I hate to admit this, but I find the torture debate so depressing that I can’t follow it anymore. But Greg Sargent (via Andrew Sullivan, who on this topic at least, is excellent) has summarized the media decision to drop the T-word quite well:
The decision to refrain from calling waterboarding “torture” is tantamount to siding with the Bush administration’s claim that the act it acknowledged doing is not illegal under any statute. No one is saying the Times should have adopted the role of judge and jury and proclaimed the Bush administration officially guilty. Rather, the point is that by dropping use of the word “torture,” it took the Bush position — against those who argued that the act Bush officials sanctioned is already agreed upon as illegal under the law.
Think of it this way: We all agree that pickpocketing constitutes “theft.” A pickpocket doesn’t get to come along and argue: “No, what I did isn’t theft, it’s merely pickpocketing, and therefore it isn’t illegal.” Any newspaper that played along with a pickpocket’s demand to stop using the word “theft” would be taking the pickpocket’s side, not occupying any middle ground. There is no middle ground here.
No, there is no middle ground. It’s torture or it’s not and by not calling it torture, the Times is taking a side. The pickpocketing/theft analogy Sargent draws is a good one. Remember when Dick Cheney didn’t shoot that guy but only “peppered” him?
(Yes, I realize that stealing and robbery are in fact different things, I just like that song and thought it was somewhat apropos.)