God's Politics

God's Politics


‘Ghosts of Abu Ghraib’ (by Chuck Gutenson)

posted by gp_editor

The words of Jesus are unambiguous when it comes to expressing how we
are to love each other–we are to love others as we love ourselves. In
fact, the paradigmatic, the normative test case for Christian love is love
of enemy. In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, Jesus tells us that we
are to love our enemies and to do good to them. Surely we can agree that it
is exceptionally difficult to see how one can genuinely love the other who
is enemy to us at the same time that one is engaged in their torture. In
addition, experts tell us that torture is a very unreliable means of
gathering data. One wonders, then, why so many have allowed fear to drive
them into embracing what surely is a great threat to our own humanity.
I am glad to announce that the National Religious Campaign Against
Torture is making available, free of charge, the film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib to
the first 1,000 churches that are willing to screen the movie in their
community during the week of Oct. 21 to 28. The film, made by HBO, is a masterful
examination of one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.
You can get a copy for your congregation by clicking here. Please forward this link to as many of your friends as you think might be interested. I would be delighted to hear from any of you who decide to show this important movie.
Chuck Gutenson is chief operating officer of Sojourners/Call to Renewal.



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 5, 2007 at 12:13 pm


is a masterful
examination of one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.
============================================
Abu Ghraib is one of the great moral issues of the 21 first century is a stretch .
Actually not too many prisioners have had their heads cut off by us . Its important to examine our treatment of war criminals , and important we don’t become what we claim we are fighting . But we are not called to treat criminals in a fashion that could be considered weakness from their perspective and an encourgament to promote their terror . That is not what the Sermon on the Mount is about .
Balance is needed on this subject .



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James

posted September 5, 2007 at 12:29 pm


While we would say that “Love your enemies” means don’t torture them, that’s because we’re liberal. A “true” Christian would say that the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with national policy, it’s only for interpersonal behavior. A “true” dispensationalist would say the Sermon on the Mount has no authority in the Church Age, but only in the Kingdom Age. A “true” Christian would say that if torture is part of bringing the gospel, then we are loving when we torture, since we are saving their souls. A “true” Christian would say that when God gave nations the authority to bear the sword, that gave nations carte blanche to do anything they want.
We are liberal apostates if we believe that you can’t love your enemies and torture them at the same time.



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jurisnaturalist

posted September 5, 2007 at 1:03 pm


James,
Be careful, lots of people don’t know what satire is! Excellent point.
NS



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kevin s.

posted September 5, 2007 at 1:06 pm


James,
You’ve got some straw on your shirt.
Abu Ghraib is a wholly separate issue from interrogation techniques, in that what happened there was a violation of U.S. law and was prosecuted as such.
I am also unsure what makes this one of the great moral issues of our time. I would rate sexual violence, abortion, school shootings, and a host of other issues above this particular incident, which obviously isn’t an endorsement.



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jerry

posted September 5, 2007 at 1:40 pm


so you think that something would change if all christians agreed but conservative christians are not welcome. only progressive can cause change. so what do we do with all those “other” christians? climb out of your box and stop dissing christians and start dissing the evildoers. do you agree that there is a satan? that there are evil people? take all the ugly injustice, starvation, killing etc. in the world; are christians doing it or is it being done by non christians?



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 5, 2007 at 2:10 pm


We are liberal apostates if we believe that you can’t love your enemies and torture them at the same time.
Posted by: James
=================================================
No James , your just confused if you think
Abu Ghraib is one of the great moral issues of the 21 first century and has anything to do with the sermon on the mount . It has to do with some personality defects and cover ups . Liberal apostates are better then me I realize , because in the name of mercy they show none . I don’t know how to do that .



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Anonymous

posted September 5, 2007 at 2:30 pm


Excellent point.
NS
Which was ? The Sermon on the Mount has to do with some folks with obvious problems , personality disorders I am sure , a cover up and some sentenced to jail for their treatment of prisoners . I would suggest that even with a cover up , and being found out was an example of flawed system that is still better then most .
This has to do with one of the great moral issues of the 21st century ? You seem to be a very intelligent man , you really think this ranks out their with what is happening in the world today , even in the top 1000 ? The United States did not support this behavior , they were embarrassed by it .
Well I will go back to my torture advocay .



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Moderatelad

posted September 5, 2007 at 2:39 pm


is a masterful examination of one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.
Masterful – Great Moral Issues?
OK – Masterful – this is perspective. I have seen part of this and I would not use the word, ‘masterful’.
Great Moral Issues?
Darfur – now there is a great moral issue.
Starvation – poverty, they are great moral issues.
Abu Ghraib was wrong and it was an embarassment. The prisoners in there are still walking around, eating and drinking etc. No heads were cut off, bodies burned and dragged through the streets. Abu Ghraib was more political hay for some than torture. The prisoners were treated wrong and humilated but are very much alive.
Maybe you should get out more?
Blessings -
Moderatelad
.



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jeanne

posted September 5, 2007 at 2:49 pm


“The United States did not support this behavior …”
You are quite correct that many people in the U.S. were indeed “embarrassed” by the brutal and horrific treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib. However, the techniques and conduct of the jailers there has been shown definitively to have been approved U.S. policy, exported from the prison at Guantanamo Bay.



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 5, 2007 at 3:14 pm


jeanne
However, the techniques and conduct of the jailers there has been shown definitively to have been approved U.S. policy, exported from the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
————————————————-
Do you have proof of this ? I do not hear this echoed by Presidential Candidates like Hillary Clinton . Do you have some reading materials on this secret military operation ? I know people in the military , in Iraq , this is new to me or them .
I am sure of abuses , abuses occur in our regular prisons , in fact I have seen studies where college students were imprisoned by other students and the student jailers became quite dis respectful . Thats why its important to have discipline and rules of conduct . But what you are saying is that there is formal training in the military to treat people harshly like was done in this situation .
I assume you are sincere , and you do realize if what you say is un true , it makes it harder to take cricisms at having merit in other areas .
I would say that its more important to hear other peoples views on this from your own politcal leanings , because I believe you are be unfactual with your comments . But it lessens the appeal of Sojourners , you see to me your comments rank up with Pat Robertson saying we should murder the head of another country . It just makes you look like you do not know what is really happening .
But if I was convinced you were telling the truth , I would be as angry about it , and be on your side of the issue . Convince me . Who told you this , where is the proof as they say ?



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Hali

posted September 5, 2007 at 3:43 pm


James wrote,
“We are liberal apostates if we believe that you can’t love your enemies and torture them at the same time.”
Cool. So was Jesus.



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jeanne

posted September 5, 2007 at 3:43 pm


Thank you for your courtesy. Alfred McCoy has a definitive book about the development and spread of abusive interrogation techniques. The book, called “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror” includes his research, with sources of information. You can find out more about him by googling his name.
Also, note that prisoners did die at Abu Ghraib as a result of their treatment there – Human Rights First has exhaustively documented those deaths (www.humanrightsfirst.org).
Also note that torture victims who do not die have severe physical and mental injuries that last for the rest of their lives. That’s why the U.S. joined Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.



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Hali

posted September 5, 2007 at 3:52 pm


“Moderatelad” wrote
“The prisoners were treated wrong and humilated but are very much alive.”
SAN DIEGO – An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6988054/



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Hali

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:06 pm


Moderatelad wrote
“The prisoners were treated wrong and humilated but are very much alive.”
“Reports detail Abu Ghraib prison death; was it torture?
Iraqi had been suspended by his handcuffed wrists, guards tell investigators
By Seth Hettena
Updated: 1:57 p.m. PT Feb 17, 2005
SAN DIEGO – An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that it had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances of the death were not disclosed at the time.”
from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6988054/



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N.M. Rod

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:19 pm


During a discussion of the photos at Abu Ghraib, otherwise kind individuals from our church refused to believe that the photos showed anything wrong.
One white-haired gentleman said that he saw nothing out of order, that they all looked like they were having fun – referring to the one of the prisoners forced into a pile using their sexual organs while naked.
Others said that it was impossible that Americans would do anything wrong and that anything Americans have done is justified.
There just wasn’t anything that could be shown that would shake these persons from their preconceptions. When confronted by the actual photos, most refused to look at them and pretend it did not exist.
I also recall World Magazine – the conservative Christian news weekly – referring to Guantanamo as a “taxpayer-paid beach resort for America’s enemies” in which our enemies get to “loaf on the beach” and work on their tans.
This was at the same time that the torture photos were making the rounds.
I honestly think the reality is just too much for people to stomach and they prefer to remain untouched in their bubble of purported moral superiority. It’s painful because so many revelations fly in the face of what we’ve always been taught and thought we were all about.
This particular exposure is what started me questioning my own “Christian Conservatism’s” assumptions – and they were found, quite painfully to me, wanting.
I hope we can all have the courage to confront ourselves and test our allegiance to the truth.



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kevin s.

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:23 pm


“However, the techniques and conduct of the jailers there has been shown definitively to have been approved U.S. policy, exported from the prison at Guantanamo Bay.”
This isn’t true. However, there is evidence that U.S. military contributed to the death of an Abu Ghraib detainee.



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James

posted September 5, 2007 at 4:39 pm


For situations such as Abu Ghraib, it seems to me we have a clear, direct order from Jesus as to what He wants us to do: “Love your enemies.” I can’t see a way from Jesus’ clear words to justifying the torture Americans committed. Even if you don’t want to call it torture, I don’t see how anyone who listens to Jesus’ words can justify the treatment in those photos.
Please. Start with the words of Jesus and lead me to Abu Ghraib so I can be sure it was the Lord’s will. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?



