Modern Gadiantons?

November 30, 2004 | 81 comments
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One last post, before my non-philosophical blogging stint is done. One thing I’ve thought of with recent events in the middle east was the parallels to the Book of Mormon. I know that’s not exactly an original point to make, but I think the Book of Mormon has a lot of parallels both regarding our enemies as well as how we act towards our enemies. Dan Peterson has long written about the strong parallels between the Gadianton movement and various guerilla movements and insurgencies. I’ve listened to him describe extensive parallels, for instance, between Mao’s insurgency in China and events in the Book of Mormon.

Now this wasn’t entirely alien to Joseph Smith’s world. As I recall the term guerilla war arose out of British actions in Spain during the Napoleonic wars. Events there were quite interesting both for the succes against Napoleon, thereby helping the main British forces, as well as for its social aftermath. Once a people have been lawless, it is very hard to restore a successful civilization. (Something I think we see in Afghanistan)

Anyway, rather than listen to me spout off about all this, let me throw it out to all of you. What lessons ought we draw from the Book of Mormon for current events? I recognize that both liberals and conservatives draw often opposing lessons. So let the sparks fly.

As some background, here’s a very interesting first hand account of the battle of Fallujah that might be relevant. Two other excellent resources for events are The Belmont Club for a more conservative view and Juan Cole’s Informed Consent for a more liberal view. (Both make great points at times) An other great source is Intel Dump which is somewhat anti-Bush but often very informative.

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81 Responses to Modern Gadiantons?

  1. Clark on November 30, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    One other quick comments. I wonder if Pres. Benson’s comments in one of his last talks about a secret combination might apply to Al Queda rather than (as many thought) merely a remnant of his communist conspiracy fears?

  2. Geoff B on November 30, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    I believe the BoM warns us against any political movement that uses lies, back-room dealing and oppression of opponents. Good movements are those that respect others’ beliefs and emphasize integrity and honesty. The modern-day equivalents for those movements we should be worried about are myriad, from the Mafia to right-wing militias in Latin America. In the Middle East, there are many candidates that could be considered modern-day Gadiantons or practitioners of modern-day secret combinations: the UN (oil for food scandal), almost all of the Middle Eastern governments (with the notable exception of Israel), the French, German and Russian governments that opposed the liberation of Iraq because of financial considerations and of course the terrorists themselves. It’s a virtual nest of non-virtue.

  3. David King Landrith on November 30, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Geoff B I believe the BoM warns us against any political movement that uses lies, back-room dealing and oppression of opponents

    Does this make political machines like (say) Tammany Hall a parallel to the Gadiantons.

  4. Clark on November 30, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    I had put up a comment that didn’t save for some reason about Pres. Benson’s talk about a secret combination existing then (late 80’s, early 90’s) I’ve sometimes wondered if our typical interpretation of this as yet an other Soviet conspiracy theory is apt. That was around the time of the end of the Afghan war. Perhaps it was really Bin Laden? (Not saying that mind you, but it is an interesting parallel)

    I have to confess that the morning of 9-11 my thoughts went immediately to those sections of the Book of Mormon. It certainly shocked me out of my complacency at the time and made me seriously rethink my life. Suddenly texts that seemed distant and somehow unrelated to my life became very, very pertinent. Thus my bringing it up.

    Not that Guerilla wars are that unique. Indeed they were probably the most common form of combat in the ancient world. Even in our own history, both the American revolution and prior to that in the French – English wars using Indian proxies, there was a lot of guerilla warfare.

    But today, we have a fairly stable civilization and, in a way, we are very prone to just the kind of machinations that took place in the Book of Mormon. Further, I think many of the failings of the Nephites apply to us as well. The parallels today are much more eery to me than a decade ago.

  5. Roger Beutel on November 30, 2004 at 7:34 pm

    I believe Ether 8 directly speaks to terrorism againts America:

    22 And whatsoever nation (Afghanistan, Iraq) shall uphold such secret combinations (peopled committed to secret murder), to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed (even if by my hands using American forces); for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

    23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles (America in general, LDS specific), it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations (terrorist) shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be (passivism on the War on Terror is condemned).

    24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among (9/11) you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust (dust from 9/11) for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up (including those who undermine efforts to eradicate this world-wide secret combination threat).

    25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries (it’s a world-wide threat, not just American problem); and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder (terrorist of all types are murderers) from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

    26 Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away (authorization for the War on Terror), and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.

  6. Geoff B on November 30, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    Roger, great response. I agree that this can be seen as a reference to our times, and not only the war on terror. The wars against fascism and communism were similar. One small nit to pick: I think in verse 23 above, “Gentiles” refers to all who were not members of the House of Israel. I think it refers even more specifically to Europeans who stood by and did nothing while secret combinations took place (or even participated in secret combinations) more than it refers to Americans, although it probably refers to some Americans also.

  7. Geoff B on November 30, 2004 at 9:29 pm

    David King, the answer is yes. Any back-room deals are secret combinations. JFK almost certainly won the 1960 elections because of backroom deals and secret combinations. IMHO, this also applies to dirty business deals. I was an employee of Worldcom when the company imploded because of a long series of secret combinations that took place there — these were dirty business deals that hurt millions of people and caused a company to go bankrupt, all to enrich a small core of people.

  8. Mark N. on November 30, 2004 at 9:38 pm

    I see Ether 8 much more as a warning to watch one’s own actions, to make sure that one doesn’t commit acts of terrorism against others while attempting to justify them on the basis of some presumed patriotism worked up in response to someone else’s actions against us. The Savior’s own take on the matter involved an observation regarding the relative difference between motes and beams.

    Bad guys never see themselves as bad guys, they see themselves as being entirely justified in the evil that they do to others on the basis that the other guy started it. The Lamanites taught their children to hate the Nephites “believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea; And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea”. Giddianhi didn’t believe he was the bad guy; he was firmly convinced that Lachoneus and the Nephites were the bad guys, and that he was simply trying to undo the wrong “that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government”.

    In my opinion, what made them such a problem was that they were unwilling to look at their own wickedness, and always jumped to the conclusion that the other guy was the whole cause of their inability to get along. The other guy’s wickedness supposedly justified their own reactions to it. My understanding of the Savior’s position on the matter is that someone else’s wickedness in no way justifies our own.

    Hence my discomfort with those who are all too willing to claim that our current problems in the Middle East stem not from our own actions, but from those of everyone but us. Bin Laden has called us to repentance (not that any of his acts of terrorism are justified) by telling us precisely why he did what he did, but we’ll have none of that, despite the fact that a recently released report from the US Defense Department’s Defense Science Board points out that we’re not hated for our freedoms, we’re hated for our policies, and how we have acted in the Middle East as a result of those policies. (See http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1129/dailyUpdate.html for more details on the matter.)

  9. Clark on December 1, 2004 at 2:22 am

    Of course, Mark, if Giddianhi thought he was the bad guy, perhaps he is more akin to bin Laden? I do agree that the story offers a lot of parallels to us, and certainly I don’t think we are somehow without fault in the current mess. Although I think the faults more complex than many do. But then I think that of the Nephites during Helaman too.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on December 1, 2004 at 7:49 am

    Mark –

    I really can’t buy the idea that there is a one to one moral equivalence between us and Bin Laden. We aren’t intentionally targeting unarmed civilians, for example.

    Also – to claim Bin Laden called us to repentance and we should listen is to claim that 1.) Bin Laden is some sort of prophet, and 2.) He has wisdom we don’t have.

    I can’t accept either 1 or 2 about a man who finances mass murder. And no, I don’t believe the USA finances mass murder.

    We are hated because of or policies -our policies of freedom. Leaders who rely on despotism hate us for that.

    Although I was (and still am) ambivalent about invadint Iraq when we did.

