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October 19, 2006
Clinton Has Company

A day after Alan Dershowitz noticed a profound double standard on the debate over limited use of torture, it turns out that neither Dershowitz nor Bill Clinton represent an extreme in thinking on its use. A new BBC/PIPA study shows that a third of people worldwide believe that torture should be an option when interrogating terrorists in certain circumstances:

Nearly a third of people worldwide back the use of torture in prisons in some circumstances, a BBC survey suggests.

Although 59% were opposed to torture, 29% thought it acceptable to use some degree of torture to combat terrorism.

While most polled in the US are against torture, opposition there is less robust than in Europe and elsewhere.

More than 27,000 people in 25 countries were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives.

Some 36% of those questioned in the US agreed that this use of torture was acceptable, while 58% were unwilling to compromise on human rights.

The data seems pretty remarkable. In polling people in nations that have signed the Geneva Accords, a ban on torture only has the support of 59%. The percentage of people willing to leave torture as an option increases in relation to the perceived threat of terrorism. For instance, Israel has the highest percentage, with 43% open to torture under "certain circumstances". Not surprisingly considering their continued victimization by terrorists, Israel is one of only four nations where opposition to torture does not gain a majority; Russia, China, and India round out the list.

The BBC says that the percentage of Americans willing to consider the option is one of the highest in the world. However, looking at the data, that's a stretch. At 36%, we're in the upper third. However, eight other nations have a higher percentage of those willing to explicitly agree to leave the option open, and India has 45% unwilling to commit one way or the other. When one combines the undecideds with the permissibles, the US comes in 13th most likely to support the strictest interpretation of the Geneva Conventions regardless of circumstance. In a sample of 25 nations, that hardly makes us the most likely to support torture.

Bill Clinton supports the use under certain circumstances, as he said on NPR and as reported by Alan Dershowitz. However, the Bush administration does not. It specifically limits interrogative techniques to the McCain Act, a limitation that even John McCain doesn't wholeheartedly endorse; he assumes that interrogators will break the law he himself wrote when necessary.

What this study shows is a lack of confidence in nations that try to treat terrorists as lawful combatants, and that lack of confidence increases in direct proportion to the threat. India, where only 23% of people support a complete ban on torturous interrogations under all circumstances, has the least amount of confidence in the Geneva Convention approach -- and they know and understand Islamist terrorism in India. Critics of the US policy towards interrogation and detention of terrorists claim that we are out of step with the rest of the world. It seems as though we are no outlier at all.

UPDATE: Hot Air has the Clinton audio from his NPR appearance last month.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 19, 2006 5:43 AM

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» Audio: Clinton endorses “torture” in special cases from Bill's Bites
Tonight? Yesterday? Last month, on NPR. You didn’t hear about it? Neither did I. Nor did Captain Ed, who’s worth reading in full:Bill Clinton’s party screamed loud and long about how the [detainee] bill enabled torture and departed from the [Read More]

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» Clinton Endorses Tittie Twisters, Wedgies for Terrorists from The Jawa Report
Bill Clinton endorses torture in some cases. Yes, that Bill Clinton. Audio of Clinton endorsing torture here. Full details of Clinton endorsing torture and the media cover up here.... [Read More]

Tracked on October 19, 2006 8:40 AM


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