The "torture" issue
However, Dahlia Lithwick in Slate sees the legislative approval as a sign of something much more disturbing - America's desensitization to "torture" which has brought us to this pass where the evil Bush administration is given leave to wantonly violate the Geneva Conventions (never mind the fact that the conventions don't even apply to non-uniformed enemy combatants). To what does she attribute this new callousness? Well, a variety of things, including the lionization of Jack Bauer, the number of times the Abu Graib photos were displayed and even "congressional hairsplitting" over the acceptable level of "abuse" to which we'll subject suspected terrorists.
But the answer is really none of those things at all. The real answer is something that is beyond the ability of those of the mindset of Lithwick and the other liberal war opponents to conceive.
The reason that the President got what he asked for and that congressional Democrats didn't sufficiently "express horror over the brutalization of enemy prisoners" is that their constituents, from the very first, had little or no objection to what they saw. Take a look at the Abu Graib photos. I see not a single example of what can reasonably be called torture. There is a photo of a dead body that at the time was alleged to have been the result of torture, but that was never established. If, in fact, that man died as a result of actual torture, those responsible should be held to account. However, given what we know, it's just as likely that the body was brought in as an example to the other prisoners of their fate if they didn't talk.
Torture is causing lasting, damaging pain to an individual. Putting panties on his head, scaring him with a barking dog or making him lie naked in a pile of his buddies might be embarassing, but it doesn't cause any lasting damage and it certainly doesn't rise to the level of torture.
Confronted with the media-driven firestorm that was Abu Graib in April of 2004, just two and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, the vast majority of Americans looked at the photos and came to the conclusion that if we have to pile up some naked enemy prisoners and humiliate them a little to get valuable information that would save lives in Iraq and possible at home, then so be it. I don't have any numbers as to the response our distinguished congressmen and senators received on this and you wouldn't get a straight answer from them, anyway. But all evidence to the contrary, our elected representatives aren't completely brain-dead. They have enough capacity for thought to conclude that with an election just six weeks away, it is in their best interests not to hamstring the President on this issue and allow our military and CIA interrogators to do what's necessary to get the information they need.
The idiotarian wing in both houses is big and loud enough to have taken full advantage of this issue if they thought it would benefit them back home at the ballot box. But with few exceptions, they concluded that isn't the case. What Lithwick fails to realize is that not everyone thinks about this the way that she does. Just like their support for the war's basic rationale (better to take it to them over there than fight over here), most of us looked at those photos and decided that what they saw didn't justify disabling our efforts to get life-saving information from probable terrorists.