Call it what you want; "enhanced interrogation", "extraordinary measures", "psikhushka". The systematic infliction of suffering is inherently corrupting to the people who administer it and the organizations that employ it.
Because torture is not interrogation.
Interrogation is intended to gain information.
Torture is intended to gain confessions. Confessions that the torturers want to hear.
A person that uses torture to gain confessions becomes useless as an interrogator and deaf to information. The agonized babble of a person suffering beyond coherence quickly becomes meaningless noise. If you are tortured you will say anything, everything, to make the torture stop. If you are the torturer you lose the ability to find the truth amid the pain and fear.
An organization that employs torture and torturers quickly becomes a servant of the propaganda that the torture is meant to support and the presumptions that the torture is designed to confirm.
Armies that use torture begin to become instruments of that propaganda rather than instruments of policy. Intelligence agencies that use torture begin to become guardians of the secrets of and defenders of the barbarities of torture rather than cold instruments of state. Nations that use torture quickly find how useful it is in generating results that they want in the short term. And the spiral of torture, and lying to hide the torture, and lying to excuse the torture, and lying to hide and excuse the lies, works deeper and deeper into the culture of the army, and the intelligence agency, and the nation.
Until first the torturers end up running the intelligence agency.
And then the torturers become the generals.
And, finally, the torturers become the presidents and prime ministers.
The toxic "war on terror" has been the ground that has nursed this poison tree, and has given it the night and fog it needed to grow. To our shame We the People have never insisted on throwing open the doors, letting in the light that would have killed this noxious weed, never dug deep and uprooted and thrown it and the torturers on the fire. In our fear and hate we have let it grow.
If shame were still a permissible public emotion we should be ashamed of ourselves.
But we will not.
And, instead, we will nurture the fruit of that poison tree in our hands and our hearts.
from the National Review, with my annotations:
"The enhanced interrogations were brutal. Zubaydah was struck, placed in stress positions, confined in small boxes and repeatedly waterboarded. During one session, he became unresponsive. By any standard, this was extreme and right up to the legal line." ("Up to the legal line? Seriously? "Unresponsive" means "barely functioning, i.e. close to death" If that's your "legal line" you're working in fucking Lublyanka Prison, not for the supposedly-rule-of-law U.S. government.)There it is. Lowry, comfortably ensconced in his office at NR, can blithely complain that the problem wasn't that agents of his government used pain, fear, and suffering to torment some poor random schulb, but that the torment has bad optics and that we shouldn't cold-shoulder the torturers just because torture looks bad on its' face.
"The CIA didn’t learn of any planned attack in the U.S."(No shit. Because Zubaydah didn't know anything to begin with.); it did become confident that Zubaydah wasn’t holding back anything about one (Why? Because he refused to scream out some lie that matched the torturer's hypothesis to stop the torture? That's the problem with torture - you can't be sure if the screamer is telling something he actually know,s or just something you want to hear, or whether the pain has simply driven him mad and he's screaming anything to make the pain stop.). "From his capture to his transfer to the Department of Defense on September 5, 2006, information from him produced 766 intelligence reports."(That's nice. I can fill more than 700 "intelligence reports" with all sorts of stuff, from trivia to genuine intelligence to complete nonsense. The sheer volume that came from this poor bastard's piehole means exactly nothing other than if you torture someone he or she will scream lots of stuff.)
"In the cold light of day, we would have handled all of this differently. The Bush administration shouldn’t have been as aggressive in its legal interpretations. We should have realized that we had more time to play with, and that the program itself would become a black mark on our reputation overseas and such a domestic flashpoint that we would basically lose all ability to interrogate detainees (droning became the preferred alternative)." (This is to suggest that the "problem" with this was purely political, or organizational, and not moral. This is the language of the corporate torturers of the KGB or the Gestapo and now the CIA; the problem isn't that we're monsters, the problem is that being monsters hampers our messaging. That, in itself, is monstrous. If your problem with atrocity isn't the atrocity itself but how you think it's perceived you ARE a monster.)
If Lowry were to be snatched up and taken to some nameless place in Central Asia and tortured mercilessly he would be the first to scream out any and everything his tormentors asked of him. So would you. So would I. And yet, he finds that perfectly okay...so long as the person being tortured is NOT him.
There's a place for that sort of person.
And it's labeled: "Here be monsters".
Update 3/16 pm: So now we learn that Ms. Haspel was not in charge of the dungeon where Mr. Zubaydah was tortured when he was tortured by other Americans. No. She was, instead, in charge of the dungeon during the time other people were tortured. And then, like any good little torturer, she beavered away hiding and destroying the evidence of the crimes she and her minions committed.
Here's the important thing to remember about all this.
Every American intelligence official of the War on Terror Generation; Ms. Haspel, every field officer, every first-line supervisor in the CIA (and, presumably, the DIA, and many of the other related intelligence agencies) is tarred with torture. If they didn't torture they knew those who did. Or they received "intelligence" derived from torture. Or they suspected the torture, or should have, and kept silent and thus complicit in the torture.
There are no clean hands here. Not all the way up to the Oval Office, where the Commander-in-Chief, like any other commander, may delegate authority but not responsibility. We the People are responsible, and worse, in that now knowing we have most of us chosen to remain silent and imply our consent.
We are none us innocent of this.
Now we have the choice, whether we sit idly by and let the Orange Fool place a torturer at the head of one of our "intelligence" agencies, or whether we choose to let the punishment for these crimes begin here.
We are either torturers, or we are not.
We are either citizens of a free nation.
Or we are monsters.