Friday, May 08, 2009

The NYT's definition of blinding American exceptionalism.

Glenn Greenwald has found an interesting obituary in the NYT. It's of an American pilot who was captured by the Chinese:

Harold E. Fischer Jr., an American Flier Tortured in a Chinese Prison, Dies at 83. . ..

From April 1953 through May 1955, Colonel Fischer — then an Air Force captain — was held at a prison outside Mukden, Manchuria. For most of that time, he was kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door through which a bowl of food could be pushed. Much of the time he was handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air. After a short mock trial in Beijing on May 24, 1955, Captain Fischer and the other pilots — Lt. Col. Edwin L. Heller, First Lt. Lyle W. Cameron and First Lt. Roland W. Parks — were found guilty of violating Chinese territory by flying across the border while on missions over North Korea. Under duress, Captain Fischer had falsely confessed to participating in germ warfare.

So that's torture now? To use the prevailing American mindset: a room that doesn't meet the standards of a Hilton and some whistling in the background is torture? My neighbor whistles all the time; does that mean he's torturing me? It's not as though Fischer had his eyes poked out by hot irons or was placed in a coffin-like box with bugs or was handcuffed to the ceiling.

Also, using the editorial standards of America's journalistic institutions -- as explained recently by the NYT Public Editor -- shouldn't this be called "torture" rather than torture -- or "harsh tactics some critics decry as torture"? Why are the much less brutal methods used by the Chinese on Fischer called torture by the NYT, whereas much harsher methods used by Americans do not merit that term? Here we find what is clearly the single most predominant fact shaping our political and media discourse: everything is different, and better, when we do it. In fact, it is that exact mentality that was and continues to be the primary justification for our torture regime and so much else that we do.

It really is extraordinary how easily the NYT - and, to be fair, the Hannity's and Limbaugh's and O'Reilly's of this world - can clearly see actions done to their citizens as torture whilst ignoring far more egregious crimes committed by their own president.

It's one of the things which has most amazed me about this entire, "Is waterboarding torture?" debate. The US has prosecuted people for doing this. That ought to put the entire debate to rest. And yet, I have had people come on here and argue that the US waterboards differently from the way the Japanese did it. As if there are obviously humane ways to drown people which the savage Japanese never availed themselves of.

I mean, even the Drudge Report notes that the Reagan administration prosecuted a US Sheriff for waterboarding someone.

And yet, when it comes to the Bush administration, we all have to pretend that such things are not torture, but we are asked to still be outraged when other country's commit far less heinous acts on citizens of the US.

This is American exceptionalism at it's finest. "Do as we say, not as we do. For when we do it, we are fulfilling a higher purpose because we are inherently good."

It's almost infantile in it's stupidity and immorality. And yet that is considered a serious position by some elected US officials and their counterparts in the US media. Which is why the NYT made that boo-boo today.

The fact that they were being hypocritical didn't even occur to them.

Click title for Greenwald's article.

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