Monday, December 8, 2014

You were wrong

The US is preparing for a violent backlash against their embassies and military posts around the world.  Shortly they will release information about some of the awful crimes the US government committed in the wake of 9-11 including admissions of some truly awful torture.  Apparently it will include stories of continuing torture on detainees even after the torturers became sure there was no more information to be gotten.  Torture is wrong as well as being consistently useless.  Even worse than useless really as it enrages the world and turns them against you as little else will.  Torture without even the pretense of security theatre goes far beyond wrong right into the land of cartoonish evil, the kind that requires a mustachioed villain with a plan to blow up the moon with a gigantic laser.

Reporting on this issue has made me so disappointed.  While I don't expect US networks to apologize for the crimes of the government (though I wouldn't turn it down) I would certainly expect them to admit that the things they did were wrong.  Instead all I see is a sea of people expressing their concern for US citizens and soldiers abroad, almost as though the backlash were unexpected and America is just an innocent bystander.  They try to portray the information coming out as neutral, just a description of facts, a historical document, while the violent response that we all expect is regrettable and wrong.

The anger that these revelations creates and the violence that seems likely to ensue is regrettable and wrong.  What it isn't is surprising.  Revenge is not the right course but it isn't as though it is a shocking and new development in human psychology.  If all of the talking heads on television want to help America and save American lives the tactic of absolving the government of responsibility is the worst way to go about it.  Report it as you would if it happened *to* Americans instead of being perpetrated by them.  Say it is wrong.  Express regret about the incident, not the fact that people are furious about it.

But that won't happen, in the mainstream at least.  Nationalism guarantees that anyone who criticizes the government is widely viewed as against the state, rather than simply against the violence the state perpetrates against individuals.  To wind down the cycle of revenge we need people willing to stand up and state that the acts of the government were wrong and we need public sentiment to support that.  Saying that torture is unquestionably wrong does not make you anti US.  It makes you pro joy, pro human flourishing, pro peace.  We should all be willing to be on that side openly, loudly, and proudly.


  1. The fact that they tortured people just when they didn't think they could extract useful information reminds us of another item on the list of reasons why torture is bad. In order to torture people, you need to put people in your employ and in your chain of command who are cool with torture. Basically, you have to let the pyschopaths take over. Funny thing about these people is that they won't turn around and start caring about *you* when the torture is over.

  2. And now I read on 538 that in the US people's acceptance of torture is on the rise and has gone above 50% for the first time in a long time. Even the public has jumped on board, never mind the government. Extra sad.