So Karl Rove is "proud" of waterboarding, which means he's proud of the fact that his administration disgraced the United States with torture. I'm not sure what else he was supposed to say -- the only possible justification he has is that some good might have come out of his administration breaking the law. Matthew Yglesias has noted this inconsistency with torture defenders -- what does it matter if waterboarding was torture if it was indeed so effective and saved so many lives?
Whatever is left of Rove's conscience tugs at him and provokes him to insist that it wasn't torture because military personnel who go through Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape training (SERE) are waterboarded in a limited context. Of course, SERE training is given to military personnel so that if captured, they might be able to resist being, you know, tortured. As Matt Corley notes, even the Bush administration's own lawyers conceded that soldiers being waterboarded "are obviously in a very different situation from detainees undergoing interrogation." The CIA Inspector General's report noted an interrogator's conclusion that the difference between waterboarding in interrogation and waterboarding in SERE training is that the former "is for real."
There's also the fact that the case that waterboarding isn't torture is based on legal work that the Justice Department concluded was terrible. As David Cole notes:
The one thing practically everyone interviewed by the OPR agreed about was that Yoo’s legal work on the torture memos was atrocious. Bush’s Attorney General Michael Mukasey called it “slovenly.” Jack Goldsmith, another Republican who headed the Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2004, said that Yoo’s August 2002 memo justifying torture by the CIA was “riddled with error” and a “one-sided effort to eliminate any hurdles posed by the torture law.”
There hasn't been a definitive ruling from the courts that waterboarding is torture. But the legal arguments conservatives have been relying on to argue that waterboarding is not torture are "slovenly" and "riddled with error." Conservatives can stand by that if they want, but all that does is reinforce the underlying illegitimacy of the legal case for waterboarding.
This is a masquerade, a game they play to assuage the conscience of the atrocities they have twisted it into accepting.
-- A. Serwer