The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

America’s Depraved Leadership Has Created a Depraved Population

A majority of Americans thing torture is justified.  They are split on whether the Torture report should have been released.  And they think Torture prevented attacks.

According to the American people, torture is justified, and it works.

Every demographic has at least a plurality for torture: men and women, young and old, white and non-white.

The only good finding is that a plurality of Democrats believe torture was not justified, though, within the margin of error, they do believe it was helpful.

Before Bush, most Americans were against torture.  The endless drumbeat of propaganda and the need to justify what America does (America is good, therefore America does not do evil), has had its effect.

I will make an ethical judgment: people think torture is justified are bad people. Depraved people.  A society where a majority thinks it is justified is a depraved culture.  (And remember, 51% think it was justified, but 20% don’t have an opinion.  Only about a third of Americans are opposed.)


The Ethics of Torture 101


Collapse of oil prices and the Russian Ruble


  1. Cliff

    I’m part of that 30% opposed to torture. I’m part of the moral minority.

  2. steeleweed

    As I noted elsewhere, “…sever peoples’ connection to reality and they will accept whatever you tell them is real. The motto of Faux Noose.”

    Keep people uneducated, frightened and disconnected from a real community and you can control how their mental processes work. (I won’t dignify the mental activity of 95% of Americans as ‘thinking’).

  3. Democrats must justify looking the other when Obama refuse to prosecute torturers.

  4. Kurt

    The right-wing Republican recipe for inoculation against facts and against appeals to common values is simple. Forecast what is going to receive criticism or condemnation by reasonable people and begin telling Republican listeners that the controversial thing is acceptable and even justified. Begin giving them an attractive set of anecdotes that can substitute for facts. Start doing this about five days before the issue climbs into the headlines.

    As I think steelweed already indicated, it’s the homogeneity of their information sources that makes this possible.

    (I almost didn’t bother to include the words “right-wing.” Not sure if it’s a meaningful distinction anymore.)

  5. This is just stunning. I have not asked anyone if they thought torture was justified under any circumstance, mostly because I assume that, even if he (or she) did, he would lie about it as he would any other shame in his life. Certainly, if he answered in the positive, that would be the end of our last conversation.

    And this is how I’m supposed to feel about the majority of my culture?

    This hurts a lot. Makes me feel afraid. It looks like the decline is going to be an ugly one, after all.

  6. V. Arnold

    The damage done to the Twin Towers [WTC]) on 9/11 was nothing compared to the psychological damage wrought on the U.S. population/government. It unleashed the latent fascism lurking just below the surface.
    We essentially got nuked and may never recover.

  7. The Tragically Flip

    This is where prosecutions, or at least a Truth and Reconciliation commission might really have helped – a galvanizing set of public testimony on the horrors of this. Victims speaking about the horrors inflicted on them, allowed to humanize it.

  8. JustPlainDave

    This majority support is driven to a large degree by methodology. If one surveys with generic language (respondents were asked “Overall, do you think the CIA’s interrogation methods in the period following the September 11th terrorist attacks were justified or do you think they were not justified?”) one gets results like this (note, in particular, the high percentages of dk/ref).

    If one were to substitute language along the lines of “Overall, do you think the CIA’s use of torture in the period following…” the results would be significantly different. In fact, the research indicates that as one adds mention of specific methods, support declines even further. This is one area where control of the linguistic norms really matters.

  9. The Tragically Flip

    I’d add the long blathering about whether to release any of this gave the monsters a lot of time to prepare their PR campaign, it shows, Cheney emerging from his coffin, all the rest of band back together on all the respectable shows. Against that, fucking Diane Feinstein as the champion of not being a society of collective sadists.

    Buick vs butterfly.

  10. bob mcmanus

    A completely depraved culture. Me too.

    1) There is kinda the thrill of hanging out at a Pasolini Sadean party, not participating (“I think I’ll pass, thank you”) but sticking around to cluck your tongue and shake your head at the horror of it all. An opportunity to enjoy watching our own righteousness. Big difference from someone who is tortured or might be tortured, they don’t feel all that righteous, there terrified and enraged. Not the outrage that entertains Americans constantly. “What did the nasty Rethugs do today? Film at 11.” Pretty much how the two-party system works in America, alternating righteous victims of each other. Leaving is best (New Zealand?), ignoring the show might be second best if we can’t or won’t burn it down to stop it.

    2) And then there is also the spectacle, slowing the car down to look at the wreck and then complaining about the traffic jam. Jesus Christ, there is so much staring at other people’s pain in this country. “Makes me wanna cry”
    Makes me want to vomit.

  11. thepanzer

    I was waiting for some polling to come out to see what public reaction would be. This is significantly worse than I expected. America is lost. I was hoping the millennials would see through the lies.

    Apparently Kipling was right, having an empire breeds a decadent imperial people with a decadent imperial culture.

    Now my hope is for the millennials children. They’re going to grow up in a country where they’ve never experienced the old economic stability and privileges that keep our current generations invested in the status quo. If anything the status quo will behave even more actively predatory with them and they’ll be negatively invested in it. I’m also hoping that having so many people from so many ethnic groups all in the same economic gutter will foster a spirit of commonality of the oppressed against the oppressors, and the tactics of the oppressors. We’ll see.

    Or it could just be turtles all the way down.

