(Photo by Kevin Saff.)

Earlier today, emptywheel raised the question of why Bush-era torture apologists came rushing out to restate their dubious claims so quickly after the death of Osama bin Laden.

After noting that “the torture just impeded the real intelligence work that ultimately yielded OBL,” she concludes:

… ultimately the torture apologists staked their reputation on a certain approach to terrorism. That’s their legacy. It’s all they’ve got.

But with all due respect to EW’s ferocious logic, I think there’s a philosophical angle that she’s missing.  The powers-that-be on the right understand the theoretical implications of their political stances — whether it’s the various rhetorical dog whistles to awaken their base’s tribal instincts, or their systematic, long-term assault on the societal safety net.

In the latter case, effectiveness isn’t just beside the point, it’s the reason for attacking things like Medicare, Social Security, and public education… after all, if the public is allowed to accept the unchallenged success of a “socialistic” approach in these areas, they’re more likely to apply that same principle elsewhere (for instance, nationwide single-payer health insurance).

It’s the same way with the torture supporters; torture’s ineffectiveness is just added motivation to advocate its use more fiercely, because the real purpose is philosophical.  And the notion that torture should be avoided because it’s immoral?  That is the true enemy.

The fundamental view of the torture apologists is this: A society that lets morality guide government policy is on the slippery slope to liberalism.  And that must be prevented at all costs.



Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (www.needlenose.com).