"And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq." -- George W. Bush, 4/30/04.
I'm sure that by now just about all of you know how untrue this is. There's a very good, thoughtful overview of the topic at the New Yorker, which I recommend everyone read.
A quote from Rumsfeld: "I think that -- I'm not a lawyer. My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."
So. It wasn't 'torture.' And Bill Clinton did not have 'sex' with that woman. Honestly, if this doesn't get as wide coverage as Clinton's gaffe there, I'll be quite disappointed. (Not surprised, just disappointed.) Going into legalistic technicalities over whether it was 'torture' or 'abuse' or 'bad manners' or whatever isn't going to change the facts of what happened... or how it looks in the eyes of the world.
Frankly... I think this is a huge turning point. The Bush administration has been able to give itself a paper-thin veneer of credibility by saying 'no matter how many civilians we're bombing to death, no matter how many of our soldiers are dying, at least things are better off than they were under Hussein!' But now, fewer and fewer people are going to believe that. They're going to look at the American occupation force and see a beast that turns ordinary people, presumably quite decent and average folks, into cheerful, smiling torturers who take home movies as souvenirs.
And this isn't a problem that can be solved just by disciplining a few grunts and leaving it there. There's evidence surfacing that knowledge of this, at least, went all the way up the chain of command. Quite frankly, I don't think that anything short of a new administration and a complete rebuilding of the Armed Forces from the ground up would restore any trust in the US worldwide, and possibly not even that. From now on, if I'm right, nobody's going to buy that the US is going into any war for humanitarian purposes. Not while the image of people laughing and joking around as they torment and humiliate human beings is anywhere in memory at all.
And, quite frankly, I think they'd be right not to buy it at all.