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 Post subject: Eugene Robinson: Tortured Semantics
PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 2:49 pm 
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Tortured Semantics


By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON—With its larger-than-life characters and head-spinning plot twists, the presidential campaign is easily the best reality show on television: Will Barack Obama find a way to connect with Latino voters? Can John McCain somehow mollify all those angry conservatives? Could Hillary Clinton, after raising more than $100 million, run out of money?

The drama is so compelling that it’s easy to lose sight of why this election is so important. This week, George W. Bush reminded us how grievously he has wounded our nation’s ideals, values and standing in the world—and how big a challenge the next president will face in repairing the damage.

On Tuesday, authorized by the White House, CIA Director Michael Hayden gave Congress the fullest account so far of the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which the administration calls an “interrogation technique” but which international agreements—and plain English—call torture.

Think about that. Did you ever imagine that we would have a president who uses legalistic euphemisms and craven rationalizations to justify strapping prisoners down and subjecting them to simulated drowning? A president who claims the right to use waterboarding, and God knows what other “techniques,” in the future if he wants?

This is a moral outrage, people. At least, it should be. There simply cannot be any kind of pro-and-con debate over the use of torture—whatever anodyne phrase you hide it behind—by agents of the United States government on persons in custody. Torture is not debatable. It is forbidden by U.S. and international law. It is a vile implement used by tinhorn despots, not by the elected leaders of great democracies.

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