Mark Danner reflects on the politics of torture following the release of the Senate report:
In 2005, when the program, still secret, was beginning to wind down, a major poll found that 38 percent of the public agreed that torture could and should be used on certain occasions; now that number, depending on the poll, has risen to about 50 percent. This means that the original argument, in defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques” or—in President Bush’s phrase—the “alternative set of procedures,” has led us down an increasingly dark dead end. For what is the conclusion here? If torture was such a good idea, if it was so necessary, if it saved so many thousands of lives when nothing else could, then why did we stop doing it? Why aren’t we doing it right now? And I think on the Republican side, some arguments lately have come very close to asserting this. So we have torture as a policy choice whose popularity is growing.
It’s a deeply perverse situation that goes beyond the original choice to use torture itself. It’s also a result of the ambivalent way this choice was treated by Barack Obama and his administration. Though President Obama formally abolished torture with an executive order on his second day in office, his refusal to take other steps—to approve investigations, prosecutions, or at least a bipartisan commission—means that only his signature on that executive order stands between us and the possibility of more torture in the future.
If this issue is raised in the Republican primaries in 2016, I’d expect that most politicians on that stage will declare themselves firmly in favor of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” We may not torture now, but because torture has become a recognized policy choice, it is perfectly conceivable that our political masters, depending on who they are, might well decide to do so in the future. This is where we find ourselves, a dozen years after Abu Zubaydah first was strapped down to that waterboard.
Read all the recent Dish on torture here.