Talk:Enhanced interrogation techniques/Archive 4

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It is my position that the lead reflected by this chnage violates NPOV. The article as it presently stands has been posted on the Neutrality Noticeboard for comment here: [1]. In the meantime, I would like some sort of justification for consensus purposes as to why the version of the lead that states that EIT is a "euphamism for torture" should remain, and how this reflects wp:npov. Thank you.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 07:43, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

I'm glad you're pushing this. It's a point that needs to me made.
The word "euphemism" cannot be used in any way other than to express intent. To use the word "euphemism", Wikipedia is asserting that the lawyers who approved EIT know these things to be torture. We've got some Spanish judge who's putting together a case, and there are some extremists here and in Europe who like to pretend that these lawyers were lying, but the sane world isn't buying it. That Spanish judge isn't getting anywhere, and most of those extremists don't really oppose torture anyway.
Even among those who claim waterboarding to be torture, most of the cooler heads (there are a few, after all) say that those CIA and Bush administration lawyers simply erred on where they draw the line. Therefore, it's not a euphemism. To call it one is POV.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 15:20, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
I too prefer not calling these techniques torture, as if it were an undisputed fact. I think respect for our readers should have us stick to reporting what can be verified, and respecting our readers' intelligence and judgment, and allowing them to draw their own conclusions. I see quoting or paraphrasing referenced WP:RS on the question is okay. Perhaps, because this is so central to a discussion of the techniques, it belongs in the lead. If the lead ends up being short, perhaps it doesn't. But I favor not describing the techniques as torture, except in a referenced quote or paraphrase.
Cheers! Geo Swan (talk) 17:04, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
The problem is that many incidents are indeed undisputedly torture -- waterboarding being only the most proemently and undisputed of these. And as such, failing to report the nature of the deeds is a breach against various Wikipedia policies. Rama (talk) 17:45, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Then do what Geoswan suggests (and believe you me, we have got into some whopping disagreements on these subjects before), and describe the specific "examples" as such based on reliable secondary sources. You are using by your admission specific "incidents" that you state were torture, and then using these incidents to describe all use of these techniques as torure, which is factually and intellectually incorrect. That is not NPOV, Rama. See also WP:UNDUE.Yachtsman1 (talk) 19:04, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
In this specific case it isn't really about whether or not EIT is torture. It's about whether or not those officials who came up with the term believed it to be torture when they gave it that name. By calling it a "euphemism" Wikipedia is claiming that they deliberately lied.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 19:46, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
The techniques have been called torture techniques. Limited quoting of authorities who call the techniques torture is okay. But the technique is not "indisputably" torture because verifiable WP:RS do dispute it. Good faith wikipedia contributors dispute it too. Out of respect for those good faith wikipedia contributors who, personally, partially or totally dispute whether EIT were torture, yet hold off on editorializing to that effect in article space, I have an obligation to challenge unreferenced assertions in article space that the techniques were torture.
I think if we work on a fair, accurate neutral coverage of a topic, and then we read something that shows one of our readers read what we contributed, and drew a conclusion different than our own, we should not think of that as a failure of our intelligence, writing ability, persuasive powers. One day we may change our minds and decide we were wrong all along, and that they were right to disagree. Or they may know something we don't. We might agree with them, if we knew what they knew. There are some other perfectly reasonable explanations why an intelligent person might draw a conclusion different from our own. Really respecting our readers means really respecting their right to draw conclusions different from our own. And, persuasion is not really consistent with NPOV. Geo Swan (talk) 21:15, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
The "techniques" have been called torture by all possible autorities, and the only relevant source who dispute the fact are those implicated in the incriminated actions. By a large number of Wikipedia standards (NPOV, UNDUE, PEACOCK, etc.), it is torture and must by stated as such. Rama (talk) 21:39, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Uh, no. Your own sources differentiate techniques and label some as torture and others as not being torture on a case by case basis.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 01:56, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes of course, just like the treatment you would have expected from some French paratroopers in Algiers in 1959. And because some paratroopers used some techniques that constituted torture, it is said that the French tortured in Algeria.
Frankly, your suggestion that absolutely all instances of ill-treatement should be proved to be actual plain torture for a torture system to be allowed to be called as such is astonishing in the extreme. Rama (talk) 07:08, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

Not really understanding the objection here. Is someone seriously claiming that "Enhanced interrogation techniques" is not a euphemism for torture? This either means the word 'euphemism' is not being understood or... I don't know. It strains WP:AGF to the breaking point. We already have many Wikipedia articles about these various torture methods. Frankly this article should probably just be replaced with a simple redirect to Torture. Dlabtot (talk) 23:12, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Whereas asking us to prove a negative is... I don't know. The point is NPOV, the reasons are stated above, if you have a point that the statement that EIT is a "euphamism for torture" is a NPOV, please so state. Thank you.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 01:47, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
That is not proving a negative, you can provide instances very easily. For instance, Dick Cheney argues vociferantly in favour of these "techniques" (though I agree that he does not seem to be very concerned about whether this is torture or not, only that the USA should practise it).
The point is that these people constitute a tiny fringe of people who are usually either irrelevant (Rush Limbaugh), or involved in the facts (Cheney et al.).
Wikipedia's NPOV is not "One minute for Churchill, one minute for Hitler". We have to give due weight to the respective points of view, not state them as equivalent. I understand that our American friends of far-right-wing or extreme right-wing opinions are exposed to fringe viewpoints that distort their perceptions of what is a widely accepted opinion, but this is very much akin to Global Warming: a very tiny minority of people still argue against it, but the point is widely accepted anyhow; in consequence, the Wikipedia article presents the thing as a fact, and rightly so. Rama (talk) 07:08, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
The problem is that the people who consider EIT to be less than torture are far more than a tiny fringe. There are conservatives who do and liberal/progressives who don't. Secondly those who were involved in the Bush admin are no less valid than those sources who are/were not. You keep insisting that the source be uninvolved, as though that matters for some reason. A prominent source is a prominent source. Furthermore, everyone who takes public stand on the issue is involved in the debate and thereby involved in whether or not it was practiced. So it is a meaningless distinction that a source was involved in the facts (Cheney et al). WP:UNDUE says that an insignificant minority is one in which there are virtually no prominent adherents. Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, etc are all prominent adherents. So is NPR (see my link above in the "lead" talk section to NPR's ombudsman declaring that it is not apparent that EIT is torture). So is the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK, which declared waterboarding torture but not the rest of EIT. Also so is the European Court of Human Rights declaration in a 1977 case between the UK and Irish detainees subjected to harsh interrogation, which declared the methods (called by the ECHR the "5 techniques") inhumane and degrading but not torture.Walterego (talk) 12:58, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
In from the WP:NPOVN. I think the current wording is acceptable, that merely states them as techniques and then goes on to give a cited partial list of those calling them torture. "Euphemism" may be accurate, but we have neutral wording that serves the point as well, IMHO.--SarekOfVulcan (talk) 18:20, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, but the people who consider waterboarding, beating to death or hypothermia not to be torture are indeed a tiny fringe.
I said nothing of the people involved in the Bush administration, I talked about people involved in the tortures of the Bush era. These people are attempting to avoid prosecution for war crimes, their opinion cannot be considered to be unbiaised -- if it ever could anyway. Rama (talk) 16:08, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
So? The people on the other side aren't unbiased either. They're a bunch of politicians and left-wing activists. They have a history of looking the other way when their own friends and allies support actual torture.
Be serious. The EITs have clear limits. No one said that "beating to death" was okay.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 03:05, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Again, it's only a euphemism for torture if those who invented the term believed it to be torture. Considering that they went to lawyers to tell them the dividing line between harsh techniques and actual torture, it's very unlikely to be a euphemism.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 18:55, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Why do you keep repeating yourself? A specious argument does not gain validity with repetition. Dlabtot (talk) 20:04, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
No one has denied the point. You may claim to believe that these lawyers secretly think it's torture but you have no evidence for that. If the five techniques were legally ruled not to be torture then it's reasonable for other lawyers to honestly hold similar opinions about similar techniques.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 23:31, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
We know for a fact that in their mind, these "techniques" are
  • "special"
  • painful
  • of a nature to break one's will
Whether they have the courage to face this as torture or not is quite irrelevant to the facts. Trinquier advocated torture without saying the word, it didn't make French torture in Algeria any less torture for that matters. The same can be said of all States and groups who ever practised "clean" torture. Rama (talk) 16:15, 13 July 2009 (UTC)
The fact that something is "special" doesn't mean it's torture.
Pain has a definition. I don't think any of these methods are extremely painful in the clinical sense.
Breaking one's will doesn't require torture either.
As the European Court of Human Rights said (again, of the five techniques), something can be harsh, and perhaps unlawful, but it takes a "particular intensity and cruelty" to reach the level of torture.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 03:05, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
What you think is irrelevant and, quite frankly, of very little interest. In this precise case, the level of your argument is particularly low. As I told you before numerous times, when I want to read apologies for torture, I read them from notably people like Trinquier, not from random people like you. Rama (talk) 08:02, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
That doesn't answer my point, nor does it dismiss the opinions of ECHR. I'll be the first to say that ECHR is only a comparison, and it doesn't have standing here, but it is a real legal opinion, and it's more relevant than that of "human rights" groups. It's also more relevant than your opinion.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 16:35, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

