The tortured debate surfaced again in an attempt to have an Attorney General assert a position that the Congress would not define. That episode was another example of how the meaning of torture has been tortured as a political football. The American Thinker (The ‘Torture’ Fraud of the Left by J.R. Dunn) puts it this way:

“Torture” is probably the most egregious of these cases. That’s the explanation for the sneer quotes. Because, quite simply, in much of the debate over “torture”, we’re not talking about actual torture at all. We’re talking about rough treatment, harshness, or coercion.

The word is being used as a cudgel to beat on the US and, more specifically, the US President. This is done not only by his domestic political enemies but also by his international political enemies. There is a lot or moral preening going on.

Strategy page describes how some of the myths about torture, attempting to minimize its value, are also being re-examined. Extraditions Rising is about how tastes change when behavior applies pressure.

The torture issue has been diminished by the European realization that such practices are common throughout the Middle East and are often more effective than Western interrogation methods, in obtaining useful information. It’s become fashionable in the West to believe that torture does not work in intelligence work. But the long history of torture in the 20th century, especially during World War II, demonstrates that it does work, as unsavory as it might be to modern sensibilities.

Moral Preening is the term Mona Charen used in the Washington Times.

The question of just what does and does not qualify as torture is a vexed one in American law. The U.S. is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment — all of which forbid torture. … torture has been variously described as “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering” or “intense, lasting and heinous agony.” … “It is ironic … that the same elected officials now demanding a definitive answer from Judge Mukasey have failed to give us one themselves.” … It’s so easy to, in John McCain’s words, “take the moral high ground” and denounce any sort of torture under all circumstances. But is it really the moral high ground?

It is so easy to pretend to take the moral high ground but one must be careful that the mound one mounts for this does not have a grand mountain behind you that shows just where you really stand – and where you should be headed.

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