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squeaky

posted September 5, 2007 at 5:37 pm


“Actually not too many prisioners have had their heads cut off by us .”
This is a tactic I see here often by those who seek to justify U.S.-perpetrated injustices. Point to our enemy’s acts of injustice and that absolves us from ours. It does not absolve us.
“Its important to examine our treatment of war criminals , and important we don’t become what we claim we are fighting . But we are not called to treat criminals in a fashion that could be considered weakness from their perspective and an encourgament to promote their terror .”
If treating prisoners with dignity because they are human beings is a sign of weakness in our enemy’s eyes, then let us be seen as weak in our enemy’s eyes. How is what was done at Abu Graib even remotely justifiable?
“That is not what the Sermon on the Mount is about . ”
Please give me a Biblical exegesis that explains clearly that Jesus would not only condone the torture committed at Abu Graib, but would even perpetrate it.
Thanks



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kevin s.

posted September 5, 2007 at 5:47 pm


“Please give me a Biblical exegesis that explains clearly that Jesus would not only condone the torture committed at Abu Graib, but would even perpetrate it.”
I don’t think that anyone here is condoning what happened at Abu Ghraib.



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James

posted September 5, 2007 at 7:58 pm


“The acts at Abu Ghraib were necessary because our enemies are more evil than we are.” That seems to be the attitude of many people, so how is that not “condoning”? If you think the acts were necessary in this situation, then you are condoning them.
Torture is never necessary. It is never right. Many believe absolutes about abortion, yet don’t believe absolutes about torture, even when Jesus is absolutely clear: “Forgive your enemies” and “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” I can’t see a way from these central teachings of Jesus to a condoning of torture. If “condone” isn’t what you are doing, then what is your word for it? What would Jesus condone?



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Jerseykid

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:01 pm


“This is a tactic I see here often by those who seek to justify U.S.-perpetrated injustices. Point to our enemy’s acts of injustice and that absolves us from ours. It does not absolve us.”
Amen squeaky!
James, I have enjoyed your posts in this thread. The conservatives opposing what you’re saying are selectively making the sayings of Jesus metaphorical so that they can continue on their drunken course of idolizing their nation.



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C.S. Lewis

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:34 pm


Let him begin by treating patriotism as part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of a partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part of his religion. Then quietly and gradually nurse him to the stage at which the religion becomes merely a part of his patriotic cause. Once he’s made the world an end and faith a means you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.



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Uncle Screwtape

posted September 5, 2007 at 10:41 pm


MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey our orders. I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that “devils” are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.
I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-rightousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.
If your patient can be induced to become a conscientious objector he will automatically find himself one of a small, vocal, organised, unpopular society, and the effects of this, on one so new to Christianity, will almost certainly be good. But only almost certainly. Has he had serious doubts about the lawfulness serving in a just war before this present war of serving began? Is he a man of great physical courage—so great that he will have no half-conscious misgivings about the real motives of his pacifism? Can he, when nearest to honesty (no human is ever very near), feel fully convinced that he actuated wholly by the desire to obey the Enemy? If he is that sort of man, his pacifism will probably not do us much good, and the Enemy will probably protect him from the usual consequences of belonging to a sect. Your best plan, in that case, would be to attempt a sudden, confused, emotional crisis from which he might emerge as an uneasy convert to patriotism. Such things can often be managed. But if he is the man I take him to be, try Pacifism.
Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.
Your affectionate uncle
SCREWTAPE



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kevin s.

posted September 5, 2007 at 11:21 pm


“The acts at Abu Ghraib were necessary because our enemies are more evil than we are.”
Why did you put this in quotes? Who said this, or anything like it?
“If you think the acts were necessary in this situation, then you are condoning them.”
The acts at Abu Ghraib were criminal acts that were not necessary for anything related to our war efforts, and I have yet so see anyone respond here who disagrees with that fact. That is how it is not condoning. You are the only one who has even used the word “necessary”.
“It is never right. Many believe absolutes about abortion, yet don’t believe absolutes about torture, ”
I believe that abortion should be permitted to save the life of the mother, as do the vast majority of those who “believe absolutes about abortion”. As such, it a consistently pro-life ethic would allow for torture in the event that it would save lives, right? This is the natural conclusion of your logic.
I am not advocating torture, but I do think we have the right to interrogate suspected terrorists roughly if that means saving lives. There is no disconnect between that and my pro-life position.
“What would Jesus condone?”
Jesus is silent on the issue of interrogation. Analagously, you could ask the same question about long prison sentences for murderers and rapists? “Who would Jesus sentence to life in prison?” For a man who would protect his family from a burglar with a baseball bat… “Who would Jesus hit with a baseball bat?” You can get quite a bit more ridiculous, if you like.



