I want to revisit NPR Ombudsman Shepard's tortuous and dishonest dance around NPR's refusal to call torture torture when it is committed by agents of the US government. She began her grotesque performance back on June 21, 2009 on her blog, and continued with an encore on June 30, 2009 (after getting schooled by Glenn Greenwald and 400+ commenters at her blog).
This may seem like rehashing old territory, but the subject came up as recently as last month when Shepard visited an unthreatening NPR station for an interview (something she's fond of doing). On WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show she reiterated core of her argument - which she has repeatedly stated in the past:
"I came down saying 'OK, try to avoid the word torture and try to describe exactly what was done and let the people decide'....I think that, again, that you describe it for what it is, and let people decide." [You can listen for yourself here. Her claim begins at the 39:50 mark and continues to about 42:00]As morally and intellectually bankrupt as this argument is, let's hold it up to scrutiny. In other words, when it comes to waterboarding, has NPR ever tried to "describe exactly what was done" or "describe it for what it is"? An article just published by Mark Benjamin in Salon.com provides a glimpse into how powerful such a journalistic approach can be:
- "The slant of the gurney helped drive the water more directly into the prisoner's nose and mouth. But the gurney could also be tilted upright quickly, in the event the prisoner stopped breathing."
- "...according to the Bradbury memo, could produce 'spasms of the larynx' that might keep a prisoner from breathing..."
- "The agency placed detainees on liquid diets prior to the use of waterboarding. That's because during waterboarding, 'a detainee might vomit and then aspirate the emesis,...'"
- "...the CIA forced such massive quantities of water into the mouths and noses of detainees, prisoners inevitably swallowed huge amounts of liquid....hyponatremia could set in....a waterlogged, sodium-deprived prisoner might become confused and lethargic, slip into convulsions, enter a coma and die."
- Searching "waterboarding" and "breathing" produces 2 stories, neither of which describes waterboarding in any detail whatsoever. Add the word "stopped" to the search and you get no stories.
- Searching "waterboarding" and "vomit" produces no stories.
- Searching "waterboarding" and "coma" produces no stories.
Stripped of her already compromised argument, all that Shepard - and NPR - have to offer is a position that is remarkably friendly to torture braggarts Cheney and Rove: "the Bush administration felt this was something they needed to do to get information to protect the country..." [Shepard again on the Kojo Nnamdi show explaining why it's not professional to call it torture].