Try to remember, if you can, the first several years after 9/11/2001 and the political climate at that time. There were very few voices raised against things like the Bush doctrine of preemption, the plan to invade Iraq, and the use of torture. Anyone in the media daring to be critical of the Bush administration (and there weren't very many) was putting their career at risk. Paul Krugman was one of those few critics. I think what he says below is true - we failed a test of national character.
From Paul Krugman's blog, 4/24/2009:
"One addendum to today’s column: the truth, which I think everyone in the political/media establishments knows in their hearts, is that the nine months or so between the summer of 2002 and the beginning of the Iraq insurgency were a great national moral test — a test that most people in influential positions failed.
The Bush administration was obviously — yes, obviously — telling tall tales in order to promote the war it wanted: the constant insinuations of an Iraq-9/11 link, the hyping of discredited claims about a nuclear program, etc.. And the question was, should you stand up against that? Not many did — and those who did were treated as if they were crazy.
For me and many others that was a radicalizing experience; I’ll never trust “sensible” opinion again. But for those who stayed “sensible” through the test, it’s a moment they’d like to see forgotten. That, I believe, is the real reason so many want to let torture and everything else go down the memory hole.
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen."