A reader writes:
One should hardly expect President Bush to know - or, more to the point, even care - about the legal definition of "torture." Indeed, his choice (and it is a choice) to gloss over the most troubling aspects of the fight against terror with simple equivocations and inane "quotables" makes me wonder if he is truly interested in how the current war(s) are being fought.
I happened to open up Black's Law Dictionary to see how torture is defined within that legal tome. The Dictionary quotes James Heath, who notes "By torture, I mean the infliction of physically founded suffering or the threat immediately to inflict it, where such infliction or threat is intended to elicit, or such infliction is incidental to means adopted to elicit, matter of intelligence or forensic proof and the motive is one of military, civil, or ecclesiastical interest."
I would pay a month's worth of salary to see Bush define torture in such a way.
He gets to decide the dictionary as well. Another adds:
I think you have misread the significance of Bush's exchange regarding the definition of torture. He knows that one definition of torture is the use of "severe mental or physical pain or suffering" to elicit information. However, he believes that the applicable definition, as created by his administration in secret, is something different. He can't provide his definition publicly, because it would amount to admitting guilt of war crimes under international law. But by stating simply that torture is defined by US law, he can avoid stating which law applies: statutory laws passed by Congress or secret laws made up by him. And this is far more shocking than plain ignorance.