None Dare Call it Torture


President Obama came out and bluntly said that the United States tortured people after 9/11, a rare moment of honesty from the government. Unfortunately, most media outlets continue to refuse to call it torture, relying on euphemisms and weak language instead.

Even President Obama’s blunt declaration on Friday that the United States “tortured some folks” in the years after the 9/11 attacks was not enough to get many of the country’s top media outlets to abandon their practice of euphemistically referring to torture as something else…

By now, the story of the media’s hesitancy around the term “torture”—at least when it applies to American actions—is well-known. So is the fact that elite outlets began finding new terms to describe practices they once labeled torture right around the time that the Bush administration began insisting that it wasn’t torturing anyone. That shift is still firmly in place.

Many of the press reports about Obama’s comments avoided using the term when they weren’t quoting him directly. The New York Times referred to “brutal interrogation” and “the conduct of some in the intelligence community.” The Los Angeles Times wrote that Obama had “acknowledged the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation tactics” and also, in something of an understatement, mentioned “sometimes-grisly tactics.” USA Today used the phrases “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “disputed interrogation techniques.”

It’s torture, for crying out loud. If we’d call it torture if it was done to Americans, it’s torture when we do it to others. And by the definition found in the UN Convention Against Torture, it can’t possibly be anything else. Of course, Obama’s statement does prompt the obvious the question: Then why haven’t you prosecuted anyone for it, as the Convention requires? And why have you pressured other countries not to prosecute, as they have authority to do under the Convention?

Comments

  1. Abdul Alhazred says

    President Obama came out and bluntly said that the United States tortured people …

    More precisely president Obama said “we” tortured. I take that to mean it’s still going on with his approval.

  2. colnago80 says

    Then why haven’t you prosecuted anyone for it, as the Convention requires?

    The answer to that one may be gotten from slightly modifying a statement made by the character played by Werner Klemperer to the judge played by Spencer Tracy in the flic Judgement at Nuremberg. “Today you (Democrats) try us, tomorrow the Russians (Rethuglicans) try you:.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Then why haven’t you prosecuted anyone for it, as the Convention requires?

    Because “we” didn’t lose a war. Being prosecuted for war crimes and human rights abuses usually requires that you lose a war or are replaced in a coup.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Oop, to clarify, I don’t think that’s a good thing, nor do I think it is an immutable law of nature. I think it is possible to change things and it would be good to do so; however, I don’t currently see the political situation in the US to be one where such a change is going to occur in the short term.

  5. says

    Then why haven’t you prosecuted anyone for it, as the Convention requires? And why have you pressured other countries not to prosecute, as they have authority to do under the Convention?

    Because he made himself complicit by his actions. Because parts of the Democratic political culture were also involved and that triggers defensiveness because of political conflict.

    These are some reasons why I do not support Ds as a group. I’ll only vote for candidates that want to actually change the toxic elements in their own groups. I’ll not win a battle just to lose a larger war in a longer game.

  6. D. C. Sessions says

    If we’d call it torture if it was done to Americans, it’s torture when we do it to others.

    Wrong! Because American Exceptionalism!

  7. Alverant says

    It’s like how it’s rare to hear the words “christian terrorist” in the news. The media doesn’t want to risk offending the majority of their audience by reminding them they can be as bad as the people they hate.

  8. laurentweppe says

    Because he made himself complicit by his actions. Because parts of the Democratic political culture were also involved and that triggers defensiveness because of political conflict.

    Also because the intelligence establishment would have turned against him in a heartbeat if he had tried to do the right thing: torture happened with the blessing of the american ruling class and cornered patricians are the most vicious and ferocious animals on the planet, so Obama is trying to not taunt them too much.

  9. Nick Gotts says

    Clearly, since the UN Convention on Torture, as a ratified international treaty, is part of the law of the USA, Obama should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, for his failure to prosecute the torturers.

  10. colnago80 says

    Re laurentweppe @ #8

    There was an article I read last week that claimed that the reason he hasn’t fired John Brennen is because Brennen knows where too many bodies are buried (harkens back to J. Edgar Himmler who blackmailed Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson into keeping him on).

  11. colnago80 says

    Re Nick Gotts @ #9

    Somehow I don’t think that the Rethuglicans in the House will consider this transgression as part of their impeachment accusations against the president.

  12. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    We tortured some “folks”? Folks? This is a much abused Mayberryism in American politics, too. It’s creepy, it’s condescending, and it’s falsely chummy. Very jarring in this context. Obviously, I agree it’s a good thing Obama managed to get the word torture out of his mouth.

  13. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Of course, Obama’s statement does prompt the obvious the question: Then why haven’t you prosecuted anyone for it, as the Convention requires? And why have you pressured other countries not to prosecute, as they have authority to do under the Convention?

    I agree it’s an obvious question, but I don’t recall the media asking the question to President Obama in years. And when they did ask, it was either typically coupled to whether he was going to legalize marijuana or not followed-up when Mr. Obama avoided the fact his answer had him committed to him also breaking the law by not doing so.

    I’ve yet to encounter the media ever pressing him on the question within the context that both the torturers and what President Obama have done is illegal, a violation of the U.N. Treaty, and un-Constitutional.

    Prosecution for those who administrated torture and the legalization of marijuana were the two stand-out initiatives President-elect Obama received per his request that Americans prioritize his agenda at the beginning of his presidency. If somebody wants to make the case Obama’s a hypocrite relative to his ‘hope and change’ spiel , don’t to listen to the quitter and liar Sarah Palin. Instead consider what Mr. Obama’s most ardent supporters requested of him and how the President’s responded.

  14. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    @Abdul Alhazred:

    As I understand it, we also bombed Dresden during World War II. You may take that to mean that I personally dropped the ordnance and am continuing to do so.

  15. says

    Good point laurentweppe. I don’t look at cowardice kindly either. I have heard some defenders basically say “It’s too hard to make up for torture right now. You just have to trust us!”. I’m not going to contribute to things like that getting cultural support. I’m most consistent with Democratic politics and I’ll just independently support the individual issues without supporting the party structure until I start seeing some real work on torture, drone assassinations and collateral damage, whistle blower harassment, equal justice independent of social class and similar. I’ll vote for the politicians that I see supporting these things.

    Another one is being afraid of getting called “anti-American” or afraid of making America looking bad. I’ll not pretend that a party is the same as the country, and the country already looks bad from that crap.

  16. b8ovin says

    Actually, Obama both admitted to and then whitewashed torture. If you read his entire statement he disassembles the entire episode by claiming it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This is untrue, as we all know. The torture began after conventional interrogation and lasted for years after. He also warned that those who were and are outraged shouldn’t be so sanctimonious. Da fuq? What is this shit? Hey, that NSA domestic spying was also in response to 9/11. Calm down, don’t be so sanctimonious.

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