In all the discussion of John McCain's recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?
According to the Bush administration's definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured.
Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of "long-time standing" that victims of Bush's torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely "enhanced interrogation."
No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the "intelligence" we have procured from "interrogating" terror suspects. Feel safer?
I don't intend this as a specific hit against McCain (though it's clear Sullivan has a position on the veracity of his wartime claims), whose record on torture is appropriately condemnatory, but as scathing commentary on the lax nature of the current administration's attitude toward torture. Personally, I'd rather have a couple of fingernails torn out rather than suffer systematic sleep deprivation, or any of the other psychological torments that Bush and Cheney find perfectly humane.