While reading Martin Longman’s criticism of president Obama’s statement minimizing torture that I had commented on before, I noticed something that I had missed and that is that Obama actually called the torturers ‘patriots’. Here is what Obama said:
Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And, you know, it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots, but having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects.
Such depth of understanding for the plight of torturers! Such empathy! Such compassion! Such condescension for sanctimonious people like us who just don’t understand the situation of the torturers and mistakenly think that it is possible, just possible, that the victims of US torture may have felt actual physical pain in addition to the mental pain that is far, far worse than the mental anguish supposedly suffered by those committing war crimes.
I am sure that Obama will show the same compassion towards those in Basher Assad’s regime who are accused of torturing people. After all, that government is in serious danger of being overthrown, so the danger to them is far greater than it ever was to the US which never faced an existential threat and so their justification for torture is greater. They must be even greater patriots, no?