  12. Everythings Jake

    We are propagandized to an incredible degree. I don’t disagree people must take ultimately take responsibility for their own actions, but an entire industry in the form of PR and advertising is relentlessly bent on shaping perception and they are very good at it. Think television isn’t influential? Billions in yearly advertising spend begs to disagree. That most American trope – the one who does what’s necessary – has near completely taken hold in the “golden age” of television, which is really just been a long celebration of sociopaths, from “The Sopranos” to “The Borgias” to “Breaking Bad” to “24” to “Sons of Anarchy” to “Zero Dark Thirty” (the same types of sociopaths that lead Wall Street lead Hollywood, it’s not a coincidence that these types of stories justify and “humanize” the behavior). People replicate the myths available to them.

  13. V. Arnold

    Everythings Jake
    December 16, 2014

    Yes, correct. We’ve been propagandized since birth.
    Once one awakens to that fact, there is only one course of action; disengage by any and all means necessary.
    Get out and/or get away in all haste. Save yourself, because the masses will not listen or understand…
    Reason/rationality is laid waste, so flee in all haste…

  14. S Brennan

    “Before Bush, [indeed Obama] most Americans were against torture. The endless drumbeat of propaganda…”

    [There were 8 seasons of 24, and there will be no more as it’s has accomplished it’s goal…and it’s an unsightly reminder of how highly propagandized the US media is].

    “I will make an ethical judgment: people think torture is justified are bad people. Depraved people. A society where a majority thinks it is justified is a depraved culture.”

    Just because a fish swims in man’s polluted waters and becomes toxic enough to kill…if eaten…doesn’t make the fish a “killer”. If anything, the fish is to be pitied, nurtured back to health, not vilified for something it had no control over.

    We hung Goering, not every pilot that flew for the Luftwaffe.

  15. RJMeyers

    Ian’s point stands, but please make sure to read JustPlainDave’s comment above. Survey results can vary quite a bit based on exactly what question is being asked. A modest chunk of the supportive responses here could reasonably be attributed to the questions not saying “torture” and the general ignorance of many Americans about what “the CIA’s interrogation methods” are/were. Interrogation sounds very different from (e.g.) waterboarding.

    Of course, then the argument comes that we live in a democracy and it’s everyone’s responsibility to stay informed, at least on such major issues as this. Yes, that is true. The results of this survey are still horrifying, even if some of the horror may arguably be converted from “supports torture” to “doesn’t know that the CIA tortured people and is supportive of the organization out of ignorance.”

  16. nihil obstet

    Humans are by nature very flexible and biased towards agreeing with our group. That’s how the species managed to survive and prosper in many different environments by cooperating with one another. The downside, of course, is our vulnerability to a propaganda state. I think Ian has it right in that the depraved leadership has created this. We need a strong alternative voice to the depravity, a voice which I hope can flourish as the system loses legitimacy. I think it’s encouraging that we’ve seen more and wider visible dissent, from Occupy through the current anti-police-violence demonstrations. Real effect is still some ways down the road, but we’ve got a start, which we didn’t seem to have ten years ago.

  17. AUAUEI

    Obama didn’t “fail to prosecute torturers.” He forced Spain to stop its investigation of Bush cabinet officials for torture, engineered the destruction of the Spanish judge spearheading that investigation, and prosecuted and jailed the only CIA official to publically blow the whistle on torture.

    The “weak Obama” narrative is crap. He’s plenty strong when he’s doing something he means to succeed at.

  18. pond

    30+ years ago, when President Reagan outlawed torture, the GOP was fully on board. Not any more.

    50-60 years ago, there were plenty of books and serious articles looking back at the 1940s and asking the question, “Is there something wrong with the Germans?” Back then it was basic pop psychology to point to the German national traits of obedience and subservience to authority as a grave danger to world peace.

    Now of course we might ask, “Is there something wrong with the Americans?” with the same seriousness. And then, with recent revelations on how the British tortured Kenyan nationalists in the 1950s, we must ask also, “Is there something wrong with the British?”

    Here at home, our own government now seems to be the “bad guys” they warn us about …

  19. AUAUEI

    30+ years ago, Reagan was eagerly backing juntas and death squads all over Latin America, even providing American advisors to instruct in proper torture methods.

    (One of those advisors got recycled in the Bush-era occupation of Iraq, where he earned some additional press for the time he was observed cheerfully munching on a ham sandwich while supervising the torture of a ten-year-old boy.)

  20. Brian

    And one of the most morally reprehensible acts of human history, the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations, was carried out by this same nation. It was rationalized on false pretense and information on the true disposition of the Japanese offering conditional terms of surrender were never revealed to the American public for many decades.

    Similar, we now have torture being publicly debated in the corporate media as justifiable and productive. We are engaging in war crimes at our our highest elected offices. We are rationalizing any and all of our sadistic reactions of fear to a nebulous and open ended propaganda tool called the ‘war on terrorism’. Instead of holding those in power accountable in a court of law, we are requesting their point of view on Sunday morning news programming.

    But let me re-iterate, this is not the first time this has happened in America

  21. Ian Welsh

    Reagan, however, pretended to be against torture.

  22. Astarte

    I am not so sure…. The leadership represents the electorate that put it there.

  23. jeff pendergast


    I originally read your blog b/c I thought you were a sharp, astute intellectual type who was bipartisan though left leaning. (As a right leaning fellow I like to observe both sides of the aisle). I assumed you were American and I assumed your followers were too.

    I appears that you are Canadian and it appears your followers are too. Is this a fair statement?

