This could happen to you:
One day while walking down the street, you could be surrounded and taken away by undercover police. Not one of them will remove his sunglasses or show you a badge. You will be put in a dark, dank cell with people who have committed murders, assaults, terrorist acts, and other violent crimes. Some of them will be nice to you and win your trust (only to betray it later, for a better offer). Others will abuse you and destroy your hope.
Waterboarding was first standardized during the Inquisition. It was good enough for the Christian zealots of the Inquisition, but it should NOT be good enough for us. It was also used by the Khmer Rouge, the Gestapo, and the French in Algiers, according to a guest on Keith Olbermann (MS-NBC), an admiral, a former JAG. He adds that it is "a tool of the lazy, the stupid, and the pseudo-tough."
Waterboarding is torture because, if it's done effectively, the victims are terrified of death and, indeed, sometimes die. Their minds are damaged because, from that instant on, they know that someone else controls their life. They are victims of fear, hatred, and paranoia. If they seek justice later through the courts, 99 times out of 100 that too will fail. Waterboarding is easily denied.
Both the tortured and the torturer are more likely to later become vigilante torturers, themselves. Spouse abusers, suicidal, demented, deranged, deluded -- anything but defused.
Waterboarding is torture because you know you wouldn't want it done to you, if they got the wrong person.
What the Bush Administration REALLY wants is for some form of torture to be made LEGAL soon. If waterboarding is judged by the public to be too extreme, SOME torture will be deemed NOT too extreme, if they have their way -- for foreign "illegal combatants" only, of course. At first.
These are NOT the principles America was founded on -- not at all. At every step America has denounced the very idea of torturing prisoners. Bush says: "America does not torture." I wish this statement was true, but it cannot be made true by trying to change (or fine-tune) the definition of torture. NOT allowing torture gives us moral justification to take as many prisoners as necessary. Not allowing torture makes it much easier for combatants to lay down their arms against us and BECOME prisoners voluntarily -- knowing they really, truly WON'T be tortured. This saves American lives.
So the question is not whether waterboarding is torture, the question is whether we can recognize torture when we see it, as opposed to "mere" (we're supposed to believe) "rough interrogation techniques." Bush is betting we can't, or don't care -- as long as it's not used on us.
Some forms of torture already are legal in America: For example, getting pepper-sprayed at an enviro rally, or tasered at a political rally.
This is NOT the America I grew up pledging allegiance to. This America is rotting from the top down.
The scars run deep across the planet because of the Bush Administration's criminal behavior. That they want to leave the next administration with the same level of control, protection from observation, and immunity from prosecution is their most terrifying agenda of all.