Thursday, December 15, 2005

Torturing the Definition of Torture

It's always bothered me the way apologists for torture redefine torture into behavior that isn't torture at all, and then claim their twisted definitions are an accurate picture of what really happens. So, forcing Muslim men to masturbate in front of female guards, or simulate sex with other Muslim men while being laughed at by female guards, becomes "being questioned by attractive women." Putting detainees in tiny windowless cells with the temperature well over 100 degrees with no food or water and music being blasted at eardrum-shattering levels for up to 40 hours morphs into "putting them in a hot room without air conditioning" or "playing music with the volume turned up." Then, having reframed the acts of torture, these apologists mock the pansies who think the minor discomfort of spending a hot night without air conditioning or having to listen to loud rock music is torture.

Now, John Cole has written a piece exactly on this kind of dishonest revisionism:

One of the recurring statements leveled by those who oppose the McCain amendment is that those supporting the McCain amendment are being fuzzy with their definitions, and calling things torture which clearly are not. For example, this piece from the previously mentioned shameless Opinion Journal article:

"The critics are still conveniently vague about just what interrogation techniques they would allow. The Post frowns on 'other CIA pressure methods.' Well, what are they? Sleep deprivation? Exposure to hot and cold? Stress techniques such as kneeling for a long time? Or how about good cop-bad cop interrogation of the kind practiced in the average American police precinct? That can certainly be 'degrading' and 'cruel' if you interpret those words in the most expansive manner."

You see! I am just one of those nancy-boy Amnesty International bleeding heart liberal types! I don't even want the worst of the worst subjected to a room a little colder than room temperature! I get the vapors when detainees are subjected to a little bit of sleep deprivation! I should just STFU and let the manly men, including the million dollar metrosexuals at the Wall Street Journal editiorial board, make all the tough decisions.
Of course I don't have a little problem with a little sleep deprivation. Of course I don't have a problem with with turning down the air conditioning a little bit. Of course I don't have a problem with some use of stress positions. I doubt most people would. But do I have a problem with chaining someone's arms and legs behind them, chaining them to a floor, subjecting them to freezing cold without water or food, allowing them to lie for 24-48+ hours in their own shit and urine while listening to rap music at ear-bleeding volumes until they pull their hair out.

If the kind of interrogations the Bush administration has been allowing is not torture, then why do Bush supporters feel this need to parse their definitions in ways that clearly do not describe what is actually happening? Would accurate descriptions of the interrogation techniques used by U.S. intelligence and military personnel make it sound too much like it really was torture?

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