God's Politics

God's Politics


Jim Wallis: Evangelicals Against Torture

posted by gp_intern

The struggle against torture and cruel treatment of prisoners by the U.S. received a major boost this week. In its recently concluded meeting, the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors last weekend endorsed an important new statement – An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Human Rights in an Age of Terror.

The statement begins:

From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies. This commitment has been tested in the war on terror, as a public debate has occurred over the moral legitimacy of torture and of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held by our nation in the current conflict. We write this declaration to affirm our support for detainee human rights and our opposition to any resort to torture.

Then follow sections on the scriptural grounding, human rights, the ethical implications of human rights, and international law and treaties regarding human rights. The statement was drafted by a group of evangelical ethicists, theologians, and pastors, and is carefully researched and coherently argued. Its conclusion is four fundamental declarations:

(a) We renounce the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by any branch of our government (or any other government)—even in the current circumstance of a war between the United States and various radical terrorist groups.

(b) We call for the extension of basic human rights and procedural protections to all persons held in United States custody now or in the future, wherever and by whomever they are held.

(c) We call for every agency of the United States government to join with the United States military and to state publicly its commitment to the terms of the Geneva Conventions related to the treatment of prisoners, especially Common Article 3.

(d) We call for the legislative or judicial reversal of those executive and legislative provisions that violate the moral and legal standards articulated in this declaration.

A new Web site has been launched, Evangelicals for Human Rights. It seeks to “to reaffirm the centrality of human rights as an unshakable biblical obligation fundamental to an evangelical Christian social and moral vision.” The site provides resources for churches and organizations, current legislation on torture, and news developments.

An Associated Press story on the statement was titled, Evangelicals Condemn Torture. I urge you to read the declaration and add your name.



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Paul

posted March 15, 2007 at 5:43 pm


Good for the evangelicals.Sort of amazing that the Bush administration, which, I bet if anyone did a tally uses more faith-talk/God-talk than any previous presidency at least in my lifetime, can’t see this for themselves – the incompatibility of torture with, say, “What would Jesus do?” Just a bit of a “disconnect” I think…



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Payshun

posted March 15, 2007 at 6:35 pm


I agree w/ these evangelicals. p



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justintime

posted March 15, 2007 at 6:37 pm


We should all sign the ‘Evangelicals Condemn Torture’ petition.But there are four traitors at the heart of the criminal Bush administration’s embrace of torture: 1. Dick Cheney, warmonger and war profiteer, who ordered the destruction of an entire intelligence network. Cheney is at 18% approval. He may tip over any day. If he doesn’t resign he should be impeached, tried and convicted. 2. Karl Rove, political operative, who plotted to eliminate America’s Constitutional balance of powers and thereby achieve permanent rule of America by a fascist Republican Party. Congress is homing in on Rove for his scheme to fire our Federal Prosecutors and replace them with cronies and stooges. Pressure is building to put Rove under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He won’t survive this. 3. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who asserted that the Geneva Convention is “quaint” and executed Rove’s plan to politicize the Federal Justice system. I don’t think perjurer Gonzales will last another week. 4. John Yoo, Professor of Law at Berkeley, who provided bogus legal opinions (theory of the unitary executive, torture is not really torture if the president orders it and anything the president does is legal) that support Bush’s fantasy of unlimited power to wage preemptive war and ignore the rule of law. John Yoo should be fired from his position teaching outlaw theory to young law students. America’s torture scandal will not end until these traitors are purged from our government, tried for their crimes, convicted, serve their sentences and be banned from government service for the rest of their natural lives. The worst president in American history would be nothing without them. .



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Kristopher

posted March 15, 2007 at 7:37 pm


What is the definition of torture? What is the definition of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment? What do you think should be allowed during the interrogation of believed terrorists? I am not saying that I am an advocate for torture, but I don’t think that some of the methods used by the interrogators could necessarily be defined as torture.”Congress is homing in on Rove for his scheme to fire our Federal Prosecutors and replace them with cronies and stooges. Pressure is building to put Rove under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He won’t survive this.” I find it funny that you mention a non-story. Your predictions are hilarious.



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justintime

posted March 15, 2007 at 8:12 pm


Kris, Torture is defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”In addition to state sponsored torture, individuals or groups may also inflict torture on others for similar reasons, however, the motive for torture can also be for the sadistic gratification of the torturer Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of effecting religious conversion or political re-education. Nevertheless in the 21st Century torture is almost universally considered to be an extreme violation of human rights, as stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.Signatories of the UN Convention Against Torture agree not to intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering on anyone, to obtain information or a confession, to punish them, or to coerce them or a third person. In times of war signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention agree not to torture protected persons (POWs and enemy civilians) in armed conflicts. If you think the firing of Federal Prosecutors for political motives is a non story, just stay tuned. .



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kevin s.

posted March 15, 2007 at 9:11 pm


And the definition of severe mental and physical harm is the subject of this debate, which has gone back and forth. But it is not clear to me what they believe constitutes torture. If the NAE statement specifically mentioned barking dogs or 54 degree conditions, I suspect they would lose a lot of support for their position.There’s a lot of smoke here, but not much fire.



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justintime

posted March 15, 2007 at 9:18 pm


Kevin’s personal conscience vanished in a cloud of smoke. Now Kevin is on the dark side of torture. I hope he never gets tortured. .



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mark

posted March 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm


Kevin says: “But it is not clear to me what they believe constitutes torture. If the NAE statement specifically mentioned barking dogs or 54 degree conditions, I suspect they would lose a lot of support for their position.” A couple of days ago, on a different subject, Kevin was disapproving of “relativism” and linking it with “liberals”. Now, I don’t know what Kevin means by either term – they are both so slippery and context-dependent that actually he could have meant anything – so I may be way off track here, but to me the statement above looks very much like articulation of a belief that moral relativism is practiced by (presumably) non-“liberals”. Any comments, Kevin? (Silly question) Mark



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KathyG

posted March 15, 2007 at 9:58 pm


Kevin I think you can count intimidation of people with dogs when they cannot escape as torture. Waterboarding someone so they think they are drowning is torture. Face it the majority of things that happened at Abu Ghraib were torture to any compassionate person. Abu Gonzales, Bush, Cheney et al have no compassion at all by any stretch of the imagination. Kevin I think it’s pretty easy to say if you were held someplace hooded with electrodes attached to your genitals thinking you are going to be electrocuted that you would tend to think you were tortured at the very least.



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Erin

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:05 pm


I added my name. Anyone watch the Ghosts of Abu Ghraib documentary on HBO this past month? It was really eye-opening. I highly recommend it as a “must watch” if you are entering a debate about torture and want to be informed about our US involvement in allowing torture for detenees. And if you believe that Abu Ghraib was an “animal house” moment for a “few” rebel US troops you have just cheapened our well trained military and its well sanctioned leadership. If we want to herald in democracy and be against the “evils” of terrorists we need to not take up their “evil” terrorist-like tactics.



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Wolverine

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:09 pm


If I might chime in here: Kevin is accused of being hypocritical because he criticizes liberals for relativism on one hand, then on the other hand points out the lack of specfics in the NAE’s statement on torture. There is no hypocrisy, because there is no conflict. It is not “relativism” to call on the President’s critics for a bill of particulars. The NAE has issued a fine statement of general principles, but if I were an administration official who respected the NAE’s position on these things, I cannot tell just what the NAE wants us to do or cease doing from this statement. The statement says that “our moral vision has blurred since 9/11.” This might be true, but it only begs the question: What would we be doing differently if our moral vision were clearer? And who is the “we” here? Evangelicals? The Bush administration? America in general? Kevin has a point: the vagueness of this statement might be the effect of political compromise within the NAE. This sort of murky language is the exact opposite of prophetic, and opens up the possibility that NAE’s leadership are trying to paper over significant internal divisions. We’ve had this conversation before, and I’ll repeat what I said then: details matter. Wolverine



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sarah

posted March 15, 2007 at 10:25 pm


I’m signing, kudos to all who make a stand.



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kevin s.

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:30 pm


“A couple of days ago, on a different subject, Kevin was disapproving of “relativism” and linking it with “liberals”. Not really, but Wolverine is correct that it isn’t really germane to this discussion.”Face it the majority of things that happened at Abu Ghraib were torture to any compassionate person. ” Absolutely. They were also prosecuted. And that raises a question as to what the NAE has in mind here. Are they speaking out against Abu Ghraib? Waterboarding? Are they assuming that the United States is actively torturing enemy combatants? Under what circumstances? Why be vague instead of specific?”And if you believe that Abu Ghraib was an “animal house” moment for a “few” rebel US troops you have just cheapened our well trained military and its well sanctioned leadership.” Is this to say you think the problem is more widespread, or that they were just following orders from on high? If it is the former, I don’t see how it cheapens our military to disagree. If it is the latter, what would be the point?



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Doug7504

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:37 pm


Too much rhetoric! Too much debate about “fine points” of law, definitions and degrees of torture, blah,blah blah. 1. Personalize this issue. If YOU were imprisoned, what would you consider severe pain or suffering? 2. What lengths do YOU feel are appropriate to elicit information? Would YOU be willing to apply them to another human being?3. And once you’ve decided this for yourself, stand before Christ and explain what you’ve done. We are called to justify our actions to Him, not to others. 4. Pray for peace!



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Wolverine

posted March 15, 2007 at 11:59 pm


Regarding vagueness: there is a longer statement on the website that clears up some questions. Wolverine



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Deryll

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:03 am


["Face it the majority of things that happened at Abu Ghraib were torture to any compassionate person. " Absolutely. They were also prosecuted. And that raises a question as to what the NAE has in mind here.] kevin s I think the belief is that a few peons were sacrificed and prosecuted; but that the problem was/is mostly ignored.



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justintime

posted March 16, 2007 at 12:12 am


Deryll gets it. The fish rots from the head down. Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and others are complicit in war crimes. Perhaps they will be judged at the International War Crimes Tribunal. .



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 1:12 am


Having read the full statement, there aare aspects of this document that I find troubling, in particular paragraph 6.14 of the longer statement. Paragraph 6.14 goes beyond the subject of torture to discuss the proper legal procedures for the detainment of prisoners of war. In the process, it calls for the extension of habeus corpus rights to prisoners of war, a procedure that has rarely been extended to POWs in the past. Aside from the habeus corpus question itself, there is the problem that the shorter summary on the EHR website does not mention the POW question. Well meaning persons, opposing torture but retaining reservations about extending habeus rights, might be induced into signing this statement, unaware of the full contents of the statement. While I do not believe that EHR is being intentionally deceptive, there is the appearance that some sort of “bait and switch” is going on and this appearance should be avoided. Personally, I believe that the current legal protections for POWs, which include review by the federal court of appeals, are sufficient without the extension of habeus corpus rights. Consequently I recommend to my evangelical friends that they refrain from signing this statement. Wolverine



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tim the tinker

posted March 16, 2007 at 1:38 am


I ask: would I want this done to me, if I were POW? (do unto others) I remember: information or confessions extracted by torture are not reliable or trustworthy. An expert can get anyone to say ANYTHING after60 seconds. Dubya, Dick and all the lackeys have really shown their character on this one.



