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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 10:04 AM ET, 05/05/2011

The torture diversion

Debating whether torture, years ago, was responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden and therefore vindicated is sort of like debating whether the Bush tax cuts are responsible for the economic recovery (such as it is) of the past year or so; it requires not only putting together a bunch of tenuous connections to make the positive case but ignoring the much more obvious evidence of the costs of the policy along the way that matter even if that tenuous positive case is true.

Or, to put it another way: It’s an easy case to make on faith, but sort of preposterous otherwise.

(To be clear: right or wrong, it’s not implausible to think that some strand of information produced by torture might have contributed in a positive way; it is, however, preposterous to believe that torture was responsible for bin Laden’s death, or that bin Laden’s death vindicates torture, even on a pragmatic level).

So why are the torture apologists back at it?

One way to look at it is that torture, right now, clearly divides the parties; indeed, it’s probably the national security/foreign affairs issue that most clearly divides them. After all, attempts by some movement conservatives to claim a division over terrorism (with Barack Obama secretly on the side of the terrorists) is going to be pretty much a non-starter from now on, and the other phony divisions (such as the silly “exceptionalism” thing) never had much of a chance to begin with. Torture has the advantage of being a non-fictional difference between the parties.

This matters because in an era in which praising Barack Obama for anything is simply unacceptable for most movement conservatives, it’s useful to keep the conversation on something over which they clearly disagree — and indeed, something that clearly puts them at odds with liberals.

Of course, another way to look at it is that, like movement conservative tax policy, it’s something that is taken on faith. And one of the ways that true believers handle their faith is to see it reflected in events of the world and to feel the need to profess it loudly and often. 

By  |  10:04 AM ET, 05/05/2011

 
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