Back in the Bush years there was a great movement to end the torture.  I researched a little so I could write intelligently about it.  As a former West Point Applicant, I have always been a student of the military. I heard about General George Washington’s stance on it (one of our Founding Fathers). His officers had come to him after they had heard the treatment of prisoners on the prison ships (POW) in Boston and New York harbors.  The conditions were so bad in the foul ships, for most it was just a matter of time before they died (even without direct torture—they basically rotted to death).  The English Army for more than a thousand years tortured, raped and killed civilians and rebels among the Irish, Welsh and Scots.  In the movie “Braveheart” they ‘Draw and Quarter’ William Wallace and this was the quick humane execution of the times (in the movie they rape his girlfriend so “British seed can take hold”).  Other things were much more gruesome.  So American officers had no illusions about the known and very real cruelty of the British.  Yet, General George Washington realized that our whole revolution and bid for freedom and equality would be in vain if we stooped to revenge and the very tactics of our enemy.

Dick Chenney is the big proponent and defender on what was done in the Bush Administration with torture (he is also a convicted war criminal in the courts of Spain).  Although convenient to do when combating a terrorist problem; it was totally ineffective (military officials say that someone under torture will just tell you what you want to hear even if they just lie to do it).  It was against everything this country stands for as well as our history since 1775 (as well as, the Code of Military Justice, the precepts of the United Nations and International Treaties).

In World War Two, we did not torture despite both the Nazi’s and Japanese doing so for years before we entered the war (Japan starting in 1930 in China and later Korea).  Because our enemies were torturing before we did, there could be an argument made for the “legal”justification of it—but we never made that argument.  The Nazi’s and Japanese were very cruel and if there was ever a time in our nation’s history that we needed to go over the line on torture—this was it.  Besides the “sneak” attack on Pearl Harbor in many people’s minds erased the necessity to “fight fair.”   So all-in-all we ran a pretty good clean operation especially when the enemy is so clearly defined as subhuman (and therefore justifies “by whatever means necessary.”).  But we didn’t torture and we still won.  Plus, we were able to prosecute war crimes at Nuremberg.  If we had tortured, we couldn’t morally sit as judge and jury…..

This is Thom Hartman’s take on torture:

Conservatives are freaking out about the Senate torture report, and nowhere are they freaking out more than on Fox So-Called News. Host Andrea Tantaros, for example, went on a crazy rant after hearing that the report was being released and repeated “America is awesome” over and over again.

You know, you’re right. Andrea. America is “awesome.” America is “awesome” because it was founded on liberal Enlightenment values that to this day are shared by most or all of its citizens, right, left, or anywhere in between. But there’s nothing “awesome” about torture, especially the kind of torture that the CIA was using on detainees during the Bush years.

I mean, have you even read the Senate’s torture report, Andrea? It’s terrifying. Some detainees were beaten and left to freeze to death in the cold. Others were forced to wear diapers or walk around naked in chains. And that’s not even the worst of it. Some detainees were also forced to undergo a painful and medically unnecessary process known as “rectal feeding.”

Here’s how the Senate’s torture report describes the rectal feeding of one detainee named Majid Khan:
“Majid Khan was then subject to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration, which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan’s “lunch tray,” consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was “pureed” and rectally infused.”
That is disgusting, and so fundamentally at odds with our founding values it’s just astonishing.

After the Battle of Trenton in 1776, General George Washington went out of his way to stop his soldiers from torturing their Hessian mercenary prisoners. His order banning the mistreatment of prisoners is still relevant today. It reads,
“Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.”

That’s what America should stand for, but thanks to the Bush administration, our moral standing has been badly compromised. Which is exactly why releasing the torture report – or at least the executive summary of that report – was the right thing for the Senate Intelligence Committee to do.

The talking point among Republicans now is that the Committee has “hurt America’s image abroad” by publicizing its findings about the CIA’s torture program. But that’s just not true. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

Our image abroad was already bad because it’s common knowledge that we tortured people. All the Senate Intelligence Committee did by releasing its torture report was admit that what we did was wrong and, in a really graphic way, make it clear that torturing people is at odds with who we are as Americans. And contrary to what you might hear over on Fox So-Called News, coming clean about your mistakes and saying they conflict with your values is a great way to increase your standing in the world.

Just look at South Africa. During apartheid, it was a pariah state. But after apartheid ended and the new multiracial government held a truth and reconciliation commission to look into the crimes of the old regime, South Africa was welcomed back into the world community with open arms.

The truth is that the people who say they’re worried about how the Senate torture report will ruin America’s reputation abroad are really just worried about how that report will ruin the reputations of Bush, Cheney and the other war criminals who got us into this mess.

So whenever you hear one of those fools say, “We’re ruining America’s reputation by coming clean about torture,” translate that in your brain to “We’re ruining Bush and Cheney’s reputation by coming clean about their torture programs.”

