Posted by Brad @ 10:22 am on February 20th 2013

1000 Words

Sullivan et al for some reason view the alleged ceasing of torture under the Obama administration as the important bit.

To me that rather misses the point.


  1. What do you see as the main point? I can take several from the chart. I suppose one interpretation is that it shows statistically significant increase in support/tolerance for torture with the President. Another would be that after a long war which increasingly numbed our population to outrage and violence, we continued a glide path of support to horror begun under bush and merely continued to the present day, and that the Obama regime failed to take anything more than cursory steps to set us on the right path despite the moralizing of his 2008 campaign.

    Comment by Jack — 2/20/2013 @ 2:30 pm

  2. The point, surely, is that Obama has presided over the normalization of torture as an anti-terror technique, at least where public opinion is concerned.

    For me, it IS more important that the administration has stopped torturing–assuming, of course, that they have done so, which given the continuing existence of secret facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere is an open question. Really, though, the idea that I should have to choose between an administration that actively practices torture and one that merely mainstreams it as acceptable is facile. History will not excuse this administration for its failure here.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/20/2013 @ 3:30 pm

  3. Yes, Jack, that is my main point. One could suppose that it’s just a “glide” as you put it and Obama’s tenure is irrelevant to it. I just don’t buy that at all.

    More to the point, had Obama either A. not been elected, and McCain had been (or, alternatively, a pro-torture Republican), or B. Obama had been elected, and had chosen to actively oppose torture (rather than just not doing it), do you suppose that graph would have been basically the same.

    To Rojas: well, we have no precise evidence that we haven’t directly tortured, but really, the increase in extraordinary rendition and targeted killings has likely decreased the pressing need somewhat. Of course, we have no evidence to judge it by or hold to account regardless. But, for the sake of argument, let’s take him at his word (incidentally, the really important thing is “let’s take him at his word” is a phrase that should never have to be uttered as it regards the functions our government is undertaking).

    But no, to me, whether we are not torturing during these last six years is important, but not foundational.

    We are not torturing during Obama’s tenure basically BECAUSE OBAMA DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT. No more, no less.

    The question of CAN we torture is, in many ways, much more vital than ARE we torturing – because if you answer the latter without answering the former, so what?

    And, the question of SHOULD we torture is of nearly equal weight. Because depending on the answer to THAT question by the American body politic, the other two can follow.

    So sure, let’s say we are NOT torturing.

    But Obama has either left entirely unaddressed (at best) or actively nudged America through action and inaction towards an affirmative answer (at worst) on those other two questions (Can, and Should). So ultimately, the question of whether we ARE torturing, in America, is entirely dependent on who happens to be office at the time and their literally personal opinion, at the time, on the other two.

    Comment by Brad — 2/20/2013 @ 4:20 pm

  4. Ok Devil’s Advocate: Can you not envision a parallel universe in which a) Obama did more than supposedly end torture, but also took frequent public action to make clear how much we don’t like torture, which was responded to on the right adn in conservative media with b) ever increasing justifications for torture and expansions of situations in which it was justified, combined with “soft on terrorism” accusations against the administration? This could occur instead of the general fading from the headlines that the subject has done in our universe. Look I am with you on all, and I mean all, of the rage and frustration you feel about Obama’s abandonment of core civil liberties, the security state, the surveillance state, etc, but I just don’t think that chart and the numbers it represents is something you can blame him for. I really think our population is depraved, knee-jerky, war-weary, racist, and blinkered enough to endorse some pristine Jack Baueresque perception of torture, and that a glide path of acceptance is close to the mark in light of our ongoing entanglements and atrocities in the middle east. OK so a lot of THAT might be laid at the feet of the President so I might be countering my own argument there.

    Comment by Jack — 2/21/2013 @ 9:17 pm

  5. Brad may be operating under the hopelessly naive assumption that we should expect the President to lead, not follow.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/22/2013 @ 1:44 pm

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