Americans Supported Torture Because They Were Deceived into Thinking that it was a Necessary Evil

I have written numerous essays documenting that torture doesn’t work (see this, for example). In response, many people have commented by saying: “Who cares whether or not it works? It is illegal, unethical and unacceptable”. Well yes, of course it is. But it is in one sense even more important that it does not work (and that it reduces our national security). Why? Because – as president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Roy Eidelson, points out – most Americans supported the use of torture because they were deceived into thinking that it works and was a necessary tool in a life-or-death war on terror. For example, Eidelson points out that a nationwide poll run in January 2009 asked a national sample of Americans, “Do you think the use of harsh interrogation techniques, including torture, has ever saved American lives since the September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?” The results: 45% “Yes” and 41% “No” (with 14% responding “Don’t Know”). In other words, almost half of Americans think torture “works.” Indeed, Eidelson notes out that the administration conducted a sophisticated propaganda campaign to “sell” Americans on the use of torture. The fact that torture is illegal, unethical and unacceptable is not enough to convince the majority of American people that those who ordered it should be prosecuted. It is vital to spread the facts, because only the truth that torture does not work will wake the public up and lead to prosecutions. Note: I am not trying to excuse the American public’s failure to condemn torture because it is immoral and illegal.


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