Skip to main content

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 positions of prominent advocates and opponents on each side are clear. But what do we know about how the American people in general have come to view the use of torture by the U.S. government?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has been polling Americans on this key question for almost five years. Since 2004, representative samples 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 results over this time period have shown only minor fluctuations. The most recent numbers, from last month, reveal that 15% of Americans believe torture is often justified, 34% think it is sometimes justified, 22% consider it rarely justified, and 25% believe torture is never justified. So not only do 49% consider torture justified at least some of the time, fully 71% refuse to rule it out entirely.

Further insight into these numbers can be garnered from a different poll conducted a few months ago, in January 2009. Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked a national sample of Americans, “Do you think the use of harsh interrogation techniques, including torture, has ever saved American lives since the September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?” The results: 45% “Yes” and 41% “No” (with 14% responding “Don't Know”). In other words, almost half of Americans think torture “works.”

Polling data on how Americans view specific interrogation techniques that were part of the Bush era arsenal are harder to find. But a national Gallup poll in January 2005, about eight months after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, sheds some light here. The following question was posed: “Here is a list of possible interrogation techniques that can be used on prisoners. Do you think it is right or wrong for the U.S. government to use them on prisoners suspected of having information about possible terrorist attacks against the United States?” In order of approval percentages, the survey found that 50% approved of depriving prisoners of sleep for several days; 36% approved of threatening to transfer prisoners to a country known for using torture; 29% approved of threatening prisoners with dogs; 18 % approved of forcing prisoners to remain naked and chained in uncomfortable positions in cold rooms for several hours; 14% approved of strapping prisoners on boards and forcing their heads underwater until they think they are drowning; and 13% approved of having female interrogators make physical contact with Muslim men during religious observances that prohibit such contact.

Based on this sampling of polling results, it is easy at first to be surprised and troubled by the degree to which Americans have expressed support for the inhumane treatment and torture of detainees. But public sentiment on such matters does not emerge in a vacuum. Rather, it often reflects the influence of carefully orchestrated marketing campaigns by powerful vested interests eager to shape opinion in support of a specific agenda or facts on the ground. Certainly it is now well known that the Bush administration embraced the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in national security settings. It is therefore instructive to carefully consider the five-pronged message that they and their backers promoted to create a citizenry supportive of torture.

The first component involved fostering a “war on terror” environment of pervasive fear in which the prospect of massive, catastrophic harm was repeatedly given center stage. Spurred on by improbable ticking time-bomb scenarios where every second matters, perceptions of an urgent need to protect the country from looming disaster created a “whatever it takes” mentality in which efforts to extract crucial information through harsh interrogations and torture became a “no brainer.”

The second element advanced the view that we need not be helpless against this threat because through torture--and torture alone--we can learn what we need to foil the plans of evildoers. Unsubstantiated evidentiary claims, hidden from inspection by veils of secrecy, were used to argue that specific interrogation techniques--regardless of how they might repulse us--were ultimately the only way we could protect ourselves.

Third was the frequent assurance that those we subjected to torture were themselves guilty of having participated in heinous acts of injustice that caused the loss of many innocent lives. This argument served to diminish concerns the public might have felt over the treatment these individuals received while in custody. Even in the absence of legal proceedings, the detainees could be deemed deserving of the physical and psychological pain inflicted upon them--they were responsible for their own suffering.

Fourth was the repeated assertion that the United States has a finely tuned moral compass and engages in torture only with regret and discomfort, only as a last resort, and only in the service of a far greater good. Sharp contrasts were drawn between “them” and “us”--between the detainees’ innate evilness and our inherent goodness, between their vile aims and our righteous purpose. In this context, the interrogators were presented as courageous and heroic, worthy of praise rather than criticism.

The fifth and final component was a concerted effort to stifle open debate when questions about the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” arose. Standard strategy here involved painting skeptics and critics--including human rights leaders and organizations--as untrustworthy, irresponsible, misinformed, weak, or unpatriotic. In so doing, the public was encouraged to discount, ignore, or condemn these voices of concern, and important words of warning therefore went unheeded.

In sum, this seemingly successful campaign of mass persuasion depended upon convincing the public to believe five things: (1) our country is in great danger, (2) torture is the only thing that can keep us safe, (3) the people we torture are monstrous wrongdoers, (4) our decision to torture is moral and for the greater good, and (5) critics of our torture policy should not be trusted. And all the while, the marketers painstakingly avoided using the actual word “torture”--and contested the word’s use by anyone else. Of course, this strategy is by no means unique to the selling of torture. A similar approach, designed for hawking war, was used with devastating and tragic effect in building public support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Admittedly, we cannot be sure that torture would be less popular with Americans today if the Bush administration had not worked so hard to promote it. But there is good reason to think this might be the case. After all, the combination of an outsized public relations budget, an overly accommodating mainstream media, and an unwary audience of millions is every marketer's dream. In similar fashion, we cannot really know whether there would now be even greater public support for torture if not for the efforts of those who have steadfastly spoken out against our country’s interrogation abuses. Looking ahead, as still more information emerges through declassification of documents, high-level investigations, or congressional hearings, we should expect to hear this five-part sales pitch over and over again from Bush-era torture advocates. But hopefully this next time around, far fewer of us will still be buying.

Originally posted to Roy Eidelson on Mon May 11, 2009 at 08:49 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  Richard Land (Baptist ethicist) FINALLY condemned (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dancewater, Diogenes2008

      torture last week.

      LAST WEEK.

      For the first time.

      When the leading ethicist for the Southern Baptist Convention doesn't even bother to speak out (for 8+ years) against the use of state-sponsored torture, there is a big problem.

      Jeremiah Wright actually got it right after 9/11.  What we need to do, first, is look at our own behavior, motives, and attitudes.

      Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

      by Benintn on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:22:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Good analysis (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shotput8, Lady Libertine

      Your 5 key drivers are an interesting way to approach how Bushco and apologists tried to teach Americans to accept torture. Just as constant attack on other propaganda has had a reversing effect (i.e. it's been a while since I heard anyone still say they thought Bush was right abut WMDs in Iraq), attack on these drivers should have an effect over time as well:

      1st component: "24" is fiction. The "ticking bomb scenario" doesn't exist, and if it did, torture would in any event be the interrogation tool most likely to end in failure to defuse the bomb.

      And Cheney was using torture for political ends (to force confessions that would demonstrate an Iraqi-Al Qaeda connection that did not exist)

      2nd: again, torture doesn't work.

      3rd: many people were tortured who the government admits were completely innocent. People were turned in by rivals for money or revenge and then tortured. Children were tortured. If the questionnaire were to ask "Would you accept that some innocent men be tortured in the efforts to determine who had important information?" I would imagine (would certainly hope!) that the response would be a resounding no.

      4th: thanks to Bush, this assumption that the US has a finely tuned moral compass has been lost; putting torture behind us forever and prosecuting its practitioners and masterminds is the way to regain it

      5th: the "with us or against us" paradigm has been discredited. This is what got us into Iraq. It's everyone's patriotic duty to stand up against torture.

    •  Hollywood promotes torture, too. (4+ / 0-)

      I am not just talking 24.  There is a pattern to how torture happens in the movies:

      1.  When the bad guys torture, it is immoral and doesn't work.
      1.  When the good guys torture, they feel bad about it, but feel they must to save lives.  They usually get the info they need.
      1.  Sometimes a good guy is tortured and gives out false information.

      I have seen this in children's films (mild violence, but believe me, it is there, unfortunately) and all kinds of action films.  This is a problem in our culture.

  •  I think that (5+ / 0-)

    American do not understand the impact or consequences of these torture methods -- if they did, they would be more likely to disapprove.

    The challenge in gaining more support is in getting them to understand basic concepts about torture.

