I’m getting a lot of flack for my point in my syndicated column that Air Force Academy cadets get water-boarded in their training and that therefore it might fall somewhere short of actual torture. Here’s a typical email:
dont you think its a bit preposterous to cite torture simulation as a reason that torture is acceptible? “Our soldiers experience torture simulation as part of their training. Thus it’s okay to torture prisoners.” Do you actually see no difference between a simulation and the real thing? This is not just a ridiculously bad argument as a simple matter of rhetoric, it’s a morally despicable argument that reveals some seriously warped thinking.
Me: Of course I see the difference between the two: it’s a psychological difference. And while I don’t want to be categorical about this and say “as long as it’s only psychological, it’s not torture” I do think this is an important distinction. For example, I think Ted Kennedy made a very good point yesterday when he denounced the “torture memo” because it would allow cutting off fingers because that doesn’t amount to organ failure. Good point. That counts as torture in my book.
Well, you can’t “simulate” cutting off fingers either. Telling a prisoner you’re going to do really terrible things to him in order to get him to give up the goods doesn’t bother me nearly as much as doing those things. Electrocuting the privates of a cadet would be torture, period. I think we’re all on the same page on that. In other words, the fact that something can be simulated accurately without offending our sensibilities suggest that when we do it in reality it might not be as terrible as something we would never dream of even simulating. Depriving terrorists of sleep to get them to spill the beans is not torture it’s interrogation.