Legalizing Torture?

Do you think that if a major world power legalizes torture that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should speak out against such practises in General Conference?

Please support your arguments with logical, moral, reasons.

If you happen to know someone speaking in conference tomorrow, will you ask them to bring up the topic in their speech. I will be disappointed with the church if no one does.

137 thoughts on “Legalizing Torture?”

  1. Larry,

    #100:

    As for the rest of your questions to my responses, if your only point is to question w/o doing research, then I’ll leave you in ignorance.

    You made the point that torture has yielded about 2000 attacks thwarted. Prove it. It is your point, not mine. I just browsed over this whole post and comments. You don’t mention anywhere any evidence to prove that torture has worked to stop attacks. So prove it. Show us the evidence. If you cannot, then your point fails.

  2. Larry,

    Therefore, when faced with an enemy determined to kill at any cost, w/o any concern for consequences, I whole heartedly approve the steps necessary to stop him in his tracks, by whatever means possible.

    I’ve shown you an example of a prophet who did otherwise. Can you show me a prophet who tortured?

  3. Jeff, you mention that there are alternatives to torture that are quite effective. I think those who are advocating the use of techniques such as sleep deprivation agree with you. They believe, for example, that sleep deprivation is an effective alternative to torture.

  4. Itbugaf,

    sleep deprivation is actually torture. Stalin used it very effectively back in the 30s. Please read Mr. Bukovsky’s op-ed in the Washington Post.

    Now it appears that sleep deprivation is “only” CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin’s “show trials” of the 1930s. The henchmen called it “conveyer,” when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

    Here are some more testimonies about what happens with sleep deprivation, which I quote from a Washington Post article:

    Conquest stated: “Interrogation usually took place at night and with the accused just roused — often only fifteen minutes after going to sleep. The glaring lights at the interrogation had a disorientating effect.” He quoted a Czech prisoner, Evzen Loebl, who described “having to be on his feet eighteen hours a day, sixteen of which were devoted to interrogation. During the six-hour sleep period, the warder pounded on the door every ten minutes. . . . If the banging did not wake him, a kick from the warder would. After two or three weeks, his feet were swollen and every inch of his body ached at the slightest touch; even washing became a torture.”

    Conquest quoted a Polish prisoner, Z. Stypulkowski, from 1945: “Cold, hunger, the bright light and especially sleeplessness. The cold is not terrific. But when the victim is weakened by hunger and sleeplessness, then the six or seven degrees above the freezing point make him tremble all the time. . . . After fifty or sixty interrogations with cold and hunger and almost no sleep, a man becomes like an automaton — his eyes are bright, his legs swollen, his hands trembling. In this state, he is often convinced he is guilty.”

    Here’s the conundrum. You have a detainee, a “hardened terrorist,” and you need an accurate confession out of him. The supposed thinking is that being nice to them won’t reveal the information, but, as is proven here, being mean to them (torturing them) won’t get you accurate information either. Perhaps being nice to them will actually work—that, of course, requires time and patience, and certainly not something that can be used for “ticking-time bomb” scenarios. But…..as the frequency of ticking-time bomb scenarios are very very rare, it seems that taking the long and nice way will actually work much better than the short, negative, torture-based way.

  5. Please also read And they all confessed…. about the “show trials” under Stalin. One section is particularly instructive:

    An old Bolshevik, Krestinsky had been a member of the first Politburo. Under Lenin, he served for a time as secretary of the Central Committee. The exchange in the courtroom on 2 March is worth quoting. At this stage in the proceedings, the President of the Court, V. Ulrich is asking the accused whether they plead guilty to the charges. All reply in the affirmative until:[5]

    The President: Accused Krestinsky, do you plead guilty to the charges brought agalnst you?
    Krestinsky: I plead not guilty. I am not a Trotskyite. I was never a member of the bloc of Rights and Trotskyites, of whose existence I was not aware. Nor have I commltted any of the crimes with which I personally am charged, in particular I plead not guilty to the charge of having had connections wlth the German intelligence service.
    The President: Do you corrobarate the confession you made at the preliminary investigation?
    Krestinsky: Yes, at the preliminary investigation I confessed, but I have never been a Trotskyite.
    The President: I repeat the question, do you plead guilty?
    Krestinsky: Before my arrest I was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) and I remain one now.
    The President: Do you plead guilty to the charge of participating in espionage activities and of participating in terrorist activities?
    Krestinsky: I have never been a Trotskyite, I have never belonged to the bloc of Rights and Trotskyites and have not committed a single crime.

    On the following day, Krestinsky pleaded guilty to the charges:

    Krestinsky: Yesterday, under the influence of a momentary keen feeling of false shame, evoked by the atmosphere of the dock and the painful impression created by the public reading of the indictment, which was aggravated by my poor health, I could not bring myself to tell the truth, I could not bring myself to say that I was guilty. And instead of saying, “Yes, I am guilty,” I almost mechanically answered, “No, I am not guilty.”
    Vyshinsky: Mechanically?
    Krestinsky: In the face of world public opinion, I had not the strength to admit the truth that I had been conducting a Trotskyite struggle all along. I request the Court to register my statement that I fully and completely admit that I am guilty of all the gravest charges brought against me personally, and that I admit my complete responsibility for the treason and treachery I have committed.

    What changed his mind overnight? As Mr. Persson states:

    There is no doubt that torture was used to force confessions. Though by no means uncommon earlier, torture only became an approved method of examination during the investigations leading up to the first Moscow trial. On 29 July, 1936, an official, albeit secret, document was drawn up, sanctioning the use of “all means” to extract confessions.[7] Krestinsky’s submission was clearly the result of a night of brutal torture. Naturally, psychological torture in the form of threats to relatives and the arrest of family members also played their part in the confessions.

    Stalin used hard tactics against hardened revolutionaries. He achieved his desired goal: confessions of guilt, but as shown, they were fake, given under duress and torture. His torture policies came back to haunt Stalin.

    We may be facing an enemy that is pretty ruthless, but nonetheless, there is no excuse in the world for us to lower our standards.

  6. nermalcat,

    re: “In cases where no other strategy works (as you claim is the case with terrorists)would you also suggest that the local police torture each and every prisoner suspected to associate with mobs, gangs or drug rings to find out where the ringleader is and what they are planning?”

    You obviously have not visited your local jail recently. Sleep deprivation, and the cold treatment are standard operating procedures in cases you describe.

    My comment on ethics had to do with discussion of ethics as it applies in the world today. The only countries held to that standard are the U.S. and it’s close allies, while everyone else has carte blanche. Don’t get sucked in to the argument that if they see you being nice that they are going to be nice.

    Jeff,

    As for the innocents you are talking about, he was tortured by the Syrians, not the Americans.
    People are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit every day in our justice system. Should we throw it out too?
    If your idea of the perfect world is that no one gets hurt, who is not guilty, you better live a long, long, long time.

    Dan,

    What in the world does a soldier at war have to do with a prophet? For goodness sakes get your head around what is happening today. If you want to walk around pretending you are like a prophet, that is your business, but war is dirty, it is ugly, and it soils everyone connected to it. Unless you are prepared to interrogate the prisoners over a cup of tea using your superior techniques, don’t go casting aspersions on those who have to get this intelligence in order to allow you to remain free enough to spout off in a self-righteous manner.

  7. Larry,

    Unless you are prepared to interrogate the prisoners over a cup of tea using your superior techniques, don’t go casting aspersions on those who have to get this intelligence in order to allow you to remain free enough to spout off in a self-righteous manner.

    in reality terrorists don’t take away my freedom. They do not have that ability. It is impossible for them to do that, unless of course they run my country. Frankly terrorists 1)do not scare me and 2) do not impress me. They are not the worst enemy we’ve ever faced. To defeat them does not require the full mobilization of the entire nation, like the Nazis did. In order to defeat the Nazis, all of America had to participate in some way. These terrorists are small fry in comparison to previous enemies. And in previous wars, we never had to resort to torture to win. Why now?

    Sorry, but your justifications fall far short of proving the need for the use of torture.

  8. oh and Larry, my question still stands. Show me a prophet of the Lord who advocated or used torture. These are the men we are to emulate, no?

  9. Dan,
    Okay, since you refuse to do the research, I’ll give you one reference – please note that the interviewee is ABC reporter. They are not noted for being conservative, just so you know.
    Henceforth, I will give you no more leads. There is tons of information on this argument.
    If you want to argue your point that is fine, but at least give me some credit for getting the whole story and not falling for all the left-wing babble out there.

