Torture is a repugnant practice, and especially so if it becomes a habit. It may have become that, although I don't know. No one outside the alleged practitioners does. But, believe me, I'm not trying to shrug the matter off. Andrew Sullivan has persuaded me of its centrality to a humane society.
Still, we would be better off as a society if we had clarity on what is and is not torture, and then put it under the interdict of "cruel and unusual practice." Here the constitutional originalists have no standard to which to cling. This would have to be a joint enterprise of judicial figures, doctors of medicine, psychologists, criminologists and men and women drawn from other relevant disciplines, perhaps philosophers and historians. Dare I also suggest theologians and clergy? In any case, I'm not much for "blue ribbon" commissions. So James Baker and Lee Hamilton are disqualified. By the same token, the members of the body should not be split evenly on a bi-partisan basis through appointment by Nancy Pelosi and some Republican hack.
This should be a scholarly and reflective enterprise. It would be best if no one could tell at the outset what the commission would conclude.
One has the feeling now that there are some people in government and society who want a regime in which anything goes. At the same time, there are some who seem to say that any behavior that is harsher than Miranda Rules is strictly verboten. Both are a peril to justice and our own sense of ourselves a just community.
One last point. The two prisoners the tapes of whose questioning were destroyed by the C.I.A. were certifiable monsters: Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda planner of the 9/11 atrocity, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the mastermind of the Aden bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. It's a bit strange that such monstrous men should evoke so much concern.