    Please fill me in.


  24. Mary McCurnin

    This seems to be about the same percentage that believe that beating your child is perfectly fine.

    Barbarians. Xtian Barbarians.

  25. Mary McCurnin


    Don’t know if you have noticed but the Canadians are just as willing as the Americans to pollute the planet beyond repair. As a matter of fact, Canadians want to push a pipeline through this country to the Gulf of Mexico and send the thick nasty ooze to other continents. And they don’t care what the native people want or the general population. And eminent domain is being used by the PTB to take the homes and farms of the people who are in the way. This might be considered torture by some.

    I am an American. I am not proud. Ian is a Canadian. I suspect that he is not proud about that either. But we love our fellow humans and want the best for all.

    Merry Christmas if that is what you are into.

  26. It doesn’t help that idiots like Brian Williams refuse to flatly call it torture. They always use so-called or other qualifiers. Truly disgusting people.

  27. Yosemite_Steve

    I agree that this is a shock, and regardless of how the language of the poll may have been skewed, this only confirms what I know but hate to think about. The US public has been led steadily to the right ever since the 60’s. and the results are fugly, fugly, fugly.

    Overall, the sheeple will be sheeple no matter what. US exceptionalism runs deep, it’s a quasi-religious belief about US righteousness, that we are working everywhere to convert the heathens and are spending a ton of our money (no we’re not except for the billions spend on military) to be the saviors of humanity and liberate them from evil to pure white democracy.

    But they don’t even thank us and obviously they don’t deserve our goodness. If they’re going to respond by attacking us, to hell with them. None of them matter anyway. If there is one enemy in a village of 100, kill them all if it will keep us safe. We deserve safety and those people don’t have a life worth living anyway. We trust our military, they are all moral people.

    We never target good people, only bad people. Once in a great while, we miss and kill one innocent out of 50-100 bad guys. Sorry, but we gotta do what we gotta do to protect our country from evil. Basically we want our government to do whatever it can, at any cost of collateral damage to people outside the US who don’t deserve the protection of any laws. After all, any country harboring anyone who would harm us is by definition lawless to start with. Why should we be tied like bleeding-heart liberals to laws when our enemies aren’t?

    There is no mainstream push back against any of this. Heck, Cheney can go on TV with a straight face continuing the same story and lies that led us into the biggest foreign disaster in US history and not get countered and denounced by any democrat. For my whole lifetime the democrats have been very effectively painted as ‘weak on national defense’ and they won’t/can’t ‘take the gloves off’ against this BS even when they have clear and very visible proof of republican disastrous failure.

    Public discussion is dominated by the Cheney world view, by the militarized cops’ world view and the sheeple are scared and thinking what they are told to think. All they need to see is 1-2 US citizens getting executed and they jump right on the band wagon for more war. But hasn’t it always been like this?

    The ‘foreign enemy’ card has been played by rulers since time immemorial. All it takes is the tiniest threat to get the sheeple ruled by fear and vengeance.

  28. Trixie

    Wait a minute, there are Canadians here?

    Are you now or have you ever been a Canadian?

    Explain yourselves! Including this:

  29. RJMeyers

    @jeff pendergast:

    There’s a mix of people in the comments, though I can’t pretend to know where everyone is from or currently resides. We seem to have most representation from the US and Canada, with a few ex-pats living overseas as well.

  30. thepanzer

    After further thought on the “Americans have been propagandized” comments above I want to call bullshit.

    This isn’t the result of propaganda, this is a result of indifference, intentional ignorance, and willful malign intent.

    Our culture has more than enough internet connectivity in enough public places that just about anyone has access to the sum total of human learning. There’s tons of information on torture, its historical impacts, and why the west turned away from it as a widespread govt sanctioned practice. There’s tons of info, just a few clicks away from every damn American on Google not just on this topic but on all the other foreign and domestic atrocities we support.

    It’s not that the public is propagandized and is being led away from the truth. Its that the public WANTS to be propagandized and has no desire to challenge their existing conceptions and cultural beliefs in exceptionalism. Combined with the American cultural propensity to kick the “other” as hard and as frequently as possible and this is an accurate reflection of who the American people actually are at heart.

  31. Press doesn’t help when it uses word “justified” and the euphemism “interrogation” in same sentence.

    Calling torture “interrogation” or “enhanced interrogation” or “harsh methods” is not objective language.

    A more objective question (although the results will still show a depraved society) might be: “When the U.S. Government imprisons people, do you support the U.S. government illegally torturing them?”

  32. jeff pendergast


    Merry Christmas to you too, and a Happy New Year.

    I am a proud American. I love my country, respect it’s elected leaders (even if they are as incompetent and ghoulish as Nancy Pelosi.) I also believe that this “CIA Report” Ian has been fixated on is irresponsible utter hogwash, written by partisan people without the aid of interviews with the parties involved. Apparently many on this site, Ian included, are Canadian. They comment and reply as such, not as Americans who have been bombed by terrorists on 9/11, loosing thousands of innocent civilians, ruining generations of families and the elimination our countries feeling of safety and security.

