were you?”

Woman: “I am too.”

Man: “Burn all the books?!”

Woman: “The ones in college, those, those brainwashing books.”

Man: “[laughs] Brainwashing books?”

Woman: “Yes.”

Man: “Which ones are those?”

Woman: “Like, the evolution crap, and, yeah…”

You know, a certain hardcore right wing group over in Germany believed in burning books…

BYU’s Newspaper Accidentally Calls The Twelve Apostles Apostate

April 7, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Doh!

The student-newspaper staff at Brigham Young University removed some 18,500 copies of the paper from the campus yesterday, and reprinted nearly the entire press run, because an embarrassing typo in a front-page photo caption appeared to offend key leaders in the Mormon hierarchy…. The caption described a photograph illustrating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ General Conference, and it referred to the group’s “Quorum of Twelve Apostates” rather than “Apostles.” … A student had misspelled the word “apostle,” and the article’s editor chose the wrong word from among the options offered by spell-checking software.

I don’t know what to add to that, but as a spelling nazi, I must say that this is utterly embarrassing from my alma mater.

Would Jesus Christ Torture?

April 7, 2009 at 10:17 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Steven Waldman wonders why the only real Christian in Bush’s administration did not speak up against the use of torture of terrorist detainees.

But recently released documents show that senior Bush adminsitration officials authorized torture not only in principle but in repeated, specific instances. In the middle of interrogations, captors would turn back to officials in Washington for approval of particular steps. Mark Danner, author of a new book Torture and Truth, explains that CIA briefers regularly updated the National Security Council’s Principals committee which included Dick Cheney, Condelleezza Rice — and Ashcroft. “As the interrogations proceeded, so did the briefings, with George Tenet, the CIA director, bringing to senior officials almost daily reports of the techniques applied.” Many of the key memos justifying torture also went through Ashcroft.

I’m not saying this was an easy position for Ashcroft. As the chief law enforcement official, he felt an urgent personal responsibility to stop terrorist attacks. He likely made a morally utilitarian calculation that the ends in this case justified the means. Many people did.

But what Ashcroft never did, apparently, was ask: What Would Jesus Do?

There’s no record of him challenging the practices on either practical or moral grounds. We have no reports of him airing the Christian case against torture, which has even been embraced by moderate evangelicals and conservatives like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. (To torture someone made in God’s image is, they argued, counter to the message of the Bible).

Ashcroft did reportedly question whether people at his level should be involved in the blow-by-blow decision making but his qualms seemed to be more about protecting the White House from blame than stopping the behavior. “Why are we talking about this in the White House?” he reportedly said. “History will not judge this kindly.”

I don’t know why Mr. Waldman, as a Christian, is really surprised at this. Catholics used torture quite a lot. In fact, if I am correct, waterboarding was begun during the Spanish Inquisition. Supposed followers of Christ have stooped to very very low lows in the justification of survival. When one feels so victimized and threatened all around with utter destruction, it is easy to use those as justifications and excuses to do “what you have to do” in order to survive. Whether it is real, the threat to your survival or not, that’s the main justification otherwise Christian people use to torture.

Sadly we had the wrong people in power in America when 9/11 occurred, and they ended up doing stupid things. See, they went under the belief that our entire nation was under threat of extermination (odd, seeing that our enemy lived in caves and didn’t run any country). They used this to justify “going dark” and still supposedly holding on to our Christian beliefs.

The thing is that this world is not actually as awful as the propaganda of those on the right, the ones who justify torture. Life still goes on. Even the “right” Christian world still survives even if someone else is in charge. It’s really odd, even within the Mormon community, to hear the justifications for torture. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that the Lord is on their side, and that these terrorists really aren’t more powerful than the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Is there any justification for torture for a follower of Christ? Would Jesus Christ torture? And we’re not talking about the “endless torment” for the wicked. We’re talking about the rationales used for the use of torture. Punishment for sins or crimes is not one of the rationales used. The rationale is information. Would Jesus Christ torture a detainee to get information?

Of course he wouldn’t. He doesn’t need to in order to get information. Where does Jesus go to get information he lacks? Anyone?

Medical Professionals and Doctors Assisted in Torture

April 7, 2009 at 7:45 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

This wasn’t a revelation, but it is still reprehensible. Those doctors who got paid money to help the CIA direct pain to the appropriate spots on a detainee’s body to ensure that the detainee not die, but experience all the pain he can without massive organ failure or death, should be ashamed of themselves. They have abrogated their Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” Shame on you, doctors. Shame on you.

America’s Lost Decade

April 6, 2009 at 6:48 am | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

publius thinks it is the last ten years, under Bush/Cheney, and I can’t agree more. What a waste.

It’s tempting to think of the Bush/Cheney legacy in terms of what they actually did. And admittedly, many of those actions caused lasting damage that can never be undone – particularly Iraq and the authorization of torture. But perhaps the more lasting legacy will be what they didn’t do. Maybe the true legacy of the Bush/Cheney years will simply be the wasted opportunities America squandered, and the immense opportunity costs we incurred.

exactly my thoughts about the Bush administration. What could they have done? They had a surplus coming in. They had general peace around the world. But at the end of their term, America was involved in two wars, North Korea gained nuclear arms, and the Middle East is in tatters. publius has a good list of the various items that needed to be taken care of, but weren’t, turning the last decade into a lost decade for America.

The End of Christian America?

April 5, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

what kind of silly title is this? Maybe a decline, but “the end?” Seriously, standards of professional journalism have fallen greatly these past fifteen or so years.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey that got Mohler’s attention, the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent. The Jewish population is 1.2 percent; the Muslim, 0.6 percent.

So let’s see, atheists make up 15%, Jews make up 1.2%, Muslims make up barely 0.6%, and Christians still make up 76% of the country, but it’s THE END folks. Silly, silly, silly.

Though it should be added, American Christianity deserves this after their culture wars over the past 30 years. They never understood that warring against others rarely turns them to your side. Normally when you “go to war” against someone, you’re not going there to turn their opinion to yours, but you are going there to “defeat” THEIR view.

Maybe American Christians will learn to get back to the basics and follow Jesus Christ first, and not try to constantly be at war against someone else, constantly pretend to be the victim all the time. Maybe then they won’t be considered “ended.”

Even Bill O’Reilly Thinks Glenn Beck is Insane

April 5, 2009 at 7:34 am | Posted in American politics | 11 Comments

When Bill O’Reilly is a voice of reason on Fox News, that tells you just how insane and off the rocker Glenn Beck really is.

I feel sorry for these Skousen type wierdos. Their war is over and they just can’t let go. It’s like porn for them. They’re so addicted. They’ve got no real boogeyman to fight against today so they hearken back to the only enemy they know: Communism! or…maybe it was Fascism! It is so sad that so many Americans actually listen to this kind of person, and actually believe his propaganda.

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