Calling Torture, “Torture” isn’t taking sides.

by David Veloz

The public editor of the New York Times had a piece out yesterday morning about his paper’s use of the word “torture” when describing the crimes committed by other states and the lack of its use when reporting on the Bush administration’s torture policies.  The reason for this according to Arthur  Brisbane was that reporters of The Times avoided using the word to remain impartial when reporting on the Bush administration’s program of “torture,” I mean “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  He cited the recent piece by Scott Shane–that was also co-authored by Bill Savage–that examined whether or not “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) led to bin Laden’s killing.  The reporters avoided using the word torture, because in their minds they believed they would have been taking sides in a “public debate about torture after bin Laden’s death.”  That, in a way, is the epitome of what is wrong with America’s news media.  The Times, as the rest of the American media, has gone out of its way to confuse readers–or viewers alike–with the fact that our interrogation techniques also constitute torture when done by our government, just as when they are done by other states.  The obfuscation by The Times even left some of its readers so perplexed that they signed their letters to the editor, “Confusedly yours.”

The fact of the matter is that there are no “two sides” to this debate.  Either torture is legal and morally right, or torture is illegal and morally wrong.  Calling waterbording, or any other “enhanced interrogation technique” torture, isn’t taking sides; it is calling the barbaric interrogation techniques used by our government by its rightful name.  The only debate here is that the supporters of torture want those of us who do not approve of torture, to recognize their sadistic support of torture as both legally and morally right.  By using the euphamism of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the advocates of torture are minimizing the legal and moral significance the use of torture techniques like waterboarding means for a nation that is ruled by the rule of law and a Constitution that limits the government’s power to abuse suspects accused of crimes, including terrorism.  That is the only debate.