Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Minitrue Speaks: War Is Peace

You've really got to hand it to them. The current U.S. administration is as good distorting, evading and just plain lying through their teeth as any administration in recent memory.

   Ceci n'est pas le torture

Earlier today, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech to a London think-tank in which he defended America's treatment of terror suspects and proclaimed that "the United States abhors torture and respects the rights of detainees." So why all the blood and gore at U.S. detention facilities? There must be a rash of trip and fall accidents among the prisoners.

Gonzales added that the U.S. did not use a practice called "rendering", in which detainees are shipped off for torture in other countries. This claim is demonstrably false, but the slippery Attorney General can claim it's true because the administration allegedly "sought assurances from foreign governments before transporting detainees there, and did not transport anyone 'to a country if we believe it more likely than not that the individual would be tortured.'"

Lucky for the Bush administration, the wink and nod is still part of the international lexicon. As long as some brutal dictator gives his "word", or the U.S. determines that the chance of a detainee being tortured does not exceed 49.9%, then there's no problem. How compassionate. So, as long as, say, the murderous Islom Karimov promises he won't torture a prisoner, there's no problem shipping him off to Uzbekistan, where the favored method of torture is boiling people alive. Really.

Now, everybody knows that the U.S. tortures people. There are pictures, for chrissakes! And there's corroboration from one of the highest legal authorities in the military that this torture is not due to rogue soldiers, but is mandated by official policy. So, how does the Bush administration get away with denying what is obviously true? Semantics and shades of meaning—also known as absolute bullshit.

Considering the fact that the Republicans flipped out when Bill Clinton ruminated on what the meaning of "is" is, this administration's willingness to evade the truth by using legalese is, to say the least, hypocritical. Let's not forget that George Bush ran for president as a straight shooter and a man of the people. This is about as far away from that as you can get.

In his speech in London, Gonzales "acknowledged that people might interpret the term 'torture' in different ways. The U.S. abides by its own definition, which he said was the intentional infliction of severe mental or physical suffering." To add another shade of murk to the whole affair, "severe" suffering has been defined as the equivalent of "organ failure." Anything less? Well, that's just frat-boy antics. If you disagree, you're no better than the terrorists, just like the International Red Cross.

The administration's plan to avoid charges of torture is truly worthy of Orwell (it brings to mind not only 1984 but the Soviet treachery outlined in Homage to Catalonia as well):
  • We don't torture people.
  • We get to define what "torture" means.
  • "Torture" is defined as "that which we do not do."
  • By definition, objectively, we don't engage in torture.
Feel better now?

"The United States has always been and remains a great defender of human rights and the rule of law," Gonzales said. "I regret that there has been concern or confusion about our commitment to the rule of law." This is perhaps the most dishonest thing Gonzales said during his speech. The confusion has been caused by our government, first in its attempt to deny the charges of torture and then in its logic-defying acrobatics aimed, essentially, at making a lump of shit look as pure as the driven snow. The Bush administration might regret that someone took photos at Abu Ghraib, but they certainly don't regret their policies. It's plain to see: they're proud of them, and they think they're right. That has to be the scariest thing.
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