I find it useful when considering how to cover controversial issues like these is to consider how I would like to have seen slavery covered if large scale industrial slavery was still legal in the USA. There was a time when slavery was widely accepted, and, IIUC, abolitionists, at least those willing to run the underground railway, were considered kooks. If I were an abolitionist in a culture like that, I would like to be able to expect pro-slavery wikipedia contributors to fairly present the abolitionist references, without regard to how obviously incorrect they thought those abolitionist POV to be.

Our policies require us to suppress our opinions of what is obviously correct. If we have no WP:RS that state what we think is obviously correct, that view has to go unrepresented in our article. Geo Swan (talk) 20:53, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

One immediate problem is arguing over which one of us would represent the pro-slavery side. :)
I do like your point. Slavery was legal, and its definition was clear. All we have here is the opinions of various POVs: some of them strongly biased, none of them in a U.S. court case about EIT, few of them with knowledge of the precise limits, and most of them are about waterboarding, which had failed to be made illegal as recently as 2006.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 19:48, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
  • CONSENSUS MET: It appears that consensus has been met. The techniques shall be described in the opening as "interrogation methods", with critics characterizing it as "torture". Thus, both sides are presented evenly, and the torture arguments are provided their portion of the article. NPOV has therefore been achieved. Thank you, I consider this matter closed.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 15:20, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
That's not quite the end of it. We still need to cull the references on those who claim EIT is torture. Some of them aren't about EIT. The first one (about the U.N.) is more general. They try to say the use of dogs to scare prisoners is torture. That's not EIT.
Ideally, it would be nice to separate those who say waterboarding is torture from those who say wall standing is the same thing. Mixing them is not fair to the true human rights advocates.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 16:35, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

I strongly object to this purported consensus. The arguments of Rama et alii have simply been ignored. There is no middle ground on this issue, there is no neutrality. You can either call it torture or not, and if you don't, you condone those horrible crimes. International law is crystal clear on that, and outside of the criminal groups that created and implemented this policy, there is not a single noteworthy source claiming them to be anything but torture. Wefa (talk) 23:58, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Thank you for your point of view. I would hardly call it "neutral". "Neutral" means the article is presented in a balanced manner that incorporates all views, not the absolutist version I see above. Again, thank you.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 02:15, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
well, thanks for the niceties, but that doesn't change the fact that you have stated a consensus that does not exist, and that you have since done a series of edits which cleanse the article of factual references to the term torture and bring it in line with Republican newspeak.
And you do that with a brazen ignorance towards any moral authority and without any deference to international law and standards. The convention against torture is crystal clear, and most of the techniques fall under it. Furthermore, beyond the limits of the officially proscribed methods the enactment of these had a general effect of brutalizing and permitting other torture activities in various places; issues that have been extensively documented since. The insistence of you and randy2063 that no one dare call it torture is revolting before that background, and reminiscent of the practices revisionists of various genocidal regimes (like Neo Nazis or apologists for the Turkish Genocide against Armenians) use.
I (baselessly) assume you are Republicans, and I assume you voted these criminals into office. If that is so, bow your heads in shame and learn for the future, but do not abuse Wikipedia to provide justification for your Party's Government's grave errors and crimes. (and don't ascribe partisan motives to me, I'm not even a citizen of your country, and entirely uninvolved in its politics).
Beyond the formalities of policies and strive to achieve neutrality there is a fundamental mission and duty for Wikipedia - to tell the truth. The truth here is that techniques constituted torture, and that the Bush government ran a extensive and long lasting torture system, which reeked of permissiveness and lax enforcement and which was sanctioned and encouraged by most elements of the hierarchy, a system with black prisons, hundreds of prisoner deaths, "disappeared" persons and a long list of other evils. And the so called EIT were the policies at the heart of this abyss, the festering ground upon which all those evils could develop.
Currently, the intro paragraph isn't neutral. It gives 100% of your position, namely, that all of this was legal and well and just, and that nobody really is to blame. Calling this NPOV is a, at best, an act of self deception. And worse yet, the intro isn't only not neutral, it is a lie, too.
It does not tell the truth.
For this reason, the opposition will not go away. Not in real live, and not here.
For you, there is no way to achieve a NPOV. Not until you start adjusting your moral compass and seek the truth above your need to see partisan illusions approved. Not before you accept the UN's and the ICRC's statements on torture over the scribblings of John Yoo, and trust Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU, the National Lawyer's Guild over the likes of Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.
More practically, I suggest to reinstate the intro the way it ways before, including the words torture and euphemism where appropriate. Alternatively, it might be helpful to just rename the Article to "The Bush Governement Torture Controversy" or some such, thus removing the pretention of fact on the first paragraph, and then rearrange the intro accordingly. Wefa (talk) 19:32, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your passionate feelings on the issue Wefa, but there are some big misconceptions there, the main one being that "the convention against torture is crystal clear". Actually the convention against torture is really vague. That is where the whole dispute about what interrogation methods it permits and what it forbids began. It defines torture as "SEVERE" physical or mental suffering. But what suffering is "severe" and what suffering is less than severe? It's really in the eye of the beholder. By qualifying suffering with "severe", the convention allows for some reasonable amount of suffering, such as imprisonment, restricted diet, isolation, restraints etc. No prison is without suffering of some kind. So where does treatment cross the line from random mistreatment to systematic torture? With waterboarding and maybe a few of the other methods it depends on circumstances and variables like duration and intensity. With most of the other methods the line never is close to being crossed. The problem with the word torture is that it is such a subjective label. The most truthful thing to do is to present the methods and leave it up to the reader to decide for himself whether this crosses the line into torture. Why is this so hard to accept? You would think that the article was describing EIT as pleasurable. Declaring EIT to be unquestionably torture is just as POV as unilaterally asserting that is cannot possibly be called torture by anyone. Walterego (talk) 08:41, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
You assert that the lede gives 100% of the RW position, actually if it did that it would state up front that every one of the EIT are definitely not torture and are completely permitted by the convention against torture. That's not what it does, it says that these are methods which some people consider torture, which is simply the most accurate way of putting it and is fair to both the LW and RW perspectives. Pushing a moral agenda on wikipedia makes finding consensus and objectivity even more difficult, because your moral judgements are not those of everyone else (BTW I am neither a repub nor did I vote these so-called "criminals" into office, so that's another misconception dashed)Walterego (talk) 08:41, 5 October 2009 (UTC)


I made this change. The text said "captive", but the wikilink was to "unlawful enemy combatant". None of the captives had been designated an "unlawful enemy combatants" when they were subjected to the techniques.

The 2004 Combatant Status Review Tribunals, in Guantanamo, did not designate any of the captives as "unlawful enemy combatants", merely garden variety "enemy combatants".