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Donny

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:13 am


It goes beyong hypocrisy that you Progressives will rally against Americans/Christians . . . and never once do anything to stand against Muslims that torture, behead and slaughter thousands and thousands and thousands of people without a moments rest from it.
It must be a Satanic agreement that you will not do anything to oppose Islam and yet will do everything you can to bring down America, which undoubtably is seen as a Christian nation to Jihadists, Demons and Progressives.
There is something very wrong with Progressives.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 6, 2007 at 1:25 am


Is it Thou? Thou? Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed?
I know too well what Thou wouldst say. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say.
Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that.
Dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it.
All has been given by Thee to us, and all, therefore, is still in our hands, and there is no need for Thee to come now at all. Thou must not meddle for the time, at least.
At last, we have completed that work in Thy name. For twenty centuries we wrestled with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good.
Fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou hast promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou hast given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away!
Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?
Didst Thou not know that men will at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if they are weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice?
They will cry aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems.
We allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they love us like children because we allow them to sin. We tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission.
I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work.
I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us.
For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou. To-morrow I shall burn Thee.
Come no more… come not at all, never, never!



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Don

posted September 6, 2007 at 7:55 am


Those who don’t think Abu Ghraib was a serious problem just don’t get it.
We went to war claiming we were “good” and those opposing us were “evil.” Remember, our president said that anyone who was not on our side was siding with the terrorists.
So when the situation at Abu Ghraib was uncovered, we demonstrated to the world that we were not any better than those we were fighting. (Isn’t one of the foundations of Christian theology the notion that ALL of us are sinners, that ALL of us are fallen?)
In other words, we surrendered the moral high ground. Most of the world, rightly or wrongly, it doesn’t matter, sees America as no better than the terrorists. And since this is primarily a war of ideas and ideals, this has been a major defeat for us and our “cause.”
We can argue until the next blue moon whether or not what happened there was “torture” or when “interrogation techniques” become torture, or whether soon-to-be-former Attorney General Gonzales advocated torture when he pooh-poohed the Geneva conventions. We have already betrayed the moral justification for our actions. Many Americans are probably reluctant to admit that, but it is true nevertheless.
And to most of the world, especially in the Middle East, that spoke far louder than anything else we have said or done.
Peace,



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 6, 2007 at 8:57 am


It goes beyong hypocrisy that you Progressives will rally against Americans/Christians . . . and never once do anything to stand against Muslims that torture, behead and slaughter thousands and thousands and thousands of people without a moments rest from it.
Donny — You’re playing right from the Enemy’s playbook, focusing on what non-Christians are doing and forgetting what God calls us to be. God Himself has decreed that Islam will fall — LET HIM TAKE CARE OF IT!!!



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:12 am


Kevin S.
“I don’t think that anyone here is condoning what happened at Abu Ghraib. ”
Read Mick Sheldon’s very first post, and it isn’t hard to get that impression. It may be he didn’t express himself well, which is why he needs to clarify his words.
Thanks



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:14 am


Donny–I have an assignment for you. Please prayerfully read the Sermon on the Mount and consider prayerfully how well your attitudes expressed here match up with it.



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Donny

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:24 am


Please apply the Sermon on the Mount to those that defy and oppose every single word of Christ Jesus by word and deed.
I am not one of those people.
I have my major and minor faults, but denying the Gospel and defying the words of the Apostles is not something I promote and encourage as do Progresives, Liberals and Jihadists (Muslims). I would just like to see these self-appointed Progressives actually fight against the evil people in this world and not just against Christians. Their decpetions are easy to see and hear.



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Donny

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:26 am


Squeaky,
There IS something very wrong with Progressives.
Your assigment is to “test all things.”
They fail the exam.



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Don

posted September 6, 2007 at 9:43 am


Donny, it appears that you are failing THIS exam:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).
Peace!



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 6, 2007 at 10:35 am


I have my major and minor faults, but denying the Gospel and defying the words of the Apostles is not something I promote and encourage as do Progresives, Liberals and Jihadists (Muslims).
By your own words you just contradicted yourself, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ and historic Christian faith have no interest in defeating enemies for the sake of power and authority. In other words, you miss the point.



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James

posted September 6, 2007 at 10:38 am


“I would just like to see these self-appointed Progressives actually fight against the evil people in this world and not just against Christians.”
or
“But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
You decide!



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 11:05 am


Donny,
“They fail the exam.”
And so do you. By not taking the exam, you automatically fail it. My assignment was not an invitation for you to defend yourself, but an invitation for you to become more Christlike. How sad you ignored it. I sincerely hope you change your mind. My Christ’s love grow in you richly so that you can extend it to others–an act of graciousness I have not seen you extend towards those you disagree with.



