Friday, December 12, 2014

Outrage Is Our Most Important Product

So the US Senate finally released its long-promised report on torture during the first years of Bush's War on Terror, defying warnings by alarmists that it would set off a wave of anti-American violence.  As Daniel Larison pointed out:
There was no such concern among hawks about the foreign policy implications of torturing people when it was being done, and they expressed no similar worries that other U.S. actions would provoke violent responses. If one raises the possibility that aggressive U.S. actions in other parts of the world could have dangerous consequences for Americans later on, that is normally denounced as 'blaming' America. Strangely enough, that doesn’t seem to apply when there is a chance of exposing our government’s egregious abuses to public scrutiny and having some small measure of accountability for those abuses.
I've been bemused by the reactions among liberals.  Jon Stewart was reportedly so shocked! shocked to learn that there was torture going on it made him want to vomit.  No one who was an adult during the 2000s, even in America, can credibly claim not to have known about the US practice of torture at the time: even before the Abu Ghraib revelations, there were plenty of reports of rendition and torture in the media.  There was even a fair amount of debate throughout the decade in mainstream as well as marginal media.  Nominal liberals like Jonathan Alter and Alan Dershowitz advocated the use of torture before the end of 2001, and urged then-new President Obama to continue the proud tradition.  Stewart is old enough to remember all this, so I presume he's going for theatrical effect.

I've also been reminding liberals who've indulged in outrage over Fox News's attacks on the report that it wasn't only Fox that warned of the dire consequences that would follow if the world were told that what they'd known had happened all along, had happened.  Fox was part of a chorus with CNN, the New York Times, and USA Today.  Some liberals were thrilled when John McCain dusted off his anti-torture credentials.  I teased a few of them by accusing them of endorsing him for the Presidency in 2016, since they'd used a similar line when a few writers pointed out that even Ron Paul was right about a thing or two.  I also had to remind them that the US was supporting, fostering, and practicing torture on a bipartisan basis long before George W. Bush took office.  They also like to forget Obama's role in shielding the torturers from accountability for most of his presidency.  (Remember "Reflection, not retribution"?  That's down the memory hole, along with "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!")  But posturing is so much easier, and more fun, than informing oneself.

Today Larison linked to a story in the Washington Post which reported that the "bitter Mideast" has reacted to the Senate report with a "shrug."  But you know, life is totally cheap in the Mideast, so they don't really care about torture -- they just hate America, because Islam.
... Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy [explained].  “This seems like run-of-the-mill stuff in the sense that this is what people expect of the U.S. They would be surprised if it wasn’t the case, and that’s a product of years of deep anti-American sentiment,” he said.
See, the "deep anti-American sentiment" couldn't possibly be the result of US violence, whether direct or by proxy, in the region.  They just hate us for our freedoms, I guess.  Or for our Freedom Fries.
Arab governments might have been expected to seize on the report, but their reaction too was muted. That’s in part because many U.S. allies in the region were directly complicit in the rendition and interrogation programs. Also, nearly all Arab governments have long employed similar brutality against their own political prisoners.
“Clearly everyone’s disgusted by it, and I’m sure the extremists will leap on it as evidence of American perfidy,” said Theodore Karasik, a regional expert who serves as senior adviser to Dubai-based Risk Insurance Management.
Well, the report is "evidence of American perfidy"; but then, so is the consistent US support for repressive regimes in the Mideast and elsewhere, another troublesome fact that has the effect of winning recruits to Islamist insurgent groups. Again, as Daniel Larison says, the hawks and their defenders never think that invasion, mass murder, torture, and indefinite imprisonment without trial might produce bad consequences for the US.  It's not as if the world's people need Senate reports to know what the US and its allies are doing to them -- their noses are ground in it every day.  Only Americans can maintain blissful ignorance about what is being done in our names, and throw tantrums when our sleep is disturbed.