by Alex Symington
Wow. In just a few days since my essay on Dick Cheney, sociopaths and torture in last Friday’s Blue Paper, a segment of the American people has been polled and the polls have indicated torture to be an acceptable practice. The Washington Post’s, Aaron Blake could not contain his glee at the poll findings. The headline for his article was titled, “The Reason Americans Are OK with Torture”. For what it’s worth, Blake’s article was the first up when googling “torture poll”. Fascinating reading. It turns out the “reason” is they don’t believe the Senate Report on torture. I wonder how many of those polled actually read the report. To paraphrase Herbert Spencer, “How can you truly know something without investigation?”
Once again, for many Americans, belief trumps fact. This trend to disregard hard fact for personal belief is becoming all too common in American culture. The senate report stated that information taken from the tortured was not reliable. The most useful intel garnered was not the result of torture at all, but by the use of rapport building techniques employed by the FBI and traditional sleuthing and foot work, however Dick and the boys at CIA torture central took credit for it. Irritating fact. Insert fingers in ears, nanananananana…
Mr. Blake could not help himself and turned the very serious issue of torture into a cheap political gotcha by ending his short article with a crack about how the senate report didn’t give the Democrats the “splash they had hoped for.” Wow. What happened to us?
I questioned our nation’s motives and goals last week and I’ll repeat, ‘…there are those that feel any type of pain inflicted on the perceived enemy is justified in retaliation for the attack on us. Dick Cheney’s mantra was, “by whatever means necessary to safeguard our security”. That would include, but not be limited to, the “Cheney Shadow Government”, answerable to no one, the obliteration of our civil rights and the total disregard for the rule of law, all of which our forefathers, grandfathers and fathers fought and died for. So, tell me, when we remove all things fundamental to the American way of life, what exactly are we safeguarding?’
A few explanations for this apparent cold hearted attitude of the American people polled came to mind. If I was the perp in the crime of torture I would want to get out in front of the disaster and control the damage. First I would go on as many talk shows as possible and boldly defend my crime. At the same time, while I was busy doing that I would tell the current people in charge if they don’t want to go down with me they better continue to protect me or they’d be next.
While I was showering the airwaves with this blitzkrieg of B.S. I would talk with my pals in corporate sponsored media and ask them to write up a poll or two with loaded questions that will lead the polled to respond in a way that will vindicate me. Such as, “Do you think the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” On the surface I would be very tempted to answer justified. Perhaps the question could have been, “Do you think the use of torture is justified or unjustified even after it has been proven to be ineffective at gathering reliable information?”
All four polls, ABC/Washington Post, Pew Research, CBS News and HuffPost/YouGov asked basically the same questions but depending on the wording got varying percentages of a particular response. At the risk of putting the reader to sleep, here is an example. ABC/WashPost created the highest percentage of “justified” responses and HuffPost the lowest. The ABC question was more general, “All in all, do you think the CIA’s treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” 59% justified. The Huff question was slightly more nuanced, “Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists who may know details about future terrorist attacks against the US is ever justified?” 48 percent said, “always/sometimes justified”. Always/Sometimes was one of the provided response categories
So far we have systematic damage control and manipulation of poll data coupled with willful disregard for the factual content of the Senate Report to explain that cold hearted response by Americans. Another more depressing explanation is posited by Jamelle Bouie in his article in Slate, that Americans really LIKE punishment. Mr. Bouie’s example of American love of punishment is backed by statistical fact so get ready to insert fingers in ears. “….we have the world’s highest incarceration rate—716 inmates for every 100,000 people, compared to 475 for every 100,000 in Russia and 121 for every 100,000 in China.” That is saying a lot. More prisoners than China and Russia combined! Great! We’re number one!
Here is another horrifying statistical fact: “Roughly 200,000 men, women, and children reported being sexually abused in detention facilities in 2011, the most recent year for which the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has anonymously self-reported data from inmates,” writes Carla Murphy for Colorlines. Because of shame from the assault and fear of their assailants, the actual number is almost certainly higher, as many victims don’t report their abuse to the authorities, in part because guards are often as responsible for rape as other inmates.”
The gist of Mr. Bouie’s article is that if Americans feel ok, even good, about sanctioned and/or random punitive action against American prisoners in American prisons, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised there is even less empathy for perceived terrorists.
On one of the many talk shows in Dick Cheney’s victory lap of torture, host of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Dick, “Is there a reason these interrogations didn’t happen on U.S. soil? Was there concern that maybe these folks would get legal protections from the United States and that’s why it was done at black sites?” With his trademark lopsided snarl he replied “We didn’t read them their Miranda rights either.” (yuck yuck) “These are not American citizens. They are unlawful combatants. They are terrorists.”
Mr. Bouie’s take and mine as well is that in Cheney’s twisted world, whether it’s beatings and rape in prison or torture at black op sites it’s all the same. He and many American citizens believe that whatever agony “terrorists” (or “thugs”, in the case of prison) endure, they deserve it.
Another interesting statistical fact is that people who identify themselves as “Christians” make up 80% of those Americans that practice any religion. I would think torture is one of those activities that are counter to the teachings of Jesus. Having just celebrated his birthday, we might want to reflect on that. And while we are reflecting, think on this; even if the majority thinks the use of torture is acceptable you can know that it is not.
There is a photo floating around on the web of a 1936 Nazi rally with the crowd enthusiastically sieg heiling to beat the band, but if you look closely you can see one guy with his arms crossed defiantly. Be that guy.
More from other sources: