Little Black Lies

Senator John McCain, who might be the next President except the Republicans will never nominate him, wants to pass a law against the use of torture by all American government employees, Army, Navy, CIA or Department of Agriculture. So far so good.

Vice President Dick Cheney, whom the Republicans would dearly like to see as the next President but do not dare nominate, wants to exempt the CIA and dark and dirty agencies from the no-torture law. Not that the CIA and its friends call what they do to people torture. They have names like "enhanced interrogation techniques" for the use of the thumb screw and the rack.

That's OK. There are times when you don't want to call a spade a spade. But the problem with dressing up torture in Orwellian euphemisms is that nobody's buying it. Far from suggesting stern but humane treatment, such language calls up pictures of Joseph Stalin's Lubyanka prison where the KGB posed their questions with hot pokers and called it instructions in Marxist-Leninism.

Even the OGP, the Cheka and the KGB, initials given to the Soviet version of the Gestapo at one time or another, had the political sense to try to keep their interrogatory methods a secret. The secret got out, as secrets do when you let too many people in the fact that you're playing 20 questions in dark basements.

The CIA gets this and therefore has been doing its more robust grilling of who knows who in secret out-of-the-way locations around the globe, where the screams of the torturees are less likely to be heard.

Alan Dershowitz does not understand this. He can be seen on TV espousing torture. He revels in convincing us of the necessity of pulling fingernails out and putting electrodes on the genitals.

We are not coarse, crude and barbaric enough? We must teach youth that cruelty and degradation of others is OK if done under the palladium of the stars and stripes? People of the Cheney-Dershowitz school who push the legalization of torture bring American civilization to the cracking point.

If torture you must, do it secretly and lie about it. And keep on lying regardless of how often the vile facts are exposed. Torture is bad enough. Admitting it is worse.

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