20 April 2008

Why Can’t you Say It? The Bush Administration, All the Way to the Top, Has engaged in a Policy of T-O-R-T-U-R-E.

Today the brave editorialists at The New York Times offered their opinion but withheld their judgment. Not only are they very late, but they are still hedging, unwilling to say the words or really tell us what they think. Let’s have a close look at what they say.
“Ever since Americans learned that American soldiers and intelligence agents were torturing prisoners, there has been a disturbing question: How high up did the decision go to ignore United States law, international treaties, the Geneva Conventions and basic morality?”
O.K. “American soldiers and intelligence agents” have tortured prisoners. But there is hardly anything stunning there. We’ve seen the pictures again and again. And some of the soldiers have been convicted and imprisoned. The waffling commences almost immediately after the obvious has been stated:
“. . . with President Bush’s clear knowledge and support — some of the very highest officials in the land not only approved the abuse of prisoners, but participated in the detailed planning of harsh interrogations . . .”
No T-O-R-T-U-R-E, apparently, among the higher-ups, just euphemisms - “abuse of prisoners” and “harsh interrogations.” The editorialists keep up the segregation in the next paragraph too:
“We have long known that the Justice Department tortured the law to give its Orwellian blessing to torturing people, and that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners.”
The law was tortured, we've read the memos too. No news there. And, as we already know, that rationalized the actions of soldiers and intelligence officers. But Don only “approved a list of ways to abuse prisoners.” So while unnamed officials at the Justice Department seem implicated, they remain discreetly at one remove and the Secretary of Defense still has only approved a euphemism. Dick and Condi and George and Colin and John remain safely off stage. Our editorialists do rightly note the opportunity costs associated with the time the Principals group devoted to approving and planning “harsh interrogations.” Hence:
“These officials did not have the time or the foresight to plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq or the tenacity to complete the hunt for Osama bin Laden. But they managed to squeeze in dozens of meetings in the White House Situation Room to organize and give legal cover to prisoner abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.”
So again the editorial mentions “abuse, including brutal methods that civilized nations consider to be torture.” The questions are obvious. Sure, citizens of “civilized nations” know torture when they see it. Do the editorialists consider such methods torture? Their earlier reference to various standards of domestic and international law and morality intimate that maybe they do. Are they willing to say flat out what they think? No. Should we consider such methods torture? No answers. The folks at The Times simply cannot take a stand.

Let’s be clear. The methods Don and Dick and Condi and George and Colin and John approved and recommended are torture. We may “have questions,” as the editorialists say, about what actually went on in “the Situation Room.” And we may “have questions” about just how much W knew when he “approved” the meetings there. But the methods constitute T-O-R-T-U-R-E. Use the word in a sentence and its yours for life. That is what the Nuns at Sacred Heart School taught me as a kid. The folks at The Times need to go back to school. The consequences of writing like this is to further devalue our language and our politics.

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