Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius


When Torture Isn't

One of the joys of wisdom tooth extraction --- a unique form of torture --- is guiltlessly watching television pap on some really good opiate-based analgesics. Seeing Oprah Winfrey stoned on Percs last Friday was particularly instructive and entertaining. O's very special guest was Bill O'Reilly, self-proclaimed scourge of the secular-humanist-liberal-left, "culture warrior" and relentless cheerleader for the Bush Administration. On narcotics, it was all blah blah gay marriage blah blah ruining Western civilization blah blah traditional values blah blah --- hardly a hackle to be raised.

I opened an eye, though, when O'Reilly started blathering on about torture and Gitmo and waterboarding:
Now on Guantanamo Bay, it's very interesting. I've been there twice now. We need information to save lives. And according to Brian Ross — I think the best investigative reporter in the country right now — they captured Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, one of the 9/11 plotters, and they water boarded him, which means they tied him up and they dunked him in water . . . Now, they dunk Khalid Sheikh Mohamed in the water until Khalid Sheikh Mohamed said, 'Hold it. I'll tell you who my friends are.' They nailed 14 of them and they stopped, according to Brian Ross — not Bill O'Reilly — about a dozen terror plots that would have killed tens of thousands of people.

So you have to make a decision, ladies and gentlemen, whether you waterboard somebody or let 5,000 people die, all right? And that is a tough decision to make. I admit it. But I'm gonna come down . . . [Do] you take the guy's eye out? No. You cut his fingers off? No. You dunk him in water to save 5,000?

I'm dunkin' that guy all day long.


Fortunately O'Reilly doesn't have to worry about Washington's torture vernacular. What's waterboarding and what's dunking? Clearly, they're one and the same. He understands this and so does the audience. Strange, then, that the semantically nuanced American Vice President, Dick Cheney is getting into trouble over this very point.

When asked by a right-wing radio host whether "dunking in water" was an appropriate interrogation technique, Cheney replied, "It's a no-brainer for me."
[B]ut for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President "for torture." We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that.

It's a no-brainer that, for most people, the radio host was referring to waterboarding, and Cheney himself was referring to waterboarding. Bill O'Reilly says the two are the same. Not so for the Vice President, whose subtle mind can simultaneously split hairs with a mere glance and count the number of angels on the head of a pin and decide when torture is torture and black is white. No sir. As Cheney later clarified at a newsconference aboard Air Force 2, it was all about the water-dunking: anything else is an unwarranted conflation, because waterboarding is torture and "we don't torture."
Q So it was not about water boarding, even though he asked you about dunking in the water?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't say anything about water boarding. Those were all his comments. He didn't even use that phrase.

Q He said dunking in the water.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't say anything, he did
Got that? The upshot is that if it's called waterboarding, it's torture; if it's called dunking, it's a "robust interrogation program". Even though both are exactly the same. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink: ever get the feeling American intelligence policy is being scripted by Tom Clancy?) It's enough to make Orwell rotate out of his grave and into orbit. But just to be perfectly clear, here's a suggested short list of substitute phrases for various kinds of torture (excuse me, "advanced interrogation techniques") so we know when torture isn't torture. Others will suggest themselves to the reader. You just need to call it something else.

Old: waterboarding
New: apple dunking

Old: sleep deprivation
New: all night pillow party

Old: electric shocks to genitals
New: foreplay

Old: sensory deprivation
New: meditation

Old: nail pulling
New: manicure

Old: contortion
New: stretching exercises

You're welcome.


Anonymous Adrian MacNair said...

Bunch of fscking psychopaths in the USA. No wonder al-Qaeda beheads Americans when they get their hands on one. Guantanamo is clearly a torture facility.

Sunday, 29 October, 2006  

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