by Mentarch | 6/25/2008 12:58:00 PM
Via Raw Story: A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice. Although a slight majority say torture should be universally prohibited, 44 percent think torture of terrorist suspects should be allowed.

Think about this: almost half of Americans actually support torture of suspected terrorists.

No, really: Think. About. This.


No wonder, then, that there are politicians who still think that torture techniques, such as those used in Gitmo or those revealed in Abu Ghraib, are nothing more than hazing pranks from some Fraternity.

No wonder, then, that G.O.P. Senators are trying their best to close down hearings on torture - if it's OK, why hold hearings about it, right?

No wonder, then, that radio loudmouths can proudly say - and without any backlash whatsoever - that they would hang any lawyer doing their job in defending Gitmo detainees.

No wonder, then, that the President can claim with a straight face that critics of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and rendition are slandering America.

And I could go on and on and on.

Words fail me.

44% - almost half of Americans - approve of torture.

This is what I wrote before:
There is no going deeper into the pit of savagery and perversion here, folks. This is the very bottom, the lowest of the lowest, level of inhumanity.

No civilization allowed here - when the debate is about the efficiency and validity of torture in getting solid intelligence and confessions, as things are now, instead of being about the inherent immoral nature of torture, then you know you have lost any semblance of human rationality and grace.

Case in point.
I could also add this, this, this and that, as further cases in point.

Incidentally, I also wrote the following:
So - what exactly happened on the day after the fateful and tragic morning of 9/11?

We lost and the terrorists won.

Right there and then.

Whatever else has happened in the seven years which followed to this day merely constitutes the gradual and methodical enactment of the terms of our surrender.

No more, no less.
And here we are, with 44% of Americans who approve torture.

Again, words fail me - so I'll offer this instead:
I humbly assume that I will be forgiven if I do not appreciate the "courageous" work done over the last seven years by the Bush administration and its cheerleading supporters - because from where I stand, they have spat upon and irreversibly sullied every precept of human dignity, of human respect, of Humanity, which used to be held as unassaillable and uncompromising, sacrosaint values.

And it doesn't matter however much they try to justify/legalize/spin their actions - for indeed, nothing justifies indefinite detention, secret tribunals and torture.



Every single one of these fear- and hate-driven incompetents have pushed us from the moral high ground of justice, freedom and human rights into the bottomless precipice of barbarous and savage injustice.

In other words - I have naught but utter contempt for those uncivilized, primitive non-human beings.
Looks like my contempt now extends to nearly half of America.

So I say this in parting: cheer up, America! The road to perdition you have been fast driving upon over the last seven years or so is nearing its end at last.

Your descent towards the bottom of the dark pit of barbarous and savage injustice will soon be over.

Because you will have finally reached destination.

Congratulations on your full and complete capitulation.

And vive la civilization, eh?

(Cross-posted from APOV)

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Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/25/2008 1:30 PM:

I have to say that this statistic bothers me, but not as much as it bothers you. You remember the old pre-9/11 philosophy question -- if you had a terrorist in custody who had planted a nuclear bomb in New York City but wouldn't tell you where it was, would it be okay to torture him to get the information? Of course, the real answer is that torture doesn't work, so torturing him would be both immoral and unproductive. But if you take that out of the equation -- if you pretend we live in a "24"-like world where torture really works -- then it's a real ethical stumper, with no clear right answer. I think most people see Gitmo as the functional equivalent of that terrorist -- which means they're misinformed, not malicious.


Blogger Mentarch on 6/25/2008 1:53 PM:

Agreed - but such ignorance- and fear-driven incompetence as citizens is not only unacceptable, but equally despicable.

Once again, a democracy-based society has fallen into barbarity and authoritarianism because of fear.

History repeating itself yet again, I suppose ...


Blogger Debrah on 6/25/2008 1:57 PM:

Indeed, we should think about this.

Then we should think about Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, and countless others whose heads were cleanly and gleefully detached from their bodies by followers of radical Islam.

Then think about those Americans who worked in the World Trade Center as they stood inside rooms and hallways counting the seconds until their deaths. Others slumped inside cubicles as they left the last traces of living breath on voicemail for their wives and husbands.

We should never support random and prolific methods of torture; however, if the evidence is quite convincing and solid that such people have information that would save American lives and avoid what has been avoided thus far since 9/11, then we must be open to use the force necessary.

Radical Islam loves the fact that Americans agonize over this.

Israel doesn't engage in such hand wringing. They have had to endure these murderous animals for decades and know how to deal with them for their very survival.

I think the late Golda Meir said something like....."We will not die so that the world will think well of us."


As a side bar: The brilliant and always provocative KC Johnson will be here tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

Anyone in the academy who lives nearby should check it out.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/25/2008 2:19 PM:

Debrah, you're welcome to express your opinions, but since you've been sliming me all over the blogosphere after I deleted an offensive comment of yours months ago, you might want to be a bit more circumspect when addressing my co-bloggers. I do recommend the KC Johnson appearance for anyone who can get up to Philly (since I'm in AZ at the moment, I won't be able to make it).

Mentarch, Rick Shenkman of HNN has just put out a book making this very argument. You might enjoy this video where he pitches the book on Jon Stewart's show. I disagree rather strongly with him -- and you -- but that's another story.


Blogger Mentarch on 6/25/2008 2:57 PM:

Debrah: thank you for proving all of my points.

I hope you feel comfortable in your barbarity and your capitulation to those same terrorists.


Blogger Mentarch on 6/25/2008 2:58 PM:

JY: heh ;-)

(and thanks for the link) ;-)


Blogger Winter Rabbit on 6/25/2008 4:46 PM:

I'm just beyond disgusted. Every one of those ***!!! 44% need to let it all in and lose several nights sleep.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/25/2008 5:17 PM:

Jack Bauer Lives!

America would never torture someone that is innocent. Nor would it execute someone who is innocent.
How can I be so certain? Because Americans can do no wrong. Simple as that.

And we all know that everyone tells the truth when they are being tortured. Just ask Jack Bauer. He'll tell you so.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/25/2008 8:28 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/25/2008 8:32 PM:

Anonymous #2, I've warned you plenty of times that your 9/11 conspiracy theories would be deleted if you continued posting them on unrelated threads. Post those comments in the open threads, or not at all.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/25/2008 8:53 PM:

I don't have a "conspiracy theory" -
do YOU? I know that you and yours believe what bush told you about 9/11 and that is your prerogative/conspiracy theory.

However, my comment was about the use of TORTUE, which is the subject of the post.

Your McCarthy imitation would be more
disturbing were it not for the fact that I realize the mercantile interests and CAREER interests of
folks in your shoes must prevail over simple notions like that of
free speech.

Your tacit support of the use of tortue (but ONLY in certain situations of course) is right in line with what your PResident and
his crowd expect of a good soldier.

So I guess your selective use of censorship is consistent with your views on tortue.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/25/2008 9:32 PM:

What is "TORTUE"?


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/25/2008 10:08 PM:

Anonymous, do you really think anybody in academia would care whether I let someone who believes 9/11 may have been an inside job post comments on my blog? I'll do you one better -- I've got one posting on my front page (Lisa Pease).

No, your comments are being deleted because they're disruptive, combative, and in the wrong place. Learn to follow a few simple rules of decorum and you'll be just fine here.


Blogger mark on 6/25/2008 10:46 PM:


The life of the terrorist is not worth more than the lives of Americans. Frankly, IMHO, it is worth less being a self-declared enemy of at war with the United States. Moreover, for being a war criminal for fighting out of uniform and for intentionally targeting civilians, al Qaida members taken captive should be properly tried by a military court and, if convicted, executed.

We have done such things before with war criminals and with spies and saboteurs. SCOTUS made it a precedent in Ex Parte Quirin and that precedent later became part of international law, having been cited by foreign courts, notable the high court in Singapore. We could be doing this now but the Bush administration has chosen not to do so, instead trying to invent ways to hold captives in a legal limbo so as to avoid the hard task of justice.

But torture?

This has nothing to do with sympathy for sociopaths like Khalid Shiekh Mohammed. The United States of America should not be using torture because we are America, we stand for certain values enshrined in the Constitution. We bitterly opposed the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in part because practices like torture were the warp and woof of totalitarianism. Read the Gulag Archipelago. Read Darkness at Noon.Read Hannah Arendt - hell, read Edmund Burke! The United States is not supposed to be recycling the old handbooks of the NKVD. This should be self-evident.

We face a serious threat in Islamist terrorism and the potentialities of WMDs. Israel faces an existential one. There's a moral difference between an action taken in an exigent moment for the sake of survival and making that kind of action officially "business as usual".


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/25/2008 10:58 PM:

Mark, between you and David Iglesias, I'm feeling a lot of love for principled conservatives today. That was a fine effort.


Blogger Lexington on 6/26/2008 1:28 AM:


I would hardly be more comfortable executing people for "fighting out of uniform" that I would with torture. Like much of the law on warfare this is basically an arbitrary rule intended to favor the interests of its sponsors (sovereign nation states) and delegitimize non state actors. Had it been in force in the 18th century the British would have been perfectly justified in executing any minutemen who fell into their hands -an action I have no doubt modern American historians would decry as the height of barbarism. What the US is effectively demanding is a double standard: we can execute our PoWs, but you can't execute yours. At bottom this isn't based on any legitimate legal principle, it's based on the fact that the US is far more likely to capture "illegal enemy combatants" than the reverse, and it wants to reserve for itself the right to execute them.

The case for deliberately targeting civilians might seem more clear cut, but on closer inspection it is not. It is probable that American forces have already killed upwards of 100 000 Iraqi civilians, for example, but I don't expect to see any American serviceperson stand trial for war crimes any time soon. You will no doubt counter that this is merely "collateral damage", which is distinct from deliberately targeting. At an operational level such distinctions are rarely so clear cut however. Consider a case where a patrol takes fire from a village. The patrol can enter the village and clear it house to house, with the probability of taking more casualties, or it can go to ground and call in an air or artillery strike to flatten the village, killing both enemy combatants and any innocent civilians who might be present. The reality is that you're going with the air strike. Because of its obsession with "force protection" American military doctrine actually encourages this kind of decision making, even if it actually undermines the broader mission by turning the local population against American forces (as you're probably aware there is in fact a whole body of literature on how it led to American defeat in Vietnam).

When you come right down to it what counts as a "war crime" and what doesn't seems to depend mostly on whether it was committed by the winning or the losing side.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/26/2008 8:31 AM:

JY asked:

"do you really think anybody in academia would care whether I let someone who believes 9/11 may have been an inside job post comments on my blog?"

Yes. Do I think part of your lack of toleration is due to concern about your career (getting tenure)? YES.

Do I think there is also a monetary reason? Yes. I think you are perfectly aware that some businesses won't advertise on sites
that veer outside "acceptable" mainstream opinion. Amy Goodman,
Chomsky, Cockburn (who, remember, had a weekly op-ed in the WSJ for many years), DKOS, HPost etc. are all examples of left gatekeepers and you seem to be in the same mold. They also use the same kind of BS to excuse their censorship.

Do I believe it's possible that you can get a Ph.D in a credited University without knowing how to use proper punctuation? Yes.


Blogger Debrah on 6/26/2008 8:42 AM:

TO anonymous 8:31 AM--

I certainly disagree with Young on an array of issues; however, I find your off-the-wall and almost deranged mindset disturbing.

For most well-educated Americans, taking seriously those who even throw out the possibility that 9/11 was an "inside job" is akin to a walk-thru in a psychiatric ward at 12 midnight.

One certainly has the right---(in America, at least, but not in those countries championed by conspiracy theorists stuck-inside-6th-century-rules)---to advance such a discussion.....however.....

.......what sane person would wish to participate?


Blogger Debrah on 6/26/2008 8:45 AM:

Mark opines:

"There's a moral difference between an action taken in an exigent moment for the sake of survival and making that kind of action officially "business as usual".


And I must agree with some others that your post is a solid one.


Blogger Debrah on 6/26/2008 8:47 AM:

Typo correction:

'business as usual' should have been couched inside single quotes.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/26/2008 9:17 AM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/26/2008 11:30 AM:

Anonymous, if you were paying attention, you'd know that this blog hasn't accepted advertising of any kind in nearly a year.

I've now deleted two of your comments, and they will continue to be deleted until you move them to the appropriate forum, which at the moment is here.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/26/2008 12:38 PM:

Mr. Young,

You are acting exactly the way they do at other so-called progressive sites when it comes to THE most important and historical event in the last 10 years.

You, like every other "mainstream"
site, delete/ban people who question
the bush fairy tale concerning this event, yet you never touch those
comments which support said fairy tale.

You allow Debrah to post comments
which ridicule and mock those of us
who have actually studied this historical event and have concluded
that the evidence shows that the administration has lied to the world about this event just as they have about so many other important

You have a double standard and you surely know it.

What kind of historian (I realize you are no more a historian than me, though you might disagree) would censor comments about TORTUE and the origins of its current use
by the most dishonest administration in recent history?

