Ronald Reagan had a point when he called the Soviet Union the "evil empire." What nearly every American understood during the Cold War &

even those who virulently disagreed with the Gipper &

was that communist regimes around the world were willing to treat human beings in ways that were profoundly immoral. We also firmly believed that we were different. Yes, the United States made mistakes, and individual Americans occasionally committed unconscionable acts, as humans everywhere are prone to do, but our system had the requisite checks and balances to correct and punish bad behavior when it occurred.




That faith has worn thin. After years of legalistic flimflamming by the Bush administration about what constitutes torture, it has yet to declare waterboarding illegal, though U.S. officials say they no longer do it. After years of claiming that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were being treated humanely, the administration now admits that some were waterboarded. And after years of administration insistence that U.S. interrogation methods were inherently superior to those of our enemies, now comes the revelation by the New York Times that military trainers at Guantanamo Bay taught an interrogation class based on communist Chinese torture techniques. They reportedly relied on a 1957 Air Force study of the effects of Chinese torture methods on American prisoners during the Korean War.




To those who still insist that our government must retain the right to inflict a little pain on terrorists who deserve it anyway, if the situation is truly dire, 15 top U.S. interrogators earlier this month replied: It doesn't work. Not only does it produce false confessions, it may aid the enemy cause.




"The use of torture and other inhumane and abusive treatment results in false and misleading information, loss of critical intelligence and has caused serious damage to the reputation and standing of the United States," concludes a statement signed for the international advocacy group Human Rights First by 15 senior interrogators with long experience in the FBI, CIA or U.S. military intelligence. "The use of such techniques also facilitates enemy recruitment, misdirects or wastes scarce resources and deprives the United States of the standing to demand humane treatment of captured Americans."




That's the opinion of many of this country's top experts in their field, the people whom the rest of us must trust to sift useful intelligence from tall tales told by prisoners to make it stop. We ignore their advice at our peril.




"" Los Angeles Times