LDS Connections to Torture

Speaking of the CIA and morally bankrupt foreign policy, the Centerville Citizen noted some bizarre news back in August (unfortunately, my feed aggregator seems to be acting strangely regarding the CC blog, repeatedly flagging an old post about a foreign guest as new and neglecting to show new posts; I was unaware of this entry until the CC author mentioned it in a comment on my page on torture). In a report that I would have dismissed as absurd rumor had I not read it myself, Vanity Fair uncovered that the torture policies which have been accepted by the administration during their foreign misadventures of the past five years were authored by a pair of LDS psychologists.

Having become very financially successful paving the way for increased human rights abuses by U.S. forces, these two “brethren” have boldly proclaimed “We are proud of the work we have done for our country.”

Others are less convinced. The policies these men enabled have increased the already grave tension between the U.S. and the Muslim communities of the Middle-East and helped alienate the rest of the world. “I think they have caused more harm to American national security than they’ll ever understand,” says Kleinman [Air Force Colonel].

How loathsome to find that I share the religion of men who devised methods of torture. What a disgrace to our faith.

I can’t decide whether I’m more perplexed by this revelation, or by the defense of torture by Antonin Scalia, who pointed to the successful capers of a fictional character to justify the use of torture.

“Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles,” he told a panel of judges, referring to the torturer protagonist of the Fox series 24. “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”

(Murphy Brown, Tinky-Winky, and now Jack Bauer. Maybe the leaders of the Right need to stop watching so much TV…)

Honestly, could the tabloids have concocted a more bizarre story? Truth is stranger (and sadder) than fiction.

14 Responses to “LDS Connections to Torture”

  1. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I’m conflicted about this. On one hand, I appreciate John McCain’s insight that as he and his fellow captives were being tortured in Vietnam, he took comfort in the idea that his own country was above that. I generally do not like McCain’s opportunistic self-righteousness, but when I heard him speak on that, it struck a chord, and I believe that indeed we should treat our prisoners kindly. And it is ridiculous that a Supreme Court justice would in all seriousness use Jack Bauer to defend policy.

    Having said that, if I can get information that could save lives, I will break some fingers. I don’t have much of a stomach for it, but it seems a little silly that during war we get so desensitized to death, yet squirm about inflicting pain, physical or otherwise. If we delight in it, and shoot off some guy’s kneecap just out of hate, there is a major problem and we’re no better than our enemies. The pictures I saw of Abu Ghraib seemed to have no purpose other than for our soldiers’ enjoyment. But I’m not so sure I believe we should make an ironclad rule that will keep ourselves hamstrung from using means that might be useful. How we can go in and take away thousands of lives that will affect loved ones forever, but make such a fuss over techniques that, as you have admitted yourself, are mild in comparison to others, is one of the follies of war. That we are even having this discussion shows that we are a lot more humane than most militaries.

    Lastly, your loathing of the LDS brethren who engineered some of the methods the Bush Administration is using was distasteful, over-the-top, and poorly worded. It sounded just like the Dixie Chicks’ disclaimer of several years ago “we’re ashamed the President is from Texas,” or the website that went up after the 2004 elections apologizing to the rest of the world. I tell you this time after time, the Left is in the position they’re in because they don’t know how to talk to people. You’re a very intelligent guy and I enjoy (and sometimes agree with) your blog. But you regularly sink into this pit. Why can’t you just say “I strongly disapprove of torture”? Why do you have to make a judgment on their everlasting souls because they share your religion? It’s really disgusting. If it is such a disgrace then they will get theirs in the end. Perhaps some of your own positions are a disgrace to the faith, but we all err, sometimes gravely, and a true liberal would not be so smug to write something like this.

  2. mannjj Says:


    You’re wrong. It is an embarrassment to share the same religion as these evil men. They have spent their lives learning how men think and feel then used their knowledge to devise ways to torture their fellow human beings for profit. That isn’t an honest error.

    This whole post is right on target.

  3. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Mannjj, if you feel comfortable making that kind of judgment, that’s completely up to you. You have nowhere near enough information to call them evil, and I have to say I wouldn’t want you as my advocate with the Father. I don’t even know why religion has to come into it. I don’t expect an apology from Muslims who don’t blow themselves up in crowded buildings. And that kind of action is nowhere near this.

    I was not in favor of this war from Day One. Scripturally speaking, I think it’s going to be hard to win, because the Book of Mormon tells us we are pretty much on our own if we’re guilty of the first offense, and Iraq didn’t attack us. But notwithstanding that, I’d like to see it end as well as possible for everyone. I don’t approve of torture for fun, but I can also see how it might serve a purpose if it saves lives.

  4. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, please, for heaven’s sake, read my posts, not just what you assume them to be. I never said I loathed these men. I said that it is loathsome to find that I share the religion of those who shoulder a large part of the responsibility for these disgraceful policies. I expressed hatred for the sin and the situation. I did not express hate for the sinner. But, as you so often tragically do, you jump to the conclusion that best fits your distorted preconception of liberals.