Salim Ahmed Hamdan was the first captive to be designatated an unlawful enemy combatant in late 2007, by the Presiding Officer of his military commission. Ali Al Bahlul, the other captive to be convicted was designated an "unlawful enemy combatant", in 2008. I don't think any of the other captives' who face military commissions have had theirs progress to this first step. Geo Swan (talk) 16:54, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Let's compromise. How about skipping the legalese, and simply describe them along the lines of "those captured and held by the United States". Skips the legal distinctions, voids the predictable arguments for or against, but makes the point rather nicely.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 19:07, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Fine by me. Geo Swan (talk) 21:16, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Done.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 01:51, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

Legality Section

Original research from primary sources. This should probably be either eliminated or heavily edited to secondary sources. Any thoughts on improving this section? Thanks.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 19:56, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Most of the International law subsection addresses the subject of the law but it goes overboard in trying to prove its point without a firm backing. It ends with a quote from Marty Lederman that fits better in the U.S. law subsection.
I can't help but compare that to the five techniques. That article has the advantage of being written years after various authorities gave their conclusions. Some say it crosses the line, and others say it doesn't. It doesn't even try to bring in UNCAT.
Along similar lines, it might be better to simply say what legal conclusions have been made, and what hasn't.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 20:27, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
This whole article needs a massive liposuction job. We've alas been bogged down in keeping the lead NPOV, but the rest is filled with editorializing, tangents, and original argumentation. Seriously trimming the legality section would be a good start. Tyuia (talk) 02:36, 12 July 2009 (UTC)
I tend to agree. Any other suggestions on how the article can be improved, Tyuia? --Yachtsman1 (talk) 15:23, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, just from the top, the WP:LEAD should be trimmed. Even one block quotation seems out of place, let alone two, and it should talk about the context of EIT before listing people's and group's opinions of them. The SERE section should be reduced and/or merged into some kind of history section... the long list of SERE techniques is particularly out of place as it's not even claimed those are all used in EIT (although it seems intended to be implied). Also, the War on Terror section doesn't seem to really be about the War on Terror at all (apart from the trivial fact that it's the backdrop for the entire article); its subsections seem to be different arms of the government. The "official positions and reactions" aren't mostly about positions, and there is one section about reactions that could probably be detached, and merged with Criticism, and maybe with the calls for prosecution and.... I don't even know how to begin. Maybe just start cutting out obvious flotsam? Tyuia (talk) 11:57, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

Don't forget that Wikipedia should have a global perspective. If pro-torture editors inside the U.S. would like to whitewash this part of recent US history, the rest of humanity are much less forgivning. The damning criticism from everywhere outside the US is the majority opinion according to WP NPOV rules. MaxPont (talk) 09:41, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

The five techniques were ruled on in Europe as not fully being torture. You could consider that to be part of that "global perspective".
But nobody wants anything whitewashed. The rest of the world spent much of the last eight years sniping at the American fight against fascism. We do need to ensure that those who defended fascism are never forgotten. That's why the incessant criticisms need to be remembered, and their names do belong in this article.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 15:39, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

I removed it. If anyone wants to re-add it, it should be with the use of reliable secondary sources. I agree, by the way, that this entire article needs a trimming of the first order. In response to Max, Wikipedia is not a battlefield. This is not a situation where one side is trying to nefariously "whitewash" anything. Criticism is warranted, but this is not a pulpit for unsupported conjecture from the "global" POV. The article should meet scholarly standards, and it does not at this time. Thank you. --Yachtsman1 (talk) 03:27, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

@yachstman1: would you please clean up your mess? After your series of edits this morning the article had at least 6 broken references, not to mention a few textualized html tags and at least one piece of text that makes not much sense where it is.

