The Results of ‘Smothering Torture in Euphemism’

In a Smirking Chimp piece (5/29/09) averring that “Everyone Should See Torturing Democracy“–the delayed documentary that “recounts how the Bush White House and the Pentagon decided to make coercive detention and abusive interrogation the official U.S. policy” and “also credits the brave few who stood up to those in power”–PBS‘ Bill Moyers spells out the larger consequences of the fact that “in all the recent debate over torture, many of our Beltway pundits and politicians have twisted themselves into verbal contortions to avoid using the word at all”:

Smothering the reality of torture in euphemism of course has a political value, enabling its defenders to diminish the horror and possible illegality. It also gives partisans the opening they need to divert our attention by turning the future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay into a “wedge issue,” as noted on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times.

According to the Times, “Armed with polling data that show a narrow majority of support for keeping the prison open and deep fear about the detainees, Republicans in Congress started laying plans even before the inauguration to make the debate over Guantanamo Bay a question of local community safety instead of one about national character and principles.”

Moyers gives us the upshot: “No political party would dare make torture a cornerstone of its rejuvenation if people really understood what it is. And lest we forget, we’re not just talking about waterboarding, itself a trivializing euphemism for drowning.” See FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “From Water Torture to ‘Waterboarding’: Media Rehabilitate Torture as Aquatic Sport” (5-6/08) by Isabel Macdonald; “Torturing Language: Definitions, Defenses and Dirty Work” (7-8/05) by Jacqueline Bacon.