I've never had much stomach for the details of this sorry chapter in US history, and I just don't have the words to describe my horror and disgust at the calculated destruction Bush et al wrought on US law, policies, ethics, reputation and national psyche. So I'll leave the commentary tosomeone who does:
I've only read the Bybee memo, as chilling an artefact as you are ever likely to read in a democratic society, the work clearly not of a lawyer assessing torture techniques in good faith, but of an administration official tasked with finding how torture techniques already decided upon can be parsed in exquisitely disingenuous ways to fit the law, even when they clearly do not. This is what Hannah Arendt wrote of when she talked of the banality of evil. To read a bureaucrat finding ways to describe and parse away the clear infliction of torture on a terror suspect well outside any "ticking time bomb" scenario is to realize what so many of us feared and sensed from the shards of information we have been piecing together for years. It is all true. These memos form a coda to the Red Cross report, confirming its evidentiary conclusions, while finding exquisite, legalistic and preposterous ways to deny the obvious.
I do not believe that any American president has ever orchestrated, constructed or so closely monitored the torture of other human beings the way George W. Bush did. It is clear that it is pre-meditated; and it is clear that the parsing of torture techniques that you read in the report is a simply disgusting and repellent piece of dishonesty and bad faith... And through all this, Bush and Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and suffering.
Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any reasonable doubt. It is a very dark day for this country, but less dark than every day since Cheney decided to turn the US into a torturing country until now.