Torture doth never prosper, what’s the reason?
For when it prospers, people call it “harsh interrogation”.
Yeah, it doesn’t rhyme. (I looked up “torture” and found exactly two rhymes for it, neither of them easy to work into a verse: porcher, scorcher.)
This is the reason why I will not join Slacktivist’s campaign Torture is wrong – but when torture advocates can with bland voice say “of course torture is wrong – we only want to hurt our prisoners a little bit, no scars! and deliberately humiliating them to make them confess doesn’t count as torture, you liberal hippy!” what good does it do?
“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
When you hold someone prisoner, even if they are imprisoned legally and justly (which of course is not true of the extrajudicial prisoners who are being tortured by Americans), it is wrong to inflict on them severe pain and suffering, whether physical or mental. Trying to define “severe” is pointless: but given that the Geneva Conventions repeatedly argue that the standard should be to treat soldiers and civilians of enemy nations as well as you treat your own soldiers and civilians, “severe” should be held to the same standard: if you would object to having this pain and suffering inflicted on one of your own*, don’t do it to a prisoner. Because it’s torture. Even if, gestapo-like, you prefer to call it “harsh interrogation”, or demand to know how else “the terrorists” can be fought.
*However you define “one of your own”.