In the wake of 9/11, one of the effects was an arousal of interest among Americans in all things Muslim. The university I work at instantly offered courses in Muslim religion and culture. This past summer, the Kite Runner, set in Afghanistan has been a must read in universities all across America.
By way of the cunning realist, a peek back nearly three years to this article in the Guardian Unlimited. It basically says what we have always known: that torture creates a motivation for revenge for human being.
I have heard that a basic principle of Muslim law is "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." In the Old Testament there was a recognition of the motivating force of revenge. Even though one of the ten commandments says "Thou shalt not kill," and another says, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
" (Lev 19:18), the Law also foresaw the powerful emotions that could impel the relatives of the one who died at another's hand to seek revenge. Therefore the Law stated that a murderer would be granted sanctuary if he grabbed the "horns of the altar." Joab desperately took advantage of the provision after he murdered one of the king's sons (1 Kings 2:28). One could also flee to one of the designated "cities of refuge" (Numbers 35). The Old Testament even allows "the avenger of blood" to blamelessly take life depending on certain circumstances.
It seems to me that religious conservatives would thus have a solid understanding of the psychology of torture and its effects on human beings. Personally I do not understand why Americans need to spend one drop of ink on the subject of torture. It is contrary to the American Way, it is contrary to Christianity, and it creates more problems than it solves. Many things are anomalous about US policies these days, but Christians defending torture has got to be one of the most extreme anomalies. I am positive, all else being equal, that if the president were a Democrat when the stories of Abu Garaib came to light, all these fine Republican Christians would be unanimous in their condemnation of torture and for the very reasons I stated.
America was once great, but now it is just big.