When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.
No-one is saying that George W. Bush is the moral equivalent of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. What we are saying is that torture is torture is torture. Hitchens' distinction between torture and "actual torture" is not one of kind but of degree, with degree being measured in levels of sadism. The point is that torture is always evil, whatever its motives, that it leads to false information, whoever implements it, that it is illegal, in America and by Americans, and no one in a constitutional republic has the right to violate the law indefinitely with impunity. There is nothing "diseased" or "lame" about this position.
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