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Dennis

posted September 6, 2007 at 11:05 am


James wrote:
“While we would say that “Love your enemies” means don’t torture them, that’s because we’re liberal. A “true” Christian would say that the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with national policy, it’s only for interpersonal behavior.”
If a person is doing wrong, even if he is doing the wrong because it is part of the job “just following orders” That person is still doing wrong regardless. One might say he was “just following orders” but that is no defense. He is still personally accountable to God for his deeds.



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 11:07 am


Typo above–I meant to write “MAY” Christ’s love…not “MY Christ’s love”.



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kevin s.

posted September 6, 2007 at 11:43 am


“So when the situation at Abu Ghraib was uncovered, we demonstrated to the world that we were not any better than those we were fighting. (Isn’t one of the foundations of Christian theology the notion that ALL of us are sinners, that ALL of us are fallen?)”
All of us are fallen. That does not mean our military cannot be used for good. You are conflating two different definitions of goodness here. The first, to which the President was alluding when he made his for us/against us speech, refers to our objectives. We are trying to promote stability. Terrorists are trying to destroy it.
The second is the notion of goodness as in the purity of the spirit. Our flesh is weak and we are all fallen, so you are right about that. However, I would think that such a realization would lead to the conclusion that our military is capable of accomplishing good in spite of the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib.
I would also add that nobody here said that Abu Ghraib wasn’t a serious problem. Unless we count every serious problem as one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.



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kevin s.

posted September 6, 2007 at 11:58 am


“Read Mick Sheldon’s very first post, and it isn’t hard to get that impression. It may be he didn’t express himself well, which is why he needs to clarify his words.”
Let’s break it down.
“Abu Ghraib is one of the great moral issues of the 21 first century is a stretch.”
Unless Mick condones everything that isn’t one of the great moral issues of the 21st century, I’m not finding it here.
“Actually not too many prisioners have had their heads cut off by us .”
Empirically true, and again not condoning Abu Ghraib.
“Its important to examine our treatment of war criminals , and important we don’t become what we claim we are fighting .”
This sounds like the opposite of condoning to me.
“But we are not called to treat criminals in a fashion that could be considered weakness from their perspective and an encourgament to promote their terror .”
If you lend this the least charitable reading imaginable, you could maybe decide that Mick is suggesting that the only way not to show weakness is to take smiling pictures with dead bodies. More likely, he is simply talking more broadly about the fact that we should show strength when dealing with criminals and terrorists. Given that this is precisely what he said, I’ll go ahead and assume that this is what he meant.
“Balance is needed on this subject .”
Balance? Balance? How dare he call for balance!!!!!
Let’s ask Mick. Do you condone the acts at Abu Ghraib?



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Don

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:10 pm


The fact that the president used (and continues to use) good vs. evil language to describe the struggle indicates the moral nature of that struggle.
My point, which you seem to have ignored, is that our actions such as those we witnessed at Abu Ghraib forfeited our moral legitimacy. That is valid for both our military effort and the “war of ideas” we are engaged in.
Perception is reality for millions of the world’s citizens who have witnessed our behavior and concluded, whether rightly or wrongly isn’t important, that we’re no better than the terrorists.
Maybe Chuck overstaed the case when he called Abu Ghraib one of the great moral issues of the 21st century. But it certainly did nothing positive. And as I said, it was a serious defeat for us and for our cause. It is something we will have to live down for some time to come.
Peace,



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Deryll

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:24 pm


[I would also add that nobody here said that Abu Ghraib wasn't a serious problem. Unless we count every serious problem as one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.
Posted by: kevin s. | September 6, 2007 11:43 AM]
kevin s
I would say that discounting our own faults by the “but they are worse” argument is perhaps the great moral issue.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:25 pm


The problem with quoting Jesus’ teachings is that most otherwise scripturally literal churches have developed a theology that explains that all of Jesus’ “hard teachings” loving your enemy among them, cannot be taken literally, and are interpreted away into nothingness.
There is no scriptural authority recognised in these Bible passages at all for those following these theologies, which probably represents a majority, and produces a very accommodating church to any and all state power.
Therefore any appeal to Jesus’ words must be proven by natural law, just as they would have to be in dealing with complete unbelievers.
Fortunately, this is quite possible, since they are philosophically, intellectually, logically and scientifically sound.
The real reason for rejection of Jesus’ truth is then what one would expect from a theological perspective: man’s own sinful nature wanting to find any excuse to indulge in fallen behavior.
It does seem like a case of wanting to have your religious cake and eat your irreligious cake too.