    I suppose I should add the force of gravity to my list of enemies. --Lemony Snicket

    by rb137 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:03:47 AM PDT

    •  If it's really done to an al-qaeda operative, (4+ / 0-)

      I don't think most people care much about the long-term impact to the tortured person.  If you mean, OTOH, the impact or consequences to the person torturing, or to the nation as a whole, then that's a different kettle of fish altogether.  (I wasn't sure which you meant, so please correct if I misread)

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:09:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was just thinking about (3+ / 0-)

        your comment below. I think you are in line with the facts there, and your point is well taken. But using torture as punishment is something that our nation is supposed to be against.

        I don't know how to get over the cultural hump you describe here.

        What I meant above is that many people do not recognize how harmful these techniques are -- and they do not have enough imagination to get it right on their own. The challenge is to make them understand that it isn't a good tool for interrogation, that the techniques are harmful, and having this disgusting program will negatively impact our national security for years to come.

        I suppose I should add the force of gravity to my list of enemies. --Lemony Snicket

        by rb137 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:16:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  VIDEO Bush talks about torture investigation (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dancewater, Diogenes2008, rb137

    From Arab TV after Abu Grabi.
    Let me count the lies!

  •  Essential understanding (4+ / 0-)

    This is one of the most important blogs I have read in some time. The Bush propaganda ministry did its job well and continues to do so. Those who laugh at Cheney's obvious desperation do so at their own peril. He may be a paranoid wingnut, but people believe him. They have to believe that he is right, that torture works, that the things done in our names kept us safer. Otherwise, what is the excuse for what was done?

  •  spot on (5+ / 0-)

    now... can we raise some funds and hire Axelrod's private firm to launch the counter-campaign ? !

    Seriously, thank you for laying it out so well here. This is exactly what they've done, and are still doing ... and they even got their twofers: Torture + War (= $ Profit for them).

    We have to do more than "not buy".

    Push. Back.

    Stand The Hell Up and Yell Louder.

    Buy the ticket, take the ride. ~HST

    by Lady Libertine on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:06:13 AM PDT

  •  My hunch is that of your 5 factors, (3) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Raven, dancewater

    is a necessary and sufficient condition.  ie, I think that torture will be morally permissible for many people as soon as its known that the individual is truly monstrously evil.  

    We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

    by burrow owl on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:07:25 AM PDT

  •  The High Cost of Torture (8+ / 0-)

    "The rumor was that they are being housed at one of the guest villas," said Han S. Park, a University of Georgia expert who was visiting North Korea as part of a private U.S. delegation after the women were captured. Park told CNN International that the North Koreans scoffed at any suggestion that the Americans were receiving harsh treatment. "They laughed. 'We are not Guantanamo.' That's what they said," Park said.

    The US dare not criticize anybody, no matter how degenerate that are, for the fear that they will laugh right in our faces. That's a part of the high cost of torture that the US has to pay for.

    •  rachel (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      had that story a couple of weeks ago and it so blew my mind, I wrote a diary on it, with video.

      Rachel Maddow. Not Brian Williams or Charlie Gibson or Stephy... doncha know.

      To me, that ... and the horrible vulnerability that our military now face as a result of the Bush admin's sanctioning of torture ... are the two biggest things I think people (regular average busy American people) need to really GET.

      Buy the ticket, take the ride. ~HST

      by Lady Libertine on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:15:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think so (0+ / 0-)

        While I don't sanction torture, I don't think what has happened at Guantanamo, or the other acts of torture in the War on Terror, will have any impact on our service members captured by our enemies. With the exception of some POWs captured in Europe in WWII in what other conflict have our POWs received humane treatment? In every other conflict, and in the Pacific theater in WWII, our service members have been routinely tortured and in many cases executed.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:01:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Roxanne Saberi another good example (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shotput8, dancewater, Lady Libertine

      Iran gets to assume moral superiority over the U.S. on issues ranging from torture to nukes to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

      When we torture, we diminish our moral authority.  And moral power is a form of real power that has been seriously neglected in the wake of 9/11.

