They painted a few instances of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib as systematic torture at the hands of the Bush administration, though they were unauthorized and against administration policy. The mainstream media repeated the Democratic narrative so passionately and so often that it has become "conventional wisdom," as well.
Why didn't Republicans indignantly challenge the assertion that underwear on enemy heads at the hands of renegade soldiers constituted torture -- authorized by the administration, no less? Words matter, especially in a war for "hearts and minds." Were Republicans that fuzzy about the definition of "torture"? Or were they afraid to risk being depicted as defenders of torture -- even though, in the process, they allowed their entire party to be saddled with that baggage?
How about Guantanamo prison? With some admirable exceptions, Republicans have permitted Democrats to adopt the al-Qaeda spin that we routinely abuse prisoners there. Even when the truth emerged that al-Qaeda was playing the Democrats and the mainstream media for "useful idiots" in their propaganda push against the prison, Republicans allowed Democrats to escape accountability for their distortions. Sadly, even President Bush has assured us he wants to close down Gitmo. Why are Republicans afraid of fighting back with the truth, which happens to be on their side?
Now Democrats are threatening not to confirm attorney-general nominee Mukasey over waterboarding and are castigating him for refusing to concede it is torture when that is far from clear and he shouldn't be taking a position on it anyway.
Where are the courageous Republicans to shame Democrats for carrying al-Qaeda's water? They could point out that it is probably not torture and that it has rarely been used, and that when it has been used, it has actually worked and perhaps saved lives, contrary to liberal propaganda that it hasn't.
With all of these war-related issues, from terrorist surveillance to Gitmo to tough interrogation techniques, Republicans could do a much better job demonstrating that Democrats are on the wrong side -- literally -- and are doing far more to harm our national image with their lies against the administration than they claim Bush is doing with his policies.
Republicans would have more success convincing voters of the "rightness" of their policies if they started acting like they believe in them themselves.