IN OTHER WORDS: Torture demon

The use of torture authorized by President Bush left a stain on America’s reputation, produced dubious intelligence, and may have played into the hands of Osama bin Laden and like-minded fanatics. President Obama began the hard but necessary work of undoing the damage when, on his first day in office, he issued executive orders ending torture and calling for task forces to evaluate policy on the detention and interrogation of terrorist suspects.

The recent publication of excerpts from a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on the treatment of 14 “high-value detainees” in CIA custody has again brought the issue of torture to the fore. The repulsive details oblige Americans to confront — without euphemisms such as “alternative set of procedures” —violations of the Geneva Conventions and US law perpetrated in their name.

An inquiry into the Bush administration’s use of torture will serve a useful purpose if it steers clear of partisan politics.

The purpose of an inquiry should not be to criminally indict CIA officers or mid-level government officials; they were acting under authority granted them by a commander in chief. The purpose should be to demonstrate that American democracy is capable of correcting its worst errors.