The Bush administration repeatedly insists that it does not practice torture: “We do not torture,” President Bush declared in 2005. The U.S. “is not torturing any detainees,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said last April. Dismissing a Red Cross report describing interrogation techniques that were “tantamount to torture,” Bush proclaimed last year, “Haven’t seen it, we don’t torture.”
Today, Perino took the Bush administration’s torture denials to a new level when she insisted that it had never engaged in torture:
PERINO: This president has said that we did interrogate terrorists, and we did so to protect the country from possible imminent terrorist attack. We did not torture.
It is simply a lie to say that the United States “did not torture.” Even setting aside the infamous Abu Ghraib incidents, Bush’s own CIA director Michael Hayden confirmed that his agency had subjected at least three detainees to waterboarding. And as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has explained, waterboarding is clearly torture:
All I can say is that it was used in the Spanish Inquisition, it was used in Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, and there are reports that it is being used against Buddhist monks today. … It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.
There’s no question that waterboarding — a technique the Bush administration admits committing and says it would “definitely want to consider” reusing — is torture, and McCain is hardly alone in his judgment:
— Malcolm Wrightson Nance, a former Navy instructor of prisoner of war survival programs: “Waterboarding is torture and should be banned.”
— Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary: “There’s just no doubt in my mind — under any set of rules — waterboarding is torture.”
Perino is trying to rewrite the sorry history of the Bush administration. Luckily, President-elect Obama has promised to “make sure that we don’t torture” — a vow that entails a robust investigation into Bush’s deliberate decision to implement a torture regime.