It’s Not Torture

Republished from July 5, 2010

The Associated Press owes China an apology according to Glenn Greenwald this morning, that is if the press continues to follow the Bush regime’s definition of what constitutes “torture”.

China sentenced an American geologist, Xue Feng, to  eight years in prison for spying and collecting state secrets. During his detention, Feng was tortured as the article points out by

stubbing lit cigarettes into his arms in the early days of his detention.

But, but…according to John Yoo of torture memo fame:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture (under U.S. law), it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

(emphasis mine)

So why, as per Glen, does the AP owe China an apology? Heh. Hypocrisy, thy name is the “Press”.  

 The last few days there has been some controversy over statements by The NY Times Executive Editor, Bill Keller, eschewing the use of the word “torture to describe techniques such as waterboarding so as not to appear to be “taking sides”. Mr. Keller’s statement was in response to a Harvard study pointing out that newspapers had stopped calling certain techniques “torture” at the request of the Bush administration even though they had been labeled such for over 100 years.

But it has been pointed out that is what the press and the NYT’s did by acquiescing to the Bush request and using euphemistic labels such as “enhanced interrogation techniques”. The Keller was thoroughly chastised for tis lame excuse by Andrew Sullivan, Greg Sargent and Adam Serwer for this false argument.

The Chinese government repeatedly denounced and denied using torture:

During the U.N. review of China’s human rights record on Monday (Feb. 9), Chinese delegate Song Hansong of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said that use of torture to obtain evidence was a criminal offense and that China had “established a comprehensive safeguard measure against torture in all our prisons and detention facilities.”

   “China is firmly against torture and would never allow torture to be used on ethnic groups, religious believers or other groups,” Song said.  

Greenwald concludes that AP owes China an apology

Given the standards of Good Journalism prevailing in the U.S. media, as taught to us just this weekend by high-level executives at the NYT and The Washington Post (and previously at NPR):  what right does AP have to “take sides” in this dispute by substituting its own judgment about “torture” for the Chinese Government’s?  Beyond that, given that the U.S. Government has officially adopted a definition of “torture” that plainly does not include a few cigarette stubs on an arm, shouldn’t that preclude any Good Journalist from using the term in this subjective and biased way?  I hope AP will be apologizing to the Chinese shortly for its act of journalistic irresponsibility.  It’s not the role of journalists to take sides


  1. home made sign is

    It’s not torture

    when we do it!

    Hand drawn on poster board in my garage waiting for the next Tea Party rally to be held in my town.  I’ve got my own tri-corner hat to. I figure they’ll put me right up in front.

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