58% of Americans are against torture and we're supposed to take comfort in that. The so-called Greatest Nation on Earth, a beacon of freedom, hope and democracy still has 40% of it's population in favour of torture. There are enough people there that think people don't matter. Their rights don't matter. Even though anyone with a clue says torture has no intelligence value. Too many nights spent watching 24 and not even flinching when someone... you know... has to be tortured to reveal where the ticking bomb is planted. Even Slumdog Millionaire makes light of torture. The main character is abducted by the police, held without charge, electrocuted and then, seemingly none-the-worse, set free to go and win 25 crore rupees.
In countries where torture is commonplace and seen as a valuable tool for breaking opposition movements, political dissidents and "enemies of the people", many people look to the United States as a place where these kinds of things can't happen. A place where a tried and true belief in liberty protects people from the state. Yet stories leek out about policemen beating people, shooting innocent citizens in cold blood and planting weapons, killing people held in cells, abusing their power, etc. These are the kinds of things people like to brush off as "rogue elements" or "cops stepping over the line", but maybe they aren't. And they're shielded from punishment by public complacency.
Maybe they aren't Lethal Weapon-style kill-all-the-bad-guys excesses, rugged individualists against the corrupt system crap, but are indicative of something far more corrosive in American society -- that the state knows what's best and people don't matter.
Let's hope Barack Obama and his new administration take a real stand against torture and send out a clear message -- the USA does not torture, will not torture, nor will freedom-loving Americans stand by and allow others to torture.