    Sitting happily north of the border Canada relies on the USA and our military in the event of a necessary defense, our citizens to buy their oil, watch their hockey games, offer their citizens our fabulous Florida beach vacations. Canadians seem to like the idea to partner in the aforementioned Keystone Pipeline (despite your feelings about it). So reading about the moral decay of Americans and our countries decline as a superpower is tiring, boring actually. Is Canada willing to give up all that America has to offer them, as briefly outlined above? If we are so terrible, why not resolve to sever ties with our country both economically and militarily? With respect to the recent torture debate, I would suggest that as despicable as torture is, it is a tool in the tool box used to defend against terrorism, was used sparingly on those heinous villains who were responsible for terrorizing our country on 9/11 and the results were measurable and beneficial. Call me whatever you want, I have thick skin being American and all. But it isn’t right to judge our citizens morality until you have “walked a mile in our shoes”.

    I was reading about Canadian soldiers torturing a 16 year old Somalian to death….Canada’s people were clearly outraged, so much so that they sentenced the actor to 5 years in prison! Where can you torture a 16 year old Somalian do death and only get 5 years in prison? Only in Canada I guess. An aberration no doubt, but a fact to consider.

    Ok, so I get it, I get it. It’s much easier to waggle a finger at the USA, we are an easy target. “It’s not the critic who counts…”. Teddy Roosevelt.

  33. hvd

    So in answer to your absurd post, jeff, I am and have always been a citizen of the U.S. A. I watched the collapse of the twin towers from my office window and knew people who died there that day.

    My wife was to undergo her first dose of radiation for cancer that day and instead spent the day helping the hospital prepare for the influx they expected.

    I live in the immediate environs of NYC and spend a not inconsiderable amount of time there.

    You are simply a coward, if you, wherever you are somewhere out there in the heartland feel threatened by what happened on 9-11. We are an Empire throwing our weight around all over the world and a little blowback should be expected. That is the price of Empire and all of the goodies that Empire brings.

    Torture is wrong and indefensible. Full stop.

  34. ibaien


    i tend to think of the readership of this blog as what perhaps you would describe as ‘безродный космополит’; you, however, seem to be nothing more than an amoral troll. advocating for torture, under any circumstances, is as inherently repugnant as advocating rape or genocide. your posts are the equivalent of a child jumping up on to the adult’s dinner table and throwing food for attention.

  35. maurice

    We have become stupid and scared as a population.

  36. jeff pendergast


    No one is advocating anything, certainly not torture. It’s wrong but if it’s between water boarding a terrorist or keeping our country safe from massive destruction and death. Comparing water boarding to rape and genocide is the babble of a blithering idiot.

    How’s that for some food thrown in my parents face at the dinner table?

    Maybe you and your little friend hvd (what the hell is hvd and ibaien?) can huddle together when the shit is hitting the fan, terrorists are bombing your plush NYC building office. There you could talk about what preventive measures the USA could have taken to keep you two safe.

    In the meantime, are you two going to send campaign funds to the Taliban? Yesterday they murdered 140 people, 100 of them children yesterday. I know, it’s the “torture” you object to, and at least they didn’t water board anyone, plus that could never happen here.

  37. JustPlainDave

    Actually Jeff, I’d have to say our reaction to Somalia is significantly ahead to America’s reaction to its current woes.

    For the record, Pvt Brown was generally viewed as a CAR problem child – personality difficiencies, not the sharpest tool in the shed, etc. The instigator and driving force was MCpl Matchee – in custody, he attempted to hang himself and suffered massive brain damage, rendering him unfit to stand trial (my understanding is that he remains a vegetable to the current day, if he’s indeed still alive – it’s been a long while since I bothered to check). Brown’s weakness as a soldier (and Matchee’s convenient status) is widely thought to have helped him receive a lighter sentence than he might have otherwise. In addition to Brown and Matchee, a number of other CF personnel were charged, further up the chain of command (including a few who were charged for other incidents) – some were convicted and some were not, but something like eight (if memory serves) members in total faced charges.

    You’ll also note that as part of the aftermath of what was termed “the Somalia Affair” there was a Commission of Inquiry struck that sat for something like two years, nationally televised testimony, tens of millions of dollars spent, etc. As a consequence, the Regiment _in toto_ (i.e., not just 2 Commando, the subunit involved) was disbanded, the colours struck.

    When _anyone_ at CIA is charged and the Directorate of Operations disbanded, then *and only* then will you have the standing to indulge in the above type of “only in Canada” Intertubes rhetoric.

  38. Ian Welsh

    The only country in the world that is a credible military threat to Canada is the US. Just saying.

    As for the rest, torture is the disease, not the threat, and it isn’t a choice between water-boarding and an attack. But Jeff’s presence is useful to a point, because many Americans do think as he does.

  39. ibaien


    i’ll put this as plainly as possible, even though it’s been pointed out on this blog by better men than me, the blog publisher included. torture is abhorrent, and moreover doesn’t work. when you write “I would suggest that as despicable as torture is, it is a tool in the tool box used to defend against terrorism” you are, plainly, advocating in favor of using it. your words, buddy. torture is exactly and precisely as immoral and dehumanizing as rape or genocide, and i’ll continue to place it next to them until you and your ilk understand how your arguments sound outside of your echo chambers.

    speaking only for myself, i’d rather live in a nation where sometimes innocent people die than in a nation of torturers.

  40. Dean Rao

    Thank you to hvd, ibaien, and others for your sensible responses to the comments by jeff pendergast.