      Instead of true moral power, the U.S. engaged in retributive justice and used a culture of victimhood to justify invading Iraq, the use of torture, etc.

      Why aren't the right-wingers calling out the Bush Administration on the culture of victimhood?

      Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

      by Benintn on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:25:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You've hit the nail.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shotput8, dancewater, Lady Libertine

        .... right on the head!!

        In our "negotiations" with Iran, it is Iran that holds the higher moral ground for the reasons you stated AND for the fact, not hidden from anybody, that we practice unacceptable double standards on the nuclear issue.

        When Iran comes off as more civilized than the once-Great US of A, we've lost the debate before ever engaging in it.

    •  Andrew Sullivan is wrong on this one, I think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      burrow owl

      The North Koreans are using a political strategy which involves counteraccusation.  While I agree that "the fruits of torture" result in us becoming an easier target for injustice, I think the North Koreans are generally insane and that they've been making stuff up about us for generations.

      Justice, mercy, tolerance, hope, love, grace, and redemption are all Judeo-Christian values.

      by Benintn on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:30:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If we weren't torturing, would N.Korea be (0+ / 0-)

      any different?  IOW, I'm skeptical of the moral authority argument.  We should do the moral thing and prohibit torture, but it seems unlikely that we're missing out on free ponies by not having moral authority.

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:44:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, if I were asked that question, (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think I could honestly answer 'never justified' because I'm sure there is some scenario, albeit remote, where torture might be justified... But that doesn't justify the torturing that was done.

    •  I am able to answer never (6+ / 0-)

      about capital punishment. I think I'm pretty much able to do the same thing about torture.

      •  But capital punishment is institutionalized. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl

        Now if the question was is institutionalized torture justified, I would answer no... but I can't answer whether or not there might be some scenario where torturing one person might be justified.

        •  The usual case (5+ / 0-)

          Would be a battlefield interrogation, which are known to be extremely aggressive and occasionally lethal. They are also illegal and prosecutable as war crimes. As for prisoners in custody, we should be the global Gold Standard in human rights and anyone captured by our troops should be confident that they will not be tortured.

          That's a basic, core American value. Our professional interrogators, like those employed by the NYPD and FBI, are extremely good at getting intelligence without brutality and they are adamant that torture is ineffective.

          The test-case scenario is usually the improbable "ticking-bomb" deal or a variant and since such a case has never occurred outside Hollywood, there's no need to legalize or institutionalize torture.

          Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

          by The Raven on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:28:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Right, that's sort of my point. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            burrow owl, The Raven

            If the near-impossible happens and somehow we get the magical ticking time bomb scenario, then maybe torture is justified... but that doesn't mean it should be legal or excused afterward. Sometimes you have to break the law to get something done, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have to face the consequences.

        •  Capital punishment is (0+ / 0-)

          institutional murder. Do you think that private murder might be justified?

          •  Depending on the circumstances, yes. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            burrow owl

            Killing someone who is threatening your life is still murder.

          •  As w/ torture, we can imagine wacky hypos (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            where it'd be justifiable for many people.  Something like the battered spouse situation, I spose, where nothing short of murder is going to stop the attacker and the only time one can kill the attacker is when s/he is asleep.

            We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

            by burrow owl on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:34:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've never been able to buy that one. (0+ / 0-)

              Tiptoeing quietly out the door while he's asleep seems a viable alternative to me.

              •  You haven't met many battered women (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Lady Libertine

                if that's what you think. I've volunteered at women's shelters. If it were that easy, we wouldn't have such a huge domestic violence problem in this country.

                •  Yes I have. (0+ / 0-)

                  I served on the board of a battered women's shelter and I worked in the mental health field.

                  •  Then I'm surprised you think that it's so easy (0+ / 0-)

                    to just walk out the door...

                    •  You seem to generally find it difficult (0+ / 0-)

                      to imagine that other people can have views different than your own. I did not say that it is easy for battered women to get out of their situations. However, that doesn't mean that they are inevitably compelled to murder.

