The definition of “semantics” mentions political propaganda.

Here’s a headline from yesterday’s New York Times:

Waterboarding Not Legal Now, Justice Dept. Lawyer Says

I opened the article with a twinge of optimism.

Steven G. Bradbury, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, seemed set to shake up one of the fiercest debates in Washington today by offering a clear and concise statement about the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

‘’There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law,’’ he says in prepared remarks for a House hearing today that were obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

Bradbury proffered all the words necessary to reach the conclusion stated in the headline, but only if you’re anxious to accept the assurance you’re looking for at any hint of its existence. Sadly, Bradbury is not stating that waterboarding, or any other torture technique, is illegal. He left open the government’s option to later make the determination of whether or not current law permits torture. (I weep for my country that I must write that sentence.)

Non-answers like this are a fundamental aspect of politics. The Bush administration is only the current, flagrant example. It is why rules restricting government should be as specific and as clear as possible. Such rules should be as extensive as necessary to prevent any uncertainty.

Only waterboarding three detainees is still three human beings too many. The Bush administration is populated by war criminals. They must be prosecuted. And every excuse-peddler in government who helps to support such crimes must be shown the door.

A hard-hitting question or twenty from journalists wouldn’t hurt, either. Lapping up the Bush administration’s persistent line of crap is damaging.