Last week to mark the 150 anniversary of the American Civil War the American Red Cross released a survey of US attitudes to international humanitarian law which revealed a shocking tolerance of torture across American society.
The Red Cross survey found that 59% of the 502 teenagers and 51% of the 1,019 adults polled believed that it was sometimes acceptable to torture enemy fighters to obtain important military information.
41% of teenagers and 30% of adults also accepted the logical corollary that it might therefore sometimes be acceptable for enemy forces to torture captured American POWs. The survey powerfully suggests just how far the norm against torture in American public life has been eroded.
Giants of American public life like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have spoken out against torture but the evidence seems to suggest that, for now at least, the ants have carried the day.
An American public weaned on a diet of hard-charging maverick cop shows like 24, video games like Modern Warfare, and the obfuscating legal maneuvers of Bush’s torture team has drunk the kool aid and, despite all evidence to the contrary, concluded torture works.