    As for #110, you are so naive on this question as to defy logic. You don’t know your history. You clearly seem not to have studied the terrorist threat at all, and I doubt that you really understand what happened during the 2nd World War.
    As for #111, I am not going to respond to that because it smacks of self-righteous bigotry. I’ll bet I could talk to any number of your friends and family who would be willing to point out your sins of omission and commission. Not very prophet-like of you is it.

  10. re: #112

    Whoever said sleep deprivation wasn’t torture?
    I simply approve of it as a legitimate way to get information from a knowledgeable source who refuses to give it any other way. We aren’t playing footsies here guys. We are dealing with very dangerous people.

  11. “he was tortured by the Syrians, not the Americans”

    Yes but he was extradited illegally by the Americans so that he could be “questioned” by the Syrians—which I believe they knew he would be tortured, but of course there is no evidence of that.

    And so my point still stands that when you practise torture, you inevitably torture innocent people.

    How can a person consider themselves Christlike when they support a government that supports torture? Maybe you think it’s no longer so important.

    I guess I shouldn’t lash out like that, but frankly I feel that I have exhausted myself trying to get my point across and feel like I’m not really getting through.

    For the couple of you out there that seem to think torture is ok, at what point do we arrive at where it’s safe to say a government supporting torture has gone too far?

  12. Larry,

    If you want to argue your point that is fine, but at least give me some credit for getting the whole story and not falling for all the left-wing babble out there.

    Hmmm, I’ve asked you to provide evidence of your claim that torture has stopped up to 2000 attacks, and you give me a reference to a blog that discusses an O’Reilly episode, with no hard evidence. Where are the numbers?

    Moreover, instead of keeping this debate civil, you go attacking me with partisan sniping. To this point, have I attacked you? If not, then why the need to get personal?

    As to evidence that torture doesn’t work, I have plenty. I have to get to church right now, but will get back to you on this. In the meantime I suggest you lay off the personal attacks and give me real evidence of the effectiveness of torture.

  13. So torture never works, e.g., does not prevent attacks.

    Using “water boarding” to cause a terrorist to believe that he was drowining (though he wasn’t) has resulted in information that has prevented attacks on high rises in the United States.

    Since “water boarding” helped to prevent attacks on U.S. soil, we know that water boarding is not torture.

    Right?

  14. tortdog,

    that’s an interesting logical fallacy.

    The success rate of a method is not what is the deciding factor on whether or not it is torture, but the application itself.

  15. If someone believes that “water boarding” is torture, they cannot logically hold the same belief that torture never works.

    Pick one. Can’t have it both ways.

  16. Sure they can. It is torture and it doesn’t work. If you feel it does work, that still doesn’t change the fact that it is torture. And furthermore, you’ve gotta prove that it has worked. KSM is not an example of waterboarding providing accurate intelligence.

  17. It has already been widely reported that the CIA used water boarding to obtain information useful in preventing terrorist attacks.

    http://www.hyscience.com/archives/2006/09/bombshell_abc_i_2.php

    The question is not whether tough tactics work. It’s whether they should be used in spite of their effectiveness.

    Since the U.S. government uses water boarding on its own troops, I don’t think that it amounts to torture (not as torture is defined). It’s not a back rub, but it’s not torture.

  18. tortdog,

    I’m sorry, but you’ve linked to basically the same story that Larry linked to earlier about an ABC reporter on the O’Reily Factor. I want something more substantive and official. On my blog, I have written two posts: ( The Unreliability of information garnered from torture and Sleep deprivation is torture ) which gives plenty of evidence that not only does torture (including waterboarding) not give credible information, but that using tride and true interrogation where you simply talk with the person will give you a far better result, and more accurate information.

    This article by Maj. Anthony Milavic USMC(RET), written for the Army, goes into great detail on the failures of torture to provide accurate information. He states right from the start:

    In addition to being illegal, these acts are frequently ineffective and counter-productive.

    This is not to say that coercive techniques always fail to influence or prompt some action. These techniques have caused men to do as their abusers wanted them to do or say, and, at times, caused the unintended death of the detainee.

    Here is an ABCNews report that disproves the theory that waterboarding actually works:

    According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

    His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

    “This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear,” one source said.

    However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.

