It’s Hard to Get Past the Anger, Part IV: Parsing the Apologists

The Senate Intelligence Committee Torture Report is too big and complicated to address in a single post. Besides, WC is too angry right now to coherently discuss and analyze what the Report means to America and Americans. So WC will approach the issues in a series of shorter posts.This is Part IV, addressing the defenses offered by the apologists.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, California)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, California), Chair, Senate Intelligence Committee

Senator John McCain (R, Arizona) spoke strongly and forcefully from the Senate floor against torture. A former prisoner of war in North Vietnam, Senator McCain, of course, has been on the receiving end., By contrast, draft dodger, chicken hawk, and unindicted war criminal former Vice President Dick Cheney,in a series of press interviews and right-wing talk show appearances, has announced torture is just fine. Mr. Cheney, like his nominal boss, President George W. Bush, was a draft dodger. As WC has already mentioned, he has no proof for his claims.


Among all of the torture apologists, WC has identified several apologist themes from those who would defend this criminal barbarism.

They had it coming.
This argument usually starts with a summary of the U.S. casualties on 9/11. Of course, a bare handful of the torture victims had anything remotely to do with the attack; at least 26 of them were, the CIA now admits, completely innocent. Nor is the United States supposed to be about vengeance.We’re supposed to be about justice and the bitter irony of torture is that it makes prosecution of the true evildoers impossible. And if it’s about vengeance on all Muslims, against the religion, Islamophobia, well, it’s disgusting. So we can reject this defense of torture pretty easily.

We Had to Show We’re Tough
The argument goes that the U.S. had to show it was tough, to the international world and to the terrorists. By brutalizing illegal detainees, the United States demonstrated the requisite toughness. But this is just the bully’s rationale, the abusive father’s excuse for tormenting his son. Or, if you prefer, Vice President Cheney’s excuse for invading Iraq. There’s nothing laudable about bullying:

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, they can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied.

That’s not a very flattering portrait of the collective American psyche. Or of the motivations for American foreign policy.

It’s effective (We just can’t disclose the proof)
The Senate Torture Report is, of course, heavily censored, redacted, edited and otherwise revised. And it’s merely a summary of thousands of more detailed, still-classified data. Some of the apologists for torture claim that while the Torture Report itself doesn’t document any helpful intelligence, the secret data does. This is one of the favored defenses of torture by unindicted war criminal and former Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA official Michael Hayden. They claim they know but – smirk, smirk – they can’t tell. WC grants it can’t be easily disproven. But it comes down to who you believe: Cheney and Hayden? Or Senator Diane Feinstein (D, California)? Senator Feinstein, after all, was the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a very strong supporter of the the CIA. And she has – or is supposed to have – full access to all CIa information. She says they’ve got nothing. WC trusts Senator Feinstein, of course. It’s not exactly high praise, because WC trusts Cheney and clowns like Hayden not at all. After all, their lies to Congress and the American people are now fully disclosed.

You should be terrified so we can profit
To an appalling extent, the business of foreign intelligence has been contracted out. Civil contractor get fat contracts to analyze and report threats to America. In fact, one of the most shameful aspects of the CIA torture program was that the CIA contracted portions of it out to utterly unqualified, amateur goons. If you want to keep that kind of business flowing you have to keep the level of public fear high. Keep them scared, keep them afraid and they’ll suspend judgment and keep the fat contracts coming. It’s an abhorrent business model, and to suggest it is the basis for torture is to take capitalism to an obscene extreme.

They’re heathens, not Christians, so it doesn’t matter
You’d think, a thousand years past the Crusades, our culture would have moved beyond treating folks with different religious beliefs as Other, as non-human. Yet from certain parts of the Christianist Right, you hear this argument. It’s racist claptrap, worthy only of contempt. It’s no basis for treating humans like animals, worse than animals.

The apologists have nothing. They try to manipulate us with bullying, fear and racism, but those are Americans’ very worst traits. They are no basis for foreign policy, let alone the kind of gross inhumanity inherent in torture.

Admit that we were right to utterly ban it. Admit we were wrong to practice it. Admit it is wrong to attempt to defend it.


3 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Get Past the Anger, Part IV: Parsing the Apologists

    • Yeah, the budget bill is a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans, isn’t it? You got one of the vomit-flavored ones. A nice example of why WC thinks single-subject congressional bills should be the rule.


  1. Why are we just now recalling the US executed Japanese soldiers at the end of WII for waterboarding? How is it humanly possible this information eluded the media until now?

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