Fiddling While It Burns

Since when do we argue over whether torture is wrong? | 25/04/2009

Note: this was originally posted as “Just Briefly…”, before being expanded.

I know I’m hitting the Tom Tomorrow comics pretty hard lately, but as I said to my sponsor, just one more and then I’ll give it up for real.

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On a separate but related note, never, ever Google “comic” and “torture” together. Even with SafeSearch on.

From Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh:

Friday April 24, 2009 13:05 EDT

I can’t believe it’s not torture, redux!

I was tempted to write to Clark Hoyt, the admired public editor for the New York Times, after reading Friday morning’s convoluted piece, “Obama Resisting Push for Interrogation Panel.” It contains this remarkable weasel-wording:

“Although a full-scale independent inquiry now appears unlikely anytime soon, the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other techniques that critics say crossed the line into torture could still be examined by a variety of Congressional panels in addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

Why was the issue framed that way, as though the question of whether waterboarding is torture, and torture is illegal, is still a matter of debate? And will it ever be New York Times style to flat-out say that?

I want to strongly recommend Salon’s coverage of the Bush administration’s torture programs. Salon made history by pushing the Abu Ghraib story when the New York Times wasn’t too fussed about it; they continued to be strongly critical of the Bush administration while other news sources stuck to the spurious model of objectivity where journalists repeat uncritically whatever the government says; they give a home to the angry but rigorous writing of Glenn Greenwald; and they’ve pioneered a new journalism where the audience are treated with respect and offered the chance to view primary sources.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld introduced systematic torture to the CIA and American military. They did it despite strong evidence that it was ineffective, and they did it in such a way that many innocent men were caught up in their net, and killed. In 1974 the New York Times and the Washington Post were willing to go hard on Nixon, but only Salon truly held Bush to account.

For ANZAC day, here’s something to think about: torture gave us bad intelligence, increased the risk to our troops, and made us the villains. And if the mainstream media and the political elite they have allowed to co-opt them get their way, the perpetrators will get away with it. Lest we forget.

UPDATE:

Here is a little review of how this debate continues to fail to evolve in conservative circles.

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1 Comment »

  1. I noticed that too. Even in books of fiction, torture seems to be more and more condoned. One I read recently, by a well known author, had the hero leave the suspect with someone he knew would torture to get the information wanted. As if turning his back meant he was not culpable. Exactly the same as various countries have done, who mostly like to be thought civilised!

    Comment by Marj — 07/05/2009 @ 10:59 pm


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