A small note about this description of what happened at Abu Ghraib:

the mindless cruelty of a miscreant handful of soldiers.

But what we saw at Abu Ghraib, we now know, were exactly the techniques that McCarthy supports: stress positions, abuse short of torture, sexual humiliation, religious abuse, and all the other techniques the Pentagon approved to break down resistance to giving up information. It was cruel, but it sure wasn't mindless. It was designed to soften inmates up before interrogation - to prevent and stymie an insurgency whose victims numerically overwhelm those of 9/11. The new regime at Abu Ghraib in which such "mindless cruelty" took place was installed by General Geoffrey Miller who had been personally dispatched by Donald Rumsfeld to "Gitmoize" the place.

And this is what I don't understand: doesn't McCarthy support many of the techniques revealed at Abu Ghraib? I don't mean the rapes and murder. I mean the abuse short of torture. What, in McCarthy's eyes, is wrong with shackling prisoners hands and feet to the floor, or stripping them naked, or sexually humiliating them, or walking them around on a leash? It's not torture, right? It was prepping interrogation targets by breaking down their psyches in advance. And it was part of the system of interrogation set up by Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. Isn't that actually milder than the policies McCarthy actually favors, like waterboarding?

To put it more bluntly: It seems to me that those who are making a fine distinction between "torture" and even waterboarding - and allowing waterboarding - have no logical basis for objecting to what we saw in many of the photographs at Abu Ghraib. Or rather their only objection must surely be that the techniques were not adequately professionalized and were allowed to leak, or were somehow inflicted by the wrong people. But the techniques were fine, right? We are at war, right? And yet McCarthy cannot quite say he endorses them. Why not? He's not becoming part of the "revisionist Left" is he?

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