Wednesday, January 12, 2005

My Word of the Year: Extraordinary Rendition

The linguists are meeting in Oakland, a wonderful place for a conference, to select 'word of the year': 'wardrobe malfunction,' 'reality-based,' 'Santorum,' 'improperly-sourced' were among the candidates. My choice: 'rendition.' Both the term and the practice reveal just how far we have sunk beneath liberal-democratic standards of decency in the conduct of our ill-fated 'war on terrorism.' The term itself is a piece of legal bureaucratic gobbledeegook designed to obscure the shameful practice it names: secretly dispatching some alleged terrorist into the clutches of foreign torturers. (For an account of what it involves, see the cases of Maher Arar (more here) or Mamdouh Habib or Khaled el Masri.) It would be satisfying to pin this practice on Bush. But it was introduced under the Clinton administration and has involved the cooperation of a number of European governments (including Britain, Sweden, and Germany.)

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