WE DO NOT TORTURE Condoleezza Rice reveals that New American English is a language foreign to reality. We do not torture? That depends what “torture” is. Some seem to be buying the latest spin. Torture comes with a broad disclaimer. And the Bush administration counts on the media repeating what it says with the knowledge that people bite on the first sounds they hear in the news. Or read in the papers.
The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's December 5 statement that the United States "does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances," without noting that the Bush administration's definition of torture has been criticized as overly narrow. In contrast, The New York Times reported on December 7 that the administration's circumscribed definition of torture is at odds with international standards. The New York Times noted that Rice's statement has been criticized as misleading given that under the administration's definition, U.S. interrogators are free to employ methods that fall outside of the narrow category of "torture" but that violate the United Nations' Convention Against Torture. All three broadcast news outlets challenged directly or featured sources who challenged Rice's misleading statement, noting that it rested on the administration's limited definition of torture.
MEDIA MATTERS has more. The Heretik would say Bush counts on the medium counting more than the true message. But that may depend on what the definition of truth is.
DON’T MISS WHAT'S MISSING in the discussion of abuseenhanced interrogation techniques “torture.”
A BIT ABOUTTHE TORTURE DISCLAIMERTypically, when faced with a problem, the first thing Bush administration officials do is reach for their dictionaries to pretzel and torture words into whatever shape best suits them. Then they declare themselves simply to be following precedent (which turns out, of course, to be whatever they've wanted to do all along). In this way, in the famous torture memos that flowed from the White House Counsel's office, the Justice Department, and the Pentagon, the meaning of "torture" was at one point in 2002 redefined into near nonexistence ("must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death") and then made dependent on the mind and intent of the torturer. As a result, "torture" became, by definition, a policy we didn't engage in even as we waterboarded suspects in our global network of CIA-run (or borrowed) secret prisons. In a similar fashion, this administration has managed to redefine aggressive war, kidnapping, the President's powers to detain both citizens and non-citizens, assassination, the meaning of various international agreements and American laws, and the Constitution itself. Then, definitions in hand, administration officials have marched defiantly into the world, armed to the teeth, and done exactly what they pleased.
WHAT RICE MISSESAvedon Carol on law, “policy,” and responsibility: The Geneva Conventions qualify under this clause and have the full force of US law. The actual policy of this administration clearly involves torture and just as clearly involves refusing to acknowledge any responsibility for doing it.
THE HERETIK WONDERS why the Bush administration continues to view its treaty obligations as optional.
JOHN BOLTON uber alles: He [Bolton] added: "I think it is inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers." Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice, did not name the United States in her statement. But she criticized two elements of U.S. counterterrorism policy: the use of severe interrogation techniques -- which the CIA has authorized -- and the rendition, or transfer, of suspected terrorists to countries that have engaged in torture. She also questioned the value of the U.S. practice of obtaining diplomatic assurances from governments that they will not torture such individuals. "There are many reasons to be skeptical about the value of those assurances," she said. "If there is no risk of torture in a particular case, they are unnecessary and redundant. If there is a risk, how effective are these assurances likely to be?"
CLEAR AS MUD Charles Hawley in Speigel: According to David Luban, a Georgetown University law professor, Rice's comments marked a dramatic shift in policy. "I think if Rice meant what she said, that's a big change," Luban told the International Herald Tribune. Others, however, aren't so sure. After all, the controversial practice of "extraordinary renditions" allegedly relies on terror suspects being delivered to authorities in third countries for interrogation by foreign intelligence personnel. Furthermore, the United State still hasn't come up with a satisfying definition for torture or for "inhuman and degrading treatment." It is unclear, for example, where waterboarding -- a technique which sees prisoners strapped to a board and dunked into water to simulate drowning -- would fit into Washington's interpretation of the UN convention.
ORWELL v KAFKA Sydney Blumenthal says: Rice's legal interpretations were authoritative, bland and bogus. It is hard to say whether they should be called Orwellian for their intentional falsity or Kafkaesque for their unintentional absurdity.
CONSPIRACY TO TORTURE The Nation places responsibility for torture right where it belongs, at the top: Consider just two words: "command responsibility." Those words stand among the most resolutely enduring principles established after World War II by the Nuremberg Tribunals. Today they pose a special threat to President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the other officials who actively promote what Secretary of State Rice, in Germany, insisted the Administration "does not authorize or condone." To carry out physically and psychically brutal interrogations outside all international norms has required the Administration to corrupt the ordinary meaning of language itself.
THE HERETIK KNOWS history has a habit of harshly judging those who treat the imprisoned harshly