Sunday, October 14, 2007

Frank Rich on "The 'Good Germans' Among Us"

It should not come as a shock that, when the Bush administration unilaterally redefines and renames torture to permit its use while simultaneously denying its use, Americans who pretend it isn't happening will be called "good Germans." Especially when the specific practices that U.S. government officials insist are merely "enhanced interrogation techniques" were considered to be torture and treated as war crimes by U.S. prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials.

This, of course, does not stop the good Germans from playing their part. Take Curt at Flopping Aces as an example:

Typical baloney.

These are the same kind of liberals who believe putting panties on one head is "torture", and Mr. Rich also obviously believes sleep deprivation is "torture" because he can cite cases where the Germans used that technique also. Well whoopdidoo.....Do these liberals really believe that a hard core al-Qaeda agent is just going to sit down and tell us everything because we were super nice to them? Gave them some cookies and warm milk? It appears they do.

He then posts drawings of Al Qaeda torture methods -- blowtorches, gouging out eyes, dragging victims behind cars, and applying electric shocks to prisoners suspended from the ceiling -- and contrasts these with U.S. so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," such as inducing hypothermia; not allowing victims to sleep for days on end; and delivering hard, repeated slaps to the head, to make his point that the U.S. practices are not torture. Only, he does not describe these "enhanced interrogation techniques" as I have done above. Here is how he refers to them:
I'm sorry, slapping one's head or depriving them of some sleep, or turning the thermostat down, is NOT torture. What these guy do above IS torture. But people like Frank Rich and Andrew Sullivan ignore that. They ignore that causing someone a bit of discomfort because they are denied a pillow and blanket to get some shuteye just may get information on the next terrorist cell. The next planned terrorist operation planned for inside the United States. The next IED factory inside Iraq.

Here is what "a bit of discomfort" actually entails [emphasis mine]:
Classic torture techniques, such as waterboarding, hypothermia, beatings, excruciating stress positions, days and days of sleep deprivation, and threats to family members (even the children of terror suspects), were approved by Bush and inflicted on an unknown number of terror suspects by American officials, CIA agents and, in the chaos of Iraq, incompetents and sadists at Abu Ghraib. And when the horror came to light, they denied all of it and prosecuted a few grunts at the lowest level. The official reports were barred from investigating fully up the chain of command.

Legally, the White House knew from the start that it was on extremely shaky ground. And so officials told pliant in-house lawyers to concoct memos to make what was illegal legal. Their irritation with the rule of law, and their belief that the president had the constitutional authority to waive it, became a hallmark of their work.

They redefined torture solely as something that would be equivalent to the loss of major organs or leading to imminent death. Everything else was what was first called “coercive interrogation”, subsequently amended to “enhanced interrogation”. These terms were deployed in order for the president to be able to say that he didn’t support “torture”. We were through the looking glass.
Last week The New York Times revealed more. We now know that long after Abu Ghraib was exposed, the administration issued internal legal memos that asserted the legality of many of the techniques exposed there. The memos not only gave legal cover to waterboarding, hypothermia and beating but allowed them in combination to intensify the effect.

The argument was that stripping a chained detainee naked, pouring water over him while keeping room temperatures cold enough to induce repeated episodes of dangerous hypothermia, was not “cruel, inhuman or degrading”. We have a log of such a technique being used at Guantanamo. The victim had to be rushed to hospital, brought back from death, then submitted once again to “enhanced interrogation”.

George Orwell would have been impressed by the phrase “enhanced interrogation technique”. By relying on it, the White House spokesman last week was able to say with a straight face that the administration strongly opposed torture and that “any procedures they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful”.

Just a wee bit of discomfort, eh?

But if the above is truly not torture, then why not describe it accurately? Why say "turning the thermostat down" when what you really mean is "stripping a chained detainee naked, pouring water over him while keeping room temperatures cold enough to induce repeated episodes of dangerous hypothermia" to the point where the detainee is rushed to the hospital to keep him alive and then returned to interrogation for more of the same? The answer is obvious: "turning the temperature down" is just turning the temperature down; bringing a person to the brink of death from hypothermia, reviving him, and recommencing the process of bringing him to the brink of death from hypothermia, is torture.

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