Sunday, January 30, 2005

Even as the vote goes well, does Gitmo get our goat?

Today is the day. Iraqi elections seem to be making a mark. It's certainly a good sign that so many have been able to vote. But, even as things seem to be flowing well in this particular vein, even as Al-Jezeera gives a positive report for a day, there must be a reckoning for some of our wrong doing in the "war on terror".

Because today is also a day Christians in America need to speak up. We need to demand to know if the horrific conduct at Gitmo recently reported by the Associated Press is true. Did American women sexually humiliate Muslim men to gain information? If it is true, we need to abhor and condemn it. We need to be alarmed that our fellow countrymen and women would stoop so low as to shame grown men into being afraid to pray.

Don't I know some of these people may have been trying to kill Americans?

Yes, I do. But I remember somewhere hearing a scripture that said not to fear those who might kill the body as much as to fear those who could destroy both our body and soul in hell.

Is our government allowing its operatives to debase themselves in such a way to endanger their own souls?

Are we going to rationalize this conduct?

Americans went to the polls, and according to President Bush, validated his Iraq policies.

Americans went to the polls with morality on their minds. Is morality about universal principles or is it only relevant when our interests are being served?

Will American Christians stand up and condemn this?

I found Andrew Sullivan's book reviews and commentary challenging. What do you think?


Peter J Barban said...

Hi, this is my first visit to your blog.

I am not ready to condemn Gitmo. I'm sure we all agree there was a major problem at Abu Gharib. I find it hard to draw the line on prisoner interrogation techniques.

Remember these people are most likely hardened terrorists, willing to die to destroy us. It is quite difficult to get them to give out valuable information, let alone abandon their "death cult" philosophy. The information they have could save untold lives.

You may be right, but you haven't convinced me yet. On of the things that make me hesitate to condemn is the Bible clearly depicts Hell as a place of eternal torture for those who have rejected his authority. I am deadly serious, Christ is the ultimate torturer. I grant that we are not God and cannot take this authority up on our own; but I believe it is possible that God has called Bush and America to this war and He accepts the terrible methods we must use to gain the victory. (Or maybe not.)

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

Sometimes folks wonder what Jesus meant when he said, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” as the KJV conveyed. I think he meant that man should not be in the business of condemning people to hell. Even Jesus said that he didn’t come to judge, but to save. In the last day we will all judged by his very words. Can you think of anything in the words of Jesus to justify the alleged conduct of men and women subjecting others to torture?

If Jesus was not judging but saving during his time on earth, how in the name of Jesus can you possibly accept that we can create a hell on earth for anyone, even criminals?

The idea that heinous treatment of those who may be trying to kill is justified smacks of “the end justifies the means”—a popular philosophy, but hardly a viable New Testament theology.

B. S. Denton said...

"Machiavelli -- he's not just for Europeans anymore."
-- Jeff Borck, my college roommate, after reading this article.

I am personally appalled by what I read in the article, but I wonder if our society as a whole would condemn this behavior . . .is this torture? Is this unjustified? Are we accomplishing anything with it?

More importantly, does that last question matter when counterbalanced with our behavior?

Have we become that which we seek to destroy?

Tough, tough questions here. I ask myself more and more often, "Now why Iraq? Terrorism? The spread of freedom? Why not elsewhere? What are we thinking?"

Peter J Barban said...

Q1: Can you think of anything in the words of Jesus to justify the alleged conduct of men and women subjecting others to torture?
A1: No. I cannot justify it. As I said before, I'm not ready to judge.

Q2: ... how in the name of Jesus can you possibly accept that we can create a hell on earth for anyone, even criminals?
A2: I can accept it, if God wills it. I don't like it, but God himself will torture them for eternity if they do not repent. I currently do not know the Lord's will for this issue.

Q3:The idea that heinous treatment of those who may be trying to kill is justified smacks of “the end justifies the means”...
A3: I don't think the end justifies the means. I trust God alone to justify the end, the means and everything else He choses.

