Monday, April 27, 2009

Differing Definitions

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a post up called, Torture & Cowardice that illustrates one of the biggest problems with the whole torture debate: the definition of torture. Marshall writes,
There's a 'tough enough to make the tough calls' conceit behind almost all the pro-torture advocacy. Put in Dick Cheney terms, the courage to go to the dark side. But this conceit seems wholly belied by the unwillingness of the torture advocates to actually call it 'torture', as opposed to the various euphemisms
He continues,
In conversations I've had with people who say torture was either necessary or useful, my instinctive response has been to say that I'm not even willing to entertain the conversation unless they're willing to at least call something like water-boarding torture

Well, obviously it's his option who he wants to argue with. Like Marshall, I consider waterboarding to be torture. But unlike him, I don't assume that my personal view has the status of indisputable fact -- even if it has strong majority support. The reason that many people won't call certain interrogation tactics torture isn't because of "cowardice;" it's that they really don't believe that the term applies. There are veterans who have been waterboarded in training that don't consider it torture.  

Marshall's attitude shuts out a huge part of the debate. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted definition of torture. It means different things to different people.  If you force people to agree with your version before you'll even argue with them, that doesn't indicate much openness to debate at all. 

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