Thursday, July 5, 2007

Eine Vernehmung By Any Other Name...

Americans who defend their President's embrace of "enhanced interrogation" either take a hard-ass approach--"hang the bastards by their balls" (an actual quote, by the way, taken from a comment by one PShannon, March 20, 2007, on the vile blog NewsBusters)--or a more sly doublespeak approach that righteously protests the identification of "enhanced interrogation techniques" with "torture." The bad guys torture, this line goes. Al Qaeda tortures. Saddam Hussein tortured. The Nazis tortured. We Americans--we don't torture. We use enhanced interrogation techniques.

A recent column in Andrew Sullivan's "The Daily Dish" puts the lie to this bit of sophistry. Sullivan notes that just before WWII erupted, the Nazis dreamed up a kind of interrogation they called Vershaefte Vernehmung. It was designed to leave no visible marks on the bodies of its victims, and included techniques such as starvation, sleep deprivation, stress positions and exhaustion exercises, isolation, and dunking in frigid water. If these interrogatory techniques sound familiar, they should. Vershaefte Vernehmung, after all, translates as "enhanced," "intensified," or "sharpened" interrogation.
The next time you hear somebody claim that US-approved "enhanced interrogation" isn't torture, tell them about Vershaefte Vernehmung and ask them if they're really comfortable endorsing techniques used by Nazis.