We’re hearing a whole lot of terrible arguments against the release of the torture report, but this one enrages me more than anything: If we release the report, it will make people around the world hate us and they’ll start attacking Americans more often. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is making that very argument:
The report is expected to be so controversial that Secretary of State John Kerry called Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California to express concerns that its release could endanger American facilities, diplomats and intelligence officers abroad. Hayden echoed those same concerns, and also added it would be bad for all CIA personnel and key U.S. relationships in the fight against terrorism.
“First of all, the CIA workforce will feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the Senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program. Second, this will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas,” he said.
“Finally…there are countries out there who have cooperated with us on the war on terror at some political risk that are relying on American discretion. I can’t imagine anyone out there going forward in the future who would be willing to do anything that even smacks of political danger,” Hayden continued.
When all of this was going on, Hayden was the NSA director and a key adviser to President Bush. Did he ever, even once, express his concerns that if they actually tortured people it could lead to these bad results? He doesn’t say he did. But suddenly now he’s concerned that telling the truth will cause these Very Bad Things to occur. It’s the actual torture that causes these things, not the release of this report. Everyone already knows that we tortured people and it’s already been used to stir up anti-American hatred. This report just gives us details that we didn’t already have.
Daniel Larison demolishes this argument once and for all:
I would just add that many of the loudest opponents of releasing the report don’t normally think that “violence and deaths” from protests or terrorist attacks can ever be linked to U.S. actions overseas, and even if they accept that there is a link they don’t think that has any implications for what the U.S. should or should not be doing abroad. Changing a particular policy or avoiding an intervention all together in order to minimize the risk of attacks against Americans is normally portrayed by many of the same people as “giving in” to terrorism. Only now that there is minimal accountability for the illegal and abhorrent use of torture by our government are they moved to worry about what people in other countries might do in response.
It is extremely convenient for these people to discover the possibility that a report about past U.S. abuses might inspire outrage and even violence in response. There was no such concern among hawks about the foreign policy implications of torturing people when it was being done, and they expressed no similar worries that other U.S. actions would provoke violent responses. If one raises the possibility that aggressive U.S. actions in other parts of the world could have dangerous consequences for Americans later on, that is normally denounced as “blaming” America. Strangely enough, that doesn’t seem to apply when there is a chance of exposing our government’s egregious abuses to public scrutiny and having some small measure of accountability for those abuses.
Yep. This is all a ridiculous excuse for their real position, which is: This report makes us look like the immoral, criminal assholes we really are. Tough shit.