Digby's wrong. I don't say it often, as I'm still hoping he'll put me on his Hullabaloo blogroll; but he's wrong nonetheless. About what? Torture. He has a very good post about the American acceptance of torture, which includes part of a must-read interview with a Guantanamo lawyer. But he makes one mistake. He thinks Republicans support torture. And while some nuts certainly do support it; the majority do not. And we should be working with them to stop it, rather than insisting that they're all nuts.
And it's not just Digby. Lots of libs think this way. But they're totally wrong. Entirely wrong. And it's for the reason I've been saying all along. Conservatives, or at least the new conservatives who have joined the movement and made it popular, do not disagree with us regarding our opinions. They disagree with the facts. And until we can internalize that fact and use it to our advantage, we will continue to be unable to communicate with them and bring them over to the light-side.
Take torture, for example. Do conservatives support torture by Americans? Of course not. They will emphatically tell you that. And I'm sure they mean it too. Most of them, anyway. They don't support torture. Not low-grade torture. Not even torture by a different name. They just don't support torture.
So how do they justify Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo? Because they insist that that isn't torture. That, whatever is going on there, is just not a big deal. It's just "blowing off steam" and at the level of frat pranks. And Gitmo detainees? They're treated fairly, and better than they would be in their own country. And it's nice tropical weather. Why, a New Yorker would pay a lot of money for similar accommodations, we've been told.
And those are all certainly rationalizations. But they're not rationalizations justifying torture. They're rationalizations to show that it isn't torture. They aren't saying that it's ok to torture people; they're denying that torture is happening at all.
And why would they deny that it was torture? Because they don't approve of it. If they approved of it, they wouldn't need to justify it as "blowing off steam". They'd say, "Damn straight we were torturing the bastards. I'm just shocked that we weren't doing more." That's what they'd say. And a few do say that. But most don't. Even nutso Rush Limbaugh would never say that. And not because we'd disapprove; that'd just make him say it more. But because his listeners would disapprove. Folks like my innocent mom, who has listened to that jerk almost every day for over thirteen years. He'd do anything but offend nice people like her. And an explicit endorsement of torture would do the trick. She may be gullible, but she sure as hell as her standards. And torture is not within them. She just has to keep believing that torture isn't happening.
And even at that, remember: Rush never said it was a good to do these things. He just said it wasn't torture. But they still insist that it wasn't government policy. They still insist that these were just pranks by bored hillbillies trying to have fun. But they never, ever justify it as good government policy. They never claim that even these low-grade torture techniques were justified as means of extracting information.
And again, that's proof that they don't approve of it. Because they TELL us that they don't approve of it as government policy. They rationalize it as "frat pranks", but they still don't approve of them. Not even the low-grade stuff.
And here's the thing: when we talk of torture, we know that there is more going on than the low-grade butt-pyramid stuff. We've read all about it. About the beatings. Rapes. Renditions to torturing countries. Who knows what else.
And sure, Rumsfeld didn't approve of rapes. But he wanted conditions that could allow them to happen. Not because he wanted rapes, but because he wanted everything else. And any conditions which would prevent all rapes would also prevent a lot of the other stuff he might want happening. And he'd rather have unauthorized rapes if it meant he could have good interrogations without having to specifically authorize torture (something he's far too cowardly to do). So they set conditions which would not prohibit the bad stuff from happening. Like by sending people to Egypt where they "say they're not going to torture the people." Of course, Mr. Bush. They just wanted to show them the Sphinx.
That's one of the big tricks of Republicans; you don't authorize anything illegal, but you create a culture in which underlings would take illegal acts upon themselves. That's how Watergate happened. And the Iran-Contra scandal. It wasn't because Nixon or Reagan told anyone to act illegally, but because they set conditions which could allow bad things to happen and indicated that they'd like it if certain problems were solved; so that they wouldn't have to specifically authorize the bad things they wanted happening. Like illegal wire-tapping. Or giving banned weapons to terrorists. It gives the plausible deniablity so preferable among our evil leaders. All the solutions, with none of the accountability.