I started fixing it, but after seeing the extent of this I've decided I'm not your cleaning person; especially given the type of work you are doing here. So, please at least do Wikipedia the favor to not technically break its articles. Thanks Wefa (talk) 19:33, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I noticed it as well. The sources that are broken were originally from the lead. I am working on it at present.--Yachtsman1 (talk) 19:53, 27 July 2009 (UTC)


I'm just curious, in how many cases US paid compensatons for people who have been tortured and turned out to be innocent??? Is there any legal way that people hurt can demand justice??? (talk) 20:23, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. pays compensation for wrongful damage, or when innocents are killed or injured by U.S. forces. The Haditha killings were one example of this where the innocent were paid, but not for the eight who were believed to be insurgents. (Of course, they all claim to be "innocent" but we don't take their word for it.) I wouldn't call it "justice" though, as this is a war.
None of those given EIT by the CIA (30 to 35) are innocent. The military's EIT are less distressing and shouldn't require compensation if done as authorized. I suppose that compensation may have been paid in cases where crimes were committed by guards or interrogators, but only for those detainees determined to be innocent. They don't go by the "innocent until proved guilty" standard of proof.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 02:19, 24 September 2009 (UTC)


While it may be non-NPOV to say that "'Enhanced interrogation techniques' is a euphemism for torture", it is not a euphemism to say that "'Enhanced interrogation techniques' is a euphemism for procedures adopted . . .".

To the contrary, this use meets the precise definition of euphemism, which is (according to the OED) a

figure of speech which consists in the substitution of a word or expression of comparatively favourable implication or less unpleasant associations, instead of the harsher or more offensive one that would more precisely designate what is intended."

There is no lack of neutrality in using this word per its definition if there is no suggestion of the disputed meaning (i.e., torture versus non-torture physical interrogation techniques).

Of course, it is not a euphemism to refer to such techniques as "rough" or "harsh", so I have made it clear that such terminology is not labeled as euphemistic.

Bongomatic 02:33, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

Wrong. I suggest you read the definition of "euphemism" closely when it says "would more precisely designate what is intended."
The CIA came up with the term. Therefore, it is their intent that matters, and no one else's.
The term is a euphemism if the CIA truly believes it to be torture. If they considered it to be something less than torture then it's not a euphemism. Every piece of documentation we have suggests they believed it not to be torture.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 03:21, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
No, you are wrong. Since "enhanced" doesn't suggest physical violence or coercion in any way shape or form, and it is used (intentionally, by the originators of the phrase) to describe techniques involving physical violence or coercion (I have no opinion whether such techniques constitute "torture") it is a euphemism. Indeed "enhanced" is a word generally with positive connotations absent from such words as "rough", "harsh", "violent", or "coercive". This issue is totally separate from the issue of whether such tactics could be described as torture. Bongomatic 04:17, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Bongo is correct. There is little doubt that, if the CIA coined the phrase, the intent is to soften the tone and present "harsh" methods as "enhanced" methods--that is, "improved." If the CIA truly believes that (some of) these methods do not constitute torture, they would do well to check these methods against commonly accepted definitions of torture and of certain methods involved in these interrogations. From the UN to John McCain, there is wide agreement that some "enhanced" methods do constitute torture, and whatever the CIA's beliefs (a strange thing to talk about, since the CIA is not one person and anyone's beliefs are hard to judge by someone else) it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is indeed a euphemism, even if, as Bongo says, one disagrees that waterboarding, for instance, is torture. Drmies (talk) 14:42, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
As I interpret Bongo's argument, he says it's a euphemism but not necessarily one for torture. I disagree, but its not an argument for reinstalling the removed sentence calling it a euphemism for torture.
It sounds like both of your positions presume the CIA uses euphemisms here for PR effect. That makes sense only if EIT were a publicly known program. It wasn't. The only ones supposed to know about it were those directly involved in its implementation, and a few members of the administration, and a few from Congress. They were all briefed on the specifics.
The name is indeed functional. The CIA probably had to come up with the term before they could agree on what would be permitted. They had to do this while knowing that actual torture would not be permitted.
As for "positive connotations," EIT is an improved form of interrogation. Its intent was to get better results, and to save lives (including innocent Afghans, women and children). That's very positive.
When they checked "commonly accepted definitions of torture," as you suggest, that would include the rack, the iron maiden, and jolts of electricity applied to the genitals. That's a far, far cry from waterboarding.
More methods that fit the definition of torture would be things like what al-Qaeda does. I suggest you look at all 12 pages. That's what real torture looks like. Waterboarding isn't on there.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 01:36, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Hi Randy2063. Thank you for taking the time to make a reasoned comment. You correctly surmise that my view of the term as euphemistic has nothing to do with whether the "enhanced" techniques may be considered to be torture--either under law, treaty, or common usage.
You imply that the CIA not having yet agreed on what would be permitted means that nobody knew that the direction would be towards harsh or violent techniques. That is not a reasonable implication. It is acknowledged and the record clearly reflect that it was a question of how far along the spectrum of violence to draw the line, not a question of which of thousands of potential techniques, some of which are benign and some of which are not, to adopt. This is not only factually the case, but logically as well--techniques that don't fall near the line of unacceptable treatment of prisoners that are more effective at generating useful information would have been adopted in non-exigent circumstances, not only post 9/11.
In any event a euphemism need not be inaccurate to be a euphemism (although the preponderance of expert opinion seems to be that the "enhanced" methods are in fact less effective than others). Neither does the euphemism need to be for PR--it also is for the comfort of the day-to-day users of the euphemism, and a variety of other reasons. I don't think the dictionary definition or common use presupposes the specific audience substituted phrase. Bongomatic 02:00, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
We don't disagree on that much here (other than saying that the techniques were less effective than conventional ones, which I don't believe at all). You make a good point that euphemisms are also for internal comfort. But naming conventions in the military (and I assume the CIA) are often functional and dry-sounding. It would still be called "enhanced interrogation" because the added functionality is what the field agents had been asking for. We just don't have any real evidence that it's intended as a euphemism.
I did not mean to imply that no one thought it wouldn't include rough treatment. But the intent is what matters, and that was to get more information. Roughness wasn't a requirement. They'd have used drugs, technology, or trickery if it met the requirements. Take the "walling" method, for example. It makes for an appearance and sensation of very rough handling but it's relatively benign.
Had the lawyers stopped at walling, the set of techniques would still be called EIT.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 03:48, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
If even John McCain says waterboarding is torture, then waterboarding is torture. Period. And even secret CIA programs require some sort of fiat from government officials, so there is always an audience for the euphemism, even if it is a president or a secret committee and not the readership of a newspaper. You can bring in Al-Qaida all you want, but that is a strawman argument: they are not the subject of discussion here, and invoking innocent Afghans to justify the term "enhanced" is not a matter for a Wikipedia talk page. Drmies (talk) 14:53, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
If John McCain came in to edit Wikipedia, he'd still need firm references. His is only one opinion. He's extremely sensitive to this issue but he's not a lawyer.
It doesn't matter here, though. John McCain didn't say EIT is a euphemism.
Yes, I've conceded that there is always an audience for a euphemism. It's an extremely small audience in this case, and most of those will have been briefed on what goes on. That's pretty weak as euphemisms go. But as I said above, the CIA would have come up with the term "enhanced interrogation" before they decided what techniques could be included. Therefore, it's not a euphemism for torture.