  41. jeff pendergast


    The CIA report, inept and corrupt as it was, began the debate. After but reading through the comments, as an American I was offended by the broad brush painted over this country by many on this chain who were not Americans, but Canadian. The piling on had to stop. Even @ibaien, writing from the basement of a loony bin somewhere was taking the low road “I would rather live in a nation where sometimes innocent people die (what is an acceptable number exactly, and what if they were your family members?) than in a nation of torturers.” Freedom has it’s disadvantages I guess.

    With respect to the Somalia Affair, I needed to point out that Canada has skeletons in it’s closet. The details of that horrific slaying were far more grotesque and immoral that water boarding. The notion that Americans are “a depraved population” of complicit tortures is utter nonsense. And for the record, 100 million of our 310 million Americans were made aware of this report, $40 million spent on producing it just this time around.

    So Ian I’m sorry for stirring the pot. If I am out of line I will go away as quickly as I came, just say the word.

  42. Monster from the Id

    As another American, I am not even slightly offended.

    Patriotism is a confidence scheme to make suckers slave away willingly for the benefit of the owners of this or that country.

    Not to mention “the last refuge of a scoundrel”.

  43. ibaien


    i can’t believe i’m explaining something so simple, but i suppose i have a relatively high opinion of the commentariat here and rarely feel the need to add my two cents. you write ‘what is an acceptable number exactly, and what if they were your family members?’ and think you must have caught me out in a rhetorical masterstroke. so perhaps i should ask in reply, how many people is it acceptable for a nation – that somehow still thinks itself a shining city upon a hill – to torture as it has been? and what if they were your family members, jeff pendergast, having these things done to them until they were utterly broken or outright dead?

  44. Monster from the Id

    Ibaien, the Jeffs of our country can’t imagine the State torturing them or their loved ones.

    The Jeffs think that the Warfare and Police State, in the service of its master, Global Capital, will only torture and murder Sand N***ers, Just Plain N***ers, and other “Others” who are subhuman in the eyes of the Jeffs.

    The Jeffs of the world think their pale pink skins (my hide is that color as well) will grant them sovereign immunity from the Warfare and Police State.

    They will soon face a rude awakening.


  45. ArtS

    The meme on torture must change.

    Torturers are perverts who get off on sadism.

    There is no benefit to anyone else.

    Torture supporters are wanna be sadists.

    The most successful interrogators have always been friendly to their subjects.

    Any justification for torture is a lie.

  46. Monster from the Id

    I wonder how many of the torturers are sadists, versus how many of the high-ranking ones are amoral careerists and profiteers, and how many of the low-ranking ones are flesh-and-blood androids who just follow orders like good little Nazis?

  47. JustPlainDave

    Jeff, the most important differences between Somalia and the CIA’s use of coercive techniques principally centre around the fact that for the USG this was deliberate, ongoing policy, at scale. The same emphatically cannot be said of the transgressions by some members of the former CAR. This is part of the reason why I am not a fan of exclusively moral arguments against torture. An exclusively moral framework makes it easier for folks to make arguments like you have, essentially boiling down to “yeah, well you did it too”. They may suffice in the artificial, no consequences for the writer, environment of Internet-mediated rhetoric, but in the real world it’s utterly irrelevant and even harmful. To mangle a phrase, systemic use of torture was more than a crime, it was a blunder.

    As to whether the American populace is uniquely depraved, well I think that’s an overly strong way of putting it. In fact, I think it’s probably ultimately unhelpful to people who would like to shift public opinion to be less tolerant of coercive means. That said, the data clearly indicates that American opinions on the issue are significantly different from those in other western nations. As an example, recently released work from GlobeScan indicates that Americans were strikingly more likely to agree with the notion that “Torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public” than were other western nations – 45% of Americans somewhat or strongly agreed with this sentiment, compared to 29% of UK residents, 25% of Canadians, 21% of Australians, 19% of Germans, and 17% of Spaniards. Me, I think that’s a consequence more of the “politico-tainment” complex that sees everything through an incredibly partisan lens than anything innate.

    As to the issue of whether other nationalities have the right to criticize American actions, my advice would be to focus more on learning what you can from the critique than expending energy seeking to counter them. You folks haven’t had a grand strategy more sophisticated than “we’re big, rich and very hard to get to” for about a hundred years. Every leg that strategy rests on is becoming less true every day. Learning from middle powers will ultimately make your transition to new realities a lot less painful.

    More directly, we lost 158 CF personnel and five civilians (with thousands of non-fatal physical and mental casualties) in service of a mission that you guys boned (and I mean absolutely *boned*) at the strategic level. When I see the chronic stupidity that passes for the policy development process down there whip itself into another know-nothing-but-opine-on-everything frenzy, you’re goddamn right I’ll criticize. American politics is too important and has too many effects on me and mine to be left just to Americans. A little truism of the international system is that if you want others not to be perpetually “in your shit”, you can be small or you can be smart. I’d know which one I’d pick, and that means listening more than transmitting.

  48. jeff pendergast

    Iabien, monster, et al.

    Don’t pretend to know who I am. Don’t pretend that you live in some morally or ethically higher ground that gives you the right to pass judgement on me and the silent majority in this country. Save that crap for someone who cares.

    Iabien, you are so surprised when I ask you the obvious question, “how many dead Americans is OK with you” that you don’t answer, but simply turn it around on me. Perhaps the truth is you are afraid to say that zero dead people is OK with you? My answer to my own question is none, I would not be OK with any of my countrymen or family members being tortured or killed. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the Americans in custody in the middle east aren’t being tortured now, because they are, right before they are beheaded for the whole world to see. There was a post earlier from some fool trying to minimize those barbaric beheadings as “just because a few Americans were killed”.

