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The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb Reads ’1984′ As A Playbook

Someone forgot to inform Michael Goldfarb that the appendix to 1984 on Newspeak is not an instruction manual for political writing. Have a look at his remarkable defense of former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, current Berkeley law professor, and now … Read More

By / April 7, 2008

Someone forgot to inform Michael Goldfarb that the appendix to 1984 on Newspeak is not an instruction manual for political writing. Have a look at his remarkable defense of former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, current Berkeley law professor, and now and forever war criminal John Yoo:

[S]ome folks are more easily shocked than I am, and they are in full moral outrage mode this morning with the release of a 2003 memo by John Yoo (now a professor at Berkeley!) approving "harsh interrogation techniques." Oh, the humanity!

I have a very clear understanding, and so do you and so does Goldfarb, of what the word "torture" means. I have only the cloudiest impression about "harsh interrogation techniques," however, and so do you and so does Goldfarb. We can get a better idea of what the term means by looking at some of its instances. They include: putting screws underneath prisoners' fingernails, pouring lye on their exposed skin, cutting out their tongues, poking out their eyes, passing electric currents through their testicles, destroying their sanity by subjecting them to various forms of sensory and sleep deprivation, strapping them to boards and pouring water down their throats to produce the physiological reaction to drowning, sodomizing them to death with flashlights, setting feral dogs on them, and shackling them in standing positions in which their arms are stretched so far over their heads that as they fatigue and their bodies gradually slump, pressure builds up in their torsos until their ribs break, their internal organs are punctured by jagged bones, and they suffocate through internal bleeding.

Oddly, all the foregoing sounds rather less depraved and the men who commissioned
it rather less deserving of a war crimes trial, conviction, and lifetime prison sentences when you call what they did "harsh interrogation." No wonder Goldfarb reflexively trusts the government never to "shock [his] conscience." Model Soviet citizen that he is, he's got a ready-made euphemism for whatever unspeakable act he'd like to avoid thinking about. But on reflection, isn't "harsh" a bit, well, harsh? Let's try "enhanced interrogation technique." That gets us around even weakly implying that the thing we're talking about is in any way more severe than ordinary interrogation — it's just better.

Why, indeed, refer to torture with the term "interrogation" at all? Let's just call it "unicorns." Now substitute and clear away some of the unnecessary throat clearing from Goldfarb's passage: "Some folks are outraged that John Yoo wrote a memo approving 'unicorns'. Oh the humanity!"

This suggests a general strategy for apologists for the Bush administration's crimes. Warrantless wire-tapping shall be henceforth known as "chocolate chips." Disappearing and imprisoning known innocent men in secret dungeons for years on end without trial can be called "Fraggle Rock."

Take that, excitable liberal media.

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