The Former Vice President Throws Junk

Here is a key part of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s statement concerning the torture-related documents just released (with lots of parts blacked out and therefore not released):

“The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.”

In baseball, the fundamental pitch is the fastball, the idea being that if the fastball is fast enough, the batter’s reflexes will be unable to catch up with the pitch. In a way, it’s the most honest pitch.  Deception enters the pitching game with the curve-ball, the slider, the split-finger fastball, and so on.

Pitchers who just don’t have a speedy fastball (by definition, they have slowball) tend to rely on deception, on trying to make the ball curve, spin, and jump so that the batter will overlook, so to speak, the mediocre velocity.  Traditionally, such pitchers have been characterized as relying on “junk.”

If truth were speed, Dick Cheney might be accused of pitching junk today, and batter Eric Blair (George Orwell) would probably be forgiven for hitting the former Vice President’s pitch out of the “yard”.

Unfortunately, those who are inclined to believe anything Cheney says will swing and miss.

“The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda.

Orwell would spot the passive voice immediately (“individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation”). Subjected by whom?  Orwell would also probably cackle at the cluster of euphemisms: “subjected to,” in place of slapped, beaten, threatened, drowned, abused, starved, kicked, terrorized. “Enhanced Interrogation” in place of “torture.”  If Cheney thinks torture is all right, he should say “torture.” The euphemism is the equivalent of a “tell” in poker.  He’s fudging.

Ah, but the logical gem? “The people Americans tortured provided the bulk of intelligence about al Qaeda.”  This statement asserts no more than that the persons questioned divulged information. The statement says nothing about the efficacy (let alone the legality or morality) of torutre. However, Cheney knows that people who relexively agree with his position will not process the statement that way.  They’ll do the semantic conversion for him and nod their heads and think, “Yup, torture works, so it’s all right.”

But Cheney was unable even to throw that fastball. All he could manage was a screwball, or a spitball.  Basically, he’s just arguing that “the people we had in custody provided important information”–as opposed to the people we didn’t have in custody.

After all the posturing in the last few months, this is all Cheney can manage? This is all he can throw?  In baseball, they’d say, “He’s got nothin.’ He’s got no stuff.”  Junk.

–Which tells an alert listener and reader that the documents, “redacted” (whatever) though they may be, don’t, in fact, support Cheney’s earlier claims.

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