Chris Hicke finds it hard to believe that Americans aren’t universally appalled by the new report on the torture program by the CIA.
In the current political climate, there isn’t much that currently polarized groups and organizations can agree on. Be it President Obama’s use of executive orders, immigration, Cuba, the minimum wage, it seems as though nearly every issue facing the United States has managed to polarize us along political and ideological lines. But no more! Finally, the good folks at The Washington Post and ABC News have found the one galvanizing issue around which the majority of Americans can rally and come to agreement.
A recent survey conducted by both news agencies reveals that when it comes to torture, Americans on both sides of the aisle, and across all sorts of religious, racial, and financial spectrums, agree that the CIA torture program is not only justified, but produced intel that prevented further terror attacks. That’s right folks, when it comes to the inhumane treatment of prisoners of war, Americans are on board! And that’s even after the report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee explained the tactics in clear detail.
A breakdown of the survey results by io9 shows that 51% of moderate to conservative Democrats support the torture program, while 71% of Republicans support such tactics. The outliers on this survey are so-called Liberal Democrats (59% oppose the program) and the “No Religion” group, of whom 58% oppose torture. The religious categories, by comparison, support torture at rates of 63% to 69%, depending on the classification.
This about that for a moment; not only is torture seemingly the one issue that unites Americans across lines that are normally highly polarized, but the groups that are so fond of claiming the moral high ground (conservative and religious groups) are the most likely to justify or condone waterboarding, mock executions, humiliation, and a plethora of other dehumanizing techniques on captives. Any time anyone agrees with anything Dick Cheney believes, the time has come for a serious intervention.
As both a hardcore liberal and an atheist, I am appalled at the results of this survey. Is this really the direction America is heading? Are we going to shout ourselves ragged over how to best handle racism (or debate its mere existence) or income inequality, but raise our collective glasses to the inhumane treatment of prisoners, despite the fact that torture yielded no useful information and led to at least one death? Even the United Nations has condemned America’s torture program, saying that it’s grossly inhumane and suffers from a severe lack of oversight. Are we, as a nation, really so scared that we’ll sacrifice our supposed morals just so we can sleep at night? Hell, how can anyone sleep soundly knowing that people are being tortured in their name?
I am generally quite critical of the way the United States handles issues, be it poverty, education, clean energy, climate change, race, income inequality, banking and industry regulations, gun control, you name it. And I get a lot of flak for it. But I have never been one to accept that things are they way they are and they won’t change, can’t change, or, gods forbid, are the best they can possibly be. And yet, at the end of the day, I’ve had this belief that all of these issues could be solved if we’d get over our egos and work together for the common good. But if this is what happens when Americans agree on something, I am at a complete loss as to how to respond. Of all the possible things we could agree on, it’s torture. How is anyone supposed to respond to that? It’s terrifying and infuriating and appalling and I can’t decide if I should scream or cry over the fact that the response to “The United States tortured people” isn’t unanimous moral outrage by its citizens.
If you are one of the people who supports torture, or somehow can find some way to excuse it when “we” do it, let me ask you this: if the roles were reversed, and ISIS or Al Qeada or Russia or whoever captured and tortured American citizens, would you accept their explanation that it “wasn’t that bad,” was “necessary for self defense,” or that the people who carried out the torture were “only following orders?” Is there any circumstance where you could excuse the torture of an American citizen because some other nation or power believed that person to be a threat to their sovereignty?
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Photo: Flickr/Justin Norman