There are certain policy decisions that should never be left up to the American people. I’m not necessarily saying we’re stupid. Actually, come to think of it, I’m absolutely saying too many of us are stupid. 29 percent of us can’t name the vice president. Roughly 45 percent of us believe the Earth was created in seven days. Around 20 percent of American adults still smoke cigarettes, knowing it’s a ticket to an early grave in the most horrifying ways possible. 46 percent of Americans disapprove of “Obamacare,” but only 37 percent disapprove of “The Affordable Care Act.” 80 percent of us believe in angels. Around 48 percent of us voted for a ticket that would’ve placed Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.
Knowing this, should it really matter that 51 percent of Americans think torture against Global War on Terror detainees was justified? Not only does it totally not matter, it’s a fantastic argument why the Bush administration should never have done it. In a newly released Pew Poll, only 29 opposed the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” and 43 percent thought it was a bad idea to release the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report.” And yes, 51 percent said torture was justified.
I wouldn’t be shocked if half the people thought “CIA” was the lady that sings “Chandelier.”
Worse, one of the poll questions asked these yokels whether torture “provided intelligence that prevented terror attacks.” Um, how the hell would they know? They wouldn’t, yet 56 percent said “yes,” we absolutely acquired top-shelf intelligence from the tortured detainees, enough to have prevented another terror attack. If you’re like me and you’re still reeling from Dick Cheney’s psychotic appearance on Meet the Press, take a look at every other human at the mall today. They probably agree with Cheney.
Let’s begin with the last part first, that Americans think torture prevented another attack. What was the nature of the attack it prevented? And what intelligence was gathered from tortured detainees to have prevented it? Naturally, no one outside the military, the former Bush administration and the intelligence community would have access to such information. So, why on Earth would these people be quizzed about whether torture accomplished these goals? Because Cheney, with his five percent approval rating, said so on Meet the Press? Please. Moreover, countless interrogators have repeatedly confirmed that torture doesn’t provide valuable intelligence; and we know that the information drowned and frozen out of the detainees was duplicated using other non-torture methods. This poll question was all about the American people reacting with their gut — the part of the body that, according to Stephen Colbert, has more nerve endings than the head… you can look it up. I know some of you are going to say, “I did look it up, and that’s not true.” That’s because you looked it up in a book.
As for the first part showing how 51 percent of us support torture, the fact that so many people endorse this medieval interrogation method speaks volumes about why we shouldn’t do it. When more Americans can name the cast of Family Guy than can name the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment, we probably shouldn’t be responsible for deciding how exactly to punish our alleged enemies — especially knowing that one in four of the “enemies” in this case were innocent, unjustly incarcerated and tortured, in one case to death.
It’s the same reasoning that disallows us from legally carrying out the trial and execution of people who kidnap our children or the drunk drivers who kill our spouses. Justice and war need to be carried out by dispassionate leaders who aren’t as driven by the same kneejerk emotion as the rest of us, and responsible citizens are supposed to elect men and women who will make decisions while we’re otherwise incapacitated by fear and confusion, intermittently divorced from our own rationality. Set aside the whole smart-versus-dumb argument, we’re just not wired to dole out vigilante justice. And if it was up to us after 9/11, half of the Middle East would’ve been rendered down to a radioactive wasteland.
So, of course, more than half of us are irrational and nearsighted enough to support a policy that has entirely embarrassed the United States on the world stage — a dark chapter that future historians will file with the McCarthy hearings, Japanese Internment and the Trail of Tears. Half of Americans don’t care about the longview, the sane view, we just care about getting back at the evildoers, so screw history, screw morality and screw the decades of blowback we’ve incurred. They attacked us so go all Jack Bauer on their asses. Here’s to hoping that today, and in years to come for that matter, cooler heads in the corridors of power will prevail.