The Torture Hearing Is Merely Another Band-Aid:
Let's put this in another context: There's a street gang, call 'em the Red Street White Kings, and they just got hit hard by another gang that was sick of the Kings trying to undercut their pot sales. Call 'em the Al-Kay Thug Boys. The Thug Boys fucked up a bunch of Kings, even killed a few. Now, the Kings are worried shitless that the Thug Boys are readying another attack, and one night they capture a couple of Thug Boys. At first, they try just the threat of violence to get info on when and where the Thug Boys are getting their weapons and drugs. The Kings even try a different tactic, telling the kidnapped Thug Boys how life is so much better as a King, how there's pussy and blow and cars and all kinds of shit. Hell, a man might be tempted to cross over. Then the head King says it ain't happening fast enough, the squealing. He orders the prisoners to be smacked around, to be tied up, to have water poured into their nostrils. Say this goes on for weeks, months, with Thug Boy after Thug Boy. You get the idea.
Now, let's not leave this analogy in the fucked up world of warring drug gangs and try to justify one side or the other. Oh, no. We're changing the context, remember? We keep being asked to see things from the perspective of the attacked or from the position of the prisoners. No, let's veer off here. Let's say that the cops get in there. Yeah, the LAPD or the FBI come knocking, pounding down the door, and what they find are all these Thug Boys who've been chained up, knocked around, and repeatedly nearly drowned to death. What's the cops' reaction supposed to be? What about the DA's? Or the general public's? That at least the Kings didn't cut off the heads and hands of their captives, like the Mexican gangs do? Is anyone going to argue that the captured Thug Boys weren't tortured by the Kings? When charges are brought against the Kings, are the crimes going to be mitigated because they didn't beat the Thug Boys to bloody pulps?
No, of course not. That's the moral equivalence of the deranged. Assault is assault. Torture is torture. There's difference of degrees, sure. But if you kill someone by a quick bullet to the head or by tying them down and letting rats slowly eat them away, you still committed murder.
The notion that we're actually arguing over whether or not the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody was criminal is one of the most depressing things the Rude Pundit has ever lived through. The fact that a Senator, at a public hearing, would declare, as putatively anti-torture Republican Lindsey Graham did, that there's a reason torture's been around "for 500 years" speaks to how low we've sunk in our respect for the law. (And that's not even getting into Graham's declaration that the Bush administration, just post-9/11, "saw law as a nicety we couldn't afford," which sounds like something fuckin' Idi Amin would say.)
The Rude Pundit's not gonna re-cap yesterday's hearing, except to say you should read the entirety of former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan's statement (he wasn't allowed to read the whole thing at the actual hearing because Graham was being such a dickhole). And the go-to blog for information on the hearing and more is Marcy Wheeler's Emptywheel.
There's some absolutes in this nation, or there oughta be. To sit around and still listen to someone like Jeffrey Addicott, a real professor at a real law school, lecture about how to parse the definition of "torture" so that the shit that we did can slip under it like a contortedly-bent dancer under a low limbo stick is to realize that these fuckers are no better than the street tough who beat a stoolie. It's less about protecting the nation than protecting their hides. (Addicott actually goes through the etymology of the word "torture" and then uses Israeli law to back him up.)
Unfortunately, with the selfish move by the Obama administration in reversing itself on the release of torture photos (a purely, crassly political move to make the courts do the dirty work), we are still more concerned with living in denial than in facing up to our shame and using it to learn and move on.