So when we talk about that stuff, that's what we're including. But again, the Republicans won't even admit to approving the low-grade stuff as government policy. So they will completely deny that any of this other stuff is even happening. And they do deny it. All of it. They will claim that the source of the story is flawed or biased; and that we're just believing these falsehoods because we hate Bush and America so much. And denial is far from approval. Their opinion of torture is the same as ours, and they'd condemn it as quickly as they saw it; they just don't see it.
But the question is: Why? Why do they allow this to happen? Is it because of 9/11? Are they looking the other way because they fear another attack? Maybe. That's what we always say. But I'm really not so sure that it's true. Because frankly, none of these people act like people who are afraid of another attack. Shortly after 9/11 they may have. But not any longer. They've gotten back to their daily routines and invented problems. They don't act like they're scared of anything. They act like people who want excuses to behave inexcusably.
So, why support torture? It's politics. They're supporting their team. They're supporting Bush. This isn't about approving torture, or being scared into accepting it. This is about protecting Bush and protecting their team. They'd say anything to protect Bush. Because the object for them isn't truth; it's loyalty. Republicans honor loyalty much higher than truth. Because they already think they have the truth. They're just seeking the ability to implement that truth.
And of course it's politics. What did we expect from them "Geez, I guess Bush wasn't such a great guy after all. We owe you an apology. I'll buy you a drink and vote Democrat."?? Was that it? What reaction did we expect? If they blame Bush, the game's up. They lose. And so of course they had to fight against that. Of course they couldn't blame Bush. Not because they don't blame him. But because they knew we would. And if Bush went down, we'd send them down with him.
I've got tons more to write about the Watergate book I'm reading right now, and this concept of the rats clamoring together for safety played very heavily into that story too. But you'll just have to wait for that.
And think about it from the other side. Honestly, if Clinton were president during this, would they still approve of torture? Even the low-grade stuff? Hell no they wouldn't. They'd attack the butt pyramids more than the beatings, insisting that it was Clinton's immoral blowjobs which encouraged the damn hillbillies to stack those men up like that. They'd blame his moral relativism; just like they blamed corporate greed on Clinton's immorality, like he invented it or something. They wouldn't accept this at all and would demand his impeachment. Hell, if they had had something this strong, they probably would have succeeded! Probably could have impeached Gore too! Given us a coup-de-Newt.
And they'd totally use it to attack us, as they'd know that we could never defend it. And we wouldn't try to. If anything, we'd claim that it was low-level hillbillies gone wild. Red-staters just teaching David Brooks a few more things about the red/blue distinctions, we'd say. But we'd insist that it wasn't Clinton's policy or fault, and that we didn't approve of it. And that's exactly what they're doing. They don't approve of this crap any more than we do. They're just trapped and scared. Their defense is their only defense.
Wrapping Up Torture
And why is this important: because conservatives know that they don't approve of torture. And so when we talk to them about it, it makes no sense. They just see us attacking a strawman. And we certainly are. And until we stop attacking the strawman and understand what the conservatives are really saying, we won't be able to get through to them in order to stop this stuff from happening. They're so busy protecting themselves from our attacks, that they can't see that we're on the same side.
And that's unfortunate. This stuff is too important for us to get our partisan jollies by razzing conservatives about liking torture. I know that's not what you people are trying to do, but can you explain why else you didn't see these obvious facts in front of you? Why you kept hearing Republican disavowal of torture and insisting that they approved of it? It makes no sense. You get your kicks out of this stuff, and it's not right. This is serious stuff. There are a handful of nuts out there who support torture, and we need to work with the disapproving conservatives to get that to stop. And they're not going to work with us if we keep blaming them for it; and using it to denounce their team.
I'm not saying that we ignore the torture. I'm saying that we should have been working to stop it, rather than trying to blame Bush and his followers for it. And had they allowed themselves to admit to the facts in front of them, they surely would never have re-elected Bush again. As I've said before, our disagreement isn't over what the facts mean, but over the facts themselves. We just need for them to want to see the facts. They're not stupid or mean. They're just blind. And we need to stop shining our lights in their eyes if we want Republicans to open them. I know they wouldn't do it for us, but that's why we need to do it for them. For America.