Here is my working philosophy:
-I believe God has called (a reluctant) America to defeat terrorism.
-I believe that God is going to use this conflict to bring great change in the Middle East including democracy, human rights, and openness to the gospel.
-I believe that since God sanctions this war, and war is hell, he sanctions the hell this war creates.
-I believe that these particular prisoners are not protected by any international agreements covering the laws of war, including torture.
-I believe that some forms of interrogation are acceptable and some are not. I don't know where to draw the line.

There are three questions I have for you:

Q1: Is this wartime torture against American Law?
The law in this area is undeveloped and in flux. We won't have a definitive answer for how much force to use.
Q2:What are the Bible principles involved; pro and con?
What principles allow for premptive war against a weaker foe but disallow forcible interrogation of prisoners?
Q3: What is God's will?
I strive to have the witness of the Spirit in agreement with my interpretation of the Word. I need to hear from God before I can settle the issue.

Bottom line: these soldiers are indirectly serving God and directly serving my country in a very difficult job. At this time I prefer do defer judgment until the Lord makes the issue clearer. Since I am not in their "decision loop", my judgment means little. At this point we risk becoming "Ankle-biters" and "Holier-than-thous" that no one in authority listens to.

You may indeed be right, but you haven't shown me the evidence I need: the law, the word, the Will. Do you have any evidence other than bad feelings about torture (which I share)?

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

My references to the sayings of Christ comprise the heart of my scriptural argument. You may find the writing of Jim Wallis informative. Copy and paste the following in your browser for a well developed essay on this topic.

Peter J Barban said...

Bev, thanks for leading me to Jim Wallis's article. I feel it is important to respect those I disagree with, so let me first look for mutual agreement.

-"Christian theology is uneasy with empire ..."
I agree; some, but not all. If one looks, one can find a great deal of "dominion theology".

-"The Christian view of human nature and sin suggests that we are fallible creatures..."
That is an understatement. We are certainly fallible creatures, and all our institutions and theologies are fallible. Only God is good, perfect and holy.

-"Christianity implicitly teaches that empire is not the best strategy to fight terrorism ..."
The best strategy is prayer, obedience and humble sacrifice. The second best is prayer obedience and war. We failed to use the first method, now we are called by God to use the second.

- "TRUTH-TELLING is also central to Christian theology, which teaches that falsehood has consequences."
Bush and all his people are without falsehood. They believed and acted on fallible reports on WMD. Nearly every country and advocate in the world believed the same. Many suggested that Saddam would use such weapons in war or give them to terrorists. On the otherhand, Bush's critics have repeatly used falsehoods trying to demoralize our weaker leaders and citizens. I can provide many, many examples if requested.

-"Darby is a moral hero who should be held up to our children as a role model for what to do when their peers are bowing to pressure to do the wrong thing". While I support the war, I neither support nor condemn the interrogation techniques used in the prisons. But I do applaud Darby (and Bev, and Wallis) for raising these unpopular issues. I wish we would become a nation of such champions rather than the ankle-biters I see in the news.

Wallis's argument seems to be: Dominion is wrong because it leads to torture. We are all fallible, thus we connot be trusted with too much power.

This is a valid as a warning, but it cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. The US does not seek permanant, or destructive dominion. As we proved through the last 100 years, we seek absolute surrender and temporary dominion. We desire to rule long enough to "reboot a failed system", when it is sufficiently moral and stable, we gladly get out of the way. America has proved it's intentions in the Civil War, in Japan, Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Kuwait, Korea, etc.

In every case our temporary dominion over our enemies has repaced an evil, corrupt, coercive dominion with a self ruled system less evil, corrupt and coercive. Each of them have been our Allies since. Thoughout history there has never been a dominion as benevolent as America. We are not perfect and have much to repent of, yet our dominion has proven to be the greatest blessing an enemy has every received.

ps. I not really that pro American, I have lived in Taiwan that last 12 years for Christ's sake. These are just the objective facts of history.