  11. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 8:57 am

    Mark N: Bad guys never see themselves as bad guys, they see themselves as being entirely justified in the evil that they do to others on the basis that the other guy started it.

    Show me where Jeffrey Dahmer thought he was “entirely justified” eating the people he kidnapped and sodomized. Bad people do evil things knowing full well that they are evil.

  12. Roger Beutel on December 1, 2004 at 11:36 am

    Clarification as to who or what is a “Gentile.”

    The Gentiles

    It is through the instrumentality of the “Gentiles,� however, that these promises and covenants will largely be fulfilled. That is, through the instrumentality of Latter-day Saints, who, in the Book of Mormon, “are identified with the Gentiles� (D&C 109:60).

    Using the imagery of the olive tree, in which the Jews, Nephites/Lamanites, and Ten Tribes constitute three natural branches and the Gentiles wild branches (see Jacob 5), Nephi says, “And after the house of Israel should be scattered, they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer� (1 Nephi 10:14). In another place, he says, “The thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief . . . then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed� (1 Nephi 15:13; cf. vs. 17; 3 Nephi 21:2–7). Another revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith declares the same thing: “Wherefore, I must bring forth the fulness of my gospel from the Gentiles unto the house of Israel� (D&C 14:10).[1]

    In a larger context, the term “Gentiles,� as used in the Book of Mormon, includes others who migrate to the American continent (1 Nephi 13:12–16). No Gentiles, however, are identified as the “house of Israel,� which expression the Book of Mormon reserves for the Jews, Nephites/Lamanites, and Ten tribes and for those who are numbered among them. In their capacity of ministering the gospel to the house of Israel, the Gentiles are nevertheless described in terms of “nursing,� “nourishing,� and serving as a “father� to them (1 Nephi 22:6–8; 2 Nephi 10:18).
    Avraham Gileadi
    http://www.ldsmag.com/gospeldoctrine/bom/040102titlepage.html

  13. Roger Beutel on December 1, 2004 at 11:39 am

    Mark N.

    Interesting viewpoint. I do understand what you are saying and can even see who one might come to that conclusion. However, Gordon B. Hinkcley has called bid Laden “evil” and has given his support to the Iraq war.

    That is all the interpretation I need as to what and whom is “evil” and what and whom is “good.” Morally, the Iraq war is justified. In fact, I’d say God brought down his wrath upon the tyrant for purposes that yet may be unseen.

  14. Mark N. on December 1, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Ivan: I really can’t buy the idea that there is a one to one moral equivalence between us and Bin Laden. We aren’t intentionally targeting unarmed civilians, for example.

    The estimates differ, but various organizations are saying that our actions are directly responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq. We’ve gone way above the count of 3,000 or so that we’re laying at the feet of Bin Laden. If we’re not intentionally targeting unarmed civilians, we don’t seem to be very good at structuring our attacks in a way that avoids unarmed civilians, either.

    Also – to claim Bin Laden called us to repentance and we should listen is to claim that 1.) Bin Laden is some sort of prophet, and 2.) He has wisdom we don’t have.

    One doesn’t have to be “some sort of prophet” to call someone else to repentance. One just has to make a true statement that points out where someone else is sinning in some way. Our speakers in Sacrament Meeting and our teachers in Relief Society, Priesthood quorum meetings and Sunday School classes can call us to repentance simply by teaching gospel principles that remind us of our own shortcomings. As for whether Bin Laden has wisdom we don’t have, I don’t know, but I imagine he has had experiences I haven’t have, and I don’t think I shouldn’t immediately discount what he says regarding US policies and actions in the Middle East just because it’s him speaking.

    I can’t accept either 1 or 2 about a man who finances mass murder. And no, I don’t believe the USA finances mass murder.

    We spend billions of dollars on military arms every year; we continue to send foreign aid to countries where the leaders are decidedly not exactly the greatest guardians of human rights, and you don’t believe the US finances mass murder? Just what line would we have to cross, how many civilians would we have to kill before you’d consider believing it?

  15. David on December 1, 2004 at 11:49 am

    Roger,

    I have seen hints that President Hinckley personally supports the war in Iraq, but I have not heard him explicitly say he does. Moreover, my recollection is that he has called on us to be respectful within our worldwide Church of differing opinions about the war. I do not understand the Church to have an official position about the justness or necessity of this war. Have I missed something?

  16. Mark N. on December 1, 2004 at 11:49 am

    DKL, regarding Jeffrey Dahmer: he is certainly the exception to the rule. But I think the examples of self-justification provided in the Book of Mormon hit closer to the mark more often than not.

  17. Mark N. on December 1, 2004 at 12:08 pm

    Roger: Gordon B. Hinkcley has called bid Laden “evilâ€?…

    He has? By name? When and where?

    … and has given his support to the Iraq war.

    In his conference talk on war a year and a half ago, he made it clear that he was speaking of his “personal feelings” and “personal loyalties”.

    He cited the Nephites as “fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church” and that “they were doing that which they felt was… duty which they owed to their God”. I imagine that there are a fair number if Iraqis who, with Hussein gone, now see us as the invaders and as the threat to their families and are therefore little different from the Nephites in this viewpoint. If the Lord could counsel the Nephites to “defend your families, even unto bloodshed”, then that counsel certainly applies to Americans and Iraqis equally.

    President Hinckley made the comment that “It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified — in fact, have an obligation — to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat and oppression”, and if that’s true, and if some Iraqis see us as the looming threat of oppression, then I’d say they’re justified in fighting us.

    The “insurgents” are obviously well-armed and capable of killing lots and lots of people when they want to. Why didn’t this occur when Hussein was still in power? If the Iraqis were so unhappy under Hussein, why didn’t they mount this same level of opposition to Hussein’s forces? Was Hussein more capable of exercising control over those who were supposedly oppressed under his rule than we are?

    Seems to me that we are far more hated than Hussein ever was.

  18. Clark on December 1, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    Mark, Hussein simply had power and was more willing to use it. He didn’t mind slaughtering innocents, as the uprising in the south after the first Gulf War showed. Presumably we could easily quash the insurgency too were we to use the heavy handed tactics Sadaam used. Also note that there is a big difference between an established dictator with a sitting army and secret police and a force moving in after the dissolutionment of the government.

    Regarding support from the war – recall that most of us believed that there were WMDs and a clear threat. Those turned out to be false. So I’m not sure people’s opinions prior to the war are that relevant.

    Regarding bin Laden’s “calling us to repentence.” He wants us entirely out of the middle east and to stop aiding Israel. Exactly how is that calling us to repentence?

  19. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    Mark N.: DKL, regarding Jeffrey Dahmer: he is certainly the exception to the rule. But I think the examples of self-justification provided in the Book of Mormon hit closer to the mark more often than not.

    Jeffrey Dahmer is only the exception insofar as he didn’t start a public relations campaign to blame his victims for their fate and try to recruit followers to do his bidding. But I rest assured that if he did, folks like you would use his purported self-justification to take up his cause as well. (After all, aren’t we all just kidnapping, sodomizing, and eating people in our own way?)

  20. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    Mark N: Why didn’t this occur when Hussein was still in power? If the Iraqis were so unhappy under Hussein, why didn’t they mount this same level of opposition to Hussein’s forces? Was Hussein more capable of exercising control over those who were supposedly oppressed under his rule than we are?

    One word: Oppurtunism. Regime transition creates perceived oppurtunities for entreprenuerial tyrants seeking to grab their power. Also, our troups aren’t anywhere as brutal as Hussein.

    Mark N: Seems to me that we are far more hated than Hussein ever was.

    Speak for yourself, Mark.

  21. Geoff B on December 1, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    Mark N, if you do not understand the difference between US foreign policy (which has made its mistakes but has been overwhelming positive in terms of spreading freedom across the globe) and Saddam Hussein, there is no common ground for debate on this issue. There was a time I was similarly unenlightened, but as someone else on this board said, “I was so much older than, I’m younger than that now.”

