Reprisals against civilian populations and the use of torture are crimes in which we are all involved. The fact that such things could take place among us is a humiliation we must henceforth face. Meanwhile, we must at least refuse to justify such methods, even on the score of efficacy. The moment they are justified, even indirectly, there are no more rules or values; all causes are equally good, and war without aims or laws sanctions the triumph of nihilism.
–Albert Camus, Resistance, Rebellion, and Death
Recently, while arguing that what styles itself as centrism doesn’t seem to have much of a grassroots constituency, some asshole with a blog noted:
Consider Democrat Conor Lamb, who is running for Congress in a Pennsylvanian Republican district. As Democrats go he’s fairly conservative; he has some strong points (solid union support), but he’s hardly a progressive (and I’m pretty sure his criticsm of The Dread Nancy Pelosi isn’t rooted in his differences over how the DCCC spends its money, but in the ‘San Francisco liberal’ trope). He hasn’t really raised a lot of money either from the grass roots. Actually, he hasn’t raised much money at all–which is the point. Will the self-styled centrists step up? Are there any?
Of course, one might think that Republicans would run someone who isn’t completely horrible, so as to not give Democrats a reason to get excited about this race, since the Democratic rank-and-file doesn’t really seem to be showing Lamb a whole lot of love. One would be wrong (boldface mine):
Rick Saccone, the GOP nominee in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, is a former intelligence support consultant for the U.S. Army at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. He has written extensively in support of interrogation tactics widely condemned by human rights experts as torture.
Over the years, drawing upon his experience in Iraq, Saccone has promoted waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, as well as threatening prisoners with execution, dogs, and electrocution, as necessary tactics for obtaining information from detainees…
Saccone has long maintained that the simulated drowning of several suspects, a technique known as waterboarding, does not qualify as torture because it is quick and does not inflict permanent physical injury. The technique, he claims, produced “valuable information in the war on terror” when it was used on suspects such as Abu Zubaydah, who he says divulged much-needed intelligence in only 34 seconds of waterboarding.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, however, found that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, so brutally in fact that he became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.” The Bush administration claimed that Zubaydah was a high-profile member of Al Qaeda and that through brutal interrogation, he had revealed ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
But Rebecca Gordon, the author of “Mainstreaming Torture,” notes that the government later retracted claims that Zubaydah was an Al Qaeda leader and that the supposed intelligence he provided on Saddam has been widely debunked. Torture can indeed prompt a detainee to provide their abusers information, but oftentimes that information is simply false, delivered in hopes of ending the torture.
So the Republicans decided to run an advocate of torture. Back to the asshole with a blog:
…once you have decided that the mutilation and violation of other people is openly acceptable state policy, you have hit rock bottom. You can not fall any further. While I’m not naive about what the U.S. has done (especially in ‘outsourcing’ torture), it was never publicly acclaimed as a right and just action. Time was, in popular culture, torturers were viewed as evil, not as heroes ‘doing what needs to be done.’
Leaving aside “the score of efficacy”–though in isolation, torture is useless and requires a regime of mass torture, doesn’t work, and offers the temptation of manufacturing false evidence–once you have normalized torture, there is nothing left that can not be normalized. Telling ridiculous lies, spouting racist rhetoric, or offering laughably unrealistic policies is nothing by comparison to the brutal and vile degradation of human beings.
There is an entire cohort of conservatives (and, yes, some Democrats as well) who have no business being anywhere near public life due to their support for torture (and we should include on that list, Very Serious Pundits who excused such behavior). Likewise, we need to remember that many people openly embraced–and still do embrace–torture.
In a sense, it’s remarkable that it took the Republican Party this long to nominate someone like Trump: the moral rot had set in long before 2015.
Once, you’ve accepted torture, it’s a very short distance to things like ethnic cleansing… wait a minute…
Also, Saccone is bonkers:
He is known generally in state politics for attempting to make 2012 the “Year of the Bible,” and has long campaigned on the claim that there should be no separation of church and state.
“God has set out a plan for us,” Saccone told a Christian right radio host last year, discussing his plans for federal office. “He wants godly men and women in all aspects of life. He wants people who will rule with the fear of God in them to rule over us.”
Awful versus meh. Meh it is.