A reader has a literary insight into the current president and the creeping brutalism of the GOP:

On a long plane ride the other day I came upon a passage in James Bradley's "Flyboys" that you may not have seen, and that touches on the history of torture, how abberant this is for us. It's an account of the air war over Japan in World War Two, and about, among other things, the inhumanity of the Japanese captors towards American pilots. A downed pilot named Nielson remembers:

"I was given what they call the water cure. I was put on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. A towel was wrapped around my face and water was poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let up until I'd get my breath, then they'd start all over again. I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death."

As Bradley points out, this torture had been used by Americans in the Phillipines, to general scandal and American outrage; there's an account in Morris's " Theodore Rex". When news of these tortures, along with the execution-murders of American prisoners, reached the U.S., the headline in the TIMES ran:

"TOKYO STANDS ALONE AS A CRUEL CAPTOR IN DEFIANCE OF GENEVA CONVENTION."

The hero of the book is, of course, one of the flyboys who ran these risks of torture and killing at the hands of a government that defied the Geneva Convention: George H. W. Bush.