Slam dunk

The “mystery” of whether the U.S. uses the notorious torture technique known as “waterboarding” is no mystery.

Vice President Dick Cheney says we do, though not in so many words. He’s so coy.

Torture is a technique of desperation and cruelty, used by cruel and desperate people the world over for countless centuries. Here in America, prior to Sept. 11, we thought we’d risen above such base brutality. For one thing, it’s stupid. Torture rarely, if ever, results in actual hard intelligence – the person being tortured will tell his inquisitors just about anything they want to hear just to get them to stop hurting him.

As a way to get accurate, actionable information, torture of any kind is simply unreliable and a waste of time.

And yet … in spite of the president’s and vice president’s protests to the contrary, the U.S. now tortures captives.

“Waterboarding” is just one of many techniques.

This is desperation. Faced with failed policies abroad and at home, with a war in Iraq that is – to put it very gently — a fiasco, the Bush administration has moved past intelligent intelligence gathering to the low, brutish methods once reserved for witch-hunters and the Inquisition, hoping to find something – anything – that will justify taking America to war against a weak nation, slaughtering thousands and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

President George Washington, after having captured British troops, carefully and concisely told his officers and men not to mistreat the captives, in spite of the fact that the British threw gravely wounded and untreated American prisoners into jail with common criminals. It was a matter of principle; Washington didn’t want Americans to stoop so low.

President George W. Bush isn’t concerned with such issues.

Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney agreed with a radio interviewer’s assertion that “a dunk in the water is a no-brainer if it can save lives,” though he hasn’t since explained exactly what he meant by “a dunk.” Surely the administration isn’t providing detainees with vacations to Club Med.

So perhaps Cheney meant a walk off the plank? Or someone’s head forced into a toilet until he talks?

Cheney won’t say, so it’s a short leap of the imagination to waterboarding. Such “dunking” — and other forms of torture — is un-American, the kind of mindless brutality that no civilized nation, certainly no democracy, should be undertaking. It shames all Americans and puts all of us at risk of the same treatment by our enemies, particularly those of us who serve in the military.

That, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, is a slam-dunk.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has an excellent and informative post up about our accepted policy of torture under the Bush administration. Definitely recommended reading.

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