    If I thought it couldn’t happen to me @monster, then I wouldn’t be concerned and I would jump right on the anti-American/anti-CIA bandwagon condemning all Americans as “depraved” torturers. Comparing water boarding to rape, genocide and Nazism is ridiculous drivel.

  49. jeff pendergast


    I understand your position, thank you for taking the time to explain. Admittedly my reply about the Somalia Affair was “first page google search”, simply a response to the pervasive anti-American rhetoric I read through on this chain. I don’t object to criticism as an American, I am used to it and appreciative of the contribution Canada made during the Iraq war. Hindsight is 20/20 but don’t believe we should have invaded Iraq either, although at the time I was in favor of it given the information compiled by 2 administrations and confirmed by the UN. It was a mistake and I will leave it at that.

    I wonder (and hopefully we will never know) how the international communities would poll if they had jetliners flown into their skyscrapers, killing 3000 of their citizens?

    There will always be an America, a big, rich bully on the block who is in charge, but when the shit hits the fan, all the allies come running to for defense, money, etc. I suppose Canada could hitch their wagon to another star, maybe China, Russia, but I don’t see that happening, do you? Again, thanks for you time and Happy Holidays to you.

  50. Monster from the Id

    Shorter Pendergast: “BOCK buck buck buck buck BOCK buck buck buck buck”

    Either that or: “Yes! Another payment in my account from the CIA!” (hi, Mr. Sunstein) 😉

  51. C

    A nation that can find moral relativism when it comes to torture will also, one day, find moral relativisim when it comes to rape and pedophilia. You can justify everything once you have justified something as heinous and morally indefensible as the torture of another human being. This is a consequence of 40 plus years of neoliberal ideology; the self is all, do what thou will, and all that other satanic bullshit. People can laugh at me for saying this, but the US and its allies have succumbed to a demonic possession of sorts, which is the flipside of the religious ecstacy found in those we have chosen as our new enemies. The image of a plane flying into a building is a perfect metaphor for what we as a culture are doing right now. I find it appropriate that the only new religion that has been founded in the US since WW2 is Scientology, which is in fact not a religion, but a ponzi scheme with a giant fucking black hole at the center of it. Once you get to the top they open the box and the great seceret is: NOTHING. Nihilism at its purest. The US and its citizens have given in to the blackest, fiercest nihilism imaginable, and it shows. The rest is just bad theatre.

  52. ibaien


    since you asked, I put ‘terrorist attack’ in a lower category of fear and worry that I put ‘automobile accident’ or ‘death from cancer brought on by environmental causes’. meaning, I don’t give it a second thought. how can you stand being so afraid?

  53. JustPlainDave

    Jeff, two strategies predominate in realism – balancing and free-riding. While I do actually sympathize, the guy in me who’s seen this movie before is of the opinion that getting mad at allies for free-riding pretty much whenever they can is akin to getting mad at a cat for shedding. No amount of simply reasoning with them or moral suasion is going to change the behaviour. The relatively recent trend in American foreign policy to insisting that allies take the lead if they wish to see use of force (e.g., Libya) and refusing if they do not (e.g., Syria) is the most positive development I have seen in American foreign policy in some while.

    One thing that I do want to point out is how important it is to understand that the international community has no small amount of experience with terrorism. The four attacks on 9/11 stand out for their one day lethality, but a number of other nations have suffered significantly more lethal campaigns since 9/11. The 2014 edition of the Global Terrorism Index reports that nearly 18,000 people were killed in terror attacks last year, with numbers trending up sharply since the Arab Uprising. This is a fairly widespread and enduring phenomenon – I do not think the relationship between public opinion and severity of losses suffered is going to be a simple one.

  54. Monster from the Id

    @C: I’m not laughing. I don’t believe in literal demonic possession, but I find that to be a fine metaphor.

  55. Monster from the Id

    Torture works just fine–for getting trumped-up excuses to invade Iraq:

  56. The people need to call for a day of national repentance. We have become an evil nation. The following steps need to be taken: trial of all persons involved in torture and war crimes; fire all dual loyalists from the government; break up media monopoly; reform the financial system. And I am sure there are a number of other steps that must be taken, but the first of them is the restoration of truth as the first duty of life and the only path of honor.

    We have failed. We need to confront our failure. We were given so much. A huge continent, full of natural resources. An excellent program of government, not without flaws, of course. But under the circumstances (Enlightenment-era thinking) it was the best that could be hoped for. And we had good men in the beginning.

    Why have we failed? Answering this question ought to occupy the best minds of our time. My sense is that the Enlightenment-era elevation of Reason as the primary virtue is simply not sufficient for the establishment of a society, which needs to incorporate the sense of time and history, the values of stewardship and the making-possible of life for the generations to follow.

    The task today is to forge the new imperative, a new model for what America is and stands for. Finding this–articulating this in a way that can embrace our best spiritual possibilities without kowtowing to political correctness and which can speak in an adult language of responsibility and humility—- is the first necessity of the time.

  57. realitychecker

    First time commenter here, long-time reader and admirer.

    What’s driving me crazy about this debate is how nobody is bothering to distinguish between torturing those who MAY OR MAY NOT have useful info, and torturing those who we are SURE have useful info, i.e., they are known to be complicit in a specific plot and/or powerful in active terrorism circles.

    IMO, there is no good case to be made for torturing the former, for all the reasons already pointed out.

    OTOH, I have seen nobody make a good case for not torturing members of the latter group. I would respectfully submit that any such case must rely on the kind of politically correct moral purity that can only exist on blog threads (analogous to “I would never shoot anybody, even in self-defense, I’d rather submit to being killed”), and never in the real world.

    Am I crazy to think that that difference matters? Take a moment and assume we are actually faced with a genuine “ticking bomb” scenario, and we know we have the planner in our custody. Should we really be politically correct about forcing info from him?

  58. malcontent

    @jeff pendergast

    If you aren’t a paid troll then you are a true believer of the narrative you have been fed. If you are the former, as a patriotic American you really pissed me off at first so congratulations you scumbag.

    If you are the latter, when you finally feel betrayed by those whom you follow you will also become a motivated adversary to the fear and loathing which you now defend. It’s just a matter of time.

    One point that has yet to be disputed in this thread that I wish to re-characterize for you is the “partisan” nonsense of the torture report. When not a single republican is willing to contribute, when not a single executive branch member is willing to contribute, it is disingenuous to assert partisanship. It is a vacuum of morality for the sake of conformity and profit.

    I sincerely wish for you to see through the cloying narcissism of defending what is, by any reasonable measure, torture for the sake of American Exceptionalism. Until then, go cheney yourself.

  59. malcontent


    Please refer to the Convention Against Torture article 2 for your answer

    Your disasturbation sounds too much like an episode of 24 for me to give it much thought.

  60. Monster from the Id

    Oh for Haruhi’s sake. The discredited “ticking bomb” scenario bull$#!+ AGAIN?

    Perhaps Mr. Sunstein has sent more than one troll to this site.

  61. Ian Welsh

    Am I going to need to explain how torture works?

    Ticking time bomb scenarios are where torture works worst. You torture him, he lies, you have no time to check. You keep torturing him and he says a bunch of different things and the time runs out and you can’t tell what is real.

    The problem with most so-called “realists” is that they aren’t. Torture can be used to do a bunch of things, but it is really shitty at getting information unless you have time to check the info against the real world and even then it’s problematic. People break, they say anything to make it stop, they develop multiple personalities, go catatonic, get PTSD, and on and on. They become delusional.

    If being tortured, the best thing to do is to let yourself go insane. To crack like an overripe melon. It is your only real protection.

    I’m in a really bad mood today, due to the possibility of American use of dogs to rape prisoners as part of torture.

    This is the world we live in, and people who want to torture, want more of it.

    Don’t. Just don’t.

  62. Monster from the Id

    Torture and murder create more enemies. Those new enemies can be used to justify the continuous massive transfer of our tax dollars to the “defense” corporations (aka “The Merchants Of Death”) and the pay, power, and perks of legions of “defense” bureaucrats, whether uniformed or business-suited.

    “Blowback” isn’t a bug; it’s a feature!

    As General Butler said, war is a racket.

  63. jeff pendergast


    What me worry? I don’t live in fear. But I don’t believe in reactionary foreign policy. Part of protecting the country involves making chvoices, particularly during war, even if it involves coerced interrogation. You don’t seem to have a plan, you are just another angry critic.


    You are aptly named, although I can think some add on’s. Given your attitude, this scumbag is very happy to piss you off. Stop wasting my time with your intellectual wannabe jibberish.


    I don’t think Obama establishing a “red line” in Syria then not enforcing it was good foreign policy, but I do think setting certain expectations of our allies is a very good move. I haven’t read the poll, but I don’t remember 19,000 terrorist related deaths occurring in the UK, Canada, Spain, Germany and Australia.

  64. malcontent


    You are the authority on intellectual wannabe’s then. You aren’t wasting my time so much as you are wasting your own, but let us continue. Do you get more than attaboy’s from from other intellectual wannabe’s for your troubles?

  65. Monster from the Id

    Glenn Greenwald from 2010: “Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal”

    Maybe this explains the persistence of JP.

    Maybe he’s telling the truth when he says “I don’t live in fear.”

    Maybe he’s simply getting paid to pollute this site.

  66. jeff pendergast

    @malcontent, monster,

    Paid to back and forth with you two daft nuts? Funny. Seriously, when you have trouble in your own world’s is this how you act? Hiding behind a lame moniker, wetting your bed, calling your mommy and taking your ball on the way home. It’s what I expect from coward liberal idealists….the real world doesn’t work, so let’s insult someone with a different opinion, accuse that guy of pollution. Pathetic. And yes, a complete waste of time.

  67. Monster from the Id

    @JP: You’re the one choosing to waste your time where you’re not wanted, Jeffy.

    @Malcontent: Hey, Mal, this Jeff dude wets his lacy panties so much from fear of a hypothetical terrorist attack that he wants to torture people, even though that never works to prevent terrorist attacks–and even though he has far less chance of dying from that than from a car accident or even a lightning strike–and he calls us cowards. 😆

    (This assumes, of course, that he isn’t simply being paid.)

  68. jeff pendergast

    Wait, have I been voted off the site? It’s so cute that you called him “Mal”.

    You two choose to chump out and reply. Let me guess, you are 9/11 deniers?

    Over and out of this one….sorry to the rest of you. Happy Holidays.

  69. malcontent

    “Good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.”

    I was actually frightened one of us scared him away but he does have manly passion! If only the light wasn’t so bright outside the echo chamber he could read better.

