Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Gap between what’s said and what’s meant

“Or, the shame of cheapening and trashing perfectly good words, eventually causing them to become worthless and unusable.”

The Belmont Club’s Wretchard discusses a post from The Smoking Gun (careful, some images may be crude and shocking) describing the content of documents allegedly recently captured from al-qaeda in Iraq. The problem with the subject matter is that in former years it could reasonably have been called a “torture manual”. But alas, that term no longer seems to work.

The world is apparently no longer interested in hearing about “torture” per se, probably because we dirty rotten Yanks are hands down the acknowledged leaders at “torturing” large quantities of common prisoners taken in warfare, and the topic is no longer of international interest - unless, of course, more US troops are thought to be caught up in it again. Then it becomes important to discuss.

The problem is quite simple. The rest of us permitted the warm-hearted fuzzy thinkers of the world to misuse and misapply a perfectly good word, “torture”. They were describing - for the most part - torment or humiliation, but were overstating the case - as seems to be the wont of certain overly-liberal wonks - as if what was occurring was actually harming or maybe even permanently disfiguring the subjects of the interrogations and so-called “torture”. I hold that in all but a few rare cases, it wasn’t.

Was it fun to undergo? No! Was it nice and polite? No! Was it reasonably applied? Can’t tell! Has it worked? Probably pretty well! Was it actually “torture”? With few exceptions, No!

The question I have for my liberal friends - the same ones who “tsked, tsked” over Abu Ghraib prison and the camp at Guantanamo Bay - how are they going to respond to (and classify) what is being done by AQ per the “manuals” referenced in The Smoking Gun ? What should they (or we) call that level of interrogation? Or do they even care?

Looking up the word “maim” in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006, shows the following synonyms and explanations:
“—1. Maim, lacerate, mangle, mutilate indicate the infliction of painful and severe injuries on the body. To maim is to injure by giving a disabling wound, or by depriving a person of one or more members or their use: maimed in an accident. To lacerate is to inflict severe cuts and tears on the flesh or skin: to lacerate an arm. To mangle is to chop undiscriminatingly or to crush or rend by blows or pressure, as if by machinery: bodies mangled in a train wreck. To mutilate is to injure the completeness or beauty of a body, esp. by cutting off an important member: to mutilate a statue, a tree, a person. 2. injure, disable, deface, mar.” In my view that is what is being proposed by the found documents.

Yes, I know the current definition of "torture" can be stretched to include tormenting and causing anguish, but should it be spread over so wide a plain? I conclude a word applied so thinly soon loses its value.

So my question again is, “What should we call torture when it mains, lacerates, mangles or mutilates its subject”? It certainly cannot be considered merely “torment”, can it? And yet that’s what the sloppy and over-reaching politicalization of certain English language terms has seemed to have brought about.

As ever, I await correction and rebuke. Cheers

Cross posted on


USpace said...

Well, if torture is part of their barbaric, sick, evil, sub-human, perverted, vile and demented culture who are we to say it is bad?

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
ignore human rights abuse

give dictators free pass
villify the best countries

49erDweet said...

Define "bad".

What I am looking for, I believe, is a way to differentiate between 'petty' torture and 'grand' torture, so we can speak and write more precisely.


Bill said...

Aside from the definition of torture, in most cases liberals (like myself) believe that any treatment designed to discomfort a prisoner of war, is mistreatment and not justifiable.

I have no trouble not providing comfort, but to purposefully discomfort or mistreat a prisoner justifies the other sides mistreatment of our soldiers. As much as we might think that thier mistreatment of our soldiers justifies our mistreatment of thiers.

restoring balance to this battle, may not be possible given the enemy, but it sets the standard lower for any other battle we might face.

When we were kids were were told not to respond to bullies, I beleive the phrase was "don't stoop to thier level."

I think that we may not be devils but we are no longer angels. I would rather we were Angels.

49erDweet said...

Re the use of torture, the Christian in me screams "Amen, brother" but the heathen yells back "But if I'm easy on them they won't take me serious".

Pray for me, bill.

thywordistruth said...


Yes, shame on us Yanks for engaging in such an evil practice as “aggressive interrogation” in the reprehensible pursuit of protecting our domestic tranquility! Nancy Pelosi has assured us that if we politely ask our international “brothers” to stop bothering us, naturally they’ll no doubt feel compelled to oblige and return in kind!

Seriously though, anyone who saw the horrid video a few years back of the sick beheadings sponsored by al-qaeda, should have been reminded of the 9/11 horror that will not end until the will of our enemy is accomplished. It’s plainly evident that their will is not to live together peacefully but is instead to subdue and force obedience into their one twisted ideology and theology. Arguably, our domestic freedom has and continues to be attacked and threatened along with the compliant support of, it would appear the mainstream media and members of our elected legislature.

I agree with you, our domestic vocabulary has a new political agenda that is only acknowledged and validated when used by a specific political party and then only with the “correct” perspective.

That’s my view, anyway!

Jim Richardson

Bill said...

thywordistruth - no one is asserting that the enemy will "feel compelled to oblige and return in kind!"

As I said "restoring balance to this battle, may not be possible given the enemy."

The premise is to not stoop to thier level. Why because it degrades us.

Walt Kelly first used the quote "We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us" on a poster for Earth Day in 1970, but aside from the environmental assert it also applies here. If we start to reflect our enemy, how different are we from him.

49erDweet said...

Wasn't it "and he are us" that Pogo supposedly said way back when?

Actually, bill, thywordistruth is spot on about what he says concerning Nancy Pelosi's deluded mindset. I concur with you that rational liberals don't think that way, but then who said that NP should be placed in that category?

I'm not sure I totally agree with the premise about "stooping to their level". At first glance your point seems quite reasonable. Civilized persons from many times and cultures have followed that principle, probably. But when one considers the manner in which the children of Israel in OT times followed Gods specific instructions in warfare and tactics against heathens, one sees quite a few deviations from that seemingly more kindly m.o. And I'm sure not going to say that He was 'stooping' in any way.

So I think the point to this might just be that in the first place don't go to war unless you are forced into it; and secondly if you are forced into it do it quickly, vigorously and thoroughly enough so it is over and done quite rapidly.

"Stooping to another's level" has nothing to do with it. That might be merely a polite fiction that attempts to make us feel better for doing nothing instead of explaining away what others may think of as our bad behavior - again in my view.

Where I think the US (or the West) is failing is in not being vigorous enough in correctly assessing the situation and quickly completing the annihilation of those we can not convince to quit attempting to kill or forcibly convert us.


btw: have migrated my recent postings here

Bill said...

"So I think the point to this might just be that in the first place don't go to war unless you are forced into it; and secondly if you are forced into it do it quickly, vigorously and thoroughly enough so it is over and done quite rapidly. "

The pacifist in me won't agree but the realist says this is better than what is happing in Iraq at the moment.

As for not Stooping to thier level being "polite fiction" I wish it wasn't.