These days it feels like deja vu... "it depends on what is is..." only now the stakes are much higher. So when is torture not torture? When does it become "coercive interrogation?" It seems as if this administration is arguing that as long as we aren't applying electrodes to genitals, breaking bones, raping, or murdering, it is OK. That leaves water-boarding, hanging upside down, sexual humiliation, and all sorts of other things that seem to me to fit any reasonable definition of torture.
So why should we not do any of these things? First off, it doesn't work. When these "coercive techniques" are being used, someone will say anything to get them to stop. How often do you think they'll tell the truth? If the torture stops with a lie, we've reinforced lying. If it doesn't stop with the truth, then we taught them that the torture won't stop anyway so why tell the truth? It doesn't work and experience has shown that the information that came using these "techniques" has been unreliable at best.
Second, it destroys any moral authority we have. Yes, some of the terrible people out there will torture American soldiers, journalists, and even civilians anyway but when we use torture, we have no argument before the world that we are any different than the terrorists. And there will be those who will follow our example and more American soldiers, journalists, and even civilians will find themselves being tortured around the world.
Third, and this is the most important reason, torture is wrong. There is no justification under any circumstances for using torture.
I'm reminded of the story of the holy man who was meditating near a river that was rising rapidly. He looked over and saw a scorpion sitting on a high spot that had turned to a tiny island, soon to be engulfed by the flood. He walked over and reached down to save the scorpion and the insect tried to sting him. This happened a number of times until a passerby remarked, "You know, you will get stung if you keep doing that. It is in the nature of the scorpion to sting." The holy man replied, "Yes, it is in the scorpion's nature to sting. It is in my nature to do what is good and right. Why should I allow the scorpion to make me change my nature?"
As a people we are allowing the "scorpions" to cause us to abandon our most beautiful values and deeply held convictions. We must hold true to who we claim we are and stand against the forces that are calling us to compromise what we know is right and true. We must not torture.