As appalling as the recent revelations of the torture of terrorist suspects are, we have to ask; was it the right thing to do at the time?
When dealing with an enemy whose idea of salvation is their own death (while causing ours) there are few options available to the interrogator who needs information quickly. Coffee, cookies and a chat, just don't seem to work.
Despite depictions on television of the supposed humiliation that Islamic warriors feel when being dealt with by, for example, a female questioner, they have been trained to resist such amateur productions.
Like our own soldiers they are taught to resist. They fear very little because death is something they have been conditioned to look forward to. What are the options? What techniques would provide information vital to the safety of thousands, perhaps millions? More importantly, what is the price barrier to protect our freedom?
The reason why the military used, and was approved to use, torture was to save lives - our lives. In the days, weeks and months after 9/11- conspiracy theories aside - we had no idea if and when the next event would occur. Would it be bigger, more deadly? Were operatives in place? Was there nuclear dirty bomb material prepared for use? Perhaps in time we will find out that torture did indeed thwart another attack. America in 2001 and 2002 could not afford a repeat performance of 9/11. Indeed we can't afford it now; another 9/11 would cause an economic implosion so close are we to the edge.
Only an expert can testify as to torture's effectiveness. Fear is a powerful stimulant for everybody; second only to pain. Both are the tools of the interrogator.
It is easy to second guess the use of torture - at this stage - long after the event. The morals or ethics of torture were not relevant in those desperate days post-attack. The need for information was the driving force.
Torture has existed as part of political apparatus' the world-over forever. It's nothing new in the U.S., we're just now noticing it, that's all. The CIA for years used external bases and other countries as their torturers; Vietnam, Nicaragua, in all of our un-official conflicts.
Civilization as we know it is a relatively new departure for mankind and in many parts of the world it is not a feature at all. Take many parts of the Middle East. Life is cheap; women are property and perceived political and religious transgressions are dealt with harshly, punished with execution or mutilation. Children in these parts of the world are mere objects, particularly young girls who, according to a recent news story, may be married at the age of eight. This of course translates into state and religious-sponsored pedophilia. We don't understand them any more than they us. This mentality however is what we are up against.
Bush, Cheney - like them or hate them - did what they had to do, no more and no less, to protect the country at a time of dire emergency. I would expect our current administration to do exactly the same thing under similar circumstances.
Consider this as you mull your muted outrage.
Post 9/11, for whatever reason, our military trundled into Iraq. According to the Opinion Research Business, in London, we - the U.S. - killed in excess of 1 million Iraqis during our sojourn there.
We did so by shooting, dismemberment through artillery and bombing, suffocation through the use of fuel-air bombs, concussion, burning, and explosion. Not recorded are the hundred of thousands of wounded and maimed.
Surely this action, which certainly qualifies as an atrocity, demands more of a response and outrage than the water-boarding of a few dozen suspected terrorists; where are our priorities? Unfortunately this is a demonstration of the illogical duality of our American thinking. We can be infuriated by the sight of a woman's breast on the television while ignoring the violent action of a B-52 bombing a village in Afghanistan.
As the headlines veer away from the sound-bites of terror alerts and travel fears, we are becoming complacent and once again are returning to our amnesic state, safe in our shielded cocoon of denial.
War is an unpleasant business. So that we don't have to face it, we employ an army of specialists who are well versed in the ways of death. Torture is but one of the tools of the trade employed by these specialists in the business of war.
It is part of the price that we - and our enemies - must pay for peace on our shores.