I don’t really have a particularly eloquent or nice way of bringing up this topic. Long story short, yesterday the Senate’s report on how American intelligence operatives, to paraphrase President Obama, “tortured some folks”, was celebrated by folks on the right. I was absolutely horrified. Not only is there genuine disagreement among a huge amount of the populace as to whether or not we should bring the people to justice who committed these brutal and un-American acts, but we also apparently can’t even agree that torture is wrong on any level.
For me, this is a simple question of morality. We shouldn’t torture people because we would be jusitifiably horrified if some other nation tortured one of our own, in wartime or otherwise. Calls for blood would cry out in the street. People would sign up for the military, inspired to take up arms against the wanton brutality of some country I just made up. Now. Why the fuck don’t we expect that it has the same effect in other countries?
I wasn’t just making shit up like usual, either; the percentage of Americans polled who say they support the use of torture in general has in fact increased noticeably in the years since it was first gruesomely thrust upon us all. Think about that. Look to your left. Now look to your right. One of those two people is largely okay with torturing another human being.
Let’s unpack this for a moment. First of all, as a practical matter, torture doesn’t eve work. Many studies have shown that torture is ineffective at best and may in fact be counterproductive. This isn’t some new thing, either. Scientists have had that figured out for quite some time now.
Secondly, as a matter of moral outrage, we genuinely, for real, as long ago as the end of World War II, prosecuted and even executed Japanese soldiers for many of the same things that are enumerated in great detail in this torture report. The moral ambiguity about torture that seems evinced by great swaths of America’s populace is very much a new thing. Former presidential candidate and all-time senior Senator from Arizona John McCain gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate a couple days ago that I would highly recommend watching. McCain speaks from experience, having been tortured in a POW camp in Vietnam. He’s right. No matter even if it did yield actionable, accurate intelligence (it doesn’t), this is an outrage and we should as a nation feel ashamed of this. It is indeed a stain on our national honor.
Meanwhile, on FOX news, they’re outraged too… at the decision to release the report. These are the people who aren’t just okay with torture, they encourage it, celebrate it, love it. These people are the reason why we still have the death penalty in this country. These people are the reason why other nations don’t believe us when we say we’re trying to make the world a better place. These people may exist in other countries, but here we let them run the show. Let’s call them what they are: unreconstructed barbarians, anachronisms in our modern age, and let’s start treating these ideas with the outrage they deserve.
Pay it forward, space cadets; I’m gonna go lie down for a while.