  22. Jonathan Green on December 1, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    Clark, I think the question you ask, and the kind of discussion it invites, are unfortunate. Yes, we personally, and America, like all nations, have enemies with which there are sometimes violent disagreements. That does not permit us to casually label people, movements, or governments as Satan’s literal teammates.

    ‘Gadianton robber’ is a loaded term. One can’t cry ‘Gadianton!’ whenever one needs a good synonym for ‘sinner.’ If it is to mean anything useful, then it has to be reserved for those particular villains who have a personal relationship with a very personal devil. No one can say, “Look! Bad people! Sinners, even! They are Modern Gandianton Robbers!” without either a) watering down the term so that it applies to everybody who has ever sinned; or b) having very good evidence to back up their claim.

    I don’t want to reduce the question of Gadianton robbers to “there’s good and bad in all of us, let’s have a group hug.” But the natural tendency to regard our opponents in human conflicts as evil followers of Satan is one that should not be indulged in lightly. It blinds us as to our own faults, makes it easier to dehumanize our opponent and justify the unspeakable, and it promotes cliched approaches to hard problems.

    Finding numerous parallels tells us nothing about the key issue. With insurgencies, there are some America supports and some it doesn’t. Sometimes the leaders of insurgencies even swear sacral oaths, something to the effect of, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.” A list of parallels doesn’t permit us to reach the conclusion that the question ‘modern Gandiantons?’ points towards, namely, that some personal or national enemy is inspired by/directed by/on the IM buddy list of Satan. If you want to arrive at that conclusion, you have to have adequate evidence. I haven’t seen any proposals for Nouveau Gadiantons in the posts thus far that offer anything like it. Comparing civilian body counts, as seen above, doesn’t make the case by itself. It’s one thing to say someone or something is bad, quite another to say that they are in league, yea, with that same being who did plot with Cain, even verily the author of all sin.

    You’re failing to distinguish modern-day “Lamanites” (people who oppose us nationally and politically, even genuine threats to our existence who use despicable tactics) from modern-day Gadianton robbers (oaths, secret handshakes, signed on the dotted line for Lucifer, Inc.). Theologically it’s questionable, strategically it’s worse.

  23. Stephen Hardy on December 1, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    It always amazes me to see how differently we read the scriptures and use them to support our point of view. I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I must do that, and so do many of us. Unfortunately, it should be the other way around. The scriptures should be used to change our points of view and not only to support our already fixed world-view.

    So, it is with that little bit of introspection that I beg to differ with those who use the Book of Mormon to justify our current war in Iraq. For example, for those of you, who like me, feel that the war in Iraq wasn’t properly justified, might might scriptural support for this in 3 Nephi 3:20,21:

    “Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

    “But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.”

    So here we have a situation where war upon the Nephites was inevitable. Giddianhi has explicitly stated that he was going to visit the Nephites to utterly destroy them. So the people (Nephites) wanted to do the natural thing, which was to suprise their enemies with an attack on their (their enemy’s) land. However this appears to be specifically forbidden.

    When I read Roger Beutel’s quote from Ether 8, I don’t think of Afghan or Arabic terrorists, but I think of secret combinations in “our midst” such as the oft-referred to “military-industrial” complex. In fact, there is nothing “secret” about Osama bin Laden. He has made it clear what he wants to do and how he will accomplish it. He explicitly desires to destroy our society and regularly warns us that he will do so.

    However, I worry about secret combinations in terms of the fact that it appears that our government goes to great lengths to hide their actions from us. You talk about secret combinations… whether it is the bombing of Cambodia a few decades ago, or secret interrogations of combatants at Guantamano, we know our governments, Republican or Democrat, have occasionaly (or frequently? how can we know?) carried out horrific acts in favor of its own self interest. I shudder to think of what our government is doing (and has done) in our name, and to our name, in foreign contries. For me it is strikingly anit-Christian and fundmanetally and completely at odds with our own beliefs. For me Ether 8 speaks of the dangers of allowing such acts to go on.

  24. Larry on December 1, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    Mark N.

    “The estimates differ, but various organizations are saying that our actions are directly responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq. We’ve gone way above the count of 3,000 or so that we’re laying at the feet of Bin Laden. If we’re not intentionally targeting unarmed civilians, we don’t seem to be very good at structuring our attacks in a way that avoids unarmed civilians, either.”

    It’s pretty tough to fight an enemy that hides behind women and children and act like rats scurrying underground. If it were men you were fighting they would stand up and be counted. Fallujah has shown in spades how they intimidate local citizens to accomodate them on the threat of death. The deaths of these civilians is the biggest tragedy of the war. However, the enemy must be defeated before he feels free to perform this kind of barbarism anywhere he chooses.
    Just be grateful you are meeting them over there and not on your street.

  25. Jim F on December 1, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    David King Landrith: But I rest assured that if he [Dahmler] did, folks like you would use his purported self-justification to take up his cause as well. (After all, aren?t we all just kidnapping, sodomizing, and eating people in our own way?)

    Personal attacks like this go beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse at T&S. Please keep the discussion to your disagreements instead.

  26. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    Sorry, Jim F. I meant it tongue-in-cheek.

  27. David on December 1, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    It is amazing, and saddening, how we demonize the opposition (and sometimes deify those who see things our way).

    Some of my Kerry-supporting friends honestly believe Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are thugs on the order of Nixon and his colleagues. Many of them truly believe the Administration is evil.

    Many of my Bush-supporting friends sincerely believe that Kerry is evil. While no one on this thread has directly charged those of us who oppose the war on moral grounds as Gadianton robbers, in some cases it would not be much of a stretch of the reasoning to reach that conclusion.

    I have friends on both ends of the political spectrum–from members of the national John Birch Society Board to members of the ACLU board. I can say that they all are conscientious, honest and sincere, and wonderful people, whom I am glad to call my friends.

    In my mind, President Hinckley’s suggestion that we can disagree without being disagreeable includes not ascribing to other nations or groups of people implicit membership in the Gadianton robbers, or as having the number 666 for that manner.

    In my experience, how we see things depends on where we sit. It is not unnatural for us, as Americans, to ascribe laudable motives to our actions, because our motives, in many cases, are good (at least from our perspective). But we are sometimes reluctant to view our American behavior through the eyes of others. From our standpoint, we are liberators of Iraq. But, for me, it is not hard to see how many Iraqis might view us as occupiers.

  28. Larry on December 1, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    Stephen,

    Your argument falls apart in a multi-cultural society. The only way you could possibly defend yourself on home turf is to assume that every Muslim was a terrorist and prepare to battle them, when most would be completely innocent. How else could you be sure to protect your homes and families. The ACLU would make sure that every defense measure you took was against the constitution and therefore could not be implemented.
    Let these terrorists come here to do battle and you would have a choice to make. And sadly, I fear that the choice you would make would be accomodation. The result of which would be the denial of religious freedom and certain death, because you would have to convert to Wahabi sect of Muslim faith or die.

  29. Ivan Wolfe on December 1, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Mark N. —

    Those who have projected high civilian casualty rates in Iraq are just as much partisans as though who project low casualty rates. I don’t have any reason to trust them. ‘

    And while I regret civilian casulaties (and that was one of the reasons I am still ambivalent about the Iraq war), our military has not systematically, deliberately and repeatedly targeted unarmed civilians.

    And Bin Laden is a sick, sick man. I’m sorry, but I can’t trust any of his greviances. A bitter well doesn’t bring forth good water and all that. His well is pure posion, and all it can do is produce poison – there are no genuince insights to be gained from him.

    (And did you really mean to conflate Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society teachers with Bin Laden?)

  30. clark on December 1, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    The issue is less labeling people or calling people names. Rather the point I wanted to get at was what we could learn from the Book of Mormon for our own day.

