A reader writes:

Can we now call torture what it is?  It is not a tactic and it is not a post-conventional moral exception for ticking time-bombs.  Torture is a punishment.  When viewed as such, confessed as such, it loses the tedious layers of rationalization that have characterized both sides of the debate so far.  Torture is not an anxious over-reaction to future threats that haven't materialized.  It has nothing to do with the future; it comes from the past, from a wound we never constituted after 9/11.  Not concern for the future, but still-born rage for a past that can never be undone.  

Torture is revenge.  It is the only expression we have found that goes beyond our fruitless wars, beyond cultural alienation and jingoism.  For torture is an intimate punishment defined by the willful desecration of reason and subjectivity.  This is why so many people cannot bring themselves to utter the word in press or public forums.  Mere death cannot compete with torture for the succor of revenge we seek -- we needed to craft a living death.  We needed to make an inhuman aesthetic (Abu Ghraib) to match the spectacle of impotence and vulnerability we suffered on 9/11.  

Any utilitarian argument (e.g. better safe than sorry, ticking time-bomb, ends justify the means, etc.) misses the essential emotions at play.  Indeed, we cling to new iterations of these arguments to hide the raw emotions beneath them.

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