Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Euphemistically speaking...

David Bromwich in the New York Review of Books writes on the topic of "Euphemism and American Violence".

It's become almost a joke that American mass media will not under any circumstances call the torture of captives in American control "torture."

There's a story in today's New York Times filled with euphemisms for torture, so much so, it comes across as a gag.

... harsh interrogation methods ...the methods ...some legal experts have condemned as illegal torture ...harsh techniques ... waterboarding and other physical pressure ...the harsh techniques ...coercive interrogation ...coercive interrogation methods ... the harshest methods ...interrogation methods enhanced interrogation techniques ...the harshest methods...

Bromwich quotes Orwell:

Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.

And in our own country, the major mass media -- every last one of them -- follows the lead of the New York Times and comes up with ever more baroque phraseology to avoid calling what our government does to its captives, "torture."

Like what the military did to the captives it held in Iraq who supposedly provided the information accusing Iran of hosting Hezbollah training camps for the Iraqi Shia resistance.

More at Chris Floyd's place where he blasts the Michael Gordon propaganda piece in the NYT the other day::

Gordon's latest is a classic of this sinister genre. He dutifully stovepipes claims by the usual unnamed "American officials" who tell him that Iranian agents have revealed that Hezbollah is training anti-American Iraqi Shiites inside Iran. This information, we are told, comes from "interrogations" of four Shiite militia members who were captured by American forces last year.

In other words, four Shiites who have been subjected to George W. Bush's beloved (and personally approved) "harsh interrogation techniques" for an entire year have -- surprise, surprise! -- told American officials exactly what they want to hear: that Iran is training Iraqi insurgents to kill Americans. Or to speak plainly and with no addition: four men have been tortured into confessions that serve the Bush Faction's militarist agenda.

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