Friday, January 2, 2015


On January 1, Popular Resistance published an article, titled, “Leading Historian on US Torture: How to read the Senate Report.”
“Perhaps more importantly [than its reference to so many iconic cesspits of human suffering,] its details have purged that awkward euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques’ from our polite public lexicon. Now everyone, senator and citizen alike, can just say ‘torture.’”  It could join that cheerful Nancyism: “Just Say No” to an advancing army of U.S. inspired anodyne remarks as in “Just Say No to Torture.”

But language is powerful. It determines how we see things, and its daily use perpetuates that world view.  Now we need language that links cop-on-black-while-breathing crimes with torture. Here I want to make the case in our brave new lexicon for “enhanced cardiac arrest.” It is a term that serves multiple purposes. For law enforcement, it allows that happy sweeping-under-the-rug that U.S. politicians from “presidents” down to lowly and insignificant members of congress so deeply favor.

At the same time, it calls a spade a spade (no offense intended here). It includes the value-neutral word “arrest”—which is what law enforcement legally gets paid to fill as its daily quota, with such occasionally unfortunate results as slogan-bearing t-shirts reading “I Can’t Breathe”—and “cardiac,” which, as an uncompromising qualifier, describes what these value-neutral felicities regretably do. Witness Eric Garner, who had the unfortunate luck to be held in an excessively tight embrace by Staten Island, N.Y.’s finest. It has the potential of making everyone happy. And deeply troubled people unhappy. As such we could revel in its ambiguities, while overlooking its actual power. 

Because, for all its slimy equivocation, “enhanced cardiac arrest” has the heft to link torture with law enforcement wherever it occurs: on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, on the by-ways of Staten Island, in the barrio of Los Angeles, with what happens in Pelican Bay, what happens in Immigrant Detention, where over 106 persons have simply disappeared, a significant percentage of such deaths listed by coroner’s report as “asphyxiation,” and what happens in Abu Graib, Camp Zero, Guantanamo, Cuba, and obscure black sites in Egypt, Poland, and wherever else the Empire likes to stick its ugly finger.

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