Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Humpty Dumpty Moments Are Getting On My Nerves

It will come as little surprise to you, Gentle Reader, that John Rizzo, the acting general counsel of the CIA in the years after 9/11, is trying to make a buck off being one of the few people in the country willing to put forward the preposterous proposition that waterboarding isn’t really torture.

Well, actually, he doesn’t quite say that: he makes excuses for unethical, illegal conduct—“it was decided [gives a whole new meaning to the grammatical phrase “agentless sentence”] that extraordinary measures needed to be considered” and “the pressure was intense.” And besides, it’s not like waterboarding is the worst thing out there: there’s a different “technique I thought was even more chilling and scary than waterboarding.”

Not only that, he snivels, but “No. I'm a lawyer, and torture is legally defined in U.S. law.” Oh, well thanks for telling us you’re a lawyer, because you sure as shit aren’t a linguist, you pompous fuck. And yes, there is a definition of “torture.” Here it is:
(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality
OK, so since waterboarding obviously fits that definition, since even the military acknowledges that fact (in part because they quite reasonably don’t want their own personnel subjected to that kind of treatment), then we’re left with four possibilities:
a). Mr. Rizzo is a disingenuous ass.
b). He’s dumber than a stack of burnt toast.
c). He’s nuttier than squirrel turds.
d). He’s Humpty Dumpty, imperiously asserting that “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
The best photograph I could find of John Rizzo.
This isn’t about efficacy. There will be those who claim that waterboarding, or any other form of torture, works, and therefore becomes rather like the sausage that we like to eat but would rather not contemplate how it’s made. True, most of such claims are nonsense, but the fact is that the reality—that torture doesn’t work—seems counter-intuitive, and is undermined by a relentless entertainment media campaign based not on evidence but on what the decision-makers perceive as effective story-telling.

But even the torture supporters, if they’re even in the general vicinity of honest, are just that: torture supporters. That’s at least a morally defensible position, even if an intellectually problematic one. But to suggest that waterboarding isn’t torture because (ultimately) suggesting otherwise would be a form of self-incrimination… that is unconscionable.

Curmie has mentioned this before… one of my all-time favorite riddles is this:
Q: How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg?
A: Four. Calling it one doesn’t make it one.
Calling waterboarding something other than torture doesn’t make it so, either. Unless, Mr. Rizzo, you’d like to undergo the procedure at least 183 times, because you’re at least as tough as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, right? Oh, and you’ll sign a release in advance absolving your… erm… enhanced interrogators of all responsibility if they… you know… actually kill your sorry ass. It’s not like the victims of this barbaric technique know for certain that what’s really wanted from them is information. Maybe they think—with considerable reason—that CIA goons are just sadistic assholes who like making other people suffer, and an “accidental” death (like the eponymous event in the Dario Fo play The Accidental Death of an Anarchist) is somewhere between collateral damage and the whole point of the exercise.

So you do that, Mr. Rizzo, and maybe I’ll believe you’re anything but a self-righteous, bloviating, psychopath.

I’m waiting…

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