'We do not torture," President Bush insists, yet that assurance is accompanied by an unspoken "but." In vetoing legislation that would require CIA interrogators to abide by the same humanitarian standards imposed on their counterparts in the U.S. military, Bush again has drowned out his denials with an ominous silence about just what "enhanced" interrogation tactics he considers appropriate.
In a shameful Saturday radio address justifying his veto, Bush argued that CIA interrogators can't be confined to techniques allowed by the Army Field Manual "because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet." So, of course, are the Geneva Convention and the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibit "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." By the president's logic, acceptance of the humanitarian standards included in those documents also deprives the United States of the element of surprise.
Bush has been playing a dangerous game, forswearing torture while making the argument that suspected terrorists must be made to give up their secrets at any cost. In his radio address, he claimed that the CIA interrogation program pried loose information that helped avert a series of terrorist attacks, including one in Los Angeles. If the stakes are that high and the alternatives futile, why not torture?