What happened
Democrats are squaring off with the Bush administration over the interrogation of terror suspects in the wake of a New York Times report that secret memos justified harsh tactics including simulated drownings and exposure to extreme cold. “There is a legal definition of torture that I believe this would fit,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Fox News Sunday. President Bush has said the administration used no tactics that violated laws against torture. “This government does not torture people,” he said.

What the commentators said
Bush doesn’t seem to realize the damage he is doing, said H.D.S. Greenway in The Boston Globe (free registration). By speaking of his “abhorrence” of torture while “secretly promoting it,” Bush is undermining “our international standing” and stoking Islamic extremism. And for what? Torture accomplishes nothing—prisoners will say anything to make it stop.

But will they say anything to make “slaps to the head” stop? said Bret Stephens in OpinionJournal.com. This is one of the administration’s “brutal” techniques. Even a tactic that comes closer to real torture—waterboarding, or pouring water over a suspect’s fact to simulate drowning—is a small moral price for “actionable intelligence” that will keep “some mother’s child” from being murdered. It’s just “not a tough call.”

Then Bush should have no problem letting Congress, and the courts, review his interrogation policies, said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. Democrats and Republicans alike should “show some mettle” and demand that the administration prove that it is respecting the law. It’s the only way to remove “the moral stain that torture, and the subterfuge that this administration has undertaken to sustain it, has put on our nation.”

If the “scolds in Congress” want to use this issue to “smear the administration,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, then it should at least have the courage to say exactly what techniques should be legal to “interrogate America’s enemies.”