50% of American Support Torture?

This is disheartening, although to be honest not surprising.

A new national poll indicates that most Americans don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, even though most people think such procedures were forms of torture.

Six in ten people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday believe that some of the procedures, such as water boarding, were a form of torture, with 36 percent disagreeing.

But half the public approves of the Bush administration's decision to use of those techniques during the questioning of suspected terrorists, with 50 percent in approval and 46 percent opposed.

"Roughly one in five Americans believe those techniques were torture but nonetheless approve of the decision to use those procedures against suspected terrorists," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That goes a long way toward explaining why a majority don't want to see former Bush officials investigated."

Fifty-seven percent of those questioned don't want Congress to investigate Bush officials who authorized those harsh interrogation procedures, with 42 percent calling for action by lawmakers. Fifty-five percent also don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

60% of Americans think the Bush administration tortured, nevertheless 50% think it's ok. I'm assuming that most of that 50% comes out of the 40% that don't think what we did was torture...but still, there's an overlap. There are people who agree that we tortured, and think "Hey, it's cool that we tortured people."

I don't know if the media's defense of torture is shaping the public opinion...I haven't had the "luxury" of tuning into American media lately, although I wouldn't doubt they have been spinning this not as a debate of "Torture, right or wrong", but rather of "Torture, who cares if it's wrong, does it work?"

I've mentioned in the past, being from New York, I have noticed a lot more support for Bush national security policies among Democrats and liberals than others have seen...Perhaps as a result of directly being effected by 9/11. In New York on election night, I was watching election returns with local Democrats...one woman, upon seeing Obama win, commented that he hoped he wouldn't "listen to bleeding heart liberals and continue to make the terrorists suffer." A comment others in the room nodded their heads in agreement to. She continued; "There are 3,000 reasons to make these terrorists suffer." (I was forced to swallow my words; yes, this woman, this Democrat, wanted America to torture in the name of those who died on 9/11...and not even to get information, just to make them suffer.

50% support torture...I guess we can look at this as a glass half full type of thing. Half the country doesn't think we should torture, but do 50% of Americans support other countries torturing? Or is our country divided...between those who want to take the moral highground versus those who think we are better when we are immoral, barbaric and cruel. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, that same attitude existed in the imperalist societies of the past.

Tags: 9/11, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Eric Holder, George W. Bush, jay bybee, torture, torture investigations, war on terrorism (all tags)



Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

Very sad.

by Charles Lemos 2009-05-06 09:20PM | 0 recs
Sad But True..

So while David Sirotta and the crazed Ideologues on Talk Left are impeaching Obama, the sad fact is, he would literally be throwing his ENTIRE Presidency in the toilet by going on full out on this, as the Loony Left seems to want.

I'm dead serious, this would be simply the most deadly mistake since Jimmy Carters failed rescue attempt in the desert, and this would have the same effect:Turn what could be a good, even great presidency into a failure.

Folks, there is NO national will for this, no matter how many crazed bloggers scream and rant about nazi sympathesers.

Time to face facts.

Obama is smarter and more in touch with the American people then the Left Blogosphere.

by WashStateBlue 2009-05-06 10:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Sad But True..

Well, then I guess it's okay to torture people.  My only question is why we weren't chopping off fingers and so forth.  After all, if we learned of x terror plots without torture, x + y terror plots with sissy torture, wouldn't we learn of x + y + z terror plots with real torture a la the Stazi?


Okay, less snark in this section.  Being a leader partially means bringing people along to your point of view.  The Dick Morris adage that 60 % of the people can't be wrong has never sat well with me.  If we want real change, and I think we do, it's not going to happen overnight and it will take some convincing.  It took 9/11 and 24 to get people interested in torture.  There's a way to get them uninterested.  Leadership.

by the mollusk 2009-05-07 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Sad But True..

I'm afraid thtat's the case. Icho the poster who saidthat thiswas very sad.

by spirowasright 2009-05-07 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

I think the major distorting factor is the continuing fact of Al Qaeda/ObL existing unpunished.

The only way I've been able to make sense of all the crap and popular behavior involving Al Qaeda is that The People and George Bush made a murder pact after 9/11.  He and his people would kill ObL and the top AQ people, and 'we' in turn would agree to ignore all the lawbreaking and morality violated that it was going to take.  It was held to be that exceptional of a matter.  (The reason why it is this level of exceptional is more interesting than anything else about it.)

