The pro-torture generation

A new study by the American Red Cross obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast found that a surprising majority—almost 60 percent—of American teenagers thought things like water-boarding or sleep deprivation are sometimes acceptable. More than half also approved of killing captured enemies in cases where the enemy had killed Americans. When asked about the reverse, 41 percent thought it was permissible for American troops to be tortured overseas. In all cases, young people showed themselves to be significantly more in favor of torture than older adults.

via The Daily Beast.

When I was a teenager, I saw a lot of war movies with Nazi and Japanese villains – the Gestapo chief boasting that “ve haf vays to make you talk,” the prison camp commandant sneering at the Geneva convention.  Their willingness to torture and abuse captives defined them as evil.  Later I was horrified by reports of Soviet and Chinese Communist brainwashing – the systematic attempt to break a human being mentally and morally, and turn the person into a puppet.  This, I thought, was the bright line between freedom and totalitarianism.  Whatever the faults of British and American democracy, I thought, there were things that our side would never so, and this was one.

It is true that in that time of my life, I was blind, perhaps willfully blind, to what went on in American prisons, and to the complicity of secret U.S. military and intelligence agencies with foreign dictatorships that practiced torture.  But there are worse things than hypocrisy.  A hypocrite at least acknowledges there are norms of human behavior, even if you don’t practice it yourself.

Fast forward to today’s generation.  A Red Cross survey says that nearly 60 percent of American teenagers think of torture as normal.  This is not necessarily racism, nor chauvinism, nor a double standard.  More than two-thirds of those who accept torture as normal think it is permissible when applied to Americans.  If we have a right to do it to them, they have a right to do it to us.  Fair is fair.

Why should this be surprising?  President George W. Bush boasts of having authorized torture.  President Barack Obama says torture was not illegal, and refuses to allow the Red Cross access to certain detention facilities abroad.  TV shows such as “24” and thriller writers such as Vince Flynn depict torture as a heroic act, and moral scruples as a form of cowardice.

But if you don’t think torture is absolutely wrong – is there anything you would think of as wrong?

Click on Red Cross Study Finds 60 Percent of Young People Support Torture for the original article.

Hat tip to Adam Serwer.

Part Two of the above video could not be embedded.  Click on How Hollywood Gets Its Wrong on Torture and Interrogation P2 to watch it on YouTube.

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