al Qaeda, the US, and torture

Andrew Sullivan, a religious conservative, says the fathomless sadism of al Qaeda torture techniques are beyond comprehension but tortures done by the US (or its proxies) are also stomach-turning and hideous.

What al Qaeda and Saddam did was an extreme form of sadistic torture, the kind that psychopaths enjoy and inflict. But that does not make, say, freezing someone to near-death, reviving him, re-freezing him again any less torture. Yes, we did that, carefully monitored by Rumsfeld. It does not make the Khmer Rouge waterboarding technique any less torture. It does not make contorting a prisoner into an excruciating stress position and then smashing his head against the wall any less torture. We should not forget that there have been more than a hundred deaths in U.S.-run torture chambers under George W. Bush either.

Torture is not justifiable because others do it more brutally. It still destroys people, their lives, their minds. That this country is even having a debate about whether torture can be justifiable simply shows how debased things have become.

Is torture ever justifiable? The answer, quite simply, is “Never.”

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