What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 22, 2014

Jack Kelly Sunday

Oh, Jack.  You were getting so...nearly factual last week in your column at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And this week?  When you're attempting to redefine torture in your efforts to defend the "enhanced interrogations" of the Bush Administration?

This week, you are simply, shatteringly incorrect.  And considering the severity of the topic and how incorrect you are, this column is usual for you as it clearly borders in the immoral.

Let's start where Jack starts, with Abraham Lincoln:
How many legs does a calf have, if you call the tail a leg?” Abraham Lincoln asked a congressman during a discussion of whether he had the authority to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Five,” the congressman replied.

“Four,” Lincoln corrected him. “Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.”
Before we get to the torture let's take a look at the Lincoln story.  It's interesting to note that Kelly, in using this story, is validating the idea that a President can issue an Executive Order to achieve a policy objective not available to him via the usual legislative process.

Huh.  Presidents can do that?  I guess so.

Jack's point in using this story is that calling the "enhanced interrogation techniques" torture doesn't make them torture.

And for that he has a SERE trained Naval Aviator to say so:
The more than 70,000 U.S. military personnel who’ve experienced it during SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training can attest that waterboarding, which simulates drowning, is highly unpleasant.

But “there’s no pain, actually. There’s no trauma. There’s no lasting effect,” said Capt. Ken Kropkowski, a naval aviator who was waterboarded. “I don’t see how you can equate that with torture.”
Ok, fine. Here's another SERE trained veteran to say otherwise. When asked on The View about whether he was waterboarded as part of his Navy SEAL training, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura said this:
Well, it wasn’t part of the Navy seal training, it was part of what they call SERE school: Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion. It’s a school they required you to go to prior to the combat zone of Vietnam. And yes, we were all water boardedthere, and yes it is torture.
And a sentence or two later he said this:
Torture is torture. If you’re going to be a country that follows the rule of law, which we are, torture is illegal.
So we haven't actually gotten anywhere, have we?  But since Governor Ventura mentioned Vietnam, we have to wonder, did it happen there?  And if so what was the outcome?

From ABC News:
Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier's severe punishment.

"The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army," recounted Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College.
 So a soldier who waterboarded as recently as 1968 was court martialed for doing this:

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post wrote of waterboarding in Vietnam that it
...was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."
No permanent injury, yet still a court martial-able offence.

Are you paying attention, Jack?

In any event when we turn to the UN Conventions we can see that Jack, clever columnist that he is, is actually performing a few rhetorical sins of his own.  The Convention defines "torture" as:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
So when torture is defined this way, "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental..." whether there's any physical "pain" "trauma" or "lasting effect" is completely beside the point, if the suffering is mental.

Which leads to this from Jack:
Sleep deprivation, stress positions, liquid diets and playing loud music were other forms of “torture” the report decried.
Note the use of irony quotation marks.  But what about that "sleep deprivation" how can keeping someone up be torture? Jack seems to ask.  Here's how:
Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads. At least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation and, in at least two of those cases, the CIA nonetheless continued the sleep deprivation.” One of the prisoners forced to say awake for seven-and-a-half days was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Most of this time he was forced to stand. The report says that former CIS director Michael Hayden was aware that Mohammed had been deprived of sleep for this period.
When it causes hallucinations, it torture.

And note how Jack redefines the rectal feeding - "liquid diets".  This is what actually happened:
Prisoners were subjected to “rectal feeding” without medical necessity. Rectal exams were conducted with “excessive force”. The report highlights one prisoner later diagnosed with anal fissures, chronic hemorrhoids and “symptomatic rectal prolapse”.
Also torture.  Also disgusting.  Also done in our name.

Jack, you do realize you're guilty of the exact sin you've accused everyone else of doing, right?  You say that calling something "torture" doesn't actual make it torture.

When in effect what you're trying to do is to call torture something else (anything else) in order to make it not.

And that's the immoral part.  Low, even for you.

Torture is illegal.  Torture occurred.

Prosecute the torture.

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