One of the people I keep tabs on at Live Journal has been on a tear about torture. From reading his journal, I've seen that he has very strong feelings about torture – indeed, he hates it. I've also seen that he seems to lose his ability to read for content when he gets worked up about a topic.
Another problem I've noticed is that he has a very simplistic (he calls it simple) definition of what constitutes torture:
Here is my definition. You will (because you have already) disagree.
It's very simple.
Any physical or mental coercion.
Full stop. Any.
So the cold room, out of bounds.
The standing up for hours, out of bounds.
Feeding him food against his religion, out of bounds
Slapping him around,just a little, out of bounds
Telling him his family will never know where he is, out of bounds.
Not feeding him as the troops of the detaining power, out of bounds.
It is just that simple.
And it has the advantage of being both morally right, and working.
There are serious problems with this definition, which I won't go in to right now.
But it seems he's made the following logical argument:
• Torture is not nice.
• Anything not nice is torture.
Jonah Goldberg has a different take. Among other things, context matters.
When confronted with the assertion that the Soviet Union and the United States were moral equivalents, William F. Buckley responded that if one man pushes an old lady into an oncoming bus and another man pushes an old lady out of the way of a bus, we should not denounce them both as men who push old ladies around.
[Andrew] Sullivan complains that calling torture “aggressive interrogation techniques” doesn’t make torture any better. Fair enough. But calling aggressive interrogation techniques “torture” when they’re not doesn’t make such techniques any worse.