They Like It, They Really Like It

by Brien Jackson

E.D. Kain, on torture apologist conservatives:

Beyond that, it seems very foolish – very short-sighted – for torture apologists to continue this charade.  It may seem necessary now, to many of them, to rewrite history or clean the slate or whatever – but in the end can this really be anything more than political suicide?  Maybe for the architects – the Cheney’s and the Yoo’s – it makes sense.  They face a real (if unlikely) chance at prosecution.  When the media finally starts using the word “torture” instead of “harsh interrogation tactics” and all of this comes spilling out – the pictures, the video recordings, etc. – is this the side you want to be on?  Standing over there in the spotlight with Cheney and Bush and Bybee and Yoo?

History is merciless.

There’s certainly a seemingly obvious incentive here for the conservative movement, and the Republican Party, to use the opportunity presented by the release of the torture memos to put some distance between themselves and the Bush administration, and many commentors have noted this. On the other hand, I’m not sure people aren’t overestimating this factor. It’s not, after all, the case that we really are just now learning all of these things, and movement conservatives are still reflexively defending all things Bush. This discussion has been ongoing since roughly 2002, and most of the “apologists” have been vigorous defenders of these “enhanced interrogation techniques” since day one. In other words, they’re not just defending Bush & Cheney, they’re defending themselves, and their own positions.

On the other hand, I think it’s time to start admitting the obvious; a lot of these people are just sadists who think that torture is good for its own sake. This is the mentality that’s on display every time a torture defender forgets the “ticking time bomb scenario” or something else they saw on 24 and veers into the realm of “well these are bad people, so who cares if we smacked them around” territory. This is a branch who feel that the detainees deserve everything they get, or worse, and so for them, torture is an end in and of its own right, a sick sort of catharsis. Consider Andy McCarthy, a man the conservative movement regards as a serious legal mind:

“As far as mental suffering is concerned, that involves at least the creation of a fear of imminent death,” said McCarthy. “While it’s a favorite talking point that people were waterboarded 180 times … it undercuts the fear that there was going to be imminent death. After the first or second time you get the point that there’s no death to be feared here.”

I’m hardly the first to point out that this makes no sense. After all, if the detainee does come to learn that he’s in no danger whatsoever from waterboarding the more he endures it, and presuming McCarthy accepts the notion that waterboarding does not induce “severe pain and suffering,” wouldn’t waterboarding someone 183 times in a month (just over 6 times a day, or once every 4 hours) be about the most ineffective thing you could possibly do? Wouldn’t the “interrogation technique” become ineffective by about day 3?

There’s simply no logical conclusion to be drawn from this, other than that Andrew McCarthy and the rest of the right’s torture apologists do, in fact, approve of the use of torture in general. That they realize the nature of American politics won’t let them say that in so many words doesn’t make it any less true. The interesting question is not why the right continues to defend the torture regime they whole-heartedly approved of all along, but how the American right got to this point in the first place.

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