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Don

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:18 am


Wolverine: The problem with your argument is that our government in its wisdom (carefully extracting tongue from cheek–done!) had decided that the detainees aren’t really prisoners of war. They’re calling them “enemy combatants” and they’re trying to deny them even the usual legal protections normally given to POWs. They have even been denying these protections to American citizens that they classify as enemy combatants (e.g., Jose Pedilla). This terminology error may be a fault of the evangelical torture document as well. I haven’t read it. Does Par. 6.14 use the term ‘prisoner of war’? And denying habeus rights to some of the detainees held at places like Guantanamo is problematic. Without charging them with anything, they have been held in communcado, with no right of legal representation and no chance to require the government give the court reason why they should still be detained without being charged with a crime. Since they aren’t, by the government’s own definition, POWs, they should be given at least that right. The government should have to prove that someone is potentially dangerous in order to detain that person indefinitely. This practice just goes against the entire American legal system and tradition, IMO. Later,



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MikeJ

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:03 am


KathyG said: “Waterboarding someone so they think they are drowning is torture.” Waterboarding does not merely make somebody think they are drowning. They are actually drowning. If lucky, the torturers will pull them out before they die, but the drowning is real.



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:12 am


Don, Your point is well taken. “POW” is not the precise term that the administration uses, mainly because, in many cases, our enemies do not observe the customs of war outlined by the Geneva conventions themselves. But the obvious question is: how do we know that the people we are detaining are enemy combatants — legal or otherwise? I agree that there should be some mechanism to oversee the military commissions, which is why we have review to the DC Circuit. I believe this is appropriate; it’s more than we have extended to most persons captured on past battlefields and a lot more than our enemy is extending to our captured soldiers. This is supposed to be a statement on torture, but the procedure for determining the legality of detaining prisoners goes well beyond the question of torture. You don’t need to be tortured to make a case for being released, you just need to argue that you were not a combatant. Intentional or not, the NAE is confusing two seperate issues. I’ll admit this is a tough call. It would bother me less if the summary were to mention directly that the habeas issue was part of the full statement. Wolverine



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c kitty

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:23 am


It’s just a little pathetic that a Christian organization had to come out with a detailed statement that they are against torture. It is something that should have been unquestionably on the Christian top ten DO NOT DO list for all the world to see. Christians are supposed to reflect the love of Christ and that is incompatible with any sort of torture.Just shows how far afield the so-called church leaders have lead the flock in their preoccupation to judge gays,punish unmarried mothers and elect Republicans.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:37 am


Cheney; If he doesn’t resign he should be impeached, tried and convicted. Remember what happened to our government at the last impeachment. Rove; “He won’t survive this.” If anything happens he will be pardoned, quit chasing all this around. “I don’t think perjurer Gonzales will last another week.” He is expendable. “The worst president in American history would be nothing without them.” They serve at the pleasure of the president. You are pointing at the wrong people.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:41 am


What is the definition of torture? What is the definition of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment? What do you think should be allowed during the interrogation of believed terrorists?The question is; what is, is? If you don’t know what torture is you won’t know what is, is.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:51 am


Kevin’s personal conscience vanished in a cloud of smoke. Now Kevin is on the dark side of torture. I hope he never gets tortured. . justintime I’ve been saying he is on the dark side but no one listens. Many thought what was important were the words I used to describe the devil. Maybe what is, is is the dark side. I take great comfort knowing we finally have a moral president in the White House. I quote Ralph Reed.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:56 am


“they are both so slippery” When will you get it, that is Kevin’s job to be slippery, dodge, change the focus of the discussion, make excuses. As long as you give him time his work is done.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:05 am


We’ve had this conversation before, and I’ll repeat what I said then: details matter. Wolverine Remember Maranda rights, we have to describe torture precisely or it isn’t torture and everyone goes home.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:21 am


“Are they assuming that the United States is actively torturing enemy combatants? Under what circumstances? Why be vague instead of specific? ” Kevin This will be on the test, if you are vague you will be marked off for vagueness.Now how vague is vague, I don’t know! I used to think I had some idea of what torture was now I don’t know what is is? This is very confusing. I thought you said “make them take off their clothes, then pile them up and sit on the bitches.” The other guy thought you said “sic the bitch on that nude pile of Iraqi’s”. Rather than not follow orders we did both, man you should have seen the look on that guys face, buck naked looking at that dogs teeth.



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:29 am

Donny

posted March 16, 2007 at 2:12 pm


You Progressives are the Wolves in Sheep’s clothing mentioned of in the New Testament. You don’t want adult murderous humans tortured, but, it’s OK to hack unborn and innocent children humna tp pieces because their mom and dad don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. Until “you” Progressives tell Muslims to stop torturing non-Muslims worldwide and do something to stop them, you are just a loud gong banging away for your own vapid self-interests. Also, Evangelicals are against the torture of children in public schools from Liberal Progressive politics, that have our schools a den of iniquity. Time for a little consistency Mr. and Mrs. (and Life-partnered) Progressives.



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:31 pm

Lot's friend.

posted March 16, 2007 at 3:44 pm


Here are links to a type of torture being implemented on innocent US children. No parents allowed to help these children: http://massresistance.org/docs/events06/nnhs_1206/index.html Or go to: massresistance.org (main page)



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Steve

posted March 16, 2007 at 5:47 pm


I’m glad that these evangelicals are against torture. But why aren’t they coming out against the war as a whole? Does not this very war, which has included indefensible torture, violate every principle of Christian ethics?



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:28 pm


Steve, You might want to have a look at: http://www.amazon.com/Just-War-Against-Terror-American/dp/0465019110 cheers, Paul



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:50 pm


Butch: “When will you get it, that is Kevin’s job to be slippery, dodge, change the focus of the discussion, make excuses.” Yes, but unlike some of his rightwing comrades, Kevin is clearly capable of intelligent discussion. (Btw, Donny’s latest post makes me wonder if he is Sasha Baron Cohen’s latest creation…) So back to the issue of moral relativism. Sorry, Kevin and Wolverine, but it looks pretty clear to me that that is where you (or your constituency at least) are at on this one. The way it works is this: (1) From the list of torture techniques which your country’s operatives have been reported to use, choose a couple that look to be on the less extreme end of the spectrum. (2) Refer to them without reference to context or duration so that they sound rather less extreme than they are. (Fyi, Kevin, I call this spin. I could call it a lot of much less pleasant names, and I’m sure plenty of torture victims do so, but I won’t. What do you call it?) (3) Your (generally ill-informed) constituency will then think of them as not being torture and hence OK to use in certain circumstances. (4) Hence we reach a situation in which you feel able to justify torture in some circumstances. That, I suggest, is not just relativism but relativism underpinned by at the very least self-deception. Mark



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 6:59 pm


To deny habeas corpus to POWs in a war with no end (which, it seems, is what both Islamic militants and the US military-industrial complex want) is different from denying it in a war of finite length. Justice infinitely deferred is justice denied. Mark



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Richard Weber

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:05 pm


the statement on torture would have more credibility had you included a strong statement against abortion—double standards?



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:05 pm


Re vagueness: Personally, I would have liked the document to have included an annexe listing and describing all torture techniques commonly used anywhere in the world at present, including for each the best information available as to (i) whether it has been reliably reported to have been used by US operatives, (ii) whether it has been reliably reported to have been used by regimes to which US operatives have “rendered” their suspects, (iii) whether it has been on the curriculum at the School of the Americas or whatever it’s called this week. But church statements and reports generally aren’t too good at that sort of detail. Sometimes (but not always) you get precision about doctrine, but seldom about anything else… Mark



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:07 pm


Btw, has anyone else had difficulties posting here? I tried several times yesterday and got a blank screen after I pressed publish. Today I’ve sent 3 messages (4 if this one works) with no problem. Mark



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:13 pm


Lot’s friend considers the programme described at http://massresistance.org/docs/e…1206/ index.html to be torture. Isn’t that bending definitions just a little too far. Misinformation, yes (probably). Maybe even attempted indoctrination. But torture???? Mark



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:14 pm


Mark, You realize this game works in reverse: 1. Announce that you have written a statement on torture. 2. Include statements that go well beyond the subject of torture, such as the use of habeas corpus. Bury these in the back of a longish document and do not call attention to these in summaries or initial press releases. 3. Well-meaning evangelicals (and probably a few non-evangelicals) sign what they understand to be a statement against torture. 4. Later, present full statement to media, and/or political leaders, proclaiming that x number of evangelicals want habeas rights extended to all detainees. Now, let me reiterate: I don’t really think that the NAE did this on purpose. I think, in their zeal to protect human rights, they conflated the two issues. But then, I don’t think conservatives are doing what you accuse us of either. I think what’s going on is we are opposed to the more extreme methods, but want to leave our armed forces with some reasonable methods to get information out of detainees. Tell you what: I’ll give you guys the benefit of the reasonable doubt as to your motives if you’ll extend the same to us. Wolverine



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Steve

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:22 pm


Responding to paul: “Steve, You might want to have a look at: http://www.amazon.com/Just-War-A…n/dp/ 0465019110 cheers, Paul” What if one rejects the just war theory, as I do, and as many other Christians do? Certainly not all evangelicals accept this? I firmly believe that the just war theory contradicts Jesus’ teachings against non-violence. If evangelicals are so thoroughly rooted in scripture, as they claim to be, why aren’t more opposing this war on scriptural grounds? It does no good to oppose torture without opposing the war itself.



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Erin

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:28 pm


I saw an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski (probably one of the greatest strategic political thinkers of our time) whose book is coming out soon and it is called, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower He has some refreshing things to say about what it means to be moral superpower and how we have squandered that place we once held because we have not taken the lead with humility, wisdom or regard for others. You cannot be moral leaders if you use immoral means (torture, unjustified wars). It just doesn’t work. We should have strengthened our allies (through wise & creative diplomatic reasoning) and scattered the resolve of our adversaries (by uniting against them).. instead we have scattered our allies from us and strengthened the resolve of our adversaries. How has that helped us? Are we not going next into Iran? Then Pakistan? When will it end? Do our children bear the brunt both physically and financially of a continued ground war that will never end in our lifetimes?



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:30 pm


Wolverine: “Tell you what: I’ll give you guys the benefit of the reasonable doubt as to your motives if you’ll extend the same to us.” I’d be interested to know who you mean by “you guys”.



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:31 pm


Mark asked: Isn’t that bending definitions just a little too far. Misinformation, yes (probably). Maybe even attempted indoctrination. But torture???? This was in relation to a gay awareness day at a Massachusetts high school. I agree that this probably doesn’t constitute torture, but it’s important to understand why. There is an undercurrent that seems to suggest that anything a detainee objects to may be considered torture: one person asked: “If YOU were imprisoned, what would you consider severe pain or suffering?” and another poster wrote “I ask: would I want this done to me, if I were POW?” Now I think it’s fair to say that a lot of kids were probably made very uncomfortable and offended by the gay awareness day, but it didn’t rise to the level of torture. Why? Because we know better than to simply accept their assessment of how badly they suffered. Look, if I were a prisoner I’d be tempted to do whatever I could to either get out or get the best treatment I could while I was in there. If I could get sympathy for it, I’d scream “INHUMANE!” if I asked for Coke and got Pepsi instead. It is a good thing to try to think of the best interests of detainees, but they aren’t the only people with rights here, and their rights do not trump all other concerns. By all means we should avoid torture, but that does not mean that the prisoners should be permitted to run the prison. Wolverine



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:38 pm


Steve, Thanks for the reply. I understand that you reject the theory. Others who are trying to deal with the text with integrity have come to a different conclusion. The discussion is bigger and more complicated than can be dealt with properly in this forum. If you are interested in the reasons, then you can examine the rational. If you are not interested in looking at the reasons, then all we are left with is a shouting match, which in my view will not help anyone. cheers, Paul



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:39 pm


Wolverine says: “I think what’s going on is we are opposed to the more extreme methods, but want to leave our armed forces with some reasonable methods to get information out of detainees.” Which is just a nicely-spun way of saying what I was saying – you find torture acceptable sometimes but not at other times. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt: maybe you are deceiving yourselves rather than deliberately trying to deceive the rest of us. I note, however, a certain lack of specifics in your position. Which techniques are acceptable, and which aren’t. When are they acceptable and when aren they not? On what criteria do you decide? Mark



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Erin

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:40 pm


ARGH. Seriously! How come homosexuality and abortion is talked about in EVERY post here. We are talking about torture within the context of war. I understand there are many, many other topics of moral importance to Christians… but could we leave those discussions for commenting on appropriate blogs (which there are plenty by the way in this blogosphere) and could we at least agree to not name call or assume someone’s a “heathen” (or “wolves in sheeps clothing”) based on a comment someone makes on a blog.



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Steve

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:43 pm


Responding to Paul: I am well acquainted with the rationale of just war theory–I have a Ph.D. in medieval history and advanced degrees in religion. My point is that it ignores Jesus’ very clear teachings. And aren’t they supposedly authoritative for evangelicals? Or is this another case of evangelicals doing what all other Christians do–choose which passages of the Bible they like, and which they will ignore? Can you really, truly believe that Jesus supports this war? Would Jesus say, “Deus vult”?



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Erin

posted March 16, 2007 at 7:58 pm


Steve – well put.



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butch

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:18 pm


“whether it has been on the curriculum at the School of the Americas or whatever it’s called this week.” Mark I trained these tin soldiers while in the Army and was able to see them pop up in Central and S American governments. Now you want me to play nice with these people, I’ve been to many places and seen to many things. These are really important matters and gentle polite intelligent discussion may not reveal motives. If this is an academic exercise for you fine but it isn’t for me.



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm


Steve, Just war does not contradict Jesus teachings, because Jesus teachings were mainly directed at the church (via the disciples) while just war theory pertains to the actions of the state. Evangelicals are not bound simply by Christ’s teachings, but by their understanding of the scriptures as a whole. Wolverine



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:22 pm


Steve, Have you read C.S.Lewis “Why I am not a pacifist”? I’m not sure how helpful trotting out CV’s is as others who can claim similar credentials have different views. Both sides must be cautious of their “canon’s within canon’s”. Some are content to deny that Jesus was the God of Abraham Issac and Jacob, by declaring the “older testament” irrelivant. Others have problems with that position. Again, a much bigger issue than can be effectively dealt with in this forum. Dr. Jeffries has a good discussion of the problems associated with simplistic assumptions about Jesus ethics in: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Even-Forgiveness-Its-Limits/dp/0195151496 cheers Paul



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:25 pm


Sorry, Make that Dr. Jeffrie Murphy cheers, Paul



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Sarasotakid

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:45 pm


Kevin S: ” And the definition of severe mental and physical harm is the subject of this debate, which has gone back and forth.But it is not clear to me what they believe constitutes torture. If the NAE statement specifically mentioned barking dogs or 54 degree conditions, I suspect they would lose a lot of support for their position.There’s a lot of smoke here, but not much fire.” Very aptly put by the naysayers. Keep on playing the harp while Rome burns, Nero! Muddy the waters with your definitions. kevin s.



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Steve

posted March 16, 2007 at 8:56 pm


Responding to Paul: Steve, Have you read C.S.Lewis “Why I am not a pacifist”? No, I haven’t, but then I’ve never been impressed with Lewis. I find him overly simplistic and unable to think outside the box. There are much better Christian thinkers than him. Just based on the title, he again sounds like everyone else who picks and chooses what passages they like and don’t like. Steve



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Wolverine

posted March 16, 2007 at 9:03 pm


Mark wrote: I note, however, a certain lack of specifics in your position. Which techniques are acceptable, and which aren’t. When are they acceptable and when aren they not? On what criteria do you decide? Very clever. Here’s the thing though: You’re the one making accusations, not me. You’re the one demanding large-scale changes in policy, not me. Consequently, you are the one who needs to say precisely what the administration ought to be doing differently, or precisely where it went out of bounds. Yeah, it sucks, but life’s tough sometimes for those who would provide the rest of us with moral instruction. Wolverine



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Paul

posted March 16, 2007 at 9:04 pm


Steve, Ah, the Ad Hominem. . . Have a good day. cheers, Paul



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 11:00 pm


Wolverine, you disappoint me. I was hoping that you would come up with a carefully thought-out set of principles to form the basis of a “just torture theory”. [And then someone like Jean Bethke Elshtain could distort it to justify just about any torture that US operatives might wish to commit.] But you – like your government, and like the rest of the US authoritarian right – are apparently unable to do so. So you want to know what I think your government should do. The answer is quite simple. No torture. No rendering of suspects to regimes which practice torture. No indefinite holding without charge or without right of legal representation by a lawyer of ones choice. No teaching of torture techniques. Full and independent scrutiny of all US facilities where abuse of human rights is even a remote possibility. You cannot hope to win the “hearts and minds” battle against militant islamism by getting down in the gutter with them. If you do the above, you will at least begin to win back a bit of respect for your country in a world where it is viewed with steadily increasing contempt and mistrust. But if you continue to justify torture then you have already lost. Mark



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Sonja Dupee

posted March 16, 2007 at 11:02 pm


I applaud the efforts of the evangelicals against torture of human beings. We have to remember that we are all cut from that same human cloth that determines our fabric of character. WE have to remember that someone like Hitler did not descend from another planet but was born of a woman and somehow through the practice of dehumanization of others was able to torture without conscience or guilt. What makes us think that if we, who are also born of a woman and just so happen to be Americans that somehow we can torture others and convinced ourselves that it is justified without sacrificing our own unique conscience and eqilibrium and balance of justice. We will wake up one day and look into the mirror and wonder how we became a nation of barbarians. If we were to adopt the philosophy of our “enemy” we will begin to take form and shape and there would be no measure of distinction. There would be a heavy price to pay in the future if we practice inhumane tactics. We will not escape without losing our very own character of conscience.



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 11:52 pm


Re definition of torture, the Evangelicals for Human Rights petition does actually address this quite better than I’d realised, at http://www.evangelicalsforhumanrights.org/pb/wp_cc181820/wp_cc181820.html?0.5505599196444173 . Maybe the most useful thing they say is: “If the proposed approach technique were used by the enemy against one of your fellow soldiers, would you believe the soldier had been abused?”



