I missed most of the “torture memo” furor while I was away, but got a taste of it yesterday. What ridiculous hysteria. The purpose of these documents was to set out the absolute legal limits of what we could do with detainees from an orgization committed to murdering Americans. The legal analysis may have been too aggresive–that is a legitimate point of contention. But writing these memos was a perfectly legitimate exercise. Were policymakers just supposed to intuit what the legal limits are without consulting lawyers? What they apparently did was to determine the absolute limits of the legally permissible and craft a policy–i.e., Rumsfeld’s approval of “stress techniques”–well short of that line. I’m just not shocked that we would make people uncomfortable IN THE COURSE OF TRYING TO SAVE INNOCENT LIVES. What happened at Abu Ghraib was obviously appalling, but no one has established any connection between these legal documents and the abuses Abu Ghraib. Anne Applebaum begins her column yesterday with the totally illogic suggestion that because the memos were written and the abuses happened they ipso facto must be related. She also makes the absurb contention that because Spc. Graner didn’t look guilty during his abuses, he must have known they had the approval of the U.S. government. But do sociopathic thugs–which Graner appears to be–usually appear guilty while abusing people? Or do they appear to be enjoying themselves? The increasingly erratic Andrew Sullivan endorses the he-didn’t-look guilty argument, if you can call it that. Man, the September 10 mentality has returned, with a vengance.