'We' the People have held our word better than W did. It's one of the many absurdities of the deal.

by killjoy 2009-05-06 10:44PM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

The problem is the incredibly high and public death toll 9/11 caused in front of the entire world.  That was a harsh price to pay for us all, and it somewhat bent the rigid "right-wrong" divide when it comes to interrogating seen as possibly responsible or to prevent another such attack.  I think it is unfortunate that many are willing to disregard the Geneva convention agreements to achieve maximum protection against a repeat of the 9/11 terror attacks.

However, sometimes these types of polls exist in a vacuum and lack follow-up that could clear things up a bit more.

 For instance, if the respondent is being made aware that the torture at question here was against Iraqi nationals, a country we now know had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, it would likely change the sentiment somewhat.  Torture is wrong in any setting, but it is especially so when used against people who are innocently accused and detained, and most Americans, when confronted with that fact, would look at "torture" of unrelated bystanders entirely different.  

Also, the public needs to be educated much better about the fact that there is ample evidence and high-level CIA admission that torture generally does not work, that results gained from harsh interrogations are likely to be unreliable.  If more of the public realizes that applying  torture is a poor way to gain vital information it loses any dubious appeal it may have to some, not just from a human rights perspective but as a practical matter.

by devilrays 2009-05-07 12:07AM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

50% of Americans who 'don't want to see an investigation of Bush administration officials' != 50% of Americans support torture.  Sorry, not the same.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 12:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Um

My point is that it seems the poll question was presented in the past tense, as in 'the Bush administration's decision to use of those techniques.'  If the question were asked differently I'm guessing the results would vary, as in this example from 2007:

Asked whether they think waterboarding is a form of torture, more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes; 29 percent said no.

Asked whether they think the U.S. government should be allowed to use the procedure to try to get information from suspected terrorists, 58 percent said no; 40 percent said yes.

Poll results: Waterboarding is torture CNN 6 Nov 07

Note that the response to the question 'is waterboarding torture' is pretty close to the recent poll you cited.  I agree that the results are pretty dismal in either case but am suggesting that the public is more likely to support past actions than current policy on this issue.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Well that makes sense

I'm guessing it may have something to do with a collective guilt complex that would simply prefer to forget the whole thing and move on, which sets an unfortunate precedent, but first prize has got to be restoring the rule of law and bringing the US back into line in the present.

I tend to agree with the other commenters who assert that Obama's decision to not press the point from the executive branch is wise.  As for the criminal and legislative inquiries that no doubt will arise from other branches of government, let the chips fall where they may.

I just don't expect the public to ever be overwhelmingly enthusiastic in hanging out our collective dirty linen.  A pretty depressing chapter in our national history, to be sure, from which it will take quite some time to recover.

by Shaun Appleby 2009-05-07 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

We just don't support self-flagellation.

by JimR 2009-05-07 04:25AM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

As much as would like to see a full blown prosecution of those that authorized torture and those that carried it out, I have to agree with WSB. For Obama it is a no win, his Presidency would end in 2012.

There is no way to move forward with prosecutions without it becoming a political nightmare. The only way it could happen would be for the Right to finally come out and say what we did was wrong and we must hold those who did it and authorized it accountable. I'm not holding my breath.

by jsfox 2009-05-07 05:11AM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

And if we don't prosecute these people, his Presidency ends in 2009.

by the mollusk 2009-05-07 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: A little overdramatic

So, your essential argument is that torture is okay because it is popular.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 07:38AM | 0 recs
Re: 50% of American Support Torture?

I believe that speaking out against the Iraq war in 2002 would almost guarantee the end of one's political career.

crickets. crickets. crickets.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 07:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Which is why no one did

But the point is that people's attitudes change and sometimes that change comes from the top.  In another response you said that prosecuting torture was "a dead issue for now".  I think that's as close as I've agreed with you so far.  The reason being that you don't start with an anti-torture blitzkrieg, you start with a commission and maybe even a few a priori pardons to make sure it's clear that this isn't being done for political reasons.  Besides, it may be that Pelosi or Reid could be brought down in all of this.  From there, or concurrently, you start to develop different ideas about why torture is wrong and counterproductive.  To the extent that anyone would even pay attention to this, it would seem pretty tame.  But to the people who may have their reputations at stake, particularly the David Addington types, this would be a big deal.  The next time an administration asks somebody to legalize torture, the lawyers working on this will have to ask themselves if they want to go through the rigamarole and risk to their reputation.  There needs to be consequences for this or it will become standard operating procedure.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Two things

I don't like the idea of a priori pardons, but I can see that that might be the way to move the process forward.  Bush and Cheney are never going to pay for this.  I can accept that.  But if John Yoo or David Addington become household names the way Ollie North or Ken Lay have, then they have paid a significant price for it.  And this is what someone in the future would be seeking to avoid.

Next time they'll just be careful not to lose an election. /

/Spain and France never prosecuted people who tortured in the past

I honestly don't see how this is relevant.  Neither did the Soviet Union.  What's the point?

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 09:05AM | 0 recs
For the most vocal

supporters of prosecution...immunity for anyone, Bush or Cheney included, is a dealbreaker.

Reminds me of a highly rec'd comment I saw on DailyKos a week or so ago that said; "If they don't strap Bush to a gurney, I'm done with Obama"

by DTOzone 2009-05-08 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: The Republicans didn't lose power

Don't piss off the Republicans because then they'll try harder to win elections?


by the mollusk 2009-05-08 10:04AM | 0 recs

That's not what he said at all.

by DTOzone 2009-05-08 10:10AM | 0 recs
Re: What?

/so in the future, when Republicans come back to power, they'll be sure they don't lose elections so they can't be prosecuted /

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 10:38AM | 0 recs

that's what he said, that's different than what you said.

by DTOzone 2009-05-08 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: uh...yes

Just a guess.  The Republicans (and Democrats) will always try to make sure they don't lose elections.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: sigh

As of May 8, 2009 people may not care.  You don't know if people would care or not if the issue were taken to its logical conclusion.

This gets back to the fundamental issue of whether politics is about getting elected or about projecting a certain philosophy.  You can take the Frank Luntz approach of seeing how people react to certain sentences phrased in certain ways and develop a political strategy from there or you can decide that there are certain things you wish to project and ask yourself what is the best way to slowly and surely move the framing.

It's ironic that we're in the midst of seeing the gay marriage issue turn dramatically when just a few short years ago it was highly toxic.  But the framing is different in 2009 than it was in 2004.  I think this is the approach to take with torture and with battling terrorism in general.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 10:44AM | 0 recs
I'm not sure how else you can present it

is there anyone in this country who hasn't seen the pictures? who hasn't seen the memos?

Are you expecting the MSM to suddenly do it's job and present this as illegal? I don't know what you expect to happen. I mean the network are even threatening not to air the President's press conferences anymore? What else do you want to do to change people's minds?

I've tried talking about it to people, trying to change minds and I got no where.

Maybe people's minds will change, I don't know, but as of right now, prosecution and investigation is political suicide, so it won't happen.

by DTOzone 2009-05-08 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not sure how else you can present it

I think we're talking past each other.  I'm talking in "should"s and you're talking in "are"s.  I see this as a process with an outcome that is more desirable than a different outcome.  I understand what the poll says, but I'm not ready to give up on the possibility that we can get some movement.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 12:21PM | 0 recs
John Yoo?

Hell, in the Socialist Republic of Berkley CA, they can't even yank his tenure?

And, you guys think TRIALS are actually gonna happen?????

by WashStateBlue 2009-05-08 01:11PM | 0 recs
Re: John Yoo?

Horse, then cart.

Why would you yank his tenure before he's been accused of anything?

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 01:27PM | 0 recs
We got plenty of Jr League Sirrota's

wanting to blast Obama before Holder has decided what he is going to do....

Plus, no accusation is neccesary, Yoo has basically been outfront about his part in this:

How about Yoo thinks it's OK if the President wants someones testicles crushed:

On December 1, 2005, Yoo appeared in a debate in Chicago with University of Notre Dame professor Doug Cassel. During the debate Cassel asked Yoo, "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?", to which Yoo replied "No treaty." Cassel followed up with "Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...", to which Yoo replied "I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that."

Ah, this guy is teaching LAW?  In Berkley?

Does the teaching of law out there ever go over the concept of cruel and unusual?

Or SOME level of morals and ethics?


by WashStateBlue 2009-05-08 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: We got plenty of Jr League Sirrota's

First off, I've never said that either Obama or Holder is doing the wrong things on the torture issue.  This is evolving and the story isn't over.  Maybe you're getting me confused with my senior league doppelganger?

Second, sure Yoo holds extreme views that are probably illegal.  But the beauty of academic tenure is that you're perfectly within your bounds to hold nutty views.  They don't force you out unless you do something demonstrably wrong.

My primary issue is with concluding that nothing can be done about this because of....a poll?  Give me a break.  I can show you polls that evolution is false, Barack Obama won't be elected president in 2008 and the Iraq War has been won.

by the mollusk 2009-05-09 05:01PM | 0 recs
I think as Americans know we face

radical jihad which wants a new Caliphate like the Ottoman Empire, especially after 9/11, they believe that tough interrogation is a good idea. Personally, I'm mixed on the issue. Sometimes, there are instances where tough interrogations are needed, as there are people who want to kill us. The truth is, its not like we took knives like torturers of old, and cut their penises off, their eyes out, limbs off, which WOULD be truly abhorrent and barbaric. If we did that, we'd truly be barbarians, as Islamic countries do this kind of stuff on the daily. While waterboarding is unfortunate, its not as if terror suspects are permanently mutilated. Nor did we use a cat o' nine tails, the stretcher, etc. However, I am not condoning Abu Ghraib, as electrocuting people can cause big time damage. There is a middle ground. Also, does Obama want to take the fall if Al-Qaeda strikes again? He would be finished, and the GOP's terror issue would come back from the grave with flying colors. There are more pressing issues than waterboarding, like health care, the economy, etc.

by Lakrosse 2009-05-07 08:43AM | 0 recs
Re: I think as Americans know we face

I don't agree.  This is the most pressing issue.  What sense does it make to create a Roman Empire where we all live great as long as we fit in the box?  We need to push back against this meme that because no one's penis was cut off it was hunky-dory.

The threat we face from terrorists is real but miniscule compared to past conflicts.  World War I, World War II, the Cold War.  Ask yourself what are the odds that terrorists could actually take over the world and impose some kind of global sharia law?  Also ask yourself whether that's even their goal?  If you wanted to take over the US, would you begin by knocking down the World Trade Center?  It's more likely that they wanted to create false choices for the US and get us pinned down in unwinnable wars in the middle east.  Torturing people won't make Afghanistan any more winnable.

by the mollusk 2009-05-07 10:14AM | 0 recs
Re: I think as Americans know we face

And here's one of them now.

by Jess81 2009-05-07 10:56AM | 0 recs
stop you TR abuse

immediately, because someone simply disagrees with your views on this issue.

by Lakrosse 2009-05-07 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: We all know

You mean like you just did?


by Jess81 2009-05-09 09:27AM | 0 recs
Jack Bauer ticking bomb scenario premise

The trick is how you ask the question.  Most Americans have been conditioned to accept the TV show "24" Jack Bauer scenario, a bomb is ticking somewhere and millions will die, do you torture?  It never happened, according to Bush FBI head, Robert Mueller, who in a fit of real patriotism said he didn't "believe" torture prevented any attacks.  Given the chance to hedge, he just confirmed this stance to the NY Times.  

Among the Bushies Mueller was a bit of a rarity: he actually saw combat in a Vietnam rifle platoon.

Were people to know that most of those tortured were innocent, you might get a different poll result.  I am not disheartened.  The results are perfectly reasonable given the unspoken presumptions.  Opponents of torture must take aim at these presumptions to win the day.  It's all here, (forgive for resurrecting an old piece):

"Tortured Wrong Guys, Didn't Prevent Attacks, and Oh Yes, Helped Al Qaeda"

by ralphlopez 2009-05-07 01:31PM | 0 recs
Re: The poll asked

I'm having trouble understanding your perspective here.  Sometimes you seem to be saying that Obama shouldn't pursue this because it is unpopular.  But other times you seem willing to acknowledge that just because something is unpopular doesn't mean that it is wrong (evolution, gay marriage, innocent until proven guilty, etc.).

Also, what I'm advocating for isn't an immediate and public trial to begin tomorrow.  This is a process that begins most likely behind closed doors and a large part of which is a reminder to people that this is not who we are and that we don't defeat terrorism by terrorizing other people.  Obama won election in large part by delivering moving and eloquent speeches.  Let's here one about torture and see how the needle moves.  This is a guy that was down 30 points to Hillary Clinton at the beginning of the Democratic primary.

by the mollusk 2009-05-08 07:44AM | 0 recs

The rest didn't vote...

by architek 2009-05-07 06:51PM | 0 recs


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