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mark

posted March 16, 2007 at 11:53 pm


Up to a point, I think Wolverine it right when he says that “Just war does not contradict Jesus teachings, because Jesus teachings were mainly directed at the church (via the disciples) while just war theory pertains to the actions of the state.” But that causes a bit of a problem for someone who is both a member of the government and a disciple of Jesus. I think we can legitimately expect governments not to practice torture, but war and preparedness for war is almost part of the definition of what the state is. Because the state, in common with all human institutions, is subject to the fall, and so is in rebellion against God (and packing its higher echelons with Christians doesn’t change that). For me, “the things which are God’s” have to come first – Jesus’ demands on me as a disciple come before any human institution’s expectations of loyalty. Those demands include nonviolence rooted in His love, and no amount of reference to the needs of the state, or the ruthlessness of the enemy, or the bloody massacres in the Old Testament can change that. Maybe that appears to make the just war theory irrelevant. But, actually, it doesn’t. There is a role for it. It provides a summary of the criteria which we can urge on our governments. And when we look at the classic just war criteria we find that none of the recent wars pursued by western powers is just. Some (e.g. Bosnia) can be argued to have a just cause, but none has been pursued in a just way. For a respectful pacifist look at just war theory, see John Howard Yoder’s “When War is Unjust”. For a critique of the line of argument pursued in the book that Paul recommended, see Michael Northcott’s “An Angel Directs the Storm”, pp154-155. Mark



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butch

posted March 17, 2007 at 12:35 am


Full and independent scrutiny of all US facilities where abuse of human rights is even a remote possibility.” What would be wrong with recording everything we do and show the americian people? I’m talking about everywhere not just where we get caught. We decide what we want our government to do, let us decide.



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Wolverine

posted March 17, 2007 at 4:41 am


Mark, Sorry to disappoint you. There really isn’t much of a “theory of just torture, just a hypothetical and a debate over where the line between torture and tough interrogation actually lies. The hypothetical is the “ticking time bomb”. You have a prisoner who has knowledge of the location of a powerful bomb that is set to go off shortly. If you get the information quickly enough you can prevent it from detonating, otherwise hundreds of innocent persons are certain to die. In that situation I’m not sure torture is justified but I’ll admit I would find it hard to condemn the intelligence officer who resorted to torture to get the information. But it should also be noted that this is an extreme and desperate situation, and it would be up to the defense to convince me that the death toll would be extreme and there were no other realistic options. As for our justification of what we like to call “rough interrogation methods”, I guess it’s based on the following observation: persons have human rights but I’m not sure that includes the right to maintain the secrets of terrorist conspiracies after capture. That means that a prisoner who has ties to Al Qaeda cannot realistically expect not to be questioned about those ties, nor can he expect that there will be no consequences if he elects not to cooperate. Of course, what those consequnces ought and ought not be is a whole other question. Wolverine



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Butch

posted March 17, 2007 at 6:05 am


“In that situation I’m not sure torture is justified but I’ll admit I would find it hard to condemn the intelligence officer who resorted to torture to get the information.” Wolv Either torture is ok or not, we cannot operate a civil society based on what I might do if my family was in the building.



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Wolverine

posted March 17, 2007 at 6:47 am


Butch: I don’t know what “my family” being in the building has to do with anything. As a matter of law, I’d be prevented from serving on a jury, or a court-martial panel, in any case involving a family member. But jury nullification is a fact of our system of law and has been since the founding of this country. A jury is free to ignore the law and acquit a criminal defendant. The defense cannot suggest this — the jury has to do this on its own — but once the jury has its instructions there is nothing to prevent them from wadding them up into a ball and chucking them out the window if in it’s collective wisdom it concludes that applying the law strictly would be unjust to the defendant. That’s the power that a jury has. That’s how our system works. And if I was an a jury trying a man who resorted to torture, and in the process the defense can convince me that he saved several hundred lives, I’m going to have a damned hard time voting to convict. But then, I place some value on the lives of people who are not terrorists. If you placed some value on the lives of innocents, well, maybe you would agree with me, maybe you wouldn’t, but at least you’d understand that this would be a tough call. Wolverine



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Bren

posted March 17, 2007 at 6:52 am


Torture is wrong under any circumstance. It’s obviously wrong for the person tortured; it’s also wrong for the torturer who loses his own humanity in carrying out such dehumanizing acts. I, too, saw an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski. He’s very clear that the U. S. has lost its moral power and he’s dubious that the U.S. can regain that moral power. It’s also important to remember that the U.S. has trained others to torture, often on behalf of the U.S. American involvement in Pakistan’s torturing of its own citizens, of Afghanistan’s torturing of its own citizens, with many of those citizens having been identified by American sources who don’t want to do the dirty work themselves…I could go on, but it’s too depressing. If you haven’t already done this, you might find it instructive to read English newspapers on the Internet, just to get a different perspective on what the U.S. does. By English, I mean “published in England”. It might prompt you to alter your perspective on what the U.S. does–at the very least it would show you how much respect the U.S. has LOST throughout the world. And why.



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connie

posted March 17, 2007 at 3:09 pm


Thank you for this blog. It is about time someone stood up and said that the Religious Right does not have a monopoly on prounouncing what God does or does not want in the world, or what it does or doesn’t mean to be a “Christian”. They have given Christians everywhere a bad name with their focus on discrimination against gays and so called “morality.” I am a straight middle aged person who feels the Christian right, with its message of intolerance and judgmental and often hypocritical approach, has given the word “Christian” a bad name. I am proud to be a member of the Christian “left” and am thankful to see some sanity coming from the so-called “Evangelical” Christian movement.



