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Torture-Lite

President Bush is right: There is a difference between us and the bad guys.

For one thing, the bad guys will torture you.

And we . . . well, actually, we might torture you, too, but we’re nicer about it. And that’s what counts.

And if something does go wrong and a tortured prisoner dies, President Bush wants someone right there to save that unlucky person’s soul.

Last month, Bush publicly swore that the U.S. will no longer torture terrorism suspects. That’s really nice, and it shows how nice we really are. But it also raises the question of exactly how much torture has been going on, especially given that federal authorities are now investigating the December deaths of two Afghan detainees as homicides. The prisoners were being held at the CIA interrogation center at the air base in Bagram. The Washington Post reports that military pathologists found signs of blunt-force trauma on the detainees. The official cause of death is a heart attack in one case and a blood clot in the lung in the other. Human-rights organizations also have reported other instances of mistreatment and possible torture.

There’s also a review of the death of a detainee who died last month at a U.S.-run holding facility near Asadabad in eastern Afghanistan. The Independent in Britain reports U.S. officials practically bragging about their “stress and duress” techniques, which they further described as “torture-lite.” The paper also notes that Amnesty International can visit any prison in Afghanistan except the one at Bagram.

But fear not. If “torture-lite” is still heavy enough to kill you, at least there’s no need to fear for your eternal well-being. Just last month, as reported in Forward, a New York–based Jewish journal, W. met with Chuck Colson, a convicted Watergate conspirator who was subsequently born again. Colson now runs Prison Fellowship Ministries, an evangelical Christian rehab program. Colson wants to go national as part of Bush’s faith-based initiative. If Colson does indeed get federal funds, who knows how far he’ll be able to take it — maybe even to our kinder, gentler torture chambers abroad.