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Orwellian resource to make torture acceptable

Eclipsed by the media whirl of the end of the year, the torture issue begins to gradually appear again in some articles. Most of media outlets make big efforts to analyze it “with clarity and without prejudices” (as the German conservative journal Frankfurter Allgemeine reads), which in fact means justifying the method. Bottom line: torture is harmful from the moral point of view but… Everything lies on that “but” and they resort to the Orwellian neo-speech to sweeten the pill for the public.

| Paris (France)
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Eclipsed by the media whirl of the end of the year, the torture issue begins to gradually appear again in some articles. Most of media outlets make big efforts to analyze it “with clarity and without prejudices” (as the German conservative journal Frankfurter Allgemeine reads), which in fact means justifying the method. Bottom line: torture is harmful from the moral point of view but… Everything lies on that “but” and they resort to the Orwellian neo-speech to sugar the pill for the public.

In Germany, sensitivity in regards to the topic is exacerbated by the historic heritage. An article in the Constitution categorically forbids the use of torture or information obtained through torture. A word was even created to define this method, “Shäubeln”, surname of the current Christian-Democratic Interior Minister Wolfang Schäuble, who has repeatedly justified the use of torture to interrogate “terrorists”.
Schäuble was interviewed by the German state-run radio station Deutschlandfunk. Asked about the participation of certain German services in the torture of German citizens held by the United States or foreign allies and the fact that German courts use information obtained through this method to make accusations, the experienced politician evaded the issue by saying: “It is not torture, it is just a method to obtain information”. And let us not forget that Schaüble himself has said that there is no evidence of torture in Guantánamo or in any other US prisons. “I have never seen any serious evidence that may lead us to affirm it, politics can not be based on suspicion. Then, I don’t see why we would not take advantage of information obtained by our friends and our American allies”.
Although not so frank, the position of Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister of the Green-Red coalition, is similar. In Fischer’s opinion, there is no reason to be offended by the situation of German citizen Mohammed Haydar Zammar, kidnapped and moved to Syria by the CIA. His interrogation, conducted by the Syrian secret services, was “in accordance with the traditional methods used in that country”, as a communiqué from his ministry confirms. Why protest then if that is the tradition?
Florian Röller, a German philosopher and chief of the editorial staff of the journal Telepolis, expressed his indignation towards this position. Analyzing Fischer’s comments, he recognizes with regret that even the former leader of a party that defends moral values submits himself to the logics of the “war on terror” and accepts violations of human rights. For Röller, the fact that Fischer is a German citizen is an aggravating factor. But the issue is not only discussed in Germany.
In the United Kingdom, the expert on security affairs of the journal The Guardian, Richard Norton-Taylor, expressed his outrage about Tony Blair’s avoiding the issue of the transfer of prisoners. The author reveals what is hidden by the absence of a British commission to investigate the issue of the secret transfers of prisoners to CIA secret camps and the use of torture against British citizens,: if the Blair administration tries to avoid all judicial investigations while the United States tries to relegate the issue to a second level through declarations of principles it is because in no case should a debate that may put into question the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States be favoured. However, there is a clear violation of the British judicial system, based on the evidence and the habeas corpus, elements that are questioned by Washington’s military, political and legal initiatives. Without criticizing the actions of the European countries, writer Salman Rushdie denounces in The Age the manipulation of language that makes torture acceptable also to make what is abominable acceptable. It all began by modifying the words to later modify the logics and the practice. They do not speak of “exporting torture” but about “transfer of prisoners”, in the same way that they spoke of “ethnic cleansing” before to name the “massacres”. Showing clarity, Rushdie foresees that these practices will escape legal sanctions and he demands, at least, moral condemnation.
Not using the word torture has its purpose. Many commentators thus reject the accusation by saying that the United States is a democratic country, where the rule of law prevails. However, reality is very different: the United States currently uses torture and, thus, is not a democracy, but this fact is too embarrassing to be accepted. Let us then speak of interrogations justified by national security needs and let us evaluate its reliability: Lebanese citizen Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi was sent to be tortured by the Egyptians; he gave “evidence” of the links between Saddam Hussein and Osaama bin Laden, an assertion that proved to be completely wrong. But, as Robert Sheer recalls in AlterNet, “we should not pay attention to the conclusions of the majority of the experts in torture who explain that the method is not effective as the one who is tortured only says what they want him to say. In the case of al-Libi, torture worked perfectly to obtained precisely the necessary evidence needed to launch a long-desired war”. In Gulf News, lobbyist James Zogby expands his reflection on torture to the anti-democratic treatment given in the United States to thousands of US citizens who are native of the Middle East after the September 11 attacks. Massive arbitrary arrests, harassment, opening of police files… a “shame” whose main consequence was the destruction of any trust between the US secret services and immigrants. This does not help in strengthening the security of the country.
For his part, former candidate to the Slovenian presidential elections, Slavoj Zizek, shows his concern about the way in which the mind s of the people are being conditioned to accept torture through television programs like 24, which does not hesitate to establish a comparison between Nazi propaganda and the heroes portrayed in the small screen. The public has been conditioned to accept that certain situations authorize ignoring law and using torture in the name of a cause. In this series, they specifically present the case of Alan Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard, who is a legal advisor to the Israeli government and who has linked the use of torture to the right of self-defence. Television thus shows that our ethical criteria have changed.
Let us say that the television series 24, broadcast in the United States by the Fox network, owned by Ruppert Murdoch, a pro-Bush media magnate, recently took an ideological turn. After its fourth season this series follows the lines and policies of the neo-conservative Vulgata and has changed from a series that justified the actions of a Democrat president who fought against internal conspiracies in the United States aiming at legitimizing energy wars, to a series that is more adapted to the lines of thinking of the Bush government.

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