Our view: Torture is never OK

VIEW the General Counsel of the Department of Defense’s memo on torture.

Qualifications for torture are apparently subjective, but so far it hasn’t been up to the tortured to decide. In a 2002 memo, the Defense Department defined the perimeters of advanced interrogation techniques just shy of what they considered illegal based on a “cruel and unusual” or “inhumane” standard.

We’re sure such techniques are torture. President Barack Obama, however, has pledged not to prosecute top Bush administration officials, including former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, for their involvement. It was a good move on Obama’s part not to drudge up the past, but let’s be clear: The interrogation methods used on captured Afghanis and other people is unacceptable.

We’ll let you decide. Here are excerpts from a Nov. 27, 2002 memo from Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II to then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This memo and others helped spark a movement in Spain to prosecute top American officials:

“There is no legal requirement that detainees must receive four hours of sleep per night, but if a U.S. Court ever had to rule on this procedure, in order to pass Eighth Amendment scrutiny, and as a cautionary measure, they should receive some amount of sleep so that no severe physical or mental harm will result.”

And, “The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent is not illegal … “

The best part is Rumsfeld’s comment after signing his approval to the memo, which also mentioned how long a prisoner may be forced to stand: “However, I stand for eight to ten hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours? D.R.”

Spain’s proposed human rights case prompted Obama to respond to whether he’ll ever bring charges against the former administration officials. He said he wouldn’t, but that interrogation policy has changed. America doesn’t torture any more.

That’s exactly what he needed to say.

The rest of the world already lost its respect for us. The reluctant but righteous warriors we were seen as during World War II and the Holocaust has been swapped for a reputation shadowed by My Lai in Vietnam and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

These memos and the Spanish case are just more nails on the coffin of the Bush administration’s historical standing, but it doesn’t have to affect the new direction Obama has created. The president has enough other things to worry about without a lengthy, sensational trial against deposed, already-shamed war criminals.

We should all be embarrassed by the crimes of our previous elected officials. Let’s keep the people we give power in line.

We don’t condone torture.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.