Senator McCain is arguing for a U.S. policy against the use of torture. Among his arguments is that torture is ineffective and that the Israelis and Russians have learned to obtain information without torture by use of "psychological methods".
The Israelis DO use torture. Perhaps McCain should read the new book by Norman Finkelstein which documents this fact. Perhaps more importantly, a policy statement makes good political theater, but would not in and of itself necessarily means that torture was not carried out. It would just mean that keeping secrecy regarding use of torture would be facilitated.
But, what about those unspecified "psychological methods" that Senator McCain spoke of? Do the targets of psychological operations feel they are being tortured? Is psychological torture more acceptable than physical torture? Does sleep deprivation, exposure to extremely loud noise, instigation of agitation and extreme fear of harm or death, or other psychological torture techniques seem more acceptable to Senator McCain?
Perhaps what is needed is a real definition of torture, not a contrived one. Among the definitions of torture in my Webster’s Dictionary are: the infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing or burning) to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure; something that causes agony or pain; anguish of body or mind
Perhaps a rule of thumb would be in determining if something constitutes torture would be to determine if it were appropriate for dealing with a friend who does something wrong or illegal or is threatening violence or pain. How severely would you treat a friend who might know if your mate committed adultery or your child if you think they may be planning to purchase drugs? Would you torture your child or turn them over to the U.S. military or CIA for "interrogation" in order to get the truth out of that child.
The excuse that pending attacks could be prevented and lives saved by gathering timely information are disingenuous. If torture must be used to save lives and prevent attacks, then the government itself should never be allowed to hold information that could prevent attacks. We know that Franklin Roosevelt had access to all Japanese military and government radio the communications traffic, and he could have prevented the attack on Pearl Harbor by counterattacking the Japanese fleet well away from Hawaii. Roosevelt held his information tight and kept his awareness secret so that the attack could occur and America could be provoked into war against the Axis powers. The U.S. military developed ability to intercept and understand German military communications as well, and could have prevented any number of military battles in which soldiers were lost. But, for strategic reasons, American lives were sacrificed by the American government. Morals definitely took a back seat to military strategy.
If morals are to be used as a reason to torture prisoners in the War on Terror, then morals must require that the U.S. government prevent all preventable deaths of U.S. citizens and military personnel and must not hold secrets that cost American lives. There is plenty of solid evidence to demonstrate that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were known in adequate detail to high officials of the U.S. government (and to others) prior to those attacks and the attacks could have easily been thwarted. Even Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco knew enough to avoid flying on that day, and he cancelled a trip to New York and avoided risk by his knowledge.
The reality is that torture is and probably always will be standard operating procedure of the American military and government. Senator McCain is trying desperately to hide public knowledge of torture by erecting a barrier, a shield to public awareness. McCain wants to be able to say, "We don’t torture anyone, we have a firm policy against it" and then perfect methods of keeping actual torture secret. The fact that McCain approves of Israeli methods means he is not sincere in stopping torture.
If the American public wants to take a moral stand against torture, far more than a policy must be put into place. There has to be policy, scrutiny, enforcement, transparency, and active monitoring of all interrogation operations by outside parties, preferably by the United Nations. We can NEVER trust the government when it says it does not torture.