The following editorial first appeared in the Orlando Sentinel:
President George W. Bush often deflects calls to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by declaring he'll listen to his commanders. But on torture, Bush has turned a deaf ear to his top commander.
Army Gen. David Petraeus, in a letter last year to U.S. forces in Iraq, wrote that torture is not only illegal, but also "frequently neither useful nor necessary." Yet Bush vetoed legislation last week that would have barred the CIA from any interrogation technique that might be considered torture.
The bill would have limited the CIA to the techniques in the Army Field Manual, which rules out waterboarding and other severe methods. The Army techniques "work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees," Petraeus wrote.
In vetoing the bill, the president asserted the CIA's separate interrogation program had foiled several terrorist attacks. But Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller said he had heard nothing in his role to back up that assertion.
Bush also argued that what works for the Army won't work for the CIA. Yet the FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency also use the Army techniques.
Torture degrades one of America's most powerful assets in the war on terrorists - its moral authority.
"Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy," Petraeus wrote.
A 2005 law banning torture isn't enough. The Bush administration has reserved the right, for example, to resume waterboarding. Congress needs to rule out torture if the president won't, and override his misguided veto.