Wednesday, December 10, 2014

More Right-Wing Voices Respond to Torture Report

As discussed in an earlier post,  the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence just released its Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, a report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" against detainees. Right-wing commentators continue to deride the report, defending detainee mistreatment as justified by law and ignoring the moral implications of torture.

Some figures dismissed the report even before its release. According to a December 8th article in the New York Times, former vice president Dick Cheney admitted that he had not read the Senate committee report, but that his support of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program remained solid. "What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it," he told the New York Times. "I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program." Cheney called the report's claim that the CIA misled the White House "a crock", insisting that the CIA "ought to be decorated, not criticized."

Even after the report's release, some right-wing figures defended CIA brutality. In an interview with CNN today, former Congressman Joe Walsh (R-Illinois) defended CIA torture as a necessary tool in the fight against extremism. He pointed out that extremist groups do not honor the Geneva Convention, which apparently gives the U.S. license to ignore the Geneva Convention in his eyes. (Hat tip to Raw Story.)
"Everybody is all abuzz that we had to do some pretty tough things to fight an evil enemy. I'm glad they put the report out. I'm glad, though, because I I don't think we should be ashamed of what we put out. Again, we're fighting an evil enemy. There are times when we need to get our hands dirty when we fight than enemy ... I don't have a problem with what's released. I think we can never ever forget who we're dealing with. I mean, we're dealing with ISIS, Al-Qaeda. They don't abide by the Geneva Convention. They can't even spell the Geneva Convention. This is a different kind of war."
When Carol Costello confronted him about the disturbing treatment of detainees detailed in the report, he defended such inhumane treatment as a valid way to defeat "animals".
COSTELLO: Is an American hero someone who is instructed by our government to conduct rectal force-feedings on a prisoner, or chain someone naked to a concrete floor until he dies, or nearly drown them two to three times a day? Is that the definition of an American hero?

WALSH: It may, Carol, be part of the job description. Our men and women, and again, the CIA, they've been on the ground--

COSTELLO: Really!?

WALSH: Absolutely. Look, we forget as Americans who we're dealing with. Got to be frank. We're dealing with animals. We're dealing with groups of people who behead, blow up, exterminate people--

COSTELLO: So we too should be animals?

WALSH: The way you defeat an animal, Carol, often times, is to act like one.
The American Family Association's Sandy Rios commented on the CIA's "so-called torture" during the December 9th edition of Sandy Rios in the Morning. Rios was disgusted at the release of the report, not at the mistreatment of detainees described therein. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"People are speculating, why in the world now? Why now release this? You're going to hear further in this report that CIA agents who were working during that time are going to be in great danger, plus countries abroad that have cooperated with us where we sent some of the prisoners and interrogated them, we're revealing all of it, just laying it all bare today, today, just has to be done today! In the midst of the fact that we still have hostages held by ISIS, we have men and women fighting overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we must, because we have this high moral ground, 'societal and constitutional values' says Diane Feinstein ... When I see the Islamists beheading, cruelly torturing and beheading Americans, I’m not too concerned about waterboarding them. Really, I'm not ... That’s not like we beheaded them to see what it felt like."
During the December 9th edition of Focal Point, American Family Association's Bryan Fischer insisted that "there was nothing illegal about the interrogation techniques that were used by CIA operatives." He insisted that mistreatment of detainees "worked", arguing that "waterboarding is not torture". Are you sure about that, Bryan?

"Do not forget that these detainees have no constitutional rights, because they're not American citizens; they have absolutely no constitutional rights that they can claim, and they have no Geneva Convention rights," Fischer stated. The fact that human beings have fundamental human rights, regardless of nationality or protection under documents, escapes him. Fischer's defense of detainee mistreatment smacks of legalism, in which disturbing behavior is acceptable as long as it conforms to regulations. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)

I keep hearing common refrains in these commentaries. Oh, the bad guys did it too. Oh, the rules said it was okay. Don't you understand that these are not solid arguments for torture? Even as children we learn than two wrongs don't make a right, that an opponent's unethical actions do not justify our unethical actions. To boot, appeals to authority do not erase the moral stain of torture. Torture is immoral, whether or not it is permitted by the regulations of a particular setting.

I'm sick of right-wing voices who see moral decay everywhere except where it festers. If your value system doesn't compel you to reject torture, your value system is broken.


  1. Our behavior in this has broken my heart. Our nation always wants to posture and claim the high ground - and now this. I've never been an "ends-justifies-the-means" type of thinker.

    1. Doug -- It broke my heart as well. Our nation can't claim "exceptionalism" or high principles after something like this.

  2. Ah, yes, the "we're not dealing with people" argument. Always so lame on so many levels, beginning with the fact that most people want to be kind to animals. But then, those who support torture are always at a loss for arguments.

    1. Donna -- For ages, people have dehumanized their opponents to justify unethical behavior toward them. It may help them sleep at night, but it's still lame, as you pointed out.

  3. One often hears the accusation that Muslims never condemn Islamist atrocities (which is not true, by the way -- some prominent Muslims have condemned the crimes of groups like ISIS, though not enough). Now we find that quite a few prominent Christians not only fail to condemn torture when it's used against perceived enemies of Christianity, but actually go out of their way to legitimize it.

    This is just going to divide people further as the revelations of the torture report, and the voices in the US legitimizing those practices, are endlessly publicized and rehashed from Pakistan to Morocco as evidence of the depravity of the "enemy". Which is what the extremists of both Christianity and Islam want, of course.

    1. Infidel -- Absolutely. These accounts of U.S. torture will only inflame tensions, but it was still important to release the report for the sake of transparency.

  4. I am not a great fan of torture, although I do believe it can have its place. Yes, I realize I sound like a moral monster.

    What irritates me about these fundamentalists is that they are meant to be taking the moral road. Yet they are condoning it and not even saying, hey its bad.....but

    1. Christian -- I disagree that torture has a place. Having said that, it's jarring to see these right-wing figures act so sanctimonious when they ought to be doing serious moral reflection.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.