                      •  Inevitably? No one suggested it. (0+ / 0-)

                        But to suggest that they never have to resort to such a drastic measure is a bit silly. If an angry husband comes at his wife with a knife and she turns the knife on him in self-defense and kills him, I'd say she was justified in doing so even though it's still murder.

                        •  The point was were (0+ / 0-)

                          the abuser is killed in his sleep. That is a different matter than protecting yourself or your children from the threat of immediate harm. Why don't you try reading the thread before pontificating.

                          •  Well that wasn't my point nor did I say it. n/t (0+ / 0-)
                          •  It was the post to which I was responding (0+ / 0-)

                            when you chose to take me to task for my comment. Have you ever heard of the notion of context?

                          •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Lady Libertine

                            I got away from my abuser, but I was lucky.  Most women who are killed in abusive relationships are murdered because they're trying to leave.

                            But let me tell you about what happened to me:

                            I remember one specific incident - my husband had me backed into the corner by the fireplace, and was swinging away at me.  I had nowhere to go, and couldn't escape him.  He was 6'2", and 190 lbs.  I was 5'0" tall and 92 lbs.  I hit back, because I wasn't going to just sit there and take it.

                            The neighbors called the police, which is what ended it.  (And I went over to their apartment later to say thank you, just in case you think I wasn't happy with them.)

                            A few days later, he brought it up again, and said "You wouldn't have hit me... there... would you?"

                            I told him I was hitting anywhere I could reach.  Not aiming for anything in particular.  I was, after all, just trying to defend myself.

                            His response to that was "Well, that wouldn't have been fair!"

                            That stunned me. Did he think we were in a ring, with a referee, engaged in a boxing match between freakin' equals??  Did he think I was okay with him hitting me??  

                            Still stuns me to this day, but it did give me a little insight into the workings of his mind... and it also made me realize that when you're in that kind of situation, you don't have a "fair fight".  You can't always defend yourself at that moment.

                            And if the abuser chases you to the ends of the earth, and threatens the lives of your children... I can see why some women might kill a man in his sleep.  I personally wouldn't, but my case was much milder than many others, believe it or not.

                            "Spread happiness... share it with all those who seek it." - Keith Olbermann

                            by Diogenes2008 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:58:22 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                •  Problem is (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  We need to educate our young men and women, and break the cycle.

                  I am 100% for battered women's shelters, having been in an abusive marriage myself, but I would love to see education take hold to the point where the shelters could sit empty.

                  The solution, in the long run, isn't "what do we do with the abusers" so much as it is "how do we prevent this in the future?"

                  "Spread happiness... share it with all those who seek it." - Keith Olbermann

                  by Diogenes2008 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:40:12 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  This Diary is Exactly Right (5+ / 0-)

    The polling numbers on torture are suspiciously high and I've always suspected bias. A better way to poll the question would be for respondents to view a CIA interrogation session making full use of the "enhanced" techniques, and make them aware that the person being tortured has not be charged with any offense.

    I'll bet you'd get closer to 90 percent opposed to it.

    The problem is that the polling seems to have begged several questions, including the idea that the people being tortured actually know something of value or are guilty of some kind of terrorist actions. Frame this as "torturing innocent captives" and thinking should change.

    The other item is that there's a presumption that torture has some valuable payoff, that it accomplishes something useful. The poll questions are probably capturing these two mistaken assumptions.

    Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

    by The Raven on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:22:56 AM PDT

    •  They're getting at different questions: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "can torture be moral?" v. (following Arken's language above) "should we have institutionalized torture?"  Like a lot of people, "hell yeah" is my answer to the first, but I feel very strongly that "no" is the only morally acceptable answer to the second question.

      And the MSM is too blunt an instrument (read: too lame) to distinguish the two.

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:37:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  On the other hand, if you do that, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Raven

      the the proponents will show video of people jumping to their deaths from the WTC buildings on 9/11 and then ask if it was ok to waterboard KSM, who planned that.  Or maybe a video of the beheading of Daniel Pearl, and then tell the public that KSM played a role in that, too. I would suspect the number of people who would approve of torture in limited circumstances (like for KSM) would go up.  

