It's just business.
I find all the genres in the defense-of-torture pantheon to be baffling. There are the ones that assert that what our nation did was not torture, but do not bother to explain how the not-torture led to broken bones, mental illnesses, and deaths, or even attempt to justify the medical treatments (blood thinners, etc.) given to certain prisoners after these rounds of "enhanced interrogation" in order to repair the prisoners enough to undergo the same treatment again.
There are a great many others that begrudgingly declare, perhaps copping to the torture word or perhaps not, that those things were indeed monstrous and wrong, but that it is equally monstrous and wrong to divulge them, thus inflaming our savage, barbarian enemies into perhaps committing corresponding violence against us; given that all the world has known of these things for some time, that horse would seem well out of the barn. It also seems a conspicuous favorite of those in government positions at the time the torture was taking place, people whose concern may more concretely revolve around possible damage to their careers or wikipedia pages.
But then there are the ones that do not pussyfoot around. Yes, we tortured, and yes, we would do it again, and would do it as many times as it took, because "torture worked." We got results from torture, they insistently declare. We got information. It seems somehow unsurprising that the magazine founded on the godfearing justice of state-sponsored segregation would embrace this, the fullest possible defense and celebration of state-sponsored torture, as well.
The product of selective half-truths and deliberate deception, [the Senate report's] claims are ludicrous, because the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation techniques (EITs) were manifestly successful. [...]
A large number of officials were convinced that the program was necessary and was generating irreplaceable results. And it was. Responding to the committee report, the CIA notes that EITs led to critical intelligence. Cross-referenced with other sources, the following CIA assertions, I am confident, are true. [...]
Important punditry voice Tom Rogan—it feels necessary that we mention his name here, lest he not get credit for his entry into the National Review's ongoing Clinical Defense of American Sociopathies
—then recites a litany of assertions as to what information "EIT"s uncovered. You may find some of those assertions sketchy. You may, on the other hand, find them compelling. And presuming them to be compelling is, indeed, where the point lies.
Our questions, below the fold.
Let us suppose that every one of the assertions is true. Let us suppose that torture, by which we mean the simulated drownings, the broken bones, the medical injuries, the psychological torture, the death in a bitterly cold room—"worked." It generated irreplaceable results. Valuable results. It was manifestly successful.
Then why are we not continuing it?
Why are we reserving it for suspected Muslim terrorists or collaborators or hangers-on or those named by another tortured suspect, and not, say, against arms smugglers? Against suspected drug importers? Against Swiss bankers who are suspected of laundering money gained in organized crime?
No, forget that—let us presume it to be not a weapon for fighting crime, but a weapon meant only for war. Does that mean that America shall henceforth be torturing wartime prisoners, if we feel they have information we require?
Set aside the relevant laws and treaties—does only America get to torture prisoners? Are we declaring that wartime torture of prisoners work, and therefore should be used, as international policy statement or as statement that America alone ought to benefit from the manifestly successful tool of torture? We are comfortable, then, with the notion that our own soldiers will be similarly interrogated by opposing forces or groups, and due to our understanding of the military significance of the irreplaceable results to be gleaned, we will acquiesce to the treatment, and will not seek to prosecute those that torture our own citizens?
Or are we, indeed, the declared exception to this rule? We may torture to the point of broken bones, blood clots, mental incapacitation or—oops—the occasional death, but only us, due to our manifest and unique need to do so?
That is where I am stumped, and where, over a decade of debate, we continue to make no progress whatsoever in the conversation. Sen. John McCain can ask the question or I can ask the question; it makes no difference. Whether it be the past vice president or any of the various pundits of the punditry litter, the declaration that our torture of prisoners has been manifestly successful is always where the debate abruptly trails off, like the author has suddenly remembered they have somewhere else to be. There is never an answer on why we have used international law to put torturers to death for past interrogations considered similarly manifestly successful by their nations' advocates, and no opinion given on whether we shall be withdrawing from those treaties in the future or merely ignoring them if we feel it would be manifestly successful to do so. There is no citation as to what ought to be done against those that treat our soldiers similarly in the future. We are simply told that we will torture, perhaps under euphemism if the wordsmiths object to the older word, because it generates "results." Full stop. The rest is just left hanging in the wind like a noose from a tree.
Perhaps this means we are indeed giving a begrudging acceptance to the notion that Americans can expect to be treated the same.
Perhaps it means that we are not, but that it is manifestly obvious that our nation and our nation alone shall break those rules, because we are manifestly just in our decisions on these things in a way that no other nation on Earth ever will be, or has been.
Perhaps what happens next is unimportant, because the author has no time to consider such things. Of import is the message of the now, not the message of a year hence.
This has always been, to me, the most baffling of the torture defenses. If we are dealing only with a lazy assertion that it was never torture or was never that bad at least operates from a place of deflection, the evidence has long contradicted that notion—but that merely makes the author wrong. Those people are intent on denying the plain truth of what happened, presumably because they at least find the plain truth indigestible.
The assertion that perhaps it was torture but that talking about it now will do no good comes from an equally uncomprehendible place of self-preservation. Those people have at least contemplated the consequences of an American torture program, and know that those consequences are indeed bad, and damaging, and perhaps even fodder for future terrorism of the sort that the original torture was manifestly successful in disposing of.
But then there are the ones that say we did the war crime because the war crime is, as it turns out, a tool that we simply want to use. There is no morality involved; we simply want to use it. There may or may not be consequences for our own citizens in future conflicts; no matter, because right now we want to use it. It is merely a business decision that we will engage in the torture of other human beings, and it is agreed that some of those human beings will turn out to be innocent, or will truly not know what we have expected them to know, and that is all right because the rest of the information will generate "results."
No, those are the ones that seem the most curious. You could use the same logic to, say, cleanse a ghetto. It can be manifestly successful to use chemical weapons to eliminate a militarily troublesome town from a map, militants and citizens and children and dogs alike. Placing all citizens of a certain ethnicity into internment camps during wartime can be manifestly successful in assuring citizens that no, none of those people will be posing either real threats or vividly imagined ones. Executing petty thieves would be manifestly successful in cutting the number of repeat offenders. Executing those that challenge the government is often a manifestly successful way of ensuring a government's momentary stability. The number of manifestly successful things that a nation could do, if a nation felt like doing them, is near-infinite, and there is something peculiar and unsettling about hearing a steady drumbeat of voices all saying so why should we not be doing that?
We never get that other shoe dropped. We never get to hear whether all countries should similarly forsake the given rule, or if we shall declare ourselves unique in that regard. Of our own military forces, we are told that we train them to withstand such tortures, but there is no word on whether they can now expect such treatment as matter of course.
We are told that we will torture prisoners because torturing prisoners is manifestly successful, and all the rest is left dangling mid-thought, like a noose swinging gently from the branches of a tree.