None Dare Call It Torture

Check out this NYT piece I read this morning. It's about the use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, hypothermia and other well-documented torture techniques throughout the centuries, all clearly outside the Geneva Conventions, and all universally recognized and prosecuted as torture in the past. And what do you find? Scott Shane uses the following terms:

"harsh treatment"
"tough interrogation methods"
"coercive techniques"

The only use of the word "torture" is when detailing critics' assertions or a specific legal accusation. Everywhere else, the NYT wimps out. Then there is this passage:

The deaths of several prisoners who had been questioned by C.I.A. officers or contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan but outside the detention program for high-level Qaeda prisoners have been referred to the Justice Department. Only one C.I.A. contractor, David A. Passaro, has been prosecuted, receiving an eight-year sentence for beating an Afghan man who later died.

Still, investigations can impose a high price no matter how they end. “It’s not just the fear of going to jail,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “It’s the enormous expense of hiring lawyers. It’s seeing your reputation destroyed. It’s losing your career.”

Again: "beating an Afghan man who later died." Here is the reality:

According to the prosecutors, Wali, while chained to the floor and wall of a cell, was tortured and beaten by Passaro on the arms, wrists, knees and abdomen using a metal flashlight, closed fist and shod foot. Passaro also, on at least one occasion, kicked Wali in the groin." According to Reuters, prosecutors also claimed Passaro kicked Wali so hard that the detainee was lifted off the ground and probably fractured his pelvis, making it impossible for him to urinate.

Here we have a case in which a CIA contractor tortured a man to death - and the sympathy is supposed to be primarily for those who may have to deal with legal bills!

There is in the reporting of the torture scandal in the MSM a total failure of nerve.

It is not a disputable opinion that waterboarding is torture. There is no debate here. There aren't two sides to the issue. That waterboarding is torture is a legal, empirical, historical fact. There are many legitimate and legal methods of interrogation, and all can and should be debated. But torture isn't one of them. And the cowardice in refusing to use plain English to state the truth is part of what enables torture to endure. Look at the headline of the piece:

C.I.A. Agents Sense Shifting Support for Methods

Now imagine if the headline had told the truth:

C.I.A. Agents Sense Shifting Support for Torture

Wouldn't that help raise awareness? This is the same MSM cowardice that refuses to say in clear reporting when a candidate is simply telling an untruth; or that passes on rumors without clearly saying they are lies. Many in the press have done an amazing job in bringing the war crimes of the Bush administration to light. But too many are also critical in keeping them hidden. The New York Times is not alone. But Bill Keller needs to tell his reporters: torture is torture, and no euphemism will suffice. It's the president's job to cover his behind; it's not the press's.