Former Generals Reprimand GOP for Tough Torture Talk

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Many people took note of the moment during the GOP debate when Brit Hume proposed a hypothetical in which American shopping centers had been bombed and perpetrators had been caught. How hard do you interrogate the perps, Hume asked, to prevent another attack?

Pretty much every candidate used coded words to say they endorsed torture, or something close to it. Use “enhanced interrogation techniques,” said Romney. Let the interrogators use “any method they can think of,” said Giuliani. (John McCain, of course, is the exception here; he has been a strong opponent of torture. For a detailed account of what torture did to McCain’s body in Vietnam, see the second page of this LA Times feature.)

The crowd loved the tough talk, but you know who was a bit disgusted? Members of the military.

Today, two former generals articulate in the Washington Post what made millions thousands [Ed. Note: Sorry, no one watches these things.] of Americans queasy after the debate:

Fear can be a strong motivator. It led Franklin Roosevelt to intern tens of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens during World War II; it led to Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt, which ruined the lives of hundreds of Americans. And it led the United States to adopt a policy at the highest levels that condoned and even authorized torture of prisoners in our custody….

The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night’s presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. Indeed, among the candidates, only John McCain demonstrated that he understands the close connection between our security and our values as a nation….

This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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