Here's New York Times editor Bill Keller's latest rationalization for why torture isn't torture when the U.S. does it:
Q. The article today says the documents "are largely silent about the use of the harsh interrogation tactics at Guantánamo." Why does The New York Times continue to refuse to call torture by its name? — Aaron Dome, Chicago
A. Some of the interrogation methods may fit a legal or common-sense definition of torture. Others may not. To refer to the whole range of practices as "torture" would be simply polemical. — Bill Keller
That bit about "some of the interrogation methods" is a new one; apparently the Times is incapable of mentioning "torture" unless it occurs in perfect isolation from any other tactic? So as long as U.S. interrogators ask one polite question, they can pull out the thumbscrews the rest of the time? Man, all these rules!
Fortunately the rules are much simpler and the word is no longer "simply polemical" when it's being used to characterize the actions of designated enemies:
The BBC report adds to testimony from Libyan opponents of the Qaddafi government as well as refugees fleeing the country that Libyan security forces have routinely tortured those in their custody.
And it's also perfectly acceptable when describing the excruciating pain of being forced to sip wine for 30 minutes as your friends carry out over-elaborate food presentation, as in a recent Diner's Journal article titled "Our Friends Torture Us with Fancy Plating" (I'm sure we can all sympathize). Though in fairness, "Our Friends Inflict Harsh Tactics On Us with Fancy Plating" really doesn't scan that well.
I realize some people may criticize Keller and the Times for this, but I for one appreciate them providing us with such a simple and reliable way of determining that they're still boot-licking stenographers of power, since the day I see a Times article that actually calls recent U.S. actions "torture" is the day I'll have to consider subjecting myself to the pain of reading their articles in full (though I'm guessing my bigger concern will be how to dodge all the flying pigs).