Mona Charen

It didn't get a lot of attention, but in mid-December, U.S. forces in Iraq discovered an al Qaeda torture center north of Baghdad. Muqdadiya is about 60 miles north of the capital. American soldiers found a blood-spattered room where chains still hung on the gory walls. A metal bed frame was still connected to an electric shock generator. The Americans also found bloody knives and swords. Outside, the bodies of 26 people were buried in common graves.

That al Qaeda has made rape, torture and murder its calling card in Iraq is not news. Michael Yon (, among others, has reported the atrocities committed by al Qaeda in Iraq, and even the major media have at last come to acknowledge that Sunni leaders -- disgusted by the atrocities they have witnessed -- have teamed up with the Americans to defeat al Qaeda. It was Iraqi locals who pointed the U.S. patrol to the torture house in Muqdadiya.

Last May, according to The Smoking Gun website, U.S. troops unearthed an even more grisly site, an al Qaeda torture chamber in Baghdad itself. When they entered, the soldiers found an Iraqi man suspended from the ceiling by chains. The room contained torture implements including hammers, whips, meat cleavers and wire cutters as well as a crude torture manual, displaying various methods of inflicting unbearable pain. These included using a blowtorch on the skin, gouging out eyes, using an electric drill to cut through a hand, and many more.

It's useful to be reminded of what real torture looks like when the Democrats in Washington are working themselves into a characteristic froth about the CIA and the destroyed interrogation tapes. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., declared that for "the past six years, the Bush administration has run roughshod over our ideals and the rule of law." It reminded him of nothing so much as the "18-and-a-half-minute gap on the tapes of Richard Nixon." Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., smells "obstruction of justice."

So now we will have an inquiry into whether the CIA has violated the law by destroying tapes it was under no obligation to make in the first place; concerning an interrogation technique that at the very worst (according to most reliable reports) involved making three notorious terrorists think, for a few seconds, that they were drowning.

I have severe doubts as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture. But I am certain that the unceasing attention it receives and the eagerness of many Democrats to indict the Bush administration has done more damage to America's image than anything the CIA has done. I say this for two reasons:

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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