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Payshun

posted March 17, 2007 at 7:01 pm


I know that torture is not ok but I wonder if I would not employ if the need arose. Anyway I am not strictly a pacifist even though I do support non-violence. It works.I think one thing that needs to be said here is that we can’t live in a world of hypotheticals for the sake of fake security. Either we trust God and prepare accordingly or we don’t. I think that’s what faith is. p



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Deno Reno

posted March 17, 2007 at 10:13 pm


Under torture enemy prisoners will admit to most any thing. like civil criminals who have been sleep deprived plus other unmentionable occuranceslike rubber hoses jailhouse beatings good cop / bad cop ect the prisoners will confess to most any crime WHETHER or__not they committed the crime. It seems to me Truth Serum would be more desirable & Humane than the present system of Torture and Secret Prisons now in place.



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Paul

posted March 17, 2007 at 11:07 pm


Deno Reno, I appreciate your concerns. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a “Truth Serum” Sodium Pentathol does not work as the urban myth would have us believe. If it did, you can be certain that it would be used to get the necessary information. I don’t want to add any more heat here, but I would ask people to consider what they would do if they had the responsibilities for questioning these people, and to consider it in the light that if you were not sucessful in getting the information, many of the people here would be among the first to crucify you for “not putting the dots together”. cheers, Paul



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kevin s.

posted March 18, 2007 at 9:05 am


“Torture is wrong under any circumstance” Any? If I knew my wife would die if I did not torture a person who had arranged for her death, I would torture that person. If I were a woman, i would hate to be married to a man who wouldn’t.



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Augustine

posted March 18, 2007 at 12:37 pm


Deuteronomy 22: 28 If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. 29 Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her Deuteronomy 7:1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations … then you must destroy them totally. 2 Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.Leviticus 21: 9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father; she shall be burnt with fire. I would like to buy into this Bible stuff, but it seems too violent for modern society. What do you guys think?



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Wolverine

posted March 18, 2007 at 5:20 pm


Which gets to the really important point that the more extreme torture opponents need to account for: if you rule out all interrogation methods beyond asking nicely, then what you are saying in practical terms is that known terrorists have a right to keep their secrets, which is not all that far from granting terrorists the right to engage in terrorism, which in turn is tantamount to granting a right to murder. Now that is not to say that there aren’t measures that are so extreme and brutal that they should simply never be used. That’s why we have a legal prohibition against the use of torture and that prohibition — aside from the risk of jury nullification, a risk that attaches to all criminal prosecutions — has real teeth. But torture does not mean deprivation, discomfort, or psychological manipulation, it means severe pain or risk of permanent injury. Anything short of that is “tough interrogation”, not exactly uplifting but acceptable because our government has the prerogative to get information needed to protect the lives of its citizens and soldiers. Now, to really bake your noodle: There’s a case to be made that the interrogator is the terrorist’s best friend — even if the terrorist himself doesn’t know it. After all, by getting the information needed to prevent terror attacks, the interrogator is lessening the guilt that the terrorist will carry with him when he enters the next world. Wolverine



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kevin s.

posted March 18, 2007 at 7:20 pm


As I see it, there are a few prominent angles to this issue. There first, and probably the (albeit silent) majority view that there are circumstances when torture is okay. The attitude is largely utilitarian, in that the number of lives saved must justify the act.The downside to this is that we must then wonder what sort of heinous acts are allowable. If we allow, say, slapping a detainee in the face, can we also justify murdering his daughter in front of him? This question remains unanswered for most.The second is an absolute prohibition of that which might be construed as torture. The positives to this view is that there is an absolute morality, and we can have a clear conscience. The downside is that we are left (as Wolverine mentions above) only with the ability to ask nicely, which essentially grants our enemies the right to keep terrorist secrets.The third view, espoused by the NAE and (at least ostensbily) the Bush administration, is that there are certain actions that are acceptable, by virtue of the fact that they do not constitute torture. The positive to this view is that it allows for common sense to enter the equation. The downside is that we must then define, item by item, what constitutes psychological manipulation, and what constitutes torture.I think the debate ought to start there. This issue is much too complex for the wristband rhetoric (“who would Jesus torture?”) or hyperbole about darkened hearts.



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Carl Copas

posted March 18, 2007 at 8:16 pm


“If I knew my wife would die if I did not torture a person who had arranged for her death, I would torture that person.” So would I, altho that hypothetical is very hypothetical. :) “This issue is much too complex for the wristband rhetoric (“whowould Jesus torture?”) or hyperbole about darkened hearts. On that I agree.



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jerry

posted March 19, 2007 at 12:08 am


here we go again. endless wordsmithing about a well documented and discussed issue. why can’t the nae and wallis just condem torture and move on to a constructive effort at ending torture. for the world. not just “our Government”. have you all forgotten 9/11, the public beheadings, the sadam torture chambers, the rape chambers? the muslim practices regarding women. the schooling of children to hate infidels. where did the nae and wallis comment on those issues? guess i missed those posts. no one on this blog wants to address the world wide effort of muslims to dominate the world by force as laid out by muhammod and the koran. why? what does the nae say about that? wallis? or are the trips to visit iran the final solution? and stop calling this “God’s Politics” this is wallis’ politics.



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Sarasotakid

posted March 19, 2007 at 2:58 pm


I think the debate ought to start there. This issue is much too complex for the wristband rhetoric (“who would Jesus torture?”) or hyperbole about darkened hearts. kevin s.This is consonant with most of your posts, Kevin. Based on the tenor of your past posts, it is clear that your main agenda is to promote the American empire and pax americana. It would appear that you care very little about what God would want done in these circumstances. You dismiss people who speak in those terms as being intellectually lazy.



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Paul

posted March 19, 2007 at 3:13 pm


Sarasotakid, Honestly don’t think that is fair at all. Kevin S has given a rational for his position, and if you disagree with that rational, knowing which parts, and why would be helpful. What you have done here is just namecalling, and not helpful at all. cheers, Paul



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Paul

posted March 19, 2007 at 3:18 pm


Sorry, make that rationale. . . cheers, Paul



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Joseph Tracy

posted March 19, 2007 at 8:49 pm


Below is an excerpt from a column I wrote for a local Vermont paper which speaks to Wolverine’s questions about habeus corpus. The UN Conventons on torture are clear and provide plenty of context, as are the Geneva Conventions. The UN law is also duplicated in American Civil Law which shapes the uniform code of military justice..In other words we have laws against torture The attempts by Cheney, Addington, Yoo and Gonzales to redifine torture fly in the face of 200 years of constitutional law. The Bush Cheney doctrine on this flies under the colors of the unitary executive theory , an emperor with no clothes. Any way here is the excerpt:There is a deep and dark divorce predicated in the Military Comissions Act (which apart from from Rumsfeld, American military leaders rejected with virtual unanimity) . The declaration of independence says that government derives its just power from the consent of the governed. The Constitution is the framework that delegates and defines the limits and extent of that power. It seems to me therefor that any legal action taken by the government must have its limits defined by the Constitution. We cannot arrest anyone and deny them fundamental constitutional rights. Who then would be carrying out the arrest or detention? If the executive branch is not acting within the framework of the Constitution, under the limits of the Constitution, and by the authority of the Constitution, then under what authority are they acting? Is there some America separate from the Constitution? When the executive branch can break treaties and laws without accountability to Congress or the courts, the fabric of the American political system is put in severe jeopardy. Cheney and Bush argue that we are at war. With what country did we declare war? There is no country called Terror, and torture is not a tool to fight terrorism . Torture and arrests without due process are terrorism. America has steered into dark waters and only the courage of citizens who refuse to be bullied by fear mongering can turn things around. I am not arguing here that the Government should not do all it can constitutionally do to prevent and prosecute illegal acts of violence or violent plots. There is plenty of bi-partisan agreement on these goals and plenty of flexibility within our system. But our greatest weapon against violent ideologies is a dedication to a transparent and accountable system of self government through law and justice and equality of rights for all citizens.



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Carl Copas

posted March 19, 2007 at 10:26 pm


Joseph Tracy, you have presented a very thoughtful, and for my money persuasive, argument.



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Sarasotakid

posted March 19, 2007 at 10:30 pm


Sarasota Kid, Honestly don’t think that is fair at all. Kevin S has given a rational for his position, and if you disagree with that rational, knowing which parts, and why would be helpful. What you have done here is just namecalling, and not helpful at all. cheers, Paul PaulWhat name did I call Kevin? I merely described what I perceived to be his underlying objective- namely putting State over the principles of Jesus Christ. That is not name calling. It is a mere statement of where I see Kevin as being. It certainly is provacative but it is not an ad hominem attack. Kevin S is very often provacative in his posts so he should expect provacative replies. Cheers, Sarasota Kid



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Paul

posted March 19, 2007 at 10:47 pm


Sarasotakid, Refusing to address the reasons/rationale and simply attacking the character/motives of a person are by definition ad hominem. Seems like you really don’t understand what that means. Too bad. Provocative is one thing ad hominem is another. cheers, Paul



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Sarasotakid

posted March 19, 2007 at 10:57 pm


Paul, I addressed Kevin’s rationale. Kevin puts State and pax americana over the plain words of Christ. These are values that I do not hold but Kevin does. It is a statement of fact as I see it. Nothing personal. Nothing ad hominem. Thanks for trying to make a point about what constitutes ad hominem and what does not. Unfortunately, I do not see your point as being valid. Cheers.



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evilconservative

posted March 20, 2007 at 5:14 am


Having had to “interrogate” a person once and not getting the information I needed, I once resorted to what some here might call “torture”. He was not harmed, but he sure was scared. I never put a finger on him. But the intimidation was there and more than enough for him to talk. When I let him go, he cried because he gave up the information I needed. Would I do it again if need be? You bet. Would I have gone further than I did if I had to? I act as the situation calls for it. I sleep good at night, no worries here. Most of you have no idea what is at stake and are too squishy to do what needs to be done. You hate the current administration more than anything else. Your whole motivation (hidden behind your liberal “Christian” rhetoric) is to undermine the US and Bush. Your hatred for Bush and the Us overwhelms everything in your thinking. There are people out there that would violently and mercilessly kill your child in front of you just because they can. For no other reason than they can. Wake up Dhimmis. ISLAM IS YOUR ENEMY. They will stop at nothing. You are whining because someone is made to be cold or go hungry at Gitmo? Get upset over what they (muslim terrorists) are doing to their own people, not what the evil Americans are doing. Either that or get a prayer rug and face mecca.



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Paul

posted March 20, 2007 at 5:33 am


Sarasotakid, Hmm, guess I must have missed it. Was his arguement not valid, or not sound? cheers, Paul



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HASH(0x1172bea8)

posted March 20, 2007 at 7:41 am


evilconservative . For somebody who sleeps well you sound like somebody with a troubled conscience. You are in a terrible situatiion and it is easy to understand your anger, but what you are saying sounds pretty extreme. It sounds like you are almost ready to participate in a war against the liberal Christians who are “undermining the US”. We just want to bring you home and end this foolish war. Presidents shouldn’t lie, break the law,and abandon those in need if they want the American people to support them. 70% of Americans don’t trust Bush or believe this war is justified. It is not a judgment on American servicemen and women. It is a judgment about the leaders and ideas that started this war. It is your right and my right, and it is our duty as citizens to evaluate our leaders and their actions and ideas. If they have committed crimes it is our right and duty as citizens of a constitutional democracy to press for impeachment to expose and judge those crimes. If I were you I would use my computer to look up the laws on torture and never cross the line. It is a crime no matter who commits it.



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Thomas Van Zanten

posted March 20, 2007 at 3:46 pm


Jesus would never accept or approve of this administrations evil motives. When selfish motives are behind what is being done in Iraq, the U.S. is bound to fail. How is one to respect a government as ours being lead by war criminals and war mongers. If Bush, Cheney. Rumsfeld and Rice are not war criminals, there ain’t none.



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