Congress, Media Legalize TortureOctober 5th, 2007

The criticism of the Justice Department torture memos from Congress and the press is so muted as to be inaudible. Even Amy Goodman refers to the tactics authorized by the memos as harsh interrogation. That’s a term that was invented to legalize torture, and the embedded media and Congress promptly adopted it as a version of reality, as if it had any discrete meaning.

NPR was so bold as to refer to the interrogation methods, including beatings and drowning, as “what some would describe as torture. ” What used to be called water torture (for 10 centuries, at least) now sounds like a sport: waterboarding. The consensus among the embedded media seems to be that torture is acceptable if it saves lives and if you call it something else. They’re still up in the air about whether torture actually saves lives, and so they’re not taking a position on its role in interrogation. They tell us that on the TV shows they all watch, torture always works. Not clear whether embedded media draw a real distinction between fact and fiction.

There’s some whispering among members of the House Judiciary Committee, who seem to have some reservations about torture, but the Democratic members had all their teeth extracted by the Speaker at the swearing-in, and so their rants ring hollow.

Congress may yell, but they can’t demand. The one tool they had to demand accountability–impeachment and removal as provided in the Constitution–has been relinquished, and the president now operates above the rule of law. He can hear the hollering, but he needn’t heed it. You and I are obliged to refrain from beating people up to get them to tell us stuff, but our president is free to do this as the whim may strike him. The next president, too, and all the presidents that follow.