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Dick Cheney doesn't want to call it torture but the media doesn't have to follow

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Reasonable people can, I suppose, debate whether or not it was sound public policy for the United States to torture subjects apprehended as part of the global war on terrorism. Maybe shoving hummus up a man's rectum and threatening to rape another man's mother were good ideas. Maybe there's a planet on which torturing people who haven't even been interrogated through conventional means is smart. Maybe it made sense to try to copy techniques developed by Communist China for the purpose of extracting false confessions.

This, however, does not make sense:


Torture is a word in the English language. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is an Orwellian euphemism for torture, but it's at least recognizable at this point. EIT is just nonsense.

The US government actually knows this quite well. The State Department releases annual human rights reports. The one on the Assad regime in Syria has a section on torture. It states that "multiple human rights organizations reported other forms of torture, including forcing objects into the rectum and vagina, hyperextending the spine, and putting the victim into the frame of a wheel and whipping exposed body parts."

Stress positions and rectal violation are called torture because, obviously, that's what they are.

It's understandable that the perpetrators of America's policy of torture like to shy away from this plain language. But it's shameful for the media to abet them with the use of EITs and other euphemisms. If anything, torture proponents ought to be pressed on why they are so wedded to unclear language. If Cheney has so few regrets about all this torturing, why can't he call it what it is? People deserve to know that the American government (proudly!) did things that in any other context are called torture. The way to do that is to call it torture — not EITs.