23 December 2014

Americans OK with torture

The Pew Research Centre recently released the results of a survey of Americans about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices, a report which revealed the agency has engaged in torture. One might expect that the citizens of a nation known for its attention to civil rights would strongly censure crimes against both human decency and the law. One would be disappointed.

The survey indicated that over half of Americans believed the CIA's methods were justified while only 29 per cent said they were not. Furthermore, 56 per cent believe the methods provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks, even though the report stated they didn't. Also disappointing was that as many respondents said it was wrong to release the report as those who said it was right. There are truths that some people just don't want to know, or want anybody else to know.

Perhaps we should not be surprised that so many Americans are comfortable with torture. After all, they accepted segregation, with all its brutal violation of human rights, up until midway into the last century, all the while claiming to be the land where all men are created equal. And a frightened people will be inclined to sacrifice their principles for expediency.

Americans are in this respect no different than anyone else, no better, no worse. The struggle for human rights, whether to end slavery, to emancipate women, to achieve equality for minorities and gays, has always been the responsibility of progressives struggling in a sea of complacency or outright opposition, ultimately winning over most of the populace but often only after a very long time. Supporters of human dignity are often a minority.

Unfortunately, even President Obama, although expressing his distaste for such behaviour and declaring it un-American, doesn't appear to have the political courage to prosecute the culprits. He claims he wants to look forward, not back, a sentiment he might more constructively apply to Edward Snowden. Presidents it seems, from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, and in the latter case at least some key subordinates, are above the rule of law. And that's pretty disappointing, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment