Monday, October 08, 2007

Once more: Yes, we do torture.

`I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

`But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'*

I listened to the President's protestations (admonitions to the rest of the world?) that America does not torture with sadness and a total lack of surprise. This administration, no, this man, either does not understand what communication means or really does not give a damn. Or probably both.

I actually would have more respect for George Bush if he came out and said "Yes, we torture. We believe it paramount to our national security. We grieve the fact that we have been driven to this point, but there it is." I would still find his actions abhorrent, but he would get some credit in my book for honesty.

Instead, we have this absurd kabuki whereby the President of the most powerful nation in the world acts as though by fiat or executive order he can change what words mean. As if words and what they mean were not the ultimate realm of democracy: for communication to have any meaning whatsoever, people have to have some sort of common understanding between them. And most of the world has an understanding of torture and what that word (or its equivalent in the local language) means. And it includes many of the things we have done to "suspected terrorists". It includes even more of what we send people away to other countries to have done.

All of the hand-waving , all of the Presidential pouting, will not change the fact that some of what we have done to prisoners is viewed by most of the world as torture and is viewed by much of the world as barbaric. As politician Al Smith once notably said, "No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." Or, no matter what pretty names you attach to it (and doesn't extraordinary rendition have such a nice ring to it?) it is still evil.

I cannot believe we are still having this conversation. That it is still necessary to have this conversation.

God have mercy on our souls.

* Yes, I know I used this exact same quote from Alice in Wonderland in one of the first posts I made in this blog. This administration simply seems to call for it -- much the same way they seem to evoke references to Orwell's "Newspeak."