Skip to content

America’s Ironic Attitudes about Torture

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The Irony. New survey polls done by The Washington Post, ABC, and CBS show that either Americans have mixed feelings about our use of torture, or else that they really don’t want to think about it.

For example, 69% of Americans consider waterboarding to be torture, but despite this, 59% think the use of torture against suspected terrorists was justified in the wake of 9/11.

And while 54% believes that the CIA intentionally misled the White House, Congress, and the American people about its use of torture and whether or not it produced valid intelligence, the vast majority of Americans still claims that our torture produced useful intelligence. This despite the Senate report that concluded that torture did not produce any actionable intelligence.

Intelligence officials continue to claim that torture (or “enhanced interrogation techniques” as they like to put it) provided valuable intelligence, and I just realized the disconnect. Study after study shows that people being tortured will tell their tormentors anything they think they want to hear to get the torture to stop. And what the Bush administration wanted to hear was that there was a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. So torture produced “intelligence” that was “valuable” to them (even if it was completely fabricated), allowing them to justify attacking a country that we now know had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. Mission Accomplished!

It gets even more interesting if you look at the responses by group. It seems like the more religious you profess to be, the more you support torture. For example, 69% of white evangelical protestants said that torture was justified, while only 40% of people with no religion said that torture was justified. That’s the Christmas spirit!

Of course, the group who supports the use of torture the most are conservative Republicans at 72%. The least are liberal Democrats at 38%.

Bottom line to me. How can anyone who claims to be an American believe that it was acceptable to sodomize children in front of their mothers (while cameras were rolling)? Are we really that depraved? Does anyone sincerely believe that made us safer?



  1. Anonymous wrote:

    And more are killed in Iraq everyday. Notches on Bush/Cheney’s guns. Because they didn’t listen to Tommy Franks (who?) and secure the borders first.

    Thursday, December 25, 2014 at 3:46 am | Permalink
  2. BTN wrote:

    I would tone down on the “sodomize children in front of their mothers” aspect – not because it isn’t eveil, but because it will give conservatives chance for misdirection. For example, the article you linked to quotes a UK article that indicates “a videotape, apparently made by US personnel, is said to show Iraqi guards raping young boys.”

    So conservatives will say – “see, it homeosexuals, just liek the priests” or “it’s foreigners (Iraqis), not the US.” completely ignoring the fact that the US taped this and didn’t try to stop it or all of the other horrific acts.

    Of course, it’s ironic that Soldiers lean Republican while US torturing prisoners puts our own Soldiers at more risk of being tortured themselves.

    Friday, December 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm | Permalink
  3. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    BTN – true, Soldiers lean conservative. But, I do not know a single Soldier in favor of torture. Matter of fact, it is a chargeable offense under the UCMJ if we did mistreat prisoners according to the Geneva convention.
    Excepting the case of Abu Ghraib, which was clearly prosecutable and was(and uncharacteristically the commanding general was also punished),the military does not conduct torture operations.

    Our military is a cross cut section of America. We have country and city boys and girls. We have republicans and democrats, even tea partiers and progressives. We all play with guns, but not all own them. We speak roughly to one another, but would die for any one of us. The thing is when it’s time to go to work nobody cares what party your signed on to, because we go to work there is only 1 affiliation that counts.
    The media and political parties are the ones who want to separate us into dissimilar groups for voting and money raising/making purposes. But like just after 911, when there is a common threat we are all on the same team. And we’d die for each other, and did.

    I tried to come up with a scenario where torture could be acceptable. So I thought what if a kindergarten school was just blown up killing 100 children and police caught the bomber running from the area. When they grabbed him he said there are 5 more schools rigged to blow up within the next 30 mins. So I thought this would be the case to beat someone into talking, but then I thought why not just use the emergency warning system to evacuate all the schools. Then I thought there might not be enough time, but decided to go with plan A while continuing to attempt to talk the info out of him. Does anyone else think this would be a good time to use torture or what other choices could there be?

    Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    PSgt, no. There are techniques that are much more effective than torture. This has been proven over and over again. Torture only works if you are trying to get a specific answer. It doesn’t work to get an answer you don’t already know. Even your example, where you can verify the results, generates far too many false positives. There are other psychological techniques that work much better. There is a reason why the police use “good cop / bad cop”, but note that it is almost always the “good cop” who gets the information. Convincing someone that their associates have ratted on them also works. Speaking to your specific example, why would torturing someone nuts enough to blow up a school produce accurate information? They would just rattle off a bunch of random school names, and you’d have to stop torturing them while you verified the information, which would take more than 30 minutes.

    Monday, December 29, 2014 at 12:12 am | Permalink
  5. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    I agree IK but just wanted to check my thinking. I can’t find a reason that would justify using torture. (playing devils advocate)

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink