Bernstein notes how the debate has shifted:
By 2008, the only way to fully support George W. Bush was to oppose torture but to either ignore the vast evidence of what the United States had done, or to oppose torture but define it narrowly to exclude virtually everything that had every been considered to be torture. And after the election, the emphasis shifted again, and while few have explicitly said that "torture" per se is good, the disclaimers are increasingly, as far as I can see, less and less prominent. The old debate about whether the revelations were true, a very live debate through the middle of Bush's second term, is long gone, and explicit torture supporters (explicit in supporting everything but the actual word) dominate conservative discussion of the issue.
Marcy Wheeler partially blames the press:
Is it possible...that by embracing the torture apologists’ relativism, newspapers encouraged individuals to think about torture as a political preference? This is all obviously speculation on my part. But it seems to me the most important question raised by this study on public opinion about torture is why under a then-popular nominally anti-torture president, torture became popular.
President Obama signaled as much by his actions, if not his words. By declining to initiate prosecution of indisputable war crimes, he tacitly endorsed them as not that serious, and continued America's withdrawal from the Geneva Conventions (it is a breach of the conventions not to prosecute clear instances of war crimes). And the hiring of torture supporters, like Marc Thiessen, at newspapers like the Washington Post, definitely entrenched the precedent.
The moral certainty of the Cheneyites, in other words, was compounded by the moral cowardice of the Obamaites and the Washington establishment. Yes, torture ended in 2009, and we should all be relieved by that. But that was at the cost of its long-term legitimization. It will return as soon as we get a Republican president. Can you imagine the extent and gravity of it under a future president Palin?
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