    Thanks for having my back, Jeremy;)

  5. Aaron Orgill Says:

    “What a disgrace to our faith” isn’t exactly separating sin from sinner. And you’re awfully fast to condemn men who probably have very little to do with how these policies are carried out. What’s funny about our arguments is that I often agree with much of what you say, but question some of your supporting points. I’m sure that it seems like nitpicking, but just consider how ludicrous it sounds, when a war is on and thousands of people are dying, to make a big issue out of some relatively mild torture that is being used for legitimate purposes and not entertainment. You haven’t heard me defend the war (this war, at least). But when war does come, you use everything you can to your advantage. Torturing to obtain confession is useless, because under enough pain one will probably admit to being a transsexual Nazi Martian. Shoving bamboo shoots under prisoners’ fingernails just to inflict pain, like the Viet Cong, is sadistic and completely unnecessary. But trying to obtain information that could possibly save lives and bring a faster end, I’ll take it. Hell, you’re already killing people who don’t even have anything to do with the conflict; what’s worse than that? It is just absurd that we are even talking about this.

  6. Allie Says:

    I don’t get how people who are taught that we are all brothers and sisters, and children of God could sit and contemplate ways to most acutely cause pain to others.

    How do you reconcile those two things? I agree, the use of their knowledge is a disgrace to the faith they espouse.

  7. Aaron Orgill Says:

    War is a failure. Whether it’s justified (WWII) or a complete fiasco like this one, it represents a complete failure. Yet, speaking from an LDS theological perspective (which this blog is coming from), we know that when it does happen, there is a way to be a good soldier and a good Mormon. To me, this is the same thing. We have a General Authority who was a five-star general. Yet his profession would not even be necessary in a celestial world. I highly doubt these men are relishing the thought of torturing as many people as they can. They’re simply involved in a military industry that due to its ugly nature has need for tanks and bombs and sophisticated ways of getting information quickly. Do I know these men’s souls? No, but no one else does either, and I just feel we shouldn’t be so quick to jump on them and call them a disgrace to the faith for their involvement.

  8. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Yes, this situation—one in which members of our faith are selling methods of torture for lucre—is a disgrace. It shouldn’t need to be spelled out any more clearly.

    You are right. It is ludicrous that we have a war on, and that people think they can rationalize away their values in the name of that war. And yes, it is absurd that we are talking about this. It should go without saying that we abhor torture. Torture is torture. It is wrong. Period.

  9. jennifer Says:

    I’ve heard from many sources that any info obtained through torture is incredibly unreliable – this makes sense, as Aaron suggests. So what possible use are the torture tactics if not for “intelligence gathering”????? Sounds to me like it’s just cruel, brutal self-promotion at its worst.

    And as a postscript – – – I did hear an intriguing interview w/ a recent/former interrogater (can’t remember the source or name), who actually had fantastic success getting useful and valid information from prisoners. The trick 1) she was female 2) she treated them kindly, respectfully, and established longterm rapport. No threats, no torture, no physical contact. Could men get the same results? Probably. The simple rules we use for other relationships are just as valid with POW/insurgents. Amazing.

  10. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I know when I’m beaten. Perhaps I should humble myself and consider the example Jennifer gave. If we used that kind of approach all along, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. And unless we elect someone with some self-control, Iran’s going to be next. I still find it a little distasteful to be so harsh when we really know very little about our fellow Saints who are involved in this. They could be good people who are just caught up in some questionable things (which would apply to most of us, I suspect). Good job, guys. You’ve caused me to reconsider.

  11. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thanks a lot, Jennifer, for scooping a planned upcoming post!

  12. Jared Says:

    It seems to me selling anything from torture secrets to a corporation making money because of the goods they sell is construed as filthy lucre here.

    My question is this When was the last time a modern war was won by either sides by sitting down and talking about their differences? me neither And no I don’t know of a war that was won on torturing people for secrets alone either.

  13. Jared Says:

    The fact the people in question are LDS is irrelevant.

  14. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Jared, heard much about Irish terrorism in Northern Ireland or England in the past decade? I don’t believe I have. That isn’t because England militarily defeated Sinn Fein. They instead—you guessed it—essentially sat and talked.

    So I suppose you’d better change that from “me neither,” to “oh. Well I couldn’t think of any.”

    Perhaps the reason that you can’t think of any modern war won by talking out differences (aside from ignoring many small examples around the world) is because once each side has decided to turn to war, they’ve already given up sitting down and talking out differences. By definition, war means you aren’t using talk as a primary method of conflict resolution. Sadly, because of the influence of the natural man, the leaders of nations are all too eager to put aside talk and take up arms (or rather, to have others take up arms while they sit safely homes well behind the lines). That neither makes their methods proper nor is evidence of the futility of other methods.

    Here’s a question for you. Can you name any war—particularly any just war—in which torture played even a role in victory? Any battles won through torture? Any time when torture provided a key piece of intelligence which saved the day and helped win the war? And of relevance for us Mormons: any battles won by Helaman, Mormon, Moroni, or any other righteous BofM leader won through torture? Any account of them using torture, period? If not, what in the world makes us think it is appropriate or viable now—even if the President is willing to pay you a lot of money to brainstorm up some methods of torture?

    The fact that those who belong to our religion is irrelevant? Jared, the faith to which you and I belong proclaims to the world that we have the greatest truth of any religious persuasion. It also insists that to whom much is given, much is expected. And it also declares that we are to be a light to the rest of the world, bearers of a higher standard, people who are called upon to live in the world but not of it.

    And you would have me believe that it is irrelevant that the men who enabled the current administration to execute the unlawful and immoral policy of torture, despite any evidence that such a policy is efficacious, and who apparently have no qualms about profiting from that unlawful and immoral policy—that these men happen to be fellow disciples of that higher?

    No. The name we take upon ourselves means that we are and should be judged to a higher standard. The fact that these men are LDS is entirely relevant to us who share their religion.

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