Do you, like The Nation, Counterpunch, and Ms. Goodman, also receive funding from the FORD foundation? DU's reason is because most large advertisers would be offended if they allowed comments
which suggest that we and indeed, the entire world have been lied to.

If your knowledge isn't limited to
only what stenographers to power
promote, then you know as well as I do that a large and growing percentage of Americans realize we
we've been duped time and time again by the bush administration.

Most of the rest of the world knows it, why don't YOU?


Blogger mark on 6/26/2008 12:43 PM:

Thank you Jeremy and that you Debra for your gracious response. It's a hot button issue and emotions run high.


I agree that many ppl would be uncomfortable with such executions or with the death penalty in general for any reason ( I'm not one of those ppl). There are also moral arguments that attribute all downstream casualties in war to a particular belligerent.

Speaking to legality, the laws of war are clear. Civilians who die in crossfire from armed combatants shooting at one another are unfortunate deaths. Civilians killed by armed combatants who deliberately target them are murdered and those who do so are considered war criminals. That's why the U.S. and European countries have fairly complex rules of engagement, imperfect as they may be, it's a systematic effort to hold down civilian casualties.

Fighting out of uniform ( actually it's a requirement to bear arms openly with some distinctive, recognizable, device) is likewise mandated to help distinguish combatants from non-combatatants. This goes back to the Hague Convention as does hanging those caught fighting out of uniform. It's a good rule falling into disuse due squeamishness of enforcing it and civilians suffer as a result.

Do these rules favor nation states over insurgents? Yes they do though insurgents can and do qualify as lawful combatants under the laws of war provided they follow minimal rules. An insurgent openly shooting a soldier is a combatant eligible for POW status - an insurgent car-bombing a marketplace or a mosque is a terrorist and war criminal.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 6/26/2008 3:36 PM:

Anonymous, this will be my last response to you. I receive funding from nowhere except the university where I am a graduate student, and the paid work I do to supplement that funding. You are not banned. You are not censored because of content. If you insisted on discussing any other subject ad nauseam in unrelated threads, you would meet with the same response.

Take a look around you. No one else on this blog continually posts comments on a single subject in unrelated threads, or berates diarists for refusing to have their threads hijacked. You're alone here, good sir.

As to the content of your comments, of course the Bush administration has lied to us time and time again, but that's no proof that they necessarily lied about 9/11. The Green River Killer killed a whole lot of people, but that doesn't make him the top suspect in every murder in the United States. From what information I have seen -- and it is admittedly not very much, as I would rather move on from 9/11 than obsess about it -- there is no reason whatsoever to believe anything suspect about the government's story, despite the fact that the government lies all the time. Nevertheless, I support a full and complete independent investigation of the 9/11 attacks, because I support investigating anything that's been called into question.

Good day.


Anonymous Anonymous on 6/26/2008 5:41 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Blogger Lexington on 6/26/2008 8:52 PM:


we are clearly talking past each other here.

My contention is that under operational conditions what constitutes "deliberately" targeting civilians is at best ambiguous. I provided an example in my previous post. More often than not it seems that when "we" kill civilians it's because "they got caught in the crossfire", and when "they" kill them it's because they were "deliberately targeted". As a further example, both the USAAF and RAF systematically destroyed German cities by firebombing in World War II, yet there were no Allied airmen in the docket at Nuremberg.

As for rules of engagement, it is no secret that American military doctrine places absolute priority on avoiding American casualties, and everything else, including avoiding civilian casualties, comes second. The American military is in fact so concerned with civilian casualties that it doesn't even bother to keep track of them.


Blogger mark on 6/26/2008 11:03 PM:

Hi Lex,

While not an "absolute doctrinal priority" you are correct that the US military bureaucracy that oversees field commanders write ROE that are intended to minimize American casualties. They also go a long way toward trying to minimize civilian casualties - not as far as the Brits or Germans but the German commanders are intent in avoiding combat in any form, if possible.

Your Dresden example only goes to prove that point - the ROE were vastly different during WWII and, I would argue given the context of the Nazi and Imperial Japanese regimes, for very good reasons. The aftermath of that war was such that the Laws of War underwent revision at Nuremburg - where I will point out some defendents received acquittals ( the Soviets had initially advocated summary executions without trials)but the idea of trying Allied Airmen begs the question of whose planes had been terror-bombing Warsaw, Rotterdam and London and set the war down that road.

There is nothing ambiguous about deliberately targeting civilians. It's a calculated decision and the 20th century is replete with examples