As we take in the appalling details of the newly released US Senate report on CIA torture, it is worth reflecting on Jeffrey Goldberg's words that blame must go beyond government. The public mood of the post-9/11 times facilitated the abuses committed by America's intelligence agencies. American policy was shaped by hatred, Goldberg says:
It is a terrible idea, both morally and practically, to allow hatred to shape counterterrorism policy, but that, I think, explains in part what happened at the CIA. In an atmosphere of comprehensive rage and loathing, bad ideas rose to the surface, and found their champions.
I'm not convinced 'hatred' is the right term here, but certainly high emotion played a key role in the reaction of policy-makers to the events of 9/11. We can only speculate, for instance, what difference it might have made to Australian policy had Prime Minister Howard not been in Washington when the attacks occurred; at the very least, it might have taken a little longer before ANZUS was invoked.
My mind returns to a revealing video I have featured on The Interpreter once before (above), which shows an impromptu debate between President Bush's senior adviser Condoleezza Rice and a student at Stanford. Even in 2009, Rice's views are still undeniably shaped by the high emotion of that day in September 2001. And note also Rice's unequivocal statement at 4.04: 'We did not torture anyone.'