Sunday, May 24, 2009

5 Simple Steps for Justifying Torture

In recent weeks, new revelations about the harsh interrogation and torture of detainees during the Bush administration years have made headlines and stirred controversy. The position of prominent advocates and opponents on both sides have been made very clear. But what about the American public, how do they view the practice of torture?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has been polling Americans on the issue of torture for five years now. Representatives have been asked, “Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can: often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?” The numbers have had very small fluctuations over time. The current poll shows the following results:

Torture is often justified: 15%

Torture is sometimes justified: 34%

Torture is rarely justified: 22%

Torture is never justified: 25%

So as we can see from the results, 71% of Americans are still unwilling to completely rule out the practice of torture. I find it extremely troubling that the American people are willing to support such inhumane and degrading treatment. But public sentiment on torture has not arisen naturally; rather it reflects the carefully orchestrated marketing campaigns by powerful interest groups who are all too eager to shape opinion in support of a specific agenda. It is well known that the Bush administration loved to use the term “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a very fancy and misleading euphemism for torture. How did the US government and all these special interest groups get the citizens of America to support torture? Well, they used 5 simple steps…..

1. The first was to foster a “war on terror” environment, one where persuasive fear was used and the prospect of massive and catastrophic harm was repeated over and over again and placed on center stage. We were bombarded with ticking time bomb scenarios where every second mattered. Constantly hearing of these looming disasters, American’s adapted this “whatever it takes” mentality in which it became okay to use harsh interrogation methods and torture to extract crucial information.

2. The second step advanced the view that we didn’t need to be helpless against these horrific terrorists because through torture, and torture alone, we could learn of their evil plans and learn what we needed to foil the evildoers before they were able to hurt us. Using unsubstantiated evidence, we were told that these interrogation techniques, regardless of how they might repulse us, were the only way to protect ourselves.

3. The third was the frequent assurance that those detainees that we subject to torture were guilty of having participated in heinous and sadistic acts that caused the loss of many innocent lives. This diminished any concerns we might have had over the treatment of these individuals. Even in situations where there was an absence of legal proceedings we knew that these detainees were more than deserving of the physical and psychological pain that was being inflicted upon them, they were responsible for their own suffering.

4. The fourth was the repeated assertion that the US had a very precise moral compass and we were only engaging in torture with great regret and discomfort. We were doing this only as a last resort and only because it was for the greater good. There was a sharp contrast drawn between “them” and “us”, between the detainee’s innate evilness and out inherent goodness, between their vile aim and our righteous purpose. The interrogators became courageous heroes protecting us from the evils of the world.

5. The fifth was a determined effort to stifle all open debate. When questions arose about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” skeptics and critics such as human rights leaders and organizers were painted as untrustworthy, irresponsible, weak and above all, unpatriotic. In doing so, the public was encouraged to discount, ignore and condemn these voices of concern screaming out their words of warning, therefore they went unheeded.


Dawson said...

25% of American's still believe that torture is never justifiable?!

The powers that be are just slacking off on the job! I must say I am disappointed in G.W. We gave him 8 years of mind numbing justifications, lies, and setting us up to see our actions in the middle east as the largest epic battle of good vs. evil since Star Wars first came out, and he gives us a measly 75% of Americans who have been brainwashed? That's barely a C!