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Jeanne

posted September 6, 2007 at 12:36 pm


“I do think we have the right to interrogate suspected terrorists roughly if that means saving lives.”
The goal of intelligence interrogations is actionable intelligence — in other words, information that will assist the government in its efforts to prevent attacks that endanger national security.
Experienced and effective intelligence interrogators, from the U.S. as well as other countries, agree that the fastest way to actionable intelligence is by having the interrogator befriending the detainee – through knowledge and use of the detainee’s language/dialect and culture, and through presenting the appearance that the interrogator is a friend who can be relied on in the terrifying world of imprisonment. The interrogation techniques including both torture (by anyone’s definition) and “alternative interrogation techniques” are not effective at eliciting anything except confessions and false information (anything to make the pain stop). Neither of these outcomes constitutes actionable intelligence — information that can be used to prevent a national security breach. When the U.S. public is informed that actionable intellenge was gleaned from these brutal techniques, the information gleaned was merely affirming what the intelligence gatherers already had learned from other sources. Thus, the stain on the U.S. character did not result in saved lives.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 6, 2007 at 1:06 pm


You are conflating two different definitions of goodness here. The first, to which the President was alluding when he made his for us/against us speech, refers to our objectives. We are trying to promote stability. Terrorists are trying to destroy it.
And that was a huge mistake on his part, because he suggested in the process that “the ends justify the means” — because our ends are just our means also are by defintion. We now know that the means has sabotaged the ends, with more terrorism being spawned as a result.



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kevin s.

posted September 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm


“The fact that the president used (and continues to use) good vs. evil language to describe the struggle indicates the moral nature of that struggle.”
I disagree, in the sense that you define a moral issue. If your qualm with the President is that his rhetoric implies that our military personnel are without sin, then perhaps you have a point, but that is not particularly relevant to the topic at hand.
“My point, which you seem to have ignored, is that our actions such as those we witnessed at Abu Ghraib forfeited our moral legitimacy.”
You made two points about moral legitimacy. The first is that Abu Ghraib frofeited it, the second was that we could never have it by virtue of our being a nation of fallen people.
While I agree that Abu Ghraib was deleterious to our mission, I disagree that it had the affect of somehow making our mission immoral.
“Perception is reality”
No it isn’t. If you are simply saying that the behavior of these people reflected poorly on us, then that is pretty difficult to disagree with, but that is not the same as saying we have lost our moral authority.
But you cannot use the perception/reality bridge to simply say that we have, empirically, lost the authority to continue the war on terrorism. That is something different.
“Maybe Chuck overstaed the case when he called Abu Ghraib one of the great moral issues of the 21st century.”
Very much so, yes. Why is it condoning when I say it, but not when you say it?
“But it certainly did nothing positive. And as I said, it was a serious defeat for us and for our cause. It is something we will have to live down for some time to come.”
We will always have to live down military shenanigans. Similarly, we will always have to live down shenanigans by police officers, elected officials, firefighters, and virtually every other group tasked with noble service. For those who wish to pretend that America is the great Satan, they will never be short of anecdotal evidence.



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kevin s.

posted September 6, 2007 at 1:25 pm


“Experienced and effective intelligence interrogators, from the U.S. as well as other countries, agree that the fastest way to actionable intelligence is by having the interrogator befriending the detainee ”
Absolutely, garnering trust, threatening to break that trust if information is not supplied. However, certain techniques (e.g. sleep deprivation) enhance this effect. Again, we are not talking about removing fingernails. Waterboarding, the most extreme example of “torture” only simulates actual injury. The vast majority of techniques are substantially more subtle.
If we want to have a debate about what constitutes torture, let’s have an honest one that doesn’t muddy the waters between prosecuted offenses (Abu Ghraib) and accepted practice.
Thus far, the discussion after 50 comments has simply clarified that we all think what happened at Abu Ghraib was bad.



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 1:41 pm


Kevin S.
read my actual response to Mick. 5:37 Sept 5. My answer to you would just be repeating myself.



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Payshun

posted September 6, 2007 at 2:17 pm


Actually Abu Ghraib is not the moral crisis it should be, at least not in this country. But for people that live in the Middle East. It was (and for some it still is) huge. Moderatelad said some stuff that really got me thinking. He said those folks are still alive, eating… I don’t think Americans really understands how damaging rape, sodomy, sexual humilation really is.
Those people are walking and eating but for the rest of their lives they will be scarred, some may not eat, other’s will have nightmares, intimacy issues w/ their wives… Some are probably the walking dead. The truth is what we did there was to show the Islamic world that we will rape their men and publicly humiliate them. That’s huge and should not be downplayed simply because we have to think of our dead.
Yes people were beheaded, and worse. But the prisoners in Abu Ghraib were sexually tortured and humiliated. Neither one of those are things one can escape while breathing. Only when we start to value their lives and experiences as much as our own will we see significant change in the middle east.
p



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N.M. Rod

posted September 6, 2007 at 3:30 pm


Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was appointed as investigator of the Abu Ghraib abuses, has been demoted and hounded into retirement, and much of his report has been deep-sixed.
He says in his retirement that it was made clear that from the moment the investigation was begun, he was supposed to turn it into a cover-up and that in any case his career would be over.
He says that there are far more many abuses that are even worse that were uncovered that have not come to public light and probably never will though his investigators documented them.
He also says that the prosecutions were done half-heartedly and without enthusiasm and many who ought to have been charged not only were not but were promoted for participating in the coverup.
Recall that the poor soldier who turned in the photos triggering the investigation feared for his life, has been hounded out of the military and his hometown, where the government found danger to the lives of him and his family being slated for vigilante execution as “traitors” and are living elsewhere under the auspices of the Witness Protection Program with new identities.
Many individuals of high moral calibre within the military are appalled by not just the original abuses (which many people seem to be anxious to forget and explain away) but the deceitful and hypocritical coverup which undermines the high standards the military needs to avoid breakdown of morale.
What must be realised is that these kinds of wholesale abuses are exactly the kind of morale breakdown that leads to a military that cannot be wielded properly, and it happened all along the chain of command.
Because the actual carrying out of war is so destructive, involving the hollowing out within individuals, by design, of the basic human instinct not to murder and seeing it as a grievous sin, discipline and morale are extremely important to maintain
control. In the state of moral ambiguity that the military puts them in, soldiers need the restraint of well-defined discipline to avoid the usual horrors in the aftermath of battle – rape, pillage, destruction of civilians, that are no longer restrained by their diminished individual consciences.
The whole tragic scene in Iraq – from crooked war-profiteering on a vast scale to the unacknowledged mass destruction of civilians and creation of millions of refugees – shows that we are losing our mission because of this first loss of our own morale and consequent moral disintegration.
Once we allowed the philosophy of “anything goes” in our means to the supposedly good end, the end has now become indistinguishable from those means.
It seems the leadership itself has failed to lead, and they won’t take the responsibility but blame totally the people at the bottom of the command chain whom they have failed.



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James

posted September 6, 2007 at 3:34 pm


“Love your enemies”
“Do to others as you would have others do to you”
“Do not resist an evil person”
I still don’t see how you can move from these clear teachings of Jesus to a justification of torture.



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 4:22 pm


Kevin in response to Don,
“”Perception is reality”"
“No it isn’t. If you are simply saying that the behavior of these people reflected poorly on us, then that is pretty difficult to disagree with, but that is not the same as saying we have lost our moral authority.”
Whenever someone gives off the faintest whiff of hypocrisy, that person loses credibility. John Edwards gets a several hundred dollar haircut, and for some people (not me, by the way), he lost credibility as someone who cares about the poor. So our mission took a major hit when Abu Graib occurred because it has made us to look like hypocrites. It doesn’t matter if we are or not–what the Islamic world saw was hypocrisy, and if we are trying to convince them our way is better, that demonstration showed just the opposite.



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squeaky

posted September 6, 2007 at 4:24 pm


Payshun,
Powerful post–thanks.



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kevin s.

posted September 7, 2007 at 1:07 am


“Whenever someone gives off the faintest whiff of hypocrisy, that person loses credibility. John Edwards gets a several hundred dollar haircut, and for some people (not me, by the way), he lost credibility as someone who cares about the poor”
You contradict yourself here. At any rate, you are conflating our entire military effort with the actions of a few people. The military, though we often refer to it in the collective sense, is not one person.
“This is a tactic I see here often by those who seek to justify U.S.-perpetrated injustices. Point to our enemy’s acts of injustice and that absolves us from ours. It does not absolve us.”
Do we need to be absolved before we can carry out a military effort?
“If treating prisoners with dignity because they are human beings is a sign of weakness in our enemy’s eyes, then let us be seen as weak in our enemy’s eyes. How is what was done at Abu Graib even remotely justifiable?”
Dignity is a pretty subjective term. One might argue that imprisoning them would not be considered dignified. That said, I do not see a defense of Abu Ghraib here. If Mick intended it, I stand corrected. If he did not, then you simply read it into his statements, and we should move on.



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Jesus of Nazareth lover

posted September 7, 2007 at 5:59 am


Torture, capital punishment, abortion, oppression, prejudice, self-righteousness are all symptoms of “The Big Problem.”
Jesus speaks clearly…and yet every single one of us remains a sinner.
Let us continually crawl back to the loving arms of our Beloved. The Power of Jesus sustains us in every need.



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Payshun

posted September 7, 2007 at 1:32 pm


Ur welcome Squeaky.
p



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Sarasotakid

posted September 7, 2007 at 11:03 pm


We will always have to live down military shenanigans. Similarly, we will always have to live down shenanigans by police officers, elected officials, firefighters, and virtually every other group tasked with noble service. For those who wish to pretend that America is the great Satan, they will never be short of anecdotal evidence. kevin s.
What a crock! The reason the right wing gets tagged with this stuff is that they normally deny it ever happened at all until it gets filmed on camera, then the tactic becomes to minimize its significance (like you always seem to do) and when that fails, you play the victim (like you are now). Another reason why the right gets tagged with this stuff is that they often foster a culture where it can take place- by never questioning the police or military authorities and they systematically want to pass laws that undermine the ability of the courts to provide some oversight. Then when somebody questions what it going on, they become anti-American. Nice.



