I truly believe that 50 years from now historians will look back on the Bush presidency as a stain on our nation's history– like what we did to the Native Americans, internment of Japanese during WWII, etc.  Iraq aside (which is saying a lot), Bush's presidency represents a complete and disastrous moral failure.  Why the harsh words this week?  Torture.  George W. Bush has shown himself to be the torturer in chief.  Earlier this week, I listened to former U.S. Army interrogator, Tony Lagouranis discuss his new book about his experiences in Iraq, Fear Up Harsh.  Lagouranis had no doubt that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used were genuine torture.  Callers to the show (and my own students in a later conversation) questioned whether extended time in stress positions and subjection to hypothermia, etc., were truly  torture.  If you have your doubts, I ask that you simply remain squatting with no opportunity to move at all for the next few hours.  Then try it wet in a 50 degree room.  As for whether this is torture, the simple fact is the U.S. Government long ago decided this was torture when the Nazis and the Soviets did it.  In fact, our “enhanced interrogation” techniques, as our mendacious president calls them, were taken directly from the totalitarian Soviet regime.  A 1956 U.S Government report minced no words in declaring such techniques torture.

If you are not convinced by the utter immorality of this and follow the line that Al Qaeda chops off heads, any thing short of that is fine (if you  believe this, please, please, do not call yourself a Christian), you should at least be convinced by the fact that this stuff does not work!  As the New York Times recently reported (link via In These Times, as the NYT article has gone subscription):

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing
interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies
are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist
attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the
Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years
after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create
an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other
high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods ?
possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al
Qaeda ? are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Lagournais spent a year using this techniques (and damaging his own psyche) and ended up convinced they yielded no valuable intelligence.  An independent scientific review now likewise suggests this is just not a good way to get an intelligence.  One of the authors of the NYT story had a very interesting Fresh Air interview on the topic earlier this week, well worth a listen.  Finally, I'll give anti-torture crusader, Andrew Sullivan, the last word from his tour-de-force post on the matter last week:

prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing,
waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung],
withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in
cells for days on end – all these have occurred at US detention camps
under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred
documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions…

is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The
experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by
Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone
through them disagree. They describe:

Dreadful pain
in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only
laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The
heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.

Yes, this is an account of someone who went through the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Dachau. (Google translation here.)

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of
being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political
system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is
a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and
defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the
past. The very phrase used by the president to describe
torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture – “enhanced interrogation
techniques” – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques
are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as
war-crimes. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

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