When is torture not torture?

When it’s done by us instead of by our enemies, of course. Ask the Washington Post.

Jason Likins and Andrew Sullivan make a strong point about the notion, so beloved of loyal Bushies, that “The United States does not torture,” and about the complicity of the mass media. The Washington Post, in reporting on the trial of an accused Khmer Rouge war criminal, recites as fact that “pouring water up people’s noses” (waterboarding) constitutes torture. But the very same newspaper insists on treating the question of whether waterboarding is torture as an open one when it comes to the application of the technique by the Bush Administration.

Thus “The United States does not torture” is true by definition: and only by definition. If the Washington Post had videotapes of U.S. personnel pulling out the fingernails of suspected terrorists while Dick Cheney gave the orders remotely, that wouldn’t be “torture” in the news columns of the Washington Post. I guess it all depends on whose ox is doing the goring.

Yes, I’ll miss the newspaper when it’s gone. But the Washington Post, as it exists today, not so much. And as Sullivan points out, the NYT and the AP have been similarly craven.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com