It has once again appeared in the news cycle that terror detainees are being waterboarded as part of the coercive interrogation process. For those who don't know what this practice is, it's basically simulated drowning. A person is blind-folded, tilted back in a chair, and the interrogator pours copious amounts of (usually cold) water over them. Imagine the horror that a person would feel in that situation. The people who worked over Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the orchestrator of 9/11, were impressed at his ability to withstand the treatment for over two minutes before confessing to his intimate involvement in planning the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Yet today we hear President Bush flatly stating that the United States "does not torture people." I would defy anybody to say with a straight face and a perfectly clean conscience that the above description of the waterboarding technique does not constitute torture. Instilling the sheer horror of imminent death in another human being--no matter how despicable that person may be--is torture. It is not a practice that should be used by Americans if they want to reasonably claim any semblance of the moral high ground vis-a-vis the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or any of the other groups out there that seek to kill innocent lives.
It is often noted that during war the lines of moral clarity become greatly obscured. When evil is everywhere and death omnipresent, retaining a sense of dignity and value for human life becomes very difficult. What I find so disturbing is that George W. Bush once held such a sense of compassion. Watching only the media clips of the press conference today makes me question whether that still exists. He has clearly lost the initiative and the command over American foreign policy and grand strategy that he demonstrated all the way into 2005. He seems lost, wandering, and resigned to simply serve out his term with the hope that Iraq doesn't completely implode under his watch. I find this most disturbing--and disappointing--of all.