People are fond of saying words have meaning, and indeed that’s true. Perhaps this notion of changing the use of words to serve a political purpose is something that’s been going on in America for some time, I don’t know, but with the onset of the war on terror, the politicization of words, applying them or changing them to mean something else and with a different value has been stark. The first instance that comes to mind is the use of the word “insurgent” in place of the word “resistance fighter” because the latter signified opposition to American imperialism which in all of its form and substance is intended to be benign and beneficial for the people on whom it is imposed while the former was meant to signify an illegal opposition to authority, in this case ours. Of course that is a subjective application of words, with a definite western leaning lexicography and Americans eventually applied the term to all who fought against American and Iraqi forces on the ground which by default meant they were enemies of the State. It was a nifty trick which seeped into our consciousness and made it possible for us to feel good about ourselves while fueling a rage for a people we went both to liberate as well as fight.
Now comes word of the change from the use of the word “torture” to “enhanced interrogation”. In an attempt to deny history the chance to note the United States as a country that used torture, which is in and of itself criminal, many in media are now using words that don’t signify American culpability in criminal behavior. Glen Greenwald does an excellent job dismantling this bizarre slow evolution from an America that used torture, and lied, to forge a new Iraq to a country that “interrogated: suspects, and I strongly recommend you read his piece here and here. That the media seems to be in lock step with this idea that torture doesn’t apply to what America does, but only to what our enemies do is nothing less than historical revisionism that puts the proponents of that idea on the same level as those who question the Holocaust or those who assert present day America has the right to its exceptionalism; meaning the United States is somehow “above” or an “exception” to the law, even those laws which it drafts and codifies. The people who accept and pass on this change in the meaning of torture versus interrogation have made a mockery of themselves and the institutions they work for, ignoring all the treaties and laws the country has signed which obligates it to follow as well as prosecute those among us who break these laws. Any claim America has to moral relevancy or legitimacy is diminished each time we change the meaning of words through omission or otherwise to further political agendas that are not at all based in fact. It is only a matter of time, as America becomes increasingly engaged in wars of aggression, before the same rationale and language will be used by America’s enemies against us as they straddle and cross lines of legal and illegal behavior.