Friday, November 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

NYT: We stopped calling waterboarding "torture" because that's what Bush admin. wanted

NYT: We stopped calling waterboarding "torture" because that's what Bush admin. wanted

I hadn't planned on revisiting the newspaper-waterboarding-"torture" scandal so soon, but the on-the-record explanation from the New York Times -- thanks to the work of Yahoo!'s Michael Calderone, promulgated by Andrew Sullivan -- of why is abruptly stopped referring to waterboarding as "torture" when the U.S. started doing it is so flabbergasting that it bears repeating:

However, the Times acknowledged that political circumstances did play a role in the paper's usage calls. "As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture," a Times spokesman said in a statement. "When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture."

In other words, waterboarding-as-torture was a fact for decades, until someone from the White House got on the phone and we backed down. Is that called speaking power to truth? But it was all okay because someone on the opinion page still called it torture. Huh?

I look forward to these future statements from the Times:

1) On the news pages, we vividly describe the ancient practice of shooting a bullet and causing another person's death as "enhanced human ventilation techniques," although on the op-ed page some of our columnists describe it as "murder," or...

2) Our policy in the news accounts is to describe the ownership of one person by another as "extremely low-cost labor," even though we do note in our opinion section that there are some in the international rights community who historically have labelled this as "slavery."

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Will Bunch
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