Conspiracy to Torture
In The Nation
Torture is about acts: the blow to the head, the scream in the ear, the scar-free injuries whose diagnosis has become an international medical subspecialty. But torture is also very much about words: the whispered or shouted questions of the interrogator; the muddled confession of the prisoner; the too rarely tested language of laws protecting prisoners from "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment.
Consider just two words: "command responsibility." Those words stand among the most resolutely enduring principles established after World War II by the Nuremberg Tribunals. Today they pose a special threat to President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the other officials who actively promote what Secretary of State Rice, in Germany, insisted the Administration "does not authorize or condone." To carry out physically and psychically brutal interrogations outside all international norms has required the Administration to corrupt the ordinary meaning of language itself. "We do not torture" (Bush). "What we do does not come close to torture" (Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss). Such denials continue despite twelve reports from the Defense Department documenting the opposite--never mind Congressional testimony, journalistic investigations and NGO reports making common knowledge of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, near-fatal beatings and mock executions. more