A number of readers


A number of readers have emailed with their outrage over the comments on torture by TPM Reader CH. So let me clarify a couple of things.

As I said, CH was just one of several readers who had emailed to suggest I was living in a bubble. Pointing to the School of the Americas and the dirty wars in Latin America, they noted that U.S.-sanctioned torture has been going on for far longer than I was willing to acknowledge. You might call those the “where have you been?” crowd.

Somewhat related is that most of those same readers stopped short of offering an explanation for how their view that torture has been an accepted part of U.S. policy for a long time affects the way in which we move forward in addressing the abuses committed in the war on terror. What intrigued me about CH‘s comments was his suggestion that we were in a bubble formed of our own naivete back then and are eager to return to that bubble now, but that it’s the bubble itself that may contribute to these misguided policies on our behalf.

It was not my intent to set CH up as an easy strawman to be knocked about.

As for my own view on the difference between then and now, for the most part I subscribe to this take on it, from TPM Reader EK:

What we had before: An official policy against torture, and some shaky evidence that the policy was a lie.

What we have now: An official policy supporting torture, and plenty of
evidence of wrongdoing.

Morally, both situations are reprehensible. But in politics, just like in law enforcement, you can’t do much with vague rumors and unproven suspicions. So even though the United States has been doing shameful things for a long time, the new situation is materially different. We’ve gone from a nation which claimed to uphold the Geneva Conventions, and only violated them in secret, to a nation which has openly rejected the Geneva Conventions, and which has been caught on camera.

I’m sure we’ll return to this topic as congressional oversight (I hope) begins to peel back the layers. But for now my thanks especially to the service women and men who emailed their experiences.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.