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Sarasotakid

posted September 7, 2007 at 11:06 pm


Those people are walking and eating but for the rest of their lives they will be scarred, some may not eat, other’s will have nightmares, intimacy issues w/ their wives… Some are probably the walking dead. Payshun
Don’t you get it?!! They don’t CARE!



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DB

posted September 8, 2007 at 9:15 am


I see no justice or righteousness in terms of Christian laws or prophets at this Abu Ghraib instance. What I do see is the spirituality/mentality of the person(s) who decided to go to war in Iraq. The decider(s) spirit of the war decision permeates the whole of it. And it stinks like the insides of white washed tombs.



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Payshun

posted September 8, 2007 at 8:40 pm


Sarasota said:
Don’t you get it?!! They don’t CARE!
Me:
I think many of them don’t care. That’s wrong but I am willing to wager that I will find some that do. That’s how movements start. They always start w/ a small group of people.
p



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kevin s.

posted September 10, 2007 at 3:02 pm


“The reason the right wing gets tagged with this stuff is that they normally deny it ever happened at all until it gets filmed on camera, then the tactic becomes to minimize its significance”
I am aware that this happens. Our military is not comprised of perfect people. I simply disagee that this fact constitutes one of the great moral crises of our time. There is a considerable distance between these two concepts.
“and when that fails, you play the victim”
I’m beginning to think you don’t even know what playing the victim means. I do not care whether you insult me or conservatives. It simply delegitamizes your case whenever you do so.
“Another reason why the right gets tagged with this stuff is that they often foster a culture where it can take place- by never questioning the police or military authorities”
Never questioning? That is ridiculous.
“and they systematically want to pass laws that undermine the ability of the courts to provide some oversight.”
You mean like the wiretaps that the Democratically-led Senate legalized? I do not believe that our unelected courts ought to have the final say on military policy. But that is different from saying that they do not have oversight. Liberals want to treat the courts as the final authority because the courts, generally speaking, reinforce their own ideology.
You won’t hear liberals calling for judicial oversight when there is a Democratic president. I guarantee it.
“Then when somebody questions what it going on, they become anti-American. Nice.”
Now who is playing the victim?



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Payshun

posted September 10, 2007 at 3:32 pm


Kevin:
You mean like the wiretaps that the Democratically-led Senate legalized? I do not believe that our unelected courts ought to have the final say on military policy. But that is different from saying that they do not have oversight. Liberals want to treat the courts as the final authority because the courts, generally speaking, reinforce their own ideology.
Me:
No that’s simply not true especially now. There are more conservatives on the bench than liberals. We like the courts because they strive to be objective where and follow the rule of law for justice. You all are more about finding ways of building up your ideology and when that’s challenged or overturned by the courts (which by and large are conservative) you all point to some large left wing conspiracy.
p



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jonabark

posted September 10, 2007 at 11:45 pm


Of course the use of torture is one of the major moral issues of human society and law. It is a mark of every despotic regime in human history, and is a fundamental tool of repression and terrorism, particularly state and mob terrorism. The founders of the US had seen a long history of dungeons, inquisitions, humans drawn and quartered, boiled, flensed etc. The movement toward the rule of law is a movement that requires due process without resort to cruel and unusual measures. The rule of law requires the presumption of innocence until proof beyond reasonable doubt is made. America once stood as a beacon of these ideals. The Bush administration has actively redefined torture, contrary to our own and international law and treaties to which we are signatories. They have captured thousands of “suspects” and abducted them from their own countries and flown them to countries that practice torture. But this is not a partisan issue. This practice , called ‘extraordinary rendition’ was codified by Clinton and follows a
post WW2 history of torture techniques used and taught by the CIA and by the Military in the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning in GA. Most of the right wingers on this site have cited torture as one of the evils of people like Saddam. Strong prohibitions against torture have long been one of the benchmarks of any humane democratic society.
The evidence that the US since 9-11 has redefined and used torture extensively is very large all human right organizations agree that US practice has changed dramatically for the worse and has also enabled abuses in other countries. The idea that this is happening because the Red Cross, Amnesty and HRW don’t like republicans is real weak, verging on pathetic self deception.
Kevin said Jesus was silent on interrogation. There is no provision in the Law for torture; to punish a lawbreaker there must be evidence presented before elders and judges. Jesus always exceeded the law in mercy and taught his followers to be harmless as doves, to carry neither sword nor staff and to turn the other cheek when abused.



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