The American presidential election is about to enter a new phase: televised debates. The first, in Colorado, is happening later today, and will see Mitt Romney, desperate to regain momentum, face an assured Barack Obama with a comfortable lead. This first debate will be on domestic policy, and Romney’s strategy will be – or should be – to focus on the economy while making every effort to appeal to America’s women. When the discussions turn to foreign policy, however, it is thought that Romney will pledge to reintroduce the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” that are considered by many to constitute torture, such as sleep deprivation, restrictive shackling and waterboarding. As Alex Pareene, author of The Rude Guide To Mitt, speculated on Salon.com, “challenging Obama on torture might be [Romney’s] debate surprise”.
If this is the case, it may provide a great boost to Romney’s campaign. A YouGov survey has revealed that 41 per cent of Americans support the use of torture – a 14 per cent increase since 2007. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Amy Zegart, the academic who commissioned the survey, said, “it turns out that Americans don’t just like the general idea of torture more now. They like specific torture techniques more too.” She also discovered that 25 per cent of the population would be willing to use a powerful atomic bomb to stop a terrorist plot.
One of Obama’s first acts upon taking office was to issue an executive order limiting the powers of American interrogators to those detailed within the Army Field Manual, which would circumscribe enhanced interrogation techniques. His reasoning was simple: “Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.”
Romney, on the other hand, appears to believe, as Bush did, that if it saves lives, then such techniques are justifiable. In George W Bush’s 2010 memoir Decision Points, he reveals that measures such as waterboarding were used on the alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed and two other al Qaeda suspects, who were suspected of withholding information about terrorist atrocities yet to come. According to the book, the intelligence that resulted thwarted many attacks, including some on London targets including Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf. It is a commonly held belief that torture doesn’t work, and there is much evidence to support this view; in this case, however, if Bush is to be believed, it may have saved hundreds, even thousands of innocent lives, including many British ones. Continue reading on the Telegraph website