The narrative that still lives in the minds of many Americans about the torture program of Bush and Cheney is exemplified by Pat Boone's simply uninformed column in the Christianist site, WorldNetDaily. Let's unpack it a little, shall we? Item one:
When Dan Rather and CBS obtained classified photos of reprehensible actions at Abu Ghraib and plastered them all over the world, they were committing near treason in a desperate effort to bring down George W. Bush. They knew that the military had already stopped those actions and initiated punishment, and it was being handled "in house," appropriately. But CBS exploited them anyway, with no regard to our country's image.
If you read the Senate Armed Services Committee report, you will discover that the torture and abuse techniques we saw in those photos from Abu Ghraib had been approved by the president, tested at Guantanamo Bay and moved to Iraq, as torture became the central intelligence-gathering tool in Bush's war. Far from having been ended by early 2004, they were being entrenched in a forward-looking program in 2005, as the OLC Memos show.
Item two in sentences addressed directly to the president:
May I tell you that my own mama inflicted more actual physical pain on me and my brother Nick raising welts on our butts with a sewing machine belt when we got really out of line than any of the techniques, including "waterboarding," that detainees of the U.S. military have endured. Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed endured it supposedly 183 times, experiencing no lasting damage, but divulging information that has saved thousands of American lives. How can you compare his gasping feeling of drowning with the actual torture John McCain suffered in North Vietnam, breaking his bones and impairing him permanently?
Some facts: John McCain disagrees with Boone that waterboarding isn't torture. And McCain broke his bones before captivity. The torture McCain suffered was the Vietnamese refusing to offer medical treatment for his injuries - something George W. Bush directly wanted to do with respect to the wounds of Abu Zubaydah. McCain was beaten repeatedly, also routine for prisoners under George W. Bush. McCain was also subject to solitary confinement - check - and roped stress positions. The stress positions Bush authorized were mainly not ropes, although prisoners were stretched from shackles preventing them from resting. President Bush refrained in his speech backing McCain's nomination in 2008 from describing McCain's treatment as "torture." He couldn't. He used the term "beatings and isolation". If he had used the term "torture", he would have been conceding that he believes the US committed torture under his command.
I do not know the details of Boone's childhood. But my best guess is that he was not stripped naked by strangers, thrown into a dark and cold cell for weeks, shackled so he could never rest, kept awake by insistent deafening noise, doused in water to induce hypothermia, told no one would ever see him again, and strapped to a waterboard and near-drowned scores of times.
And the passion of the resistance to believing the truth is directly related to the gravity of the truth. I understand why Boone is distressed that America is now deemed a country that practiced torture as one of its core values, and that its former vice-president regards this as something of which to be proud. But Boone's issue is not with Obama, who merely has to inherit this disgrace and try to keep fighting a war while ending it. It is with Bush and Cheney, who violated the law of man and the law of God in disgracing this country for ever.