We Americans like to think of ourselves as people who not only do not torture, but don’t HAVE to torture. Most of us believe, or more important, feel that only the depraved torture needlessly, and only the weak torture out of need. And we prefer not to think of ourselves as either, thank you. And our internal torture-detector does not readily distinguish between the waterboard and the Tucker Telephone. (There’s a difference, and our interrogators are wise to observe it, but the national psyche is not assuaged by it.)
As it turns out, we are “weak” in the sense that we face dangers to which torture arguably, and perhaps demonstrably, offers a solution – if we are prepared to argue for it and demonstate it. But there’s the rub. Airing the utility of torture confesses the weakness that makes it useful, whereas not airing the utility of it leaves us vulnerable to a charge of depravity. It’s a hobson’s choice, made necessary by the admission that torture is national policy. That’s why I cannot get to the place where official disclosure of interrogation techniques is a salutary thing. It isn’t. Such dsiclosure makes us choose between depravity and weakness, and the more robust the defense, the more we tell our enemies about how we roll. Nothing good can come of it, at least nothing good that moves the needle against all the bad.