Will Bunch: ‘I Can’t Imagine’ Torture ‘Would Have Been Condoned’ By Reagan

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"Will Bunch: ‘I Can’t Imagine’ Torture ‘Would Have Been Condoned’ By Reagan"

During the Bush administration, conservatives heralded Ronald Reagan’s own struggle against terrorism as the ideal model for George W. Bush. Frank Gaffney hoped Bush “not only memorializes Ronald Reagan’s moral compass and strategic vision but emulates them,” while Rich Lowry cited Reagan to boost Bush’s 2004 relection chances: “History does move, especially when determined men give it a push.”

ThinkProgress sat down with Will Bunch, author of “Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future” (and renowned blogger), to ask him whether he, too, saw a straight line from the Gipper to Bush’s war on terror. Bunch asserted that “Reagan’s words have been totally bastardized” by conservatives, and said that Reagan never would have condoned some of Bush’s techniques, especially torture:

BUNCH: I do think that some of the swaggering rhetoric that Reagan used…have been I think misinterpreted by Republicans that this was his actual policy, when actually his policies didn’t have the same kind of cowboy attitude that some of his rhetoric did. I can’t imagine, particularly torture, I just doubt that would have been something that would have been condoned during the Reagan administration.

He actually was kind of a — in fact this was used in a headline in the Washington Post — he was actually kind of a pussycat so to speak when it came to the job of killing people through various acts of war.

Watch it:

Indeed, in 1988 Reagan signed the U.N. convention against torture — which the Bush administration later called “quaint.” Bush’s departure from Reagan wasn’t confined to torture. According to Lou Cannon of the Washington Post, Reagan said that any retaliation that killed innocent civilians is “itself a terrorist act.” Bunch observed at TPM Cafe this week, “As relates to Iraq, Reagan would have been appalled at the military strategy underpinning the March 2003 assault, the heavy bombing tactic known as ‘shock and awe.’”

Transcript:

BUNCH: I do think that some of the swaggering rhetoric that Reagan used — not just the “evil empire” speech, I mean the “tear down this wall” speech on which the title “Tear Down This Myth” is based on — have been I think misinterpreted by Republicans that this was his actual policy, when actually his policies didn’t have the same kind of cowboy attitude that some of his rhetoric did. I can’t imagine, particularly torture, I just doubt that would have been something that would have been condoned during the Reagan administration. He actually was kind of a — in fact, this was used in a headline in the Washington Post — he was actually kind of a pussycat so to speak, when it came to killing — the job of killing people through various acts of war. Reagan vetoed a number of proposed military actions that would have involved killing civilians in other countries. And in 25 years we’ve gone from that to Shock and Awe, where we have a military program that’s aimed at promoting massive civilian casualties to create this idea of shock and awe. So I think the moral there is the way that Reagan’s words have been totally bastardized, basically, to justify things in his name that I don’t think he would have done had he been president today.

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