Glenn Greenwald has a few things to say about the euphemization of torture:
In today’s New York Times, William Glaberson describes a proposal being circulated by the Obama administration to enable Guantanamo detainees to be put to death upon a mere guilty plea, i.e., without the need for a full-blown trial. The article describes the purpose of the proposal this way:
The proposal would ease what has come to be recognized as the government’s difficult task of prosecuting men who have confessed to terrorism but whose cases present challenges. Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons. In any proceeding, the reliability of those statements would be challenged, making trials difficult and drawing new political pressure over detainee treatment.
The primary reason to avoid trials upon a guilty plea is to prevent public disclosure of the details of the torture we inflicted on these detainees. Despite that, the word “torture” never once appears in this NYT article. Instead, according to the NYT, detainees in CIA black sites were merely subjected to “intense interrogations.” That’s all? Who opposes “intense interrogations”?
Over the years, we’ve heard a cyclical crescendo rising from the constant murmur about the “liberal media”, implying and sometimes explicitly accusing a conspiracy among journalists to wreck the Republican Party and the right wing of American politics.
Yet over and over, in an effort to be “neutral”, major media outlets, including newspapers of record, have given over not to political correctness, but what is described as “Bureaucratically Suitable” language. BS language is much like its cousin, PC, except that it is tailored to institutional and legalistic desires.
In an attempt to ease back into rhythm, a simple question. Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery bring us the news:
In a narrow vote, the House today rejected the most sweeping government intervention into the nation’s financial markets since the Great Depression, refusing to grant the Treasury Department the power to purchase up to $700 billion in the troubled assets that are at the heart of the U.S. financial crisis.
The 228-205 vote amounted to a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., and was sure to sow massive anxiety in world markets. Just 11 days ago, Paulson urged congressional leaders to quickly approve the bailout. He warned that inaction would lead to a seizure of credit markets and a virtual halt to the lending that allows Americans to acquire mortgages and other types of loans.
This whole episode seemed sketchy from the outset. On the one hand, the economy does appear to be falling apart, and such an event falls well within the purview of the federal government’s concern. To the other, though, it seemed suspicious that, after waiting so long to acknowledge the situation, the Bush administration wanted Congress to pass a seven hundred-billion dollar solution in a matter of days.
It is a macabre reflection that Americans can make torture sound hip, like the latest fad sport. Waterboarding. Soon enough, they’ll have a players’ union.
At any rate, NPR took a look at the history of this “controversial” interrogation technique.
Its use was first documented in the 14th century, according to Ed Peters, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. It was known variously as “water torture,” the “water cure” or tormenta de toca — a phrase that refers to the thin piece of cloth placed over the victim’s mouth.
Eric Weiner’s article accompanies the audio for Jacki Lyden’s interview with Darius Rejali, of Reed College, on the same subject.
A turning point for waterboarding — in any form — came around 1800. As the Enlightenment swept across Europe, many countries banned the practice and people, in general, found it “morally repugnant,” Peters says. Waterboarding moved underground, but did not disappear by any means. In fact, it has experienced something of a revival in the 20th century.
Enlightened civilizations may have condemned the practice, but convenience makes it attractive to those who would call themselves noble, true, and honorable. No marks, no foul. The only object is suffering.
Why is it so important to be able to hurt other people senseless? Information extracted via torture is unreliable. It seems that, at some level, torturing our enemies is simply about being able to torture our enemies. An eye for an eye is impossible, so let us do useless things and pretend they make us feel better.
My fellow Americans, have we yet realized just how badly our twenty-first century has opened? Do we realize yet that things are likely going downhill from here? Seriously, let us pretend for just a moment that global warming is not some bizarre conspiracy hoax designed to weaken human resistance to the final invasion by our reverse-vampire overlords. It would be nice to have a few years of common decency before the next crisis begins when the whole place officially goes to hell.