Torturous Reading: Self-Righteous Editors and "The Scary Caterpillar"

What? "To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush's Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity. Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history."

In Sunday's long masthead editorial, "The Torturer's Manifesto," the paper's self-righteous editorial board bizarrely used the Justice Department's extensive documentation of the interrogation methods used by the C.I.A. against terrorist suspects as somehow extra damning. (Of course, if there had been no documentation, the Times and other liberal outlets would have accused the C.I.A.of untamed lawlessness.)

To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush's Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.

Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect - all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.

A "flexible false wall," actually, but forget it, the Times is rolling in righteousness.

In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.

These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors' statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country's most basic values.

It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Times joined leftist activists in suggesting that Dick Cheney be forced to testify.

And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.

An op-ed in Monday's Wall Street Journal from David Rivkin Jr. and Lee Casey, who served in George Bush Sr.'sJustice Department, debunked liberal handwringing by the likes of the Times. Rivkin and Casey explained:

The four memos on CIA interrogation released by the White House last week reveal a cautious and conservative Justice Department advising a CIA that cared deeply about staying within the law. Far from "green lighting" torture - or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees - the memos detail the actual techniques used and the many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation.

Interrogations were to be "continuously monitored" and "the interrogation team will stop the use of particular techniques or the interrogation altogether if the detainee's medical or psychological conditions indicates that the detainee might suffer significant physical or mental harm."

The same Sunday Week in Review section also contained a truly strange op-ed from natural sciences professor Jeffrey Lockwood. As author of the non-bestselling tome "Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War," Lockwood probably doesn't have many outlets for his particular specialty, and his op-ed desperately strained to make analogies between the C.I.A.'s infamous caterpillar (which wasn't even used) and gruesome use of insects by medieval tyrants in "The Scary Caterpillar."

Insects have been conscripted as weapons of war, tools of terrorism and instruments of torture for thousands of years. So should we be surprised by the news that the C.I.A. considered using these creatures to instill fear in Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist suspect?....The epitome of insectan torture was developed by a 19th-century emir of Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. He threw political enemies into a bug pit, a deep hole covered with an iron grille and stocked with sheep ticks and assassin bugs. The bite of the latter has been compared to being pierced with a hot needle, and the injected saliva digested the victims' tissues until, in the words of the emir's jailer, "masses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones."

Lockwoodeven tried to spin the possible use by terrorists of a mosquito virus as blowback for thehypothetical caterpillar.

What if a terrorist group announced that their operatives had introduced Rift Valley fever into the United States? This mosquito-borne disease would make West Nile virus look like a case of the sniffles. Given that virtually every corner of America has a native species of mosquito capable of transmitting the virus, Rift Valley fever could spread across the nation. Hundreds of thousands of people could be sickened, with thousands dying and many more falling blind. The livestock industry could lose billions of dollars as animals aborted their fetuses and succumbed to bloody diarrhea. Imagine the fear if every mosquito bite this summer could be the precursor of a disease that would cause your brain to become inflamed or your internal organs to hemorrhage?