      Sensationalism can be played by both sides.  That's why it's never a good thing to start in the first place.  

      •  Not quite the point (0+ / 0-)

        What I was getting at is that I don't think the people indicating torture is permissible understand what these "enhanced" techniques are. I'm wondering if they would change their minds if they had a clear idea of what they were endorsing.

        Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

        by The Raven on Mon May 11, 2009 at 10:53:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Minimalizing the impact (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Raven, EthrDemon

          is the game they play. In our local paper people frequently suggest that the techniques used were "uncomfortable or unpleasant" or maybe a little "mean", but not really torture. People don't believe, for instance, that sleep deprivation is torture, but instead is just unpleasant. Another victim of the war on science is that people don't  understand the mind/body connections.

        •  Frankly, given the poll numbers (0+ / 0-)

          I suspect that it all depends how you put it to them.  I suspect that, no matter how bad the video is, that majority who refuses to rule out torture would be ok with using the "enhanced" techniques on someone like KSM.  

          I also suspect that the number would remain stable -- or even go up a little -- if you ran the video of 9/11 or Daniel Pearl in conjunction with a waterboarding video.  That's my point.  If you want to run a video of the waterboarding, then the other side is going to say, but is that as bad as THIS, and show the 9/11 people jumping or the beheading of Daniel Pearl.  They are going to say, if you want realism, let's give full realism, of what, for example, KSM did, and also what was done to him.  My point is that if you show BOTH, then I don't think you are going to change many minds.  

          Yes, you might get a few people to narrow the scope of when they consider waterboarding ok -- like using it on just the really really really bad guys, like KSM.  But I suspect that you will have a hard time getting a majority of this country to rule it out entirely, no matter who the subject, what he/she did, and what he/she knows. That's just not our culture, or the mindset of the country right now.  

    •  How would a poll following any video (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Raven

      ever be credible? It violates every possible rule of data gathering.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon May 11, 2009 at 10:53:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Credible polling (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Well, the reason I'm skeptical of the numbers reported on support for torture is that I doubt the respondents understand what is being asked. So I doubt the credibility of the polls.

        I'm not suggesting people watch a video and then take a poll as much as I'm saying the numbers might radically change if the respondents had a clear idea of what our torture program entails. It's weird that people are being asked about their opinion regarding something so classified that we didn't really know much about it until fairly recently.

        Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

        by The Raven on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:29:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A good poll question which we hardly ever see (6+ / 0-)

    is, "should the laws and treaties that prohibit the U.S. from torturing enemy combatants be repealed or rescinded?"  Am I the only guy in America who believes in the rule of law, and that the Bill of Rights is not the Bill of Suggestions, and that treaties like the Geneva Conventions are the supreme law of the land as the Constitution says?

    Barack Obama in the Oval Office. There's a black man who knows his place.

    by Greasy Grant on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:24:03 AM PDT

  •  This is why we need to show the pictures (5+ / 0-)

    and the videos and actually investigate the acts of torture and murder.

    We need to SHOW the American people what was done in their names.

    When Watergate started, Nixon still had 55% support.  Six months later he scurried off to San Clemente like roaches when the light goes on.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:27:10 AM PDT

    •  On the other hand, Nixon got away with it... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobdevo, whaddaya

      so I don't know if that's such a good example.

      •  Perhaps he wouldn't today. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lady Libertine
      •  I doubt Obama would be pardoning people. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Congress should've impeached Ford for his pardon.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:56:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think that he could have been (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          impeached for it. The constitution gives the president the power to pardon and the Supreme Court has held that the power is absolute and beyond question.

          We have yet to see how Obama will use that power.

          •  Guilt for impeachment is in the mind of the (0+ / 0-)

            jurors (the Senate) and there is no appeal.  IN other words, if 67 Senators tell you to get the fuck out of the Oval Office, you're done.

