Danner: Revealing The Truth About Torture Is ‘Debilitated…By The Practices Of The American Press’

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"Danner: Revealing The Truth About Torture Is ‘Debilitated…By The Practices Of The American Press’"

On Sunday, journalist Mark Danner revealed a previously secret International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report, which concluded that the Bush administration’s treatment of alleged al-Qaeda captives “‘constituted torture,’ a finding that strongly implied that CIA interrogation methods violated international law.”

As The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan noted yesterday, when the Washington Post wrote up the report, they “put the word torture in quotation marks.” Appearing on CSPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, Danner took the press to task for engaging in a “semantic debate” over whether the U.S. committed torture under the Bush administration.

“One can continue to talk about torture is in the eye of the beholder, etc etc, but frankly, nobody of any legal reputation believes that,” said Danner. Later in the interview, he added that he was “frustrated by the practices of the press” that are “interfering with a clear debate”:

DANNER: I think the definitional question is extremely important, and as I mentioned a moment ago, I think it’s extremely important to get by it already. We’re debilitated in that by some degree by the practices of the American press, frankly, which is that as long as the president or people in power continue to cling to a definition that they assert is the truth — as President Bush did when it came to torture, he said repeatedly the United States does not torture — the press feels obliged to report that and consider the matter as a question of debate.

Watch it:

Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald wrote in November, despite the ample mountain of evidence that the Bush administration authorized torture, the media “mimicked the Orwellian methods adopted by the administration to speak about and obfuscate these matters.” In a New York Times op-ed on Sunday, Danner wrote that the ICRC report now means “we can say with certainty” that “the United States tortured prisoners”:

What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact.

But despite the evidence of this certainty, traditional media outlets still dance around using the word torture. Andrew Sullivan calls this the “the cowardice of the MSM.” Danner calls it “ridiculous” and “a fallacy.”

Transcript:

DANNER: That definition is extremely important coming from the International Committee of Red Cross. One can continue to talk about torture is in the eye of the beholder, etc etc, but frankly, nobody of any legal reputation believes that. And this is a view put out by the last administration, there’s quite an extensive record of it, of the strategy of putting this out. And it would be quite salutary if the United States wants to actually get to the point where it can discuss these things sensibly and investigate them effectively, and decide whether the decisions that were made by the Bush administration after the attacks of 9-11 made sense for national security. It would make sense if we could get by this semantic debate, which frankly has become somewhat ridiculous, and actually talk about what is done. Because the Administration clearly believed they had to do these things to protect national security. Now one can debate whether it was necessary, what information was derived, whether it indeed protected the country or not, but one cannot debate at this point whether or not these things constituted torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law because they plainly did.

[…]

DANNER: I think the definitional question is extremely important, and as I mentioned a moment ago, I think it’s extremely important to get by it already. We’re debilitated in that by some degree by the practices of the American press, frankly, which is that as long as the president or people in power continue to cling to a definition that they assert is the truth — as President Bush did when it came to torture, he said repeatedly the United States does not torture — the press feels obliged to report that and consider the matter as a question of debate. The fact is thought that the current administration does not hold to that view; that its Attornery General, Eric Holder, in his confirmation hearing said bluntly, Waterboarding is torture; and the government of the country no longer disputes that these activities were torture. … So the idea that this is something that’s disputable and who knows, and maybe we can ask someone else’s opinion and debate this — it’s just not true, it’s a fallacy. And I’ve become somewhat frustrated by the practices of the press. And this isn’t to cast doubt on the bona fides or skills of individual reporters; it’s really a matter of practice, that you need to present both sides. But I think at this point this is interfering with a clear debate.

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