Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rick Santorum's tortured memory

In what has to go down in history as one of the most ignorant and stupid statements of all time, Rick Santorum had the stones to go on Hugh Hewitt's radio show the other day and say, flat out, that torture victim John McCain "doesn't understand" how torture* works.  Whiskey.  Tango.  Foxtrot.

One of the things I found most disgusting about John McCain's presidential ambition was that it caused him to equivocate and vacillate on just about every position he'd ever taken, including torture, in order to pander to the right.  It was beyond sad to hear a torture victim hemming and hawing about how this torture or that was justifiable, when he knows better than almost anyone just how evil torture is, and the extent to which a person will say anything under torture if they think it will make the torture stop.  And, what do you know, that's exactly what McCain said!
On Thursday, McCain also penned an opinion piece for The Washington Post on the topic, saying, "I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear — true or false — if he believes it will relieve his suffering. Often, information provided to stop the torture is deliberately misleading."

He concluded, "This is a moral debate. It is about who we are." 
The most experienced interrogators speaking out have all said that they get more and better information by treating the subject well, and it makes perfect sense.  A person captured by US forces expects to be tortured, especially in light of Abu Ghraib and the infamous Yoo-Bybee "torture memos," which pretty much telegraphed to the world that the US is in the torture business.  What the subject does not expect is what most interrogators say works best: good treatment, talk, respect.  Treating the subject better than they expected, in other words.

But forget about the moral debate, or the efficacy of torture.  What I'm still gobsmacked over is the complete lack of self-awareness from Rick Santorum.  Just how big of a massive idiot do you have to be to say that John McCain doesn't understand how torture works?  Did Santorum just forget that McCain was tortured while a POW?  Did he think the North Vietnamese were incompetent at torture?  Does Rick Santorum simply not realize that some incredibly stupid things come out of his mouth on a regular basis?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Then again, Rick Santorum already has that whole Google problem conceived by the sheer genius of Dan Savage.  I wouldn't recommend Googling his name unless you have a strong constitution for things that most people find shocking.  The More You Know (TM).

*For reasons I have already spelled out, I categorically refuse to substitute the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" which was originally conceived by Heinrich Muller, the head of the Gestapo, using the phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung."  Waterboarding is torture.  Stress positions are torture.  Sleep deprivation is torture.  Under US law, misleading someone to believe that they are about to be killed, or that someone else is about to be killed, is torture.  Call it what it is.


  1. Say what you want about McCain's mad desire for the presidency (as you point out, there is a lot), he was a frigging hero. Santorum is the lowest of the low.

  2. The very fact that Rick Santorum is taken seriously on anything at all is absolutely beyond me. As for McCain, I think he's starting to grasp just how badly he damaged his reputation running for president.