North Americans seem to believe that torture has no history here. It happened in medieval Europe, at the command of dictators in far-off places, or as part of leftist insurgencies. For the United States, torture is anathema to our way of life, violative of our liberal-democratic commitments. From George Washington to George W. Bush, U.S. presidents have denounced torture unequivocally. Or so it was, as the story goes, before the September 11 attacks.