Doug Jehl, who’s the Washington editor for the New York Times, explains today why his paper cannot use the word “torture” to describe “waterboarding” when no legal or political or cultural authority from the Spanish Inquisition until the Bush administration ever doubted for a moment that it was torture. […]
In the face of this, are there any legal decisions, judgments or trials in the last five centuries in which waterboarding has not been deemed torture? None that I am aware of. And this is not surprising. If waterboarding someone 183 times is not torture, then nothing is torture.
The fact that the editors of the New York Times cannot reflect this core truth in its use of plain English is a scandal of journalistic cowardice, evasion and willful ignorance. It is entirely a function not of seeking the truth but of placating those in power and maintaining a fictitious illusion of “balance”. The idea that the Bush administration’s insistence for the first time in human history that waterboarding is legal and not torture – when it has itself used the torture technique – is to be weighed equally against the entire body of legal, historical and cultural evidence in deciding what to call torture is preposterous.
Andrew Sullivan: Can Doug Jehl Read?
(via Jay Rosen)
April 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm
Quite right. The NY Times, as one of the gate-keepers of our language, should use the correct terms. “The methods of torture most used by the Inquisition were garrucha, toca and the potro. The application of the garrucha, also known as the strappado, consisted of suspending the victim from the ceiling by a pulley with weights tied to the ankles, with a series of lifts and drops, during which arms and legs suffered violent pulls and were sometimes dislocated. The toca, also called tortura del agua, consisted of introducing a cloth into the mouth of the victim, and forcing them to ingest water spilled from a jar so that they had impression of drowning (see: waterboarding). The potro, the rack, was the instrument of torture used most frequently.” I’d like to see some of the folks arguing that this isn’t so bad mention that the Spanish Inquistion didn’t think it was so awful either. Sometimes it clarifies things to see who agrees and disagrees with you.