August 20, 2008

John McCain Was Never Tortured by the Vietnamese

In a post today, Andrew Sullivan applies the Bush Administration's definition of torture to Senator John McCain's well-known experiences as a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War. In applying this simple, but elegant, thought exercise, he thoroughly eviscerates the president's claim that "We don't torture" in a few short paragraphs:
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?
Of course, some will argue that Senator McCain also had his arm broken while in captivity, but we all know how the overzealous application of "enhanced interrogation techniques" can turn out, right? You know, kind of like the men who were mistakenly killed at Abu Ghraib prison and Bagram Air Base.

I certainly don't always agree with Mr. Sullivan, but this is a brilliant post, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

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