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CIA Chief: Waterboarding “Would Be” Torture

Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, says waterboarding "would be torture." It's an interesting use of the subjunctive, since there isn't actually any debate over whether we waterboard. Echoing President Bush, Hayden insists, "we don't torture." But this is weak … Read More

By / January 14, 2008

Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, says waterboarding "would be torture." It's an interesting use of the subjunctive, since there isn't actually any debate over whether we waterboard.

Echoing President Bush, Hayden insists, "we don't torture." But this is weak stuff. The whole game of torture denial depends on refusing to say that waterboarding is torture. That's the essential pivot on which upholding waterboarding as a basic American and conservative value depends. As long as you deny — the entire history and all observation of the practice be damned — that waterboarding is torture, the inference from the US waterboards prisoners, to the US tortures prisoners, won't go through.

Any other rhetorical strategy gives away the game, unless, who knows, the laws of deductive logic, like the Geneva Conventions, are quaint relics of a different world, and cannot be allowed to interfere with the government's efforts to keep us safe after 9/11.

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