A reader writes:
First, he very much wants to draw a bright, bold line between mental and physical injury. But that's hopeless, since the psyche is in fact contained within a physical object - the brain. If you monitored the brain while someone was undergoing some sort of psychological stress, you'd easily be able to measure physical effects. Why would those effects not count? How is passing a painful but non-skin-damaging current through the body any different from waterboarding from that perspective? In both cases, the interrogator is causing the body to send severe distress signals to the brain, where they are experienced as agony. Again, what the hell is the difference?
Second, I'd be interested to hear JPod's answer to a hypothetical situation. Let's say that several years into the future, virtual reality technology takes off, and we arrive at the point where, instead of a primitive "physical" interrogation, we can simply attach a device to a detainee's head and have that person experience the most brutal torture practices imaginable, all without even a tiny bit of "physical" injury. Is that torture? Should it be allowed? If so, should there be any limits? Why or why not?
It's disgusting that we're even having this debate.
Even more unnerving is that this debate is irrelevant. Bush and Cheney believe that they have a constitutional right to ignore the law, waive the Geneva Conventions, and authorize anything - including techniques that not even John Podhoretz (I hope) would deem non-torture, if they so wish. Here is John Yoo, a respectable member of the Republican establishment, in a debate on what the president can legally do with any person he seizes and deems, with no due process, an "enemy combatant":
Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty
Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that...
"No treaty." The president can do anything to anyone if he "thinks he needs to do that ..."