Here is a non-hysterical statement of the way the Bush administration mishandled all this, via e-mail:
Rich: …I have my concerns about the McCain Amendment too. While waterboarding, which is designed to create physiological panic of drowning, is arguably torture–its limited application against high level al Qaeda is not so unreasonable to shock the conscience. Unfortunately, if Rumsfeld and Cheney were doing their jobs properly, we would not have the McCain Amendment to deal with.
There were at least a dozen cases of very serious abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and other bases which resulted in the deaths of detainees. Prisoners subjected to water and cold exposure who died of hypothermia, the CIA agent who was interrogating an insurgent prisoner who later died of asphyxiation, there were also a few isolated cases of soldiers being sadistic with detainees which resulted in death….[This] implies a lack of discipline in interrogating prisoners.
While the Abu Ghraib night shift was almost certainly not acting on orders–the fact that they got away with their shenanigans for so long is inexcusable. The fact is the Iraq occupation was made considerably worse by what happened in Abu Ghraib. You can legitimately blame the media for hyping the problem–but Don Rumsfeld is ultimately responsible for what happened on his watch. You are always going to have some allegations of abuse–but there is no getting around that the Administration could have done a far better job with its interrogation policies. The President waited too long to fight back and given the political damage that has been done–he had no choice but to concede this point to John McCain.
I believe John McCain to be an honorable guy who believes he is doing the right thing. McCain may be right in the long run (although there is a real risk he may not). But ultimately, it is Rumsfeld who got us in this position.