What happened
President Bush over the weekend vetoed a bill that would have effectively banned waterboarding by barring interrogation techniques not allowed in the Army Field Manual. But CIA Director Michael Hayden said the move wouldn’t change much, because U.S. interrogation programs “are fully consistent with the Geneva Convention and current U.S. law, and are most certainly not torture." (U.S. News & World Report)

What the commentators said
“Congress must overturn this odious veto,” said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an editorial. “Claiming, as Bush does, that treating these suspects worse than we do any other sort of criminal is somehow justifiable in that it might prevent terrorist attacks is specious at best.” The end doesn’t justify the means.

In dealing with terrorists, it certainly does, said the Harrisonburg, Va., Daily News-Record in an editorial. These are people “who consider innocent civilians to be legitimate targets and who gleefully shout that they love death more than Westerners love life.” Interrogators don’t always have “the luxury of time” when trying to get answers to thwart the next attack. “Splashing water over a terrorist’s face to gain life-saving information is quick, effective, and hardly heinous.”

Following the Army Field Manual wouldn’t keep interrogators from aggressively questioning prisoners, said The New York Times in an editorial. “It simply forbids the use of techniques that are regarded by most civilized people as abuse and torture, including sexual abuse, electric shocks, mock executions and the infamous form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.” Bush “misled” Americans by saying waterboarding is necessary and legal, so we’ll have to wait for the next president to “restore the rule of law.”

Please put that “shopworn torture narrative” to rest, said National Review in an editorial. All Bush’s “sound veto” did was resist an effort to hand al Qaida “the full menu” of our interrogation options so they could train terrorists how to resist. This isn’t about any particular method; it’s about keeping extremists guessing so interrogations will be effective. Besides, “waterboarding, or simulated drowning, is rough stuff, but it should not be mistaken for the heinous cruelty that sensible people recognize as genuine torture.”