This whole discussion really just comes down to one simple question: Are we going to stand behind American values or stand behind the Bush administration? Either American values are right and George W. Bush was wrong, or American values are wrong and George W. Bush was right. You can’t have both.

You have to pick one, and by releasing its torture report, the Senate Intelligence Committee picked American values. That’s a big step in the right direction.

– See more at:

WHM: Interesting about the Battle of Trenton, because the victory was so complete but the ragtag force battling the cold really had to do a lot to take prisoners.  It would have been so much easier to put them all to death.  I can see Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales making that decision.

WHM: Some other notes about torture:
In the founding of this country, our commanding general in the revolution, George Washington,
was approached by his officers who asked for permission to torture British prisoners. The British used torture-to-the-death for both soldiers and civilians—even women. They were particularly gruesome in their treatment of prisoners and often piled on thousands into prison ships in New York harbor—almost no one survived being a prisoner. Washington decided that a country founded on freedom was better than its enemies and we would not torture. In fact, we would befriend the prisoners and give them the same food and drink that our own soldiers had. This made it easy for the Hessians to surrender at Trenton in 1776. Had they the Hessians fought the British, who tortured, they would have had to fight to the death instead.

In all of our wars, this practice saved much bloodshed. Wars ended earlier.

In World War II, we were challenged again by the Japanese whose cultural practices could not understand or accept surrender. Yet, we did not torture and held those accountable who did torture through the International Courts. The Japanese used waterboarding against Americans. Many times Americans guess what their captors wanted to hear and they made up information to give them. So how effective is torture?

Nations around the world adopted our practices. To torture now, although convenient—would jeopardize our moral standing in the world. We broke the vicious Japanese and Germans with kindness at their trials. They realized a compassionate democracy was more powerful than any dictatorship or religion.

John McCain is a soldier at heart and incapable of viewing war as a citizen. He is really trying to re-fight the War in Vietnam and win it. A war that was un-winnable as it became a jungle guerrilla war. An un-winnable occupation as the Iraq War has become. McCain cannot let go of his past to accept the future. He cannot accept the fact that we have lost the war in Vietnam just as the Soviets lost the ten year war in Afghanistan (1979-1989). We have won the Iraq War and lost the occupation of Iraq. We lost it when the President and his Administration knowingly lied us into the war—the Iraq people know these facts whether or not the American People choose to believe it or not. We lost this occupation when the troop strength was reduced and when arms were not secured. We lost it when our contracts went only to Bush campaign contributors and huge cost overruns and $9 Billion dollars in missing cash on pallets went unaccounted for. McCain oversaw this and said nothing. This is what also happened in Vietnam so maybe he was use to it. The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against profited immensely while the nation borne the costs of lives and billions that the Vietnam War cost us.

Also found this: Post #65. Here we go again. I realize this is “just” a blog, but claiming McCain “voted to allow waterboarding by the CIA” is a bald-faced lie. He voted against the CIA authorization act, which, among other things, restricts the CIA to interrogation methods contained in Army Field Manual 2-22.3. (available at

The 19 authorized techniqes are:

1. Direct Approach
2. Incentive Approach
3 – 9. Emotional Approaches (Love, Hate, Fear-Up, Fear-Down, Pride- and Ego-Up, Pride- and Ego-Down, Futility)
10. We Know All Approach
11. File and Dossier Approach
12. Establish Your Identity
13. Repetition
14. Rapid-Fire
15. Silent
16. Change of Scenery
17. “Mutt and Jeff”
18. False Flag

… and, the harshest interrogation technique allowed by Army FM 2-22.3, so potentially heinous it requires COCOM authorization before it’s used (drum roll, please) . . .

19. Separation

Kinda’ gives you a warm fuzzy, don’t it? It’s nice to know that, even as terrorists are smuggling a nuke across our southern border, those entrusted with our security will be trying to talk them out of it by appealing to their better nature.

The fact is, waterboarding is already banned by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (which McCain sponsored). So, why would Democrats include such restrictive language in the 2008 CIA authorization, language which they have to realize would cripple US intelligence operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups? Simply, because they know it will never become law and “useful idiots” in the media will play up the waterboarding angle to give them political leverage in an election year.

Oh, and Cenk, if you really believe that Clinton and Obama didn’t vote for this bill because they assumed it would pass, you’re even more naive than I thought. They didn’t vote because they couldn’t vote against it without alienating the far left, and they couldn’t vote for it without severely undermining executive authority . . . authority which they both hope to be wielding in a year’s time.

Also, Cenk, I know calling Republicans lunatics is part of your schtick, but I would like to point out that the Republican party is nominating a center-right moderate, while supporters for the Democratic front-runner seem to have a strange affection for Marxist folk heroes.