The Real America

I am often accused of hysteria by the Bush-blogs on the question of torture. I hope they will read this moving account of a recent attempt to organize reunions of those in the Greatest Generation who were ordered in World War II to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war for vital intelligence. They wil not mention it, because the only defense now viable for what we have discovered is silence. As befitting their generation, the World War II interrogators kept their word and divulged nothing for decades about what they did or did not do to get information from their captives. But their silence is being broken in outrage at what the Bush-Cheney administration has done to American honor in its adoption of torture as a central plank of government policy. Here's what Americans do with respect to captured enemy combatants:

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

Blunt criticism of modern enemy interrogations was a common refrain at the ceremonies held beside the Potomac River near Alexandria. Across the river, President Bush defended his administration's methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects during an Oval Office appearance.

Several of the veterans, all men in their 80s and 90s, denounced the controversial techniques. And when the time came for them to accept honors from the Army's Freedom Team Salute, one veteran refused, citing his opposition to the war in Iraq and procedures that have been used at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The current Republican party supports the torture techniques once honed by the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge and the Gestapo's and Tenet's "enhanced interrogation". Yesterday's heroes were made of different stuff:

"We did it with a certain amount of respect and justice," said John Gunther Dean, 81, who became a career Foreign Service officer and ambassador to Denmark.

The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor.

"During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."

Of course not. They are Americans.