The only references we had that call it a euphemism are left-wing critics of the U.S. whose "opposition" to torture is merely opinion based on political convenience. They have no authority in saying the CIA intended it to be a euphemism.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 03:48, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
Nothing in any definitions of euphemism I've seen (including the OED one) requires any specific intention. It's just the substitution of words. Narrative in Wikipedia need not be referenced (indeed, if every word is quoted then it's called a copyright violation). As the definition of euphemism doesn't imply deception, bad faith, or anything beyond its definition (Princeton wordnet gives "peepee" as an example—hardly think that parents are trying to mislead their kids about its real meaning), there is equally no POV associated with its use. Bongomatic 04:03, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
It doesn't matter. The fact is that EIT appears to be an official name. A real euphemism would be if they called it "counseling" or something like that.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 19:55, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
"...most of those will have been briefed on what goes on"--that's OR. You can't possibly know that. "the CIA would have come up with the term "enhanced interrogation" before they decided what techniques could be included"--that's OR also, as well as putting the cart before the horse. To put it mildly, it is extremely unlikely that they would come up with a term, and then, ex nihilo, invent some methods that would fit that bill. As Bongo says, euphemism is the proper term, and it does not make it POV--to suggest that this has anything to do with being left-wing or "political convenience" is pretty ridiculous. Not everything in the world is opinion. The dictionary is not--unless your dictionary of choice is Urban dictionary, of course. Drmies (talk) 05:39, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
What do you mean *I* can't possibly know? The real truth is that none us here know.
For one thing, it is most likely that they came up with the term first. We do indeed know from reporting that all this started when interrogators expressed the need for improved methods. That went back to the CIA leadership, and then through the lawyers, and finally to the leaders again for final approval. It's highly unlikely that the name came after the methods were all listed.
It's quite possible that Waterboarding may not even have been on the list when the term EIT was first named.
Calling it a euphemism is OR. It certainly cannot be a euphemism for "torture" if the people who named and approved it did not believe it to be actual torture under the strict legal definition.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 19:55, 2 October 2009 (UTC)
Drmies, how is it that if John McCain says that something is (or isn't) torture, then it definitely is (or isn't)? McCain wasn't subjected to waterboarding, he was subjected to real torture. Waterboarding is at worst torture-lite. It's the diet cola of torture (relax, just kidding). Waterboarding doesn't cause severe pain. Waterboarding has the effect of causing intense panic and thereby short term mental suffering, but just whether the suffering is severe or not is debatable. The US waterboards its own military personnel, so if waterboarding caused severe mental suffering then they should be experiencing lasting psychological trauma. But that doesn't seem to be the case. McCain experienced physically agonizing torture that obviously met the definition of torture as defined by the UN - "severe pain or sufering", but that doesn't make him an expert on the mental damage done by waterboarding. Even if he was, there are plenty of people (though granted they are not the majority) who disagree with him.Walterego (talk) 22:15, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
See waterboarding; "an act usually identified as torture". Lapsed Pacifist (talk) 22:57, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
Correction; it's been reverted to the long-standing consensus of "Waterboarding is a form of torture". Lapsed Pacifist (talk) 00:16, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
Citing a toxic biased WP page doesn't really help your case.
Even if we were to import that mess from the Waterboarding article over here, it's still phrased wrong. Waterboarding was only authorized for the CIA, and not for U.S. military interrogators. The current text is wrong even for people who like to claim they oppose waterboarding.
Regardless, the word "euphemism" is still OR. We know that critics of the U.S. side of the war like to call it that, but there's no evidence whatsoever that the CIA came up with the term as a euphemism.
BTW: Using scare quotes for "War on Terror" has always been a clear giveaway that a page is biased to the unhinged left. It lets readers know what they're getting.
-- Randy2063 (talk) 01:45, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
LP, it is a popular opinion that waterboarding is a form of torture, that is not the issue, the issue is that this is not universally believed to be the indisputable truth. The article on Waterboarding would have been more NPOV, more objective and less like propaganda had it included the qualifier "usually identified as" rather than asserting baselssly that waterboarding is unquestionably torture. It is questionable, because the waterboardee doesn't necessarily experience severe pain and may not suffer severe mental trauma. In many ways it depends on the frequency, intensity, and duration of the waterboarding session. The waterboarding article contains a whole lot of different descriptions of waterboarding, the big difference being how much air is the waterboardee allowed to breathe in, how much water is used, and whether he is beaten during the session, which isn't allowed during waterboarding by the US interrogators. So whether it is torture is dependent on the conditions of the session.Walterego (talk) 01:18, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
Another important point about John McCain is that waterboarding is strongly associated with Cheney and Rumsfeld, whom McCain was openly antagonistic towards politically. He applauded Rumsfeld's resignation openly, and I have often read that he privately loathes both Cheney and Rumsfeld. The 2006 congressional ban on waterboarding that he coauthored was generally seen as a political repudiation of the two by McCain. Which doesn't necessarily mean that McCain doesn't think waterboarding is torture, but it illustrates the inherently politcal nature of such a subjective and emotional term.Walterego (talk) 01:18, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

←Can someone please split this thread? The question of whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" is a euphemism is unrelated to the question of whether the techniques do or don't constitute torture. Bongomatic 01:42, 7 October 2009 (UTC)


He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. (talk) 20:09, 12 December 2009 (UTC)