- Just over 50% of Americans believe torture can be justified
- Roughly 50% of Americans want Guantanamo closed, 50% want it open
- 54% of Americans are concerned that terrorists could escape from high-security prisons in the United States
- 35% of Americans believe they may be victims of a terrorist attack
These findings are quite disturbing to me because they represent a culture of fear and anxiety that contributes to a national delusion. Clearheaded thinking and ethical discourse have taken a back seat, or totally failed, when one of every two Americans think torture can be justified. Despite the fact that no one has even escaped an American high-security prison, half of us are legitimately scared that a terrorist from halfway around the world could be flown into our backyard. And when one in three of us believes we will fall victim to a terrorist attack, it is no wonder that acceptance of torture is so high.
Americans, in their fear and anxiety, are suffering. And in our desire to avoid suffering, we are creating conditions and committing actions that lead to others' suffering. But, and here's the rub, our desire to avoid suffering, in fact, contributes to a great suffering for ourselves. It is a cycle of damnation that leads no where. Noam Chomsky, in an excellent piece for Z Magazine, writes:
Perhaps culpability would be greater, by prevailing moral standards, if it were discovered that Bush administration torture cost American lives. That is, in fact, the conclusion drawn by U.S. Major Matthew Alexander [pseudonym], one of the most seasoned interrogators in Iraq, who elicited "the information that led to the U.S. military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa'ida in Iraq," correspondent Patrick Cockburn reports. Alexander expresses only contempt for the harsh interrogation methods: "The use of torture by the US," he believes, not only elicits no useful information, but "has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many U.S. soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11." From hundreds of interrogations, Alexander discovered that foreign fighters came to Iraq in reaction to the abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and that they and domestic allies turned to suicide bombing and other terrorist acts for the same reason (Cockburn, "Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11," Independent, April 6, 2009)We live in fear of a terrorist attack because we suffered one. In our desire to prevent another one for happening, we are doing things to people that only make them want to hurt us more. This is insanity. The only path out of this cycle of death and destruction, torment and torture, is forgiveness...but to suggest that is deemed insane - at least by the "sane" ones who think torture is a way to stop violent acts against ourselves. The conversation around the effectiveness of torture is a distraction. It is propaganda to continue the war on terror. The very fact that this conversation is happening shows that America has no conscience and no respect for its own laws, international law, or human rights.