Moral Low Ground


“Zero Dark Hurty”: For ‘Daily Show’s’ Jon Stewart, US Torture Is a Laughing Matter


Torture is more fun than a barrel of monkeys... or Iraqis.

More fun than a barrel of monkeys… or Iraqis.

Jon Stewart, icon of late-night cable TV political satire, dealt with the release of a damning report on US torture as only he could– with a healthy dose of comic relief.

Earlier this week, the Constitution Project released a scathing report that concluded the United States “indisputably” practiced torture following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and that the most senior officials in the Bush administration bore responsibility.

Stewart, the venerable host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, tackled the torture issue in a segment of Wednesday’s program titled “Zero Dark Hurty.”

“We’ve been fighting the War on Terror for… I don’t know, it seems like a million years now,” Stewart began. “But if there’s one thing that gives you hope, it’s that even in the darkest days, we never lost this country’s moral compass.”

Cut to scenes of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Condoleezza Rice insisting that “we do not torture.”

In his best Dick Cheney accent, Stewart deadpans, “One time we ‘freedom tickled’ somebody…”

“Anyway, that stuff had to be done,” Stewart said, referring to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ a euphemism for torture.

“Actions taken were necessary to protect ourselves,” Bush then explains in a clip, attempting to justify torture. “We’ll see what history says,” the former president concludes.

A phone rings with a “Back to the Future” ring tone…

“It’s history calling,” Stewart says as he answers the phone. “It’s for you,” he says holding the phone out to Bush.

Now cut to a clip detailing the report’s findings: “An independent task force on post-9/11 interrogation tactics issued a scathing report… that concluded the highest officials under the Bush administration bore responsibility for what it called the ‘indisputable use of torture.'”

“Indisputable use of torture?” Stewart exclaimed with mock incredulity. “What part of ‘we don’t torture’ doesn’t this independent, bipartisan task force not understand?”

Cut to retired Brigadier General David Irvine, a member of the task force: “I think if anyone takes time to read the report, they will be overwhelmed by the volume of episodes where representatives of our government, our military brutally, brutally tortured many, many people.”

“American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment,” former Bush-era Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson added.

Feigning outrage, Stewart retorted: “Cruel, inhumane and degrading? Come on! They were our guests. We gave them water, we just didn’t give it to them in the traditional way…”

The studio audience groans loudly at this waterboarding reference…

“So, it turns out we didn’t just lose our moral compass, we smashed it to smithereens,” Steward observed.

“I guess the only silver lining is like President Bush said, torture got us all that great information, we’re all so much safer because of it.”

Wrong again– “On top of all of it, the commission found no evidence that torture ever yielded any key information,” NBC News anchor Brian Williams reports, “[and] no information that we are any safer because of it.”

“So, what lessons can we draw from this report?” Stewart asks.

Again, Asa Hutchinson: “It’s important because we as a nation have to get this right. I look back in history to the time when we interned Japanese-Americans (in World War II-era concentration camps). At the time, it seemed like the right and proper thing to do, but in the light of history, it was an error.”

Stewart senses something wrong about this statement and phones actor George Takei, best known for his role as USS Enterprise helmsman on the popular 1960s television sci-fi series Star Trek, and asks him a quick question:

“When you were four years old and your family were taken from your home and placed in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, at the time, did that seem like the right and proper thing to do?”

“No, it did not,” Takei emphatically replied.

To which Stewart concluded, “the thing about a moral compass is, if you take it out and check it from time to time, you don’t have to wait for history to tell you you’re facing the wrong direction.”

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  1. splendid anomalyApril 22, 2013 at 4:48 pmReply

    I’m not sure what to make of this article. Stewart is holding the Bush administration up to ridicule for pretending that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not torture. He’s clearly not making fun of TORTURE! WTF. Are you really that dumb?

    • Brett WilkinsApril 22, 2013 at 9:08 pmReplyAuthor

      He makes a waterboarding joke. If that’s not making fun of torture, then what is?

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