imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

When Is Torture Not Torture?

by Neil MacDonald Monday, Oct. 29, 2007 at 6:10 PM

"Luban regards terms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "robust interrogations" as euphemisms bordering on Orwellian, or worse: "The Gestapo used the phase 'sharpened interrogation techniques.'"



When is torture not torture?

When the president says it isn't

October 23, 2007

The torture called waterboarding is a pretty violent business.

The torturer straps down the victim, feet elevated above the head, then covers the subject's face — often with cloth or cellophane — and pours water onto it. This triggers the gag reflex, persuading the mind that the body is drowning, provoking an atavistic terror. The straining and flailing against the restraint straps can sometimes break bones. If the torture is protracted, lung and brain damage can occur.

Now.

This would be the Bush administration's description of the same procedure: The detainee, an illegal combatant who may have intelligence valuable to the Worldwide Struggle Against Extremism, is restrained, and subjected to a robust interrogation. An enhanced interrogation technique is used, which for national security reasons must remain classified. But the detainee is not tortured, because the United States does not torture people.

That's not a caricature. It is a composite of actual administration jargon. And the last bit of circular logic has become the fulcrum of Washington's policies on treatment of foreign prisoners: The U.S. does not practise torture. Therefore its interrogation techniques cannot be torture, because if they were, then certain prisoners in the United States' secret prisons would have been tortured, and that cannot have been, because the U.S. does not practise torture.

By that logic, the following are not torture, either: dousing a prisoner with water and shackling him naked to the floor for extended periods in frigid temperatures; striking him on the head during questioning; manacling him in "stress" positions for prolonged periods; and inflicting sexual humiliation.

And, necessarily, the prisoners who have turned up dead in American custody after being beaten senseless, smothered in a sleeping bag or shackled to the ceiling, shrieking, as jailers using the technique of "peroneal strikes" smashed their legs into useless mush could not have been tortured.

"This government does not torture," President George W. Bush has declared time and again.

He will not get into the game, as he puts it, of entertaining detailed discussion.

"A simple question," said one White House reporter during a Bush news conference last week.

"Yes?" said Bush.

"What's your definition of the word 'torture'?"

"Oh," said Bush. "That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture."

Asked for his personal definition, Bush replied: "Whatever the law says."

Legal loophole

And indeed, American law does now forbid the "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners, defining it in minute detail: infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering, or even threats of death.

Bush and his advisers opposed passage of that law a few years ago, presumably wishing to reserve the right to inflict all those things in the United States' secret overseas prisons.

Having lost that fight, though, they devised a neat device to circumvent the new law: The president simply signed secret executive orders declaring that none of the CIA's or the Pentagon's "enhanced techniques" fall within the law's definitions.

Members of Congress, who thought they were banning torture when they passed the law, were unhappy to hear about the secret orders, and said so.

"After telling us and the world that torture is abhorrent," said Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate judiciary committee and a Democrat, "it appears that … they reversed themselves and reinstated a secret regime by, in essence, reinterpreting the law in secret."

During the nomination hearings last week of Michael Mukasey, Bush's new choice for attorney general, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, asked this simple question: Is waterboarding constitutional?

"If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional," replied Mukasey.

"I mean, either it is, or it isn't," replied Whitehouse.

"If it amounts to torture," said the former judge, "it is not constitutional."

Note the "if." It's not a word most experts would use in discussing waterboarding.

Euphemisms border on Orwellian

"Absolutely, waterboarding is torture," said Prof. David Luban of Georgetown University's law school, who has written extensively about torture.

"My test for waterboarding," said Luban, "is to tell someone 'Blow all the air out of your lungs and see what it's like not to be allowed to breathe in for two minutes.'"

Luban regards terms like "enhanced interrogation techniques" or "robust interrogations" as euphemisms bordering on Orwellian, or worse: "The Gestapo used the phase 'sharpened interrogation techniques.'"

The Bush position, said Luban, is essentially that government employees do not use cruel, inhuman or degrading techniques, unless they do. Luban said the "dagger in his heart" is that the justification comes from lawyers employed to find ways around the law. In the end, he said, "any proposition is arguable."

Successful political strategy

What's more remarkable, though, is that as a political strategy, it works.

By simply asserting that its techniques are not torture, the administration creates a debate where none existed before. As Luban put it, what were once questions of common sense are transformed into legal issues.

Newspaper editors and television news producers are naturally reluctant to flatly contradict the president, so the soldiers and CIA agents and private contractors who carry out the interrogations are not referred to as torturers, as they would be if they worked for, say, the governments of Russia or Egypt.

I actually hesitated in writing the first sentence of this column without a qualifier, knowing it would give my editor pause.

After Mukasey's exchange with the Senate panel last week, Human Rights Watch called his statements "preposterous," but the response was tinged with disbelief that such criticism even needs to be uttered.

The group pointed out that U.S. military courts have in the past prosecuted soldiers of other countries for using waterboarding on American troops, and that the U.S. government often criticizes other countries for the practice.

And, in fact, this was in the first paragraph of a presidential declaration on the UN's day of observance for victims of torture in 2004: "The United States reaffirms its commitment to the worldwide elimination of torture. The non-negotiable demands of human dignity must be protected without reference to race, gender, creed or nationality."

Somewhere in the last three years, that became: "Whatever the law says."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/reportsfromabroad/macdonald/20071023.html



Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
It's Torture They Don't Use Water Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007 at 1:30 AM

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes A09 5:32AM

Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges A09 4:18AM

Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes A08 10:33PM

Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety A08 10:29PM

Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man A08 9:50PM

Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes A08 9:48PM

Paraphysique de l'autorité A08 12:11AM

Two Podcasts on fbi corruption A06 10:13PM

Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS A06 7:29PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy