An open admission by NPR that American Exceptionalism precludes the capacity for the U.S. to torture.
Guy Nelson (KUOW Seattle’s "The Conversation"):
"What about then when NPR describes techniqed used in foreign countries? For example, there was a recent news report about a, I believe he was reporter in some African country, who was detained and tortured by people there. So are the standards the same when describing torture done by Americans, or by other despots?"
Alicia Shepherd (NPR Ombudsman):
"Okay, well um, I imagined you would bring that up. There was a piece on "Tell Me More," an NPR produced show, with Michelle Martin the other day, and it was an interview with a journalist from Gambia who had been put in prison and tortured, and the word ‘torture’ was used. In that case, um, he was, these were strictly tactics to torture him; to punish him. Uh, verses in the United States these are tactics used to get information. The Gambian Journalist was in jail for his beliefs."
When "we" torture it’s for emergent and vital reasons, but when "they" torture it’s out of pure brutality and sadism. The veracity of even the characteristics ascribed to "we" are empirically false. We don’t torture just to extract information:
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month
- Major Charles Burney Confirms Torture Was Carried Out to Get False Iraq-al Qaeda Link
- Senate Armed Services Committee Report: Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody (warning, huge PDF)
Beyond the intellectually and factually bankrupt idea that we only torture for information gathering, or whatever other purpose deemed necessary; is it not the case that virtually every act of brutality and torture, institutionalized or otherwise, has also been predicated on claims of necessity, or minimized through banality? Which regime in modern history of even the most despicable and brutal nature just comes out and says, "Sure torturing these people is completely unnecessary, but where would be the fun in stopping?"
Even in the case of Saidykhan (the Gambian journalist) and others, the government of Gambia upholds the dire necessity to detain and harshly interrogate dissidents due to the grave threat to government security brought about by traitors and agitators.
This position taken by NPR is not only ridiculous, but is also destructive. Built in to this mindset is the deep integration of the idea that torture is not defined by the action; only by the motive. The argument taken up by NPR can be, and historically has been, used as a means to justify grave human rights abuses, and to skirt accountability; because after all it’s okay to slice someone’s genitals, so long as all you’re trying to do is get information out of them. According to the editorial staff of NPR, it’s not torture when detainees are brutalized, humiliated, or literally harshly interrogated to death. Why? Because we’re the ones doing it to them, and our motives are, if not good and pure, at least critically necessary and justified. Not like those barbaric Gambians.
I have spent the better part of a decade supporting NPR and my local affiliates through contributions. That officially ended yesterday, and I sincerely hope that others will place the same pressure in an effort to prevent our public broadcasting from becoming just another PR agency for government prerogatives and obfuscation.
My National Public Radio Boycott begins.
Cross-posted at Open Salon