    While I think some of the complaints bin Laden offers are valid, at the same time many of them are not and his ultimate goal (a fundamentalists pan-islam nation) are a threat.

    The one point raised though was a good one. The key strategy of the insurgency in the Book of Mormon was corruption of government. Perhaps Al Queda can do that in the middle east, but hasn’t attempted anything like that in the west. However within Iraq that has certainly happened and assassinations of leaders is rather common, much as in the Book of Mormon.

  31. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    clark: The key strategy of the insurgency in the Book of Mormon was corruption of government. Perhaps Al Queda can do that in the middle east, but hasn’t attempted anything like that in the west.

    How about Spain?

  32. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    It just occurred to me that if I ventured outside “the bounds of acceptable discourse at T&S” (as Jim F. pointed out) then the person to whom I owe an apology is Mark N. Sorry, Mark. I didn’t intend any offense.

  33. Clark on December 1, 2004 at 8:03 pm

    From what little I know of Spain it doesn’t quite fit and the effects of the bombing were overstated in the American press. Contrast this with say KGB infiltration of many European governments during the cold war, which was a much better fit. I think Saudi Arabia might be a great fit though.

  34. Ivan Wolfe on December 1, 2004 at 8:15 pm

    clark-

    I have to admit, if I close my eyes and pretend someone else is talking, I think Osama Bin Laden does have some valid complaints.

    But then I realize, that’s like saying Hitler had some good ideas. The source taints the message so much I can’t consider the complaints vaild. Logically, I’m comitting an ad hominem argument, but in this case I think its justified.

  35. David King Landrith on December 1, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    Ivan Wolfe: I have to admit, if I close my eyes and pretend someone else is talking, I think Osama Bin Laden does have some valid complaints.

    I do not see how this is relevant. If bin Laden had bombed the World Trade Center because he thought Dan Rather was a left wing hack, he’d be correct. This is an entirely separate question from whether we should topple governments that harbor him (e.g., Afghanistan). Nor will it do to ditch Dan Rather at this point, since it makes doing so makes it lucrative to commit terrorism.

  36. Clark on December 1, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    As Eve found out, the best lies are those mixed with truth…

  37. Ivan Wolfe on December 1, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    DKL –

    I agree.

  38. Mark N. on December 1, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    Larry: Let these terrorists come here to do battle and you would have a choice to make. And sadly, I fear that the choice you would make would be accomodation. The result of which would be the denial of religious freedom and certain death, because you would have to convert to Wahabi sect of Muslim faith or die.

    Assuming a choice between death and forced conversion to a different faith, and also assuming that Jesus really is the Christ, and that his gospel is true, and that we have a correct understanding of the Plan of Salvation and that our bodies and our spirits will, at some point in the future, be reunited, never to die again, then I can’t help but wonder why we should fear those who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, instead of fearing him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell?

    The point of Matthew 10:28 seems to be that there are worse things than death. Or should I not take that so literally?

    Now, I may be wrong, but I’m having a real hard time imagining that at my judgment day, the Lord is going to be condemning me for my reluctance to approve of those who insisted on sending our troops (I was going to say “leading our troops”, but that didn’t seem to be an accurate representation of what has occurred) into battle against a foe that never actually threatened us. I can easily imagine lots of other things of which I might stand condemned and which would cause me to receive a lesser reward, but I doubt that my resistance to increasing the misery level of this mortal existence by means of the sword (or napalm or phosphorus shells) against those that have never caused me any harm is going to do it.

  39. Geoff B on December 2, 2004 at 7:25 am

    Mark N, your version of judgement day is personal and, in the end, you will have to answer for your own sins and your own process of repentence, just as I will. My personal opinion is that the Lord will judge us on our ability to have courage and support what is right, both in the political and personal realm, along with thousands of other issues that have nothing to do with courage and the Iraq war. Capt. Moroni in the BoM is a hero precisely because he stands up for what is right and does not shirk his duty as a national leader. The problem with a knee-jerk opposition to the Iraq war is that it ignores history and makes it impossible for any war to ever be justified. Why did we invade Europe and take on Germany in WWII? We could have easily made a deal with Hitler and Tojo in 1940 and basically created a world of spheres of influence — Hitler could have had Europe and Africa, Japan could have had Asia and we could have had the Americas. Hitler and Tojo were both lobbying for this result, and in their criminal mindset, they didn’t understand why FDR didn’t jump at the chance. According to your logic, this may have been a justifiable thing to do: after all, Hitler had not invaded us. But history has shown it would not have been morally right. Hitler would have proceeded to wipe out millions more Jews than he did and most likely would have wiped out tens of millions more. The Japanese would have done the same in brutally disposing of any opposition in Asia.

    So, was Saddam Hussein a direct threat to us? Perhaps not immediately, but he had in effect declared war on the United States and was clearly searching for ways to hurt us. But most importantly, he was brutally repressing millions of his own people. It was simply not the right thing to do to leave him in power, especially in the wake of Sept. 11.

    Should we take down all such tyrants? Not necessarily. Some can be contained, some can be negotiated out of power. In the case of Iran, we could end the mullocracy by supporting the democratic wishes of the majority of Iranians, who are months away from toppling a dictatorship there. It is simply the right thing to do to support freedom and democracy, and sometimes — but not always — war is the only means to get to that end.

  40. Larry on December 2, 2004 at 8:25 am

    Mark N.

    If all you are thinking about is you, then maybe you are right. But don’t forget 1Ne.4:13. If you have any love for your future generations then maybe you will reconsider your position.

  41. danithew on December 2, 2004 at 8:58 am

    Geoff B.,

    I hope you are right about “a majority of Iranians, who are months away from toppling a dictatorship there.” But I’m not so sure.

    However, I don’t think the U.S. should get directly involved in Iran’s internal affairs because the Iranians are more sensitive to interference (from the U.S.) than any other people I can think of. U.S. interference would probably unite the Iranians and unintentionally bolster the government that is already there.

  42. Jonathan Green on December 2, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Quick history lesson:

    The US declared war on Japan because Japan attacked us. Remember Pearl Harbor? 1941 and all that? I thing there’s some online resource about it somewhere.
    The US declared war on Germany and Italy because they had first declared war on us.

  43. Jonathan Green on December 2, 2004 at 9:38 am

    Larry, when you write,

    “Let these terrorists come here to do battle and you would have a choice to make. And sadly, I fear that the choice you would make would be accomodation,”

    are you intending to say that Stephen would probably choose to surrender rather than to resist terrorists? Did you simply write unclearly, or did you intend to be about ten feet beyond the line of what the T&S comments policy allows?

    Mark N. has stated his concerns for the uncounted thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been killed by the US invasion. I don’t see any grounds for the assumption that he is selfishly thinking only of himself in objecting to the war.

  44. Mark B on December 2, 2004 at 10:45 am

    Thanks to Jonathan Green for a dose of sense on WW2. We didn’t make preemptive war in 1941–we were attacked, and then the Germans declared war on us.

    FDR’s speech to congress on December 8 asked for a declaration that a state of war existed between the US and the Empire of Japan. The German declaration of war didn’t come until the 11th, at which point the US responded with its own declaration of war against Germany. (The Italians don’t really deserve mentioning at all.)

    It’s interesting that Clark remembers the KGB’s attempts to infiltrate Western European governments during the cold war, but conveniently overlooks the US government’s more successful attempts in Iran in 1952, in South Vietnam in 1963, in Chile in 1974 and in a whole host of Central American republics in the last 70 years.

    It’s time to stop conflating the US with the Kingdom of God. It’s not. And the wars that it fights are not necessarily on the side of God. Even if the President thinks otherwise.

  45. Ivan Wolfe on December 2, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Mark B. –
    That’s a bit of a non sequitir there. I don’t know anyone on this list who is conflating the US with the Kingdom of God

    Instead, we are claiming that while the USA is not perfect, there is a large moral difference between it and the the USSR, the former Iraqi regime under Hussein, Nazi Germany and the USSR – and that, in the end, the USA is better. (not perfect, not even nearly perfect – but it is the best thing going).

  46. Mark N. on December 2, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Larry: But don’t forget 1Ne.4:13.

    I don’t object to killing the one guilty man who must die to prevent a nation from dwindling and perishing in unbelief, so long as I’m convinced that God has ordered it, and not simply some secular authority who claims he’s doing God’s work. But I rather doubt that God is willing to look the other way if the only means to go about doing it includes taking out 100,000 innocents with the one guilty man.

    “Christian Killers?”, an opinion piece by Laurence M. Vance at http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance25.html at the LewRockwell.com site seems to mirror my feelings pretty closely with regard to Christians and war. Of particular interest to me is the reference by Vance in the article to Romans 13, wherein Paul counsels us to “obey the powers that be”. It occurred to me one day that Romans 13 would be much more consistent with Christian (or LDS) doctrine if those “powers that be” referred to the Church leadership and not to secular officials. I immediately wondered if Joseph Smith had shed any more light on this in the “Inspired Version”.

    Sure enough, Joseph modifies the text (to be more in line with the original, which had been distorted by the secular authorities for their own benefit, possibly?) to make it clear that it’s the Church authorities being referred to, not governmental ones.

    The following brief blurb was published in the New London, CT “The Day” newspaper on 11/21/04:

    Baghdad, Iraq — Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government. After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq’s Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway’s Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “wasting,â€? a condition that takes in chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein. Officials attribute the increase in malnutrition to dirty water and to unreliable supplies of the electricity needed to make it safe by boiling.

    This immediately brought Matthew 25:40 to mind.

  47. Susan Malmrose on December 2, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    Way to stir the pot, Clark! :P

    Way back there Mark said this:
    The “insurgents� are obviously well-armed and capable of killing lots and lots of people when they want to. Why didn’t this occur when Hussein was still in power? If the Iraqis were so unhappy under Hussein, why didn’t they mount this same level of opposition to Hussein’s forces? Was Hussein more capable of exercising control over those who were supposedly oppressed under his rule than we are?

    (Can you use HTML on this blog?)

    It’s been my impression that a lot if not most of the “insurgents” are non-Iraqis. Is that not accurate?

    Roger Beutel, if you’re the same Roger Beutel in HB 9th ward, hello. (If not, hello, but I don’t know you.)

  48. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    That link doesn’t work.

    Regarding Bronco, I’m not sure it is fair to blame penalties – especially offensive penalties – on him. Defensive ones I’ll grant you. But typically if the Defense breaks down it is in the second half because the offense can’t stay on the field long enough to give the D a rest. At least that is what is seems like to me.

  49. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    Mark N, regarding malnutrition and other health problems in Iraq, I wonder if they would be as high had the insurgency not made reconstruction so difficult? i.e. those pointing to the figures seem to be overlooking a lot. I’d note that similar arguments were made to get rid of sanctions. Indeed prior to 911 France and Russia were doing all they could to get sanctions lifted.

    Regarding the US and the Kingdom of God. I’m certainly not equating them in the least. I’d note, however, that even the Book of Mormon the Nephites were hardly angels when dealing with all these situations.

    To me the issue is what lessons to learn. Anyone who says there is only one lesson and we are always the good guys is mistaken. I’d say that the excesses in the cold war of the CIA were wrong, although at the same time the proxy war going on at the time did make things much more complex.

    Regarding the insurgency in Iraq. There clearly are a lot of non-Iraqis, which has aided the Americans since the Iraqis don’t like the Al-Queda non-Iraqis anymore than the Americans. But I think most of the claims of it being primarily foreign are psycops and aren’t to be trusted.

    (BTW – sorry for putting that last comment in the wrong thread)

  50. Ivan Wolfe on December 2, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    I should change my last comment on my last post. Instead of “the best thing going” – please read “one of the best things going.”

    thanks.

  51. Geoff B on December 2, 2004 at 4:18 pm

    Some posters have apparently missed the point of my WWII comment. Let me try to be more clear.

    Ok, back to the late 1930s. Why did Japan end up attacking us? It didn’t start on Dec. 7, 1941. It started many years before. Japan had invaded Korea and China and parts of Russia in Asia. Japan made it clear to the world that Asia was its sphere of influence (much as the US had done with the Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century). Hitler and Tojo and Mussilini agreed on different spheres of influence, and Hitler got most of Europe and parts of Africa. Hitler ended up invading Russia (his fatal mistake) because Russia was the superpower in his sphere of influence.

    The big wild card in all of this was the U.S. What would the U.S. do about this re-alignment of the world? Could the U.S. be convinced to remain isolationist (its natural tendency regarding European affairs — remember we didn’t get into WWI until two years after it started)? The Axis powers bet (wrongly) that they could convince the U.S. to stay out of Asia and Europe. There were strong internal forces against participating in any foreign wars in the US up until the day of Pearl Harbor. But FDR saw the evil nature of the Axis countries and tried to drag the US into WWII. We began the lend-lease program to Britain and gradually the Germans and the Japanese came to see that we were heading toward eventual involvement.

    In the late 1930s, Germany and Japan and even Italy sent emissaries to Washington trying to convince us to sign on to their vision of the world — in effect, their offer was that we would get the Americas and part of the Pacific, German and Italy would get Europe and Africa and Japan would get Asian and parts of the Pacific. There were people at that time, perhaps even the majority of American citizens, who supported this vision. Why should we die for the Europeans’ mistakes? Who cared about the rumored problems with the Jews anyway?

    Japan only ended up attacking us — and German and Italy only ended up declaring war on us — after failing to convince us to remain neutral or join the Axis. Japanese generals admitted after the war that they knew the war was lost months before it started because they had failed to, in effect, bribe FDR into accepting a secret combination.

    Today’s apologists for Saddam Hussein are making the exact same mistake as the appeasers in the 1930s: who cares about the Iraqi people — let them solve their own problems? Who cares about the Kurds or the Shiites?

    It is simply not morally right to take this position, imho.

    As for the Iranians, danithew, your information is a bit out of date. Iranians today are the most pro-U.S. people in the Middle East with perhaps the exception of Kuwait. If you are interested in more information on this, please e-mail me and I’d be happy to send it to you. But I would agree that we need to be extremely careful about how and when we get involved in Iranian internal affairs. But there is definitely room for promoting democracy in Iran. It is one of the great untold stories of our generation.

  52. Clark on December 2, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    To add to Geoff’s comments, the US was already involved in a de facto war with Japan due to its actions in China in the 1930’s. Further FDR was trying to have it both ways by being neutral but providing resources for Britain. (Although clearly this was in part due to the isolationism in the US that was popular at the time)

  53. Ivan Wolfe on December 2, 2004 at 9:17 pm

    Clark –

    beyond that, we were already in a de facto state of armed conflict with Iraq, since Iraq was constantly firing on US planes patrolling the “no-fly zone” that was in place after the first Gulf War.

  54. Geoff B on December 3, 2004 at 9:59 am

    With a view of the history of WWII, it is fascinating to note how the appeasers of the 1930s and early 1940s are exactly like the people who oppose the Iraq war today.

    –They forget the crucial role of basic human freedom as the central right of every human being. This right, God has made very clear, is the single most important right we have.
    –Some of them oppose going to war for economic reasons (George Soros, etc).
    –Some of them oppose going to war because it hurts business and brings them less money (the French, Germans and Russians and the current UN leadership).
    –Some of them oppose going to war because they simply have little knowledge of history but are well-meaning people.
    –Some are cynically and blindly opposed to whatever Pres. Bush is in favor of (Michael Moore, most of Hollywood and the mainstream media).
    –Some are true pacifists who honorably oppose all offensive wars (this includes many Latter-day Saints).
    –Some have just been fooled by the rhetoric of the people above.

