Polling euphemisms

Gallup came out with a poll yesterday that was – I thought – supposed to take the country’s temperature on torture investigations and related matters.  Here are the signature poll results:

That’s a rather pathetic showing.  And yet, I can’t help wondering… WTF is a “harsh interrogation technique”?  Is it when excitable teevee cop slams the pervert up against a wall until he gives up tells where the little girl’s body is?  Or is it when CIA spooks drown a clinically insane man 83 times in one month in order to establish a (patently false) link between Iraq and Al Qaida?  From the Washington Post review of Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3” — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

In conclusion: Get real, Gallup.  Asking the public about “harsh interrogation techniques” is not the same as asking about “torture”.  Quit polling the talking points.

P.S.  How’s this for a Freudian slip?