There are new reports based on Jane Mayer’s new book The Dark Side detailing a Red Cross investigation that concluded that detainees have been tortured by the CIA and also revealing that the administration ignored warnings that many of those being held at Guantanamo had been detained by mistake. The authorised use of torture is a disgrace and a blot on the reputation of the government, but it has hardly been a secret. Indeed, the efforts of members of the administration and its supporters to define away various forms of torture as something other than torture took for granted that the government was using torture on detainees. The way that most Republican presidential candidates were rushing to out-do one another at one debate in their enthusiasm for brutality towards terror suspects, the dreadful invocations of necessity from Republican bloggers and the ease with which administration supporters began deploying euphemisms to describe torture (e.g., “enhanced interrogation techniques”) all pointed with certainty that the government was using torture and its defenders were either indifferent to this or openly supportive of it. The progression of apologists for the state is always more or less the same: to suggest that the government is doing something flatly illegal and immoral is disloyal, and then once it has been proved that the government has been doing something flatly illegal and immoral it is only soft-headed idealists who think that such things are unjustifiable. “We have to be pragmatic!” they tell us. This is where the logic of wanting to “get things done” takes you.
The way that the Republican establishment, Republican elected officials, right-wing bloggers, and all the rest of the assorted culprits managed to not only condone, but at times encourage the advance of the United States into the list of regimes who employ torture as a necessity to preserve the state have done more damage than Osama and his ragtag band of villains could ever accomplish. While Larison mentions the recent GOP debate as one point (a performance somewhat related to this pronouncement from a Giuliani advisor) in the rapid descent into madness, by that time the damage had already been done.
And, it should go without saying that this wasn’t accidental, and there are a number of people out there still blogging (and we will focus on them, as this is a blog), who actively and passively supported the creation of the torture state. You can go through the last few years and find your own favorite lowlights, whether it be the “Gitmo cookbook,” the feigned outrage that the military would never do anything with a Koran or menstrual fluid or so on, the “few bad apples” chorus, the invocation of the manliness of our glorious SecDef as they stated repeatedly that “Don Rumseld stands at his desk for eight hours, so clearly a little enhanced interrogation techniques is not torture,” the tried and true “ticking time bomb” mantra, or the Orwellian past-time of claiming that we merely disagree on the definition of torture, so therefore your idea of torture is not actually torture. I am sure I am missing some, but this is just off the top of my head.
If I had to choose a favorite, I would probably roll with the “Gitmo cookbook,” as that sort of encapsulated the entire twisted thought process. Willful ignorance masked as a twisted joke with a spice of dehumanization and a smidgen of self-righteous nationalism as mindless drones intoned that “We treat them better than most of them live in their native country,” all wrapped up into a talking point product that was then marketed for profit. If you want to see the bedwetting, excuse anything sound-bite right wing at their very best, I would suggest you start there.