If you believe that waterboarding is not a form of torture, you likely believe — with Bill Clinton — that sexual relations are not really sexual relations and, with Ronald Reagan, that ketchup is a vegetable.

Governments and politicians have a way of twisting simple truths into pretzels.

So it is with waterboarding.

The technique, condemned in the past by the United States when it has been used against American citizens, entails strapping a person onto an inclined board, with feet raised and head lowered. The interrogators bind the person's arms and legs, cover his face and pour water onto the face. The sensation of being under a wave of water creates such psychological trauma that the person feels like he's drowning. The person chokes and gags and sobs.

The practice, which was used by the Inquisition in Spain and in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, speaks for itself. Enemy combatants don't want to share information, so they get waterboarded. Later, rather than face more waterboarding, they tell their captors what they want to know.

This is not a form of "friendly persuasion." All you have to do is connect the dots: waterboarding is a form of psychological torture. Torture is a form of terror. Americans who use waterboarding terrorize others.

In 1947, a Japanese soldier who used waterboarding on a U.S. citizen was sentenced to 15 years in prison for committing a war crime. Members of the CIA who have undergone the torture as part of their training last an average of 14 seconds before begging to be released. Sen. John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war, claims waterboarding is definitely a form of torture. All human rights groups agree.

As do we.

Getting information from enemy combatants is vital.

Getting it through waterboarding undermines the entire enterprise of bringing justice and decency to people of the world who lack the resources and clout to demand such things for themselves. Waterboarding, as a means, simply contaminates the end result.