    If he wasn’t so immature then I would be insulted by his calling me a coward, or for that matter a liberal and worst of all an idealist.

    Make no mistake Jeffy, I’m a pessimist and far more conservative than you are willing to recognize. I am also brave enough to have offered you insight on your future despite your manners.

    Good luck kid. You’re going to need it.

  70. Monster from the Id

    Oh, I don’t deny the 9/11 attacks happened.

    But how they happened, or who really perpetrated them? I’m not so sure about those points.

    I do find it rather hard to believe a gaggle of Wahhabis–the Muslim equivalent of our inbred, snake-handling, babbling-in-tongues fundamentalists–could do that all by themselves.

  71. ArtS

    Torturers are perverts.

    Torture supporters are wanna be perverts.

  72. JustPlainDave

    Given that the Wahabis built the modern Saudi Arabian state and have increased the “mind share” of their sect’s interpretation of Islam by many orders of magnitude over the past half century, I’d suggest a little more “belief”.

    A little truism I share, born of experience (folks might want to write this on their hands in case of a test): brown people can pull good ops too. They may not look like the ops “you” would pull, but a non-zero part of the time that’s what makes them work.

  73. Monster from the Id

    They built it? I thought they hired foreigners to build and maintain it for them.

  74. Monster from the Id

    Now if the alleged perps had actually come from Iraq, or another of the more secular-leaning, scientifically-advanced predominantly-Muslim countries, I would find the orthodox scenario easier to believe.

    I’m not despising their brownness; I’m despising their medieval religiosity.

  75. Monster from the Id

    (@Ian: I apologize for all these posts, but I keep having afterthoughts, and I can’t edit my responses to put them all in one entry.)

    JPDave makes a good point, though. I shouldn’t rule out sheer howling incompetence by the Chimperial Cheney @$$ministration as an explanation for the success of the 9/11 attacks. “Hanlon’s Razor” reminds us never to assume malice where stupidity can provide an adequate explanation.

    In that case, the 9/11 attacks would not be another Pearl Harbor, but rather another Little Big Horn–a freakish victory by a materially disadvantaged culture over a materially advantaged culture, due to incompetent leadership on the materially advantaged side.

    Maybe we should call the Chimp “President Custer”.

  76. JustPlainDave

    My advice would be to not mentally model the 9/11 attacks as a conflict of cultures. Yes, the attacks were perpetuated by individuals who came from cultures, but that’s distinctly different from broad based cultural conflicts. Not until the west got fished into its over-response was their a cultural conflict with a significant military component, unless one views Palestinian-Israeli conflict through this lens (given that the principal salesmen for this lens are the Israelis, I’d suggest not buying).

  77. realitychecker

    Just coming back to say, responses to my prior comment were disappointing. I’m new here, so it’s understandable that some might fail to realize the high quality of debate I seek to engage in.

    But, one response was pure ad hominem, calling me a paid troll. One pointed out the present content of various international accords, as though that could ever be the final word in a complex moral inquiry; as a lawyer, I’m all too aware of how deficient and fluid laws and their enforcement can be to ever have that conclude a conversation about morality. And Ian himself responded, but failed to engage my point, choosing instead to say it might be ineffective because the subject could lie and you don’t have time to verify, but in the pure ticking bomb hypothetical I set up to test the logic, he could also tell the truth and allow the bomb to be harmlessly defused, so trying to get that info would still make sense. Ian, I would also say to you that I don’t want or enjoy more torture just because I point out an extreme situation where torturing would be the only responsible thing to do. I abhor the fact that any living thing should ever in pain.

    I’m trying to point out the fallacy of the ABSOLUTE position to never torture. When many lives are at risk, and the captive subject is known to have the info that could prevent the pain and/or death of the many (my hypothetical), it would be immoral to simply let the many die. Nobody would ever make that choice in real life, especially if their own loved ones were at risk. To aver you would make that choice in the abstract, only serves the purpose of allowing a sense of moral smugness that is not justified, and can lead to bad reasoning in other areas as well. It’s immoral to have such bad arithmetic skills when balancing the costs and benefits of other people’s lives.

    Someone please tell me a logical reason why that is not correct.

  78. Monster from the Id

    If RC insists on continuing to shovel old discredited bull$#!+, I see no reason why I should not call him on it.

    Besides, I enjoy a good round of Whack-A-Troll. 😉

  79. realitychecker

    To Monster:

    Well, fine then, make your argument. I’ve presented a difficult and complex moral hypothetical, let’s hear your analysis and refutation of my position.

    So far, you’ve got nothing.

  80. Monster from the Id

    I don’t need to refute you, Unrealitychecker. Ian already did that above.

  81. Monster from the Id

    I must commend Ian on his patience. In his place, I would have banned RC and Jeff from this site already.

  82. realitychecker

    @ Monster

    OK, you’ve now revealed yourself to be not only of low intelligence and reading level, but also nursing an inner fascist who can’t tolerate any departures from easy established dogma.

    You are obviously not the kind of sophisticated thinker I’d come here hoping to engage with, so please just ignore me from now on.

    BTW, you do know that being a “monster from the id” was NOT a good thing in its original usage, don’t you? 🙂

  83. Monster from the Id

    I don’t believe trolls spouting wingnut talking points deserve to be taken seriously, and I see little reason to waste any time and energy refuting their amoral sophistries.

    Heaping scorn takes far less time and energy. 😛

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