    So, to turn to the original point of this post, the Middle East is indeed dominated by a Gadianton-like atmosphere. Secret combinations abound. I disagree with the true pacifists, but I respect their honorable point of view. I would ask them to look very carefully under what conditions war would be justified. I think they may find that war that increases human freedom is currently justified and appropriate in the eyes of Heavenly Father. Just my opinion.

  55. Jonathan Green on December 3, 2004 at 10:45 am

    Being able to distinguish between 1) apologizing for or appeasing Saddam Hussein, and 2) opposing the Iraq war, is one of the basic requirements for adult discussion of a serious topic. I don’t think adult discussion is in danger of breaking out here. How about asking yourself: how many more rationales for the war have to be undermined, how many more people have to die, before you decide that the cost of removing Saddam Hussein from power wasn’t worth it after all?

  56. David King Landrith on December 3, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    Jonathan Green: Being able to distinguish between 1) apologizing for or appeasing Saddam Hussein, and 2) opposing the Iraq war, is one of the basic requirements for adult discussion of a serious topic.

    I think that a basic requirement for “adult discussion” is the ability to distinguish between what we know prospectively and what we know only retrospectively.

    Until Germany invaded Poland, appeasement was a word only used by Chamberlain’s opponents. But it’s pretty obvious at this point who was appeasing and apologizing for the WWII axis.

    Historians will decide who (if anyone) was apologizing for and appeasing Hussien, but their hindsight can’t help us plan our actions.

  57. danithew on December 3, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Geoff B.,

    I’m very much interested in the information you’re talking about but I don’t have your email address. Can you send it to me via my contact page? It’s at: http://wump.info/contact_me.htm

    Thanks!

  58. Clark on December 3, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Of course the one big difference between now and WWII, to be fair, is that Sadaam is nothing like Hitler or Tojo.

  59. Geoff B on December 3, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    danithew, the wump page didn’t work. Here are some articles from Michael Ledeen, probably the preeminent scholar on Iran today. This is good for a start.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200411290913.asp

    http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200410050930.asp

    http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200409240934.asp

    http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200409200836.asp

  60. Stephen Hardy on December 3, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    Larry:

    I would like to comment on: “Your argument falls apart in a multi-cultural society. The only way you could possibly defend yourself on home turf is to assume that every Muslim was a terrorist and prepare to battle them, when most would be completely innocent.”

    I would simply state again that we seem to be using the scriptures to support our already made up minds rather than looking to the scriptures to guide us. Any scripture or story can be dismissed by such a comment. Was the Book of Mormon written for us? I have been taught this repeatedly. When Mormon says that he has seen us, did he see a white-faced BYU campus, or did he see America in all its multi-cultural splendor? These Nephites choose to hold back and not pre-emptively attack a band of Gadianton robbers which included BOTH Nephites and Lamanites. Rather than dismiss this story because we can’t tell whose side people are on our side by their skin color, we could look for scripture examples of pre-emptive action. I am not a scriptorian… maybe there are many examples. I can think of the Israelites taking over the land of Canaan. That was a very aggresive and brutal war. However, I don’t think that we believe that God has ordered and blessed us in our efforts to over-run and occupy this country. Even if that is what we are doing.

    You went on to say that: “Let these terrorists come here to do battle and you would have a choice to make. And sadly, I fear that the choice you would make would be accomodation. The result of which would be the denial of religious freedom and certain death, because you would have to convert to Wahabi sect of Muslim faith or die.”

    All I can say about this is that this may be exactly what the Nephites were saying when they went to Gidgiddoni. The wisdom of God is usually not the wisdom of man. For me, this kind of pre-emptive war-thinking is trusting “in the arm of flesh.” We aren’t willing to really believe/trust in God. Might makes right!

  61. Geoff B on December 3, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    Clark, in what way exactly is Saddam nothing like Hitler or Tojo? I can only think of one: the international community (led by the United States) banded together to stop his territorial ambitions, just as it should have done with Hitler at Czechoslovakia. Think what a different world we would have if that had happened! But, Saddam was 1)anti-semitic and wanted to kill Jews 2)expansionistic (invaded Iran and Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf) 3)brutal and a mass-murderer (killed close to 1 million of his own people) 4)developed a cult of personality based on his supposedly crucial role in history. Saddam was not as successful as Hitler and Tojo in terms of his expansionist desires, but again the only reason for that is that people banded together and took the courageous step of stopping him (in Gulf war 1 and now in the Iraq war).

    I agree wholeheartedly with Stephen Hardy that is is difficult to find a scriptural justification in the BoM for preemptive war. This has been the most difficult task for me personally to overcome in terms of supporting the Iraq war. Here is how I have decided on that issue: the scriptures are always contradictory. In one place we are told not to kill and to turn the other cheek, and in another the people of Israel are told to kill everything in sight and Nephi is told to kill Laban. Joseph Smith talked about this during his lifetime and called it one of the central dilemmas of the scriptures: how do we know what is right? And Joseph’s answer was that from God’s perspective different actions by his children are right at different times. He sends us prophets to tell us what is right for our time. Neither the prophet nor any of the apostles has told us the Iraq war is wrong and that U.S. involvement is wrong. If they did, I would be against the war as soon as it left their mouths. My interpretation of Pres. Hinckley’s talks on that issue have shown that there is room for civil disagreement but that there are times war is justified. This is one of those times or else the prophet would be speaking out against the war.

  62. Clark on December 3, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    Geoff, I meant that Saddam wasn’t the threat in 2002 that Hitler was even in 1937. So it isn’t an obvious parallel – certainly not a parallel for 1941. The issue of pre-emptive action is a legitimate one. For some reason I always think of Teancum and his javelin, although clearly the parallels aren’t that apt. However the problem with pre-emptive action is what kind of action is necessary. And it is there that people start to disagree.

  63. Kristine on December 3, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    Geoff, I don’t think it’s exactly accurate to call Ledeen “probably the preeminent scholar on Iran today.” You might want to specify the slant of his scholarship. (Or maybe danithew’s already familiar with him.) I’d hardly trust him as an unbiased source on Iranian opinion–he’s part of the team that had us convinced the Iraqis would be strewing roses beneath our feet.

  64. Geoff B on December 4, 2004 at 7:13 am

    Kristine,

    a)The Iraqis are figuratively placing roses under our troops’ feet in some parts of Iraq today. I’m guessing you like to concentrate on the parts of Iraq where that’s not happening (that’s why people keep on telling liberals to “support the troops”).

    b)Can you name a scholar who knows more about Iran, has written more about Iran and has better connections inside the country today than Ledeen?

    Here’s Ledeen’s bio:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/masthead/masthead-ledeen.asp

  65. Kristine on December 4, 2004 at 10:18 am

    Geoff, it’s more or less impossible to answer the question of who knows the most about Iran–are you talking about history, politics, literature, geography? There are lots of people who know an awful lot about Iran, and it’s silly to try to rank them like that.

    My point was only that Ledeen is a policy wonk as much as he is an Iran scholar–his “scholarship” is conducted through a thick (and potentially distorting) ideological lens, and should be understood in that context. That’s all.

  66. Kristine on December 4, 2004 at 10:30 am

    Geoff, for more perspective on Ledeen, you might want to look at the following:

    http://www.amconmag.com/06_30_03/feature.html
    http://www.alternet.org/story/15860
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/3031803.stm
    http://www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/8249

    He’s clearly very, very smart, but I think he’s also more than a little scary.

  67. danithew on December 4, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Geoff, I’ve gone to two of the links you’ve provided and I’ll make sure to read through all of them more thoroughly soon. My first reaction when I saw the links you provided, was that all of the articles were from that single source (and I’m talking the person, not the magazine).

    I don’t disbelieve Ledeen’s point that a majority of Iranians hate the mullahcracy they live in and go out of their way to defy the austere strictures against them. But there’s a big difference between having a private home kit for making alcoholic beverages (or wearing sexy underwear under your burka) and actually fomenting a democratic revolution. For a number of years I’d walk around thinking that tyrannical governments would be overthrown in Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, China, etc. The problem is that there is always someone saying this is going to happen somewhere “soon.” The reality is that those who want democracy in these countries aren’t usually the ones with tanks, guns and torture chambers — and these governments do a fantastic job of crushing dissent or even those who appear to be prepared to mount dissent.

    Again, I would love to see the Iranian government overthrown and replaced with a true democracy. Because the sanctimony, austerity and conceit of these ayatollahs gives me the creeps. So I hope you are right. But I’m not holding my breath.

  68. Larry on December 4, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Stephen,

    Just so you know, I have always been a believer in the principles taught regarding war in the Book of Mormon. My idol, if you will, is J. Reuben Clark, who was an isolationalist.
    Also, B of M society was more theological than ours is. They at least had judges and prophets that were acknowledged, by and large, as being divinely inspired as government leaders. We have no correlation with that. Our leaders can not be seen to be seeking divine inspiration for their policy decisions.
    However, that being said, in our modern multi-cultural society we have a problem. We have decided to absorb people from all over the earth, particularly those who are not homogenous to our roots. Among them are those who are our avowed enemies(their choice, not ours).
    They have chosen to take advantage of our system and through it destroy us. We can sit idly by and let this occur or we can stand up and take the battle to their source and stop it before it gets here. President Hinckley supported the war, therefore I take that as tacit approval by the Lord for the action taken. In our modern context the principle is the same as taken in the Book of Mormon.
    The army is not there to destroy but to alleviate. The only ones seeking to destroy are those doing the car bombings and slaughter of innocent men, women and children.
    No argument that justifies the work of these demons cuts the muster because they have already shown that if we don’t stop them there they will come here. Better there.

  69. Geoff B on December 4, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Kristine,

    Thanks for the links. I learned some new things about Ledeen, and actually respect him more than ever. My original point remains the same: nobody knows more today and writes as much about what his happening inside Iran than Ledeen (and the articles you linked confirm that).

    A quick story with a personal twist if you will indulge me. In 1982, I worked at The Nation magazine. Yes, that Nation magazine, the one that is the premier magazine of today’s left. In 1984, I voted for Jesse Jackson and in 1988 Dukakis. I was very involved in liberal/leftist politics and actually lived in Nicaragua for two years, inspired by dreams of helping the international left. The main reason? I was appalled at the Nixon/Kissinger realpolitik policies that had driven our foreign policy until then.

    How could we possibly have supported the dictatorships in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Philippines, etc, etc? These dictatorships were diametrically opposed to everything we as the United States stood for (freedom and democracy). My foreign policy back then — and a foreign policy I shared with the leftists with whom I associated — was based on always supporting freedom and democracy.

    I was appalled that Bush 1 didn’t take out Saddam Hussein when he had a chance to install a true democracy. I’ve been appalled by decades of appeasement to murderers and thugs in the Middle East — all in the name of realpolitik.

    So, finally we have a president who is pursuing freedom and democracy. Afghanistanis are the freest they have been in their history, and Iraqis are on the way to having true freedom. There is a real chance for the first time ever that millions of people in the Middle East will be able to have freedom if President Bush’s policies are successful.

    There are a few former leftists like myself who see the situation the same way I do. Christopher Hitchens, Nat Hentoff, David Horowitz. Most of them, however, have retreated into a kind of autopilot knee-jerk opposition to Bush’s policies without realizing sometimes what they are saying. For decades we on the left were calling for our presidents to support freedom and democracy, and now we have a president actually doing it, and because he is a Republican and doesn’t support the ACLU and is not pro-choice, somehow he is also wrong on Iraq. It is phenomenal to me how short-sighted people can be.

    The articles you have attached label Ledeen as a “scary” neoconservative. So what? Many neoconservatives share the same beliefs that we leftists had in the 1980s: we want everybody in the world to have freedom and democracy. It just so happens that it is the most humane form of government possible, the only one until the Milennium that will allow people to truly pursue happiness. I know what’s going through your mind right now (because I used to be on the left, and I know the thought processes very well): “what about Halliburton? What about no WMDs? What about all those lies Bush told? What about the Bush family relationship to the Saudis? What about civilian casualties?” I am probably missing a few. And here’s the answer: the left has exaggerated many of these issues, but at the end of the day they don’t matter any more than civilian casualties and graft mattered in WWII. Today, because of the divinely inspired U.S. role of bringing freedom to the world, there are literally billions of people who are more free than they would have been without us. And now it is time in the dispensation of the fullness of times for the Middle East to have freedom. As Latter-day Saints we should be applauding and marveling at God’s power and appreciating that he is magnifying the talents of a seemingly mediocre frat boy and former high school cheerleader from Texas to bring this all about.

    Don’t you want the people of Iraq to be free? And if the answer is yes, then how exactly would you have done it without going to war with Saddam Hussein, or his sadistic, brutal sons who would have succeeded him when he died?

  70. Clark on December 4, 2004 at 5:14 pm

    Tangent alert, but is The Nation really the premier magazine of progressives anymore? Most progressives I’ve heard discuss it tend to slam it quite frequently.

  71. Geoff B on December 4, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    Clark, you may have a point. It certainly was during the 1980s and at least some of the 1990s. I still read it fairly regularly. Perhaps somebody else who actually is a “progressive” could say better than I. But what is more respected? The Progressive? Mother Jones? New Republic (not even a progressive magazine anymore)? Slate? I’d love to know.

    My favorite magazines these days are the ones I hated in the 1980s when I was a progressive: National Review, Commentary, City Journal. It’s funny how things change.

  72. Ivan Wolfe on December 4, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Re: Nation, et. al.

    I think sometimes we are too quick to label “right” or “left”

    for example, I have professors who used to love “the Economist” because it was “liberal” until it came out in support of the Iraq War (even though it did so for “liberal” reasons). Suddenly, it was routinely being slammed as a right wing journal with no respectability.

    It did endorse John Kerry, so some of my profs were willing to forgive it, but many still refuse to read that “right wing joke of a magazine” anymore – merely because it supported the Iraqi War.

    It might be too much to ask, but could we debate things on the higher issues at stake, rather than what we personally think about Bush (whether it be hero worship or naked hate)?

  73. Philippe on December 5, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    My dear friends, what an interesting discussion and what a nice topic: Modern Gadiantons?
    I join this topic quite late and hope that some people are still reading.

    Regarding these questions of wars, I often think and rethink to the meaning of scriptures like Mormon 4:5

    “But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.”

    But considering the initial question “Modern Gadiantons?�, I would like to invite you to jump out of the controversy about former and current national/international wars (it’s getting boring…), and comment more the meaning in a different context: the international LDS context, where despite of our national differences, we form a nation apart, a special people loving God, His son Jesus-Christ, righteousness and truth. When the Lord showed our world and our time to Moroni, he wrote many things for us and in particular in Mormon 8:39-40:

    “Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
    Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?”

    Are modern Gadiantons not also all the people in this world today, who in one way or the other support such secret abominations (at personal, family, local, regional, national and international level) by their ignorance, by their words and their deeds. In our so-called democracies, who has the most influence on our choices, the people, the big international companies or some international organizations? It is quite interesting to have a look worldwide at the process how a political leader gets to the top, and how family and friend connections are working. They too rarely get to the top really caring for the widows or the orphans. It is too often a quite ugly struggle for power.
    To be in the world and not of the world, namely not supporting such conbinations, is rather challenging today. I trust the gospel that tells us it is though possible.

  74. Jack on December 5, 2004 at 6:13 pm

    No doubt one may find evidence of the “evils” associated with secret combinations in our society today. However that doesn’t mean those “evils” are put forth by combinations per se. Because the Lamanites sought to murder Nephites does not put them in the same category as those who banded together in secret societies with oaths and covenants in order gain their purpose. i.e., murder to gain power, wealth and the destruction of free society. The BoM clearly indicates that combinations are specific in their construct and purpose and are not something that one may casually link arms with.

  75. Mark N. on December 6, 2004 at 12:34 am

    Getting back to the topic of the Gadiantons, I thought I’d include some of Nibley’s words on the topic, from “An Approach to the Book of Mormon” (emphasis is mine):

    It is important to understand that Gadianton’s phenomenal success was due to the fact that the majority of the whole Nephite nation submitted to his plan of operation and his philosophy “and did build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver. And it came to pass that all these iniquities did come unto them in the space of not many years” (Helaman 6:31-32). But while the Nephites sank lower and lower in their cycle of producing and acquiring goods as the measure and purpose of man’s existence, the Lamanites set about to exterminate the Gadianton society among their own nations, and succeeded in a most noteworthy fashion. What were their weapons? No strong-arm methods were employed; no knives and poison, tear-gas and sawed-off shot-guns, or the usual arsenal of crime-bursting futility: they simply “did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them” (Helaman 6:37) and that ended the crime-wave! If that sounds a little too idealistic, we must remember that we are dealing here not with the small and peculiar band of professional or congenital criminals, but with the general public gone mad after money—people not really criminal at heart, but unable to resist the appeal of wealth and the things it could buy. Among the Nephites these things actually “seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe” in the system of the Gadiantons and “partake of their spoils” (Helaman 6:38). Why not? they said, everybody is doing it! And everybody was: soon Gadianton’s Protective Association “did obtain the sole management of the government” (Helaman 6:39).

    If the reader has imagined to himself the Gadianton band as abandoned wretches or street Arabs lurking in dark alleys and fleeing from the light of day in dingy and noisome hideouts, let him disabuse his mind of such a concept. They were a highly respected concern that made their handsome profits by operating strictly within the letter of the law, as they interpreted and controlled it. They were the government, the well-to-do, the respectable, and the law-abiding citizens. There was a dangerous and irresponsible element in the society, namely those improvident and negatively inclined fanatics who called themselves the “followers of God,” whose leaders constantly predicted the worst for society; but public opinion and common sense were strongly against such characters and made things pretty hot for them. They were the anti-social prophets of doom and gloom, the real criminal element (Helaman 6:39).

    “And thus we see,” the record concludes, “that they were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction” (Helaman 6:40). And thus we also see the meaning of the paradoxical statement that the disreputable Gadianton “did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi” (Helaman 2:13). He did it not as a criminal and bandit but as one of the most able and successful men of his time, and entirely with the public’s consent.

  76. Larry on December 6, 2004 at 2:22 am

    Mark N.

    Those of us that have studied Nibley are well aware of this analysis. If your only point is to attack the government because you disagree with it you’ve missed the point.
    The fact that you disagree with a political decision does not make it a conspiracy of Gadianton proportions.
    Give some thought to this. The Lord has said that the Gospel is to be taken to all the nations of the earth. There is to be a Stake of Zion in every nation. There is to be a temple in every nation. Education is to be provided to the poor in other nations. That takes money. Guess who the Lord is using to bring to pass His purposes?
    Just because Americans are prosperous and involved in trying to break down evil regimes does not make them Gadiantons.
    Are there “gadiantons” running around? Of course there are. Are they the majority of the society? Not by a long shot.
    The most generous people in the world are Americans. They are the first to go to the aid of any nation that has a disaster and they contribute the most. This is not the behaviour of gadiantons.
    It might be well for you to count your blessings. I can almost bet that you are suffering from an anxiety that makes it difficult to be around you because of your fixation. Try changing your approach and you might find you are happier.
    I don’t say that out of ignorance – I was once where you are. The monsters were around every corner.

  77. Geoff B on December 6, 2004 at 7:14 am

    I own and have read just about everything Nibley ever wrote. I think he is right to point out the corrupting power of money. Those who pursue money and forget their obligations to building up the kingdom of God are definitely on the wrong track, imho. But Nibley has written and philosophized himself into a box. The only people who are on the right track in his world are GAs, leftist BYU professors and a few farmers. I think Nibley has missed the point of our time entirely — the Lord wants us to interact and be part of greater society for now until the time of the Fulness of the Gentiles is over. Then, we can all retreat to Zion. If Nibley’s view is right, the kingdom of God is going to be a very, very small place.

  78. Mark N. on December 6, 2004 at 2:14 pm

    Larry: If your only point is to attack the government because you disagree with it you’ve missed the point.

    My point is that, according to Nibley’s interpretation, one can very much be a part of the “Gadianton conspiracy” and not even really be aware of it. We are very much a divided nation right now: it would appear that half the nation (and I could be off on the percentages; I’m basing it pretty much on election results) believes that our involvement in Iraq right now is absolutely unnecessary, and was predicated on (at best) inaccurate information, or (at worst) outright lies and cherry-picked intelligence, massaged and packaged so as to manipulate the public into allowing the government to do something they would not normally have allowed. The other half seems to believe that we’re doing God’s will by sending our armies to perform the “work of death” there, and that Iraq will someday be the next socially rehabilitated Germany or Japan. I would think that someday, we’ll arrive at a point where we’ll be able to look back and say either that the “pacifists” were absolutely right and that needless thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, died for no good reason, or they were dead wrong, and that the world will then be a place where Iraq is seen as one of America’s successes in expanding the boundaries of liberty.

    I hope it turns out to be the latter case, but I suspect it’s going to be the former.

    People look back at World War II and inevitably ask the question: what in God’s name were the German people thinking? Are we going to reach a point where the same question is someday posed with regard to the Americans of our day? I do know that 30 or 40 years from now, nobody’s going to ask me about what I thought about it back then and get the response that “it seemed like a good idea at the time”.

    The Book of Mormon was given to us, not only as a testament of Christ, but as a warning as to the path that is to be avoided should one wish to not become a part of yet another destroyed civilization in the western hemisphere. I can’t help but believe that we were given this history because we actually need the warning, and the events of the last year and a half sure seem to confirm it for me.

  79. Larry on December 6, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Mark N.

    Mark, you make good points but IMHO you are shooting in the wrong direction. You can’t possibly believe that what you are doing in Iraq can be compared to the Germans in WWII. There is a logical disconnect between concentration camps and murdering innocent people, and providing support to a people you are trying to help.
    I can’t envision giving credence to al-queda and their barbarous activities as being legitimate and the American activities as being illegitimate. Thirty years from now you may look back with regret but for different reasons than you suggest.

  80. clark on December 6, 2004 at 8:50 pm

    Mark, the logical corrolary of Nibley’s comments though is that it is not always easy to determine when one is or isn’t aiding the Gadiantons. For instance if the UN oil for food corruption aimed at removing sanctions was part of a secret combination, and installing democracy in Iraq part of resolving problems in the world, then those fighting against it may be uwittingly part of a conspiracy. On the other hand if the conspiracy is American hegemony and the installation of a fascist theocracy, as some well known bloggers have declared, perhaps those of us aiding Bush are part of the conspiracy.

    The problem is in seeing what fits…

  81. Jack on December 6, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    I love Nibley; I hate his politics.

    If we are going to use the argument that because the BoM was written for our times it thus behooves us to search out specific corollaries; then we ought to look for specific elements having to do with combinations as documented in the BoM as part of our effort to discover a “fit” in our day.

    The BoM seems to be consistent in setting forth the idea that combinations involve binding oaths and are founded upon an ancient order of sorts. The ultimate goal is the over-through of all nations and the destruction of free society. The driving force behind the combination is the aquisition of wealth and power, even at the cost of human life.