            "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

            by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 12:35:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  He won a Profile in Courage Award (0+ / 0-)

          President Ford won a Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy family for his pardon of Nixon. The act cost him an election to keep the Presidency, but he thought it was in the best interest of the United States. I agree with President Ford and the Kennedy's on this one.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Mon May 11, 2009 at 10:51:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is interesting to compare the situation (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            of Nixon and his crimes with that of Bush. If Nixon has stood trial would the country have been more protected from corruption in the White House?

            •  If Nixon had rotted behind bars.... (0+ / 0-)

              Cheney and Bush would have been afraid to break the law.

              Gosh, why don't we just pardon all the bank robbers.

              "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

              by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 12:38:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, Jesus-frickin'-Christ is that stupid. (0+ / 0-)

            If Richard Milhous Nixon had spent the last 20 years of his life in Leavenworth instead of San Clemente, perhaps Bush & Cheney would have been less eager to break the law.

            It is that kind of liberal wimpitude that enables scum like Cheney.

            "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

            by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 12:37:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Like I said above, (0+ / 0-)

      sensationalism can be played by both sides.  There's lots of video to show the American people about stuff KSM was thought to, or confessed to, being involved in -- people jumping to their deaths on 9/11, the beheading of Daniel Pearl.  If you show people that video, and then ask them if waterboarding is justified in rare circumstances (like for KSM), what do you think the answer will be?  

      •  They've already SEEN that crap. (0+ / 0-)

        It's all over the internet, for crying out loud.

        "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

        by bobdevo on Mon May 11, 2009 at 12:39:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think we're screwed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, vickijean

    The fear shed on the American people after 9/11 is still resonating in peoples minds. The continued voice on the right and from Darth Vader keeps these memories fresh. Many people are to scared to make a determination for fear of another attack. Where there is a continual fear there's no logic. With 2 and a half wars being raged in the middle east and the msm adding to the mix that Iran is also a huge threat (even though they have no REAL threats coming from there)people can't get past their fears. Terror, terrorists and terrorism is seared in their brains. The confusion caused by this leaves many Americans with a "do it to them, before they do it to us" mentality. Most are willing to accept anything if they think it ensures our security. The inhumanity never enters the equation if they continue to believe it will keep us safe. IMHO the Bush years and today's msm have fueled the fire which keeps people in a perpetual state of confusion, which allows the torture to continue with a small voice of objection. Sadly, this is what the 21st century has become.

    Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation. Jane Addams

    by desnyder on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:32:17 AM PDT

    •  They're Past the Fears to the Extent That They (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lady Libertine

      have job and house loss to fear more immediately.

      But blaming very much on Bush is giving him too much credit. The military complex had its fill of meddling from Constitutional government during Korea, and has been increasingly autonomous ever since. The 21st century was well underway by 1970.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon May 11, 2009 at 09:57:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yup. Polls show Americans by a narrow margin (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      think torture is sometimes justified.  We can't pin this all on the Bush Admin.; we also need to pin it on our culture and our people for going along with it.

      I want so much for the truth to come out.  But I have no idea how to change those poll numbers.  

  •  Interrogators (0+ / 0-)

    for the CIA and FBI are normally Phds. Psyops grew large during the cold war and the intelligence hasn't been wasted.

    The questioning of usefullness of intelligence is a non issue. They start by asking questions they already know the answers to, and if lied to, enhanced methods are used until the right answer is provided. This may go on for awhile, until the subject can't possibly know how much the questioners know to be fact or not. Simple stuff.

    Nancy knew, among others, and don't hold your breath thinking she is going to roll over for the new president. Shes of the old school, power broker club and her tit is in the wringer. She'll be calling in a few favors.

  •  You should add to the list (0+ / 0-)

    the mistaken meme that "torture works."
    Lots of folks think that justifies it.  The media campaign has been largely effective in this regard.

    One cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own. James Baldwin

    by CarolynC967 on Mon May 11, 2009 at 11:13:59 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site