SYNDICATED COLUMN: People Who Think Torture is OK Need to Die and Go Away

 

I am tolerant.

I have Republican friends.

When racists speak in my presence, I don’t smash them in the jaw. I try to change their minds.

Many of my close friends and relatives believe in God, which is wrong and therefore stupid, yet I don’t consider them stupid — just mistaken. America, I believe, must create and maintain the space where a multitude of points of view can thrive.

But there are limits. Not every opinion should be tolerated.

If you think torture is OK — under any circumstance, for any reason — you are dangerous.

Pro-torture? You should not be tolerated.

If you believe that “they” had torture coming because “they” attacked “us” on 9/11, or because “they” chop off “our” heads, you are psychotic and sociopathic and should not be free to walk the streets, much less sit on juries or vote or drive a car or hold a job that a perfectly sane unemployed person needs.

If you diminish the exquisite horror of torture — if you think sleep deprivation and blasting loud music into victims’ ears and solitary confinement and stress positions and mock executions and beatings are not “really” torture — I want you locked up, the key thrown away, never to be heard from again. You are not fit to be near children or animals.

If you saw the Abu Ghraib torture photos and then voted for George W. Bush in 2004 anyway, you are Charles Manson crazy and there is no place in society, in America, on this planet, where you ought to be allowed.

If you’re a politician, a reporter or a pundit, and you’ve ever said anything in favor of torture, you should be fired and never heard from in public again.

I did not feel this way before the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on torture under the Bush Administration.

Over the last week, however, I have read thousands of pro-torture, right-wing loons post their monstrous ravings on Internet content boards. I have watched a parade of torture advocates go on television to defend CIA torturers, some with impressive-sounding titles, all treated respectfully by so-called journalists. I have seen Dick Cheney, Grand Inquisitor of the War Against Muslims, lie through his crooked teeth while scoffing at the most basic values of Western civ.

Now, already, I am watching torture fade from the headlines.

We have been too tolerant.

Anti-torture Americans ­— which is to say, sane, normal people — have been wayyyyyyy too polite over the past 12 years. We ought to have been rude. We should have shouted down the torturers and their supporters and apologists, ridiculed them, locked them away, fired them from their jobs, taken away their kids.

We debated torture; we didn’t reject it. Now torture is normalized — and so is the stupid meanness that goes with it.

A senior Supreme Court Justice not only thinks torture is OK, but gives credit to the thoroughly debunked “ticking time bomb” scenario.

In the mainstream media, the debate is not over whether torture is immoral or illegal, but whether it is effective.

We tolerate scum like ex-CIA director Michael Hayden, who justifies so-called “rectal feeding” — grinding a prisoner’s food into mush and shoving it up his ass — with rhetoric that is not only vile on its face, but insults our intelligence to the point that he ought to be banned from public life: “It’s a medical procedure is what it is,” Hayden told CNN. “I have learned that in some instances, one way that you can get nourishment into a person is through this procedure as opposed to intravenous feeding, which of course involves needles and a whole bunch of other dangerous things.”

Hayden is a liar. Victims of “rectal feeding” had not refused to eat normally.

Torture memo author John Yoo called them “aggressive interrogation methods that did not cause any long-term or permanent injury.”

Isn’t death permanent?

John Yoo ought to be in prison. Instead, he draws a six-figure salary teaching law (!) at UC Berkeley.

Jonah Goldberg is trying to pass himself off as a “reasonable conservative” by arguing for ambiguity: “One of the great problems with the word ‘torture’ is that it tolerates no ambiguity. It is a taboo word, like racism or incest. Once you call something torture, the conversation is supposed to end.”

Enough!

In the West, civilized countries banned torture in the 18th century. In 1798, for example, Napoleon wrote that the “barbarous custom of whipping men suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this method of interrogation, by putting men to the torture, is useless. The wretches say whatever comes into their heads and whatever they think one wants to believe.”

“Before the 9/11 attacks, torture was almost always depicted in television and movies as something that bad guys did. That’s not true anymore. The Bush administration may be over, but Bush-era terrorist torture and assassination policies are growing more popular,” Amy Zegart wrote in a 2012 Foreign Policy piece titled “Torture Creep.”

You need only look at the trend line to see how Americans are becoming increasingly morally depraved: At the height of the war on terror in 2004, when Bush was reelected despite everything, 32% of Americans said torture was never justifiable. By 2011, two years after Obama claimed to have banned torture, only 24% said the same thing.

Here’s some American exceptionalism for you: 59% of people in other countries have zero tolerance for torture. Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, says: “The dominant view around the world is that terrorism does not warrant bending the rules against torture.”

This is not a discussion Americans should have any more.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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5 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: People Who Think Torture is OK Need to Die and Go Away

  1. And just when I thought I had all I could take from Twitter/message board lunatics saying that they were fine with our police turning from “To Protect and Serve” into paramilitary death squads taking out the “undesirables” of society, along comes the Senate torture report.

    All of a sudden, the idea of my grandparents belonging to the Greatest Generation has taken on a whole new meaning.

  2. Jay Bybee was Yoo’s boss in the DoJ and, in August 2002 signed Yoo’s memo that permitted “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

    In a classic “quid pro quo,” Bybee was nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 22, 2002.
    He was confirmed by the senate, after a mid-term election year delay, on March 13, 2003 by a vote of 74-19.

    “In July 2009, after a five-year inquiry, the Office of Professional Responsibility released a report, later modified by the Justice Department, saying Jay Bybee and his deputy John Yoo committed ‘professional misconduct’ by providing legal advice that was in possible violation of international and federal laws on torture.”

    Bybee remains a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Can’t say as I disagree with the (alleged) US citizen who wen to North Korea and called the US a Mafia enterprise.

    http://tinyurl.com/ky95y6s

  3. How does anyone know what a person who is being tortured knows?

    If you only know that a person knows something because another person told you while he was being tortured, you know nothing and what you think you know has no basis in fact.

    I regards to John Yoo, I once applied to teach law at that bastion of jokery, Berkeley.

    I stated among my qualifications that anything Yoo could do I could do better.

  4. This is an excellent article, Ted. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve spent most of my afternoon reading the article and various links you provided.

    I arrived at
    http://www.progressive.org/mag_mccoy1006#sthash.ft3DQZp9.dpuf
    and garnered a few pointers that I would like to reiterate here:

    1) *As the ancient Roman jurist Ulpian noted 1,800 years ago, when tortured the strong will resist and the weak will say anything to end the pain.*

    2) *As Yale legal historian John Langbein puts it, “History’s most important lesson is that it has not been possible to make coercion compatible with truth.”*

    3) *“Brutalization doesn’t work,” Coleman concluded from his years in FBI counterterrorism. “We know that. Besides, you lose your soul.”*

    4) *The use of torture to stop ticking bombs leads ultimately to a cruel choice—either legalize this brutality, à la Dershowitz and Bush, or accept that the logical corollary to state-sanctioned torture is state-sponsored murder, à la Vietnam.*

    NOTE:

    Yes, John Yoo ought to be in prison. His memo to the White House gave the Bush Administration exactly what they wanted. It also gave justification for Martial Law, under the guise of curtailing terrorism, had they chosen to use it.

    But I have to disagree with Amy Zegart when she states: “Before the 9/11 attacks, torture was almost always depicted in television and movies as something that bad guys did. That’s not true anymore.”

    It’s still true. All you have to do is examine the records of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, etc. These are hardly “good guys”!

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