But, Technically!

In the face of George Bush’s “non-denial denials” (Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate term) regarding torture, the British have so far bettered us in calling things by their right names.
Bush sidesteps questions over prisoners’ torture, The Financial Times, 6/11/04 (article)
…when asked whether he had authorised the use of aggressive interrogation techniques to fight the war on terrorism, Mr Bush resorted repeatedly to a legalistic formulation: “The authorisation I issued was that anything we did would conform to US laws and would be consistent with international treaty obligations.”….
Mr Bush was given several opportunities on Thursday to state his opposition to torture, but instead said that his administration was instructed to stay within the letter of the law….
The phrase consistent with has indeed stood out in a wide range of recent Administration and military statements. That and the phrase treat humanely have been insisted upon repeatedly.
It is sometimes possible to guess the silent rationalizations that are embedded in such angular terminology. Here are my guesses.
Consistent with. Suppose you claim the Geneva Conventions forbid the torture of POWs and of ordinary civilian detainees, but don’t really cover terrorists and enemy combatants. And suppose you go ahead and torture the latter two categories. You wouldn’t want to say you were following the Geneva Conventions. After all, you were not required to torture them. Still, your torture would be consistent with the Conventions.
Treat humanely. On this one, I can almost hear the Senator rise: “If you allow innocent women and children to die in a terror attack, just because you were a bit too finicky to put pressure on a terrorist, do you call that humane!?”
(One thing I want to reply is: And how many of these hundreds of cases have truly been of that kind? Another is: Well, if it is right, defend it!)
Meanwhile, we don’t have much to go on. Hopefully, we will soon discover what they have been thinking to themselves, as they crossed their fingers behind their backs – juvenile mendacity, given flesh and blood to play with.