Is it torture to strap a man to a chair, shove a needlessly big feeding tube through his nostril, force liquid into his stomach, add constipation medicine such that he soils himself, and leave him there to stew in his own filth for a couple hours? What if you do that to the man twice a day over a period of many years?
An inmate at Guantanamo Bay says it's torture, and that he's suffered that treatment under the Bush and Obama Administrations. Weighing in on my article about that man, Andrew Sullivan writes that "the technique is painful and humiliating enough to be used as part of a torture program," but insists that it isn't torture in this case, because there's no indication that it "was designed to procure a confession or admission of some kind—and that’s key to defining it as torture."
He is flat wrong.
On many occasions, Sullivan has cited the UN Convention Against Torture, which was signed by President Reagan, ratified by the Senate, and is thus the law in America.
It defines torture as follows (my emphasis):
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means 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.
Merriam-Webster defines torture as follows: "The infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, or wounding) to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure." As an email correspondent points out, "There is simply no question that torture encompasses abuses other than those intended to elicit confession or admission."