    Note that he said he lied in order to stop the pain. Hmmmmm.

    Now, do you have any actual evidence that it has worked?

  19. “Since the U.S. government uses water boarding on its own troops, I don’t think that it amounts to torture (not as torture is defined).”

    See #24

  20. First, let’s not get sidetracked. The assumptions presented are:

    * water boarding is torture, and
    * torture is not effective.

    So if water boarding brought forward useful information to prevent attacks, then either (a) water boarding is not torture or (b) torture is effective.

    Your point is a side issue that you mentioned long ago. I don’t agree with it, however, because torture is a crime in the United States and one cannot give consent so as to avoid the application of the law. Just as one cannot consent to murder, one cannot consent to being tortured.

    Or do you have evidence to the contrary, e.g., the law stating that the infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering on someone who consents is exempt.

  21. tortdog,

    I’ve written a long post that is waiting in moderation (too many links apparently), but I wanted to share with you the important one.

    This is an ABCNews report that shows how ineffective waterboarding really was on the top catches the CIA has been interrogating:

    According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

    His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

    “This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear,” one source said.

    However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.

    Note that he lied in order to stop the waterboarding.

  22. The report did NOT confirm that al Libbi lied. Rather, it said:

    >al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators (emphasis added)

    It further adds that “Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path.”

    So Al Libbi did not create something out of thin air, but gave what he thought was true to the investigators and that would stop the punishment.

    Further, the sources for this ABC report state:

    >the techniques, while progressively aggressive, are not deemed torture, and the debate among intelligence officers as to whether they are effective should not be underestimated. There are many who feel these techniques, properly supervised, are both valid and necessary, the sources said.

    So even the ones who did NOT think that these techniques were effective agreed that this did not constitute torture.

  23. tortdog,

    you also forget to cherrypick this:

    Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

    I can’t help you though, tortdog. You wish to torture people. Have at it. When it comes back to haunt you, don’t forget that I told you so. How sad our society has become.

  24. Let’s cut to the chase. The sources quoted by ABC state that these techniques are NOT torture.

    So are these guys that YOU quote lying or not about this?

  25. It doesn’t matter. You’ll keep trying to find some way to justify it. The only thing I can offer you is the following from the Church:

    The church “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances,” said church spokesman Dale Bills.

    I would think that even you would consider waterboarding “inhumane.”

    Until my earlier post is approved (still under moderation), I’m done here. Some people just can’t see out of the cave.

  26. Well, you first argue that water boarding does not work. But the article you cite has contradictory information, some saying it DOES result in good information while others point out that we get some bad information from it. I bring forward an additional article showing that it has worked with others as well.

    You then conclude that water boarding isn’t torture. But the article that YOU bring says that water boarding is NOT torture.

    If you are going to make an argument, wouldn’t it be good to cite to authorities that support your ideas, as opposed to the opposite?

    You and I disagree that it is inhumane to use water boarding. CIA agents in your article also seem to disagree with you. Great Britain’s Foreign Office has opined that water boarding is NOT torture.

    So be it.

  27. How can we agree with religion being the fulcrum of our political views. Logically we would be neglecting scale for which the balance might shift were we to exchange our fulcrum with one of a different religion. Truly i beleive that religious views and matters of state be kept mutually exclusive.

  28. I don’t think this is an issue of separation of church and state. What makes you make that connection?

    It’s a matter of morals. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as pointed out in 43) “condemns inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstances”.

    I think the church does tend to speak up politically in matters that could fall into a grey area in modern society, and I think it’s appropriate for them to do so, not so much as a political statement, but as a moral one.

  29. I know what sleep deprivation and mental torture does to people. I suffered from sleep deprivation for 35 years as a result of a physical disorder. That and the physical and mental abuse I suffered at home, at the hands of my father and older brothers, was devastating. My mental state persisted, and I suffered bullyism at college, when I was still suffering from extreme sleep deprivation. After 2 1/2 years, I was threatened. I was antagonized to the point at which I threatened back. I was charged with uttering threats (criminal harassment). I was then threatened with prison, without a lawyer, unless I accepted their plea offer, in large part because I FELT guilty. Later, when I had time to think and was sleeping better, I realized that I had been conned.

  30. i have not only found that torture has been legalized, but that the church actually endorses it; it’s called graduation ceremonies.

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