The point is that “cruel and unusual” and “torture” are terms which are very much culturally relative. In fact, what is cruel and unusual in the sheltered parts of the US may be ordinary existence in other parts of the world....One does not have to be an advocate of moral relativism to admit that there are cultural norms regarding comfort and how one defines unusual treatment....This is moral calculus of the lowest common denominator, and a wholesale rejection of the purported moral role of this nation in its war on terror. Apparently "moral clarity" applies to all subjects except torture.
In a comment, Mark writes,
If the practices going on in those facilities is the standard and expected norm in that region and culture but is considered torture here, is it still torture? I don’t know the answer to that.Change the moral term, and you'll see the amazing shift in perspective. The Bush Doctrine has been to spread freedom and liberty because they are universally good. Imagine Bush opining, "If jailing political dissidents is the standard and expected norm in that region and culture but is considered oppressive here, is it still oppressive?"
Mark also addresses the empirical argument against torture.
It has been also said of “torture” and more specifically using modern psychological techniques some of which involve varying degrees of discomfort never work. That they only can extract what the questioner or interrogator wishes to hear in the first place. This is well documented in modern fiction, but I have seen no references to studies claiming the same in any peer reviewed scientific literature. I think claims and counter-claims on that regard by almost everyone on this topic can be well compared with Medieval science. For neither side has fact or data or any basis in reality. Both are arguing from various principles which may or may not relate to reality. For while it seems certain that many times methods used in questioning of this sort certainly can fall into a trap of only being able extract information that the questioner wishes to divulge, it also seems likely that it might be more effective, e.g., The Quiller Memorandum.First, there won't be any peer-reviewed studies of torture, given that researchers adhere to stringent ethical codes when dealing with human subjects. Second, as Mark points out in a comment, "...we haven’t done a very good job of understanding and documenting what is going on...." The Bush administration's secrecy regarding the matter, and the necessity of investigations by the ACLU into the treatment of detainees, only compounds our lack of necessary information. Last, the burden of proof is on those who justify torture as a means to an end. After all, if torture is justified by its ends, it'd damned well better work.