My thoughts on the semantic battles that prevent us from discussing the torture issue in clear language.
All of the Cheney-approved terms for torture share one thing: they implicitly state that it works. The adjectives in ‘enhanced interrogation’ ‘brutal questioning’ and ‘harsh interrogation’ modify interrogation and questioning. These terms all imply that our
torture abusive techniques deserve to be considered alongside other information-gathering techniques that America regularly employs.
Contrariwise, excepting vulnerable minds who watch too much of Joel Surnow’s torture porn 24, even children who grew up in the Bush years know that torture is not just criminal but stupid. No government that tried what we did ever got anything but what its torturers asked for. Sometimes that corresponded with reality, more often it did not.
Although I recognize that calling torture ‘torture’ makes the question of whether to prosecute rather more obvious, Media outlets like New York Times and NPR are not staking some neutral middle ground when they strictly uses whatever language Cheney approves this week. In fact they grant the pro-torture fringe a key victory that it clearly does not deserve. Whether you call it torture or afternoon tea, we could have won more useful intelligence scoops by typing the questions into Ask.com.
This harsh, one could say tortured abuse of the English language must be especially galling for the professionals at Military Intelligence and the FBI who perform actual interrogations and questioning with a professionalism that, at one time, set a standard for the world.