Defining Torture Down

DEFINING TORTURE DOWN….Paul Waldman is pissed off that Republicans have successfully cowed the media into refusing to use the word “torture” for things like waterboarding and sleep deprivation, which are pretty clearly torture:

This is not complicated. Everyone all over the world agrees on what constitutes torture. Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions. Not hard to understand. Yet Republicans have successfully lured the entire journalistic community into their moral sewer, where there is some degree of suffering (defined not by how awful it is, but by whether it’s fast or slow, and whether it leaves visible scars) that marks the line between torture and not-torture. If I rip your fingernails out — torture! If I tie you in a “stress position” designed to gradually inflict elevating amounts of pain, up to sheer agony, over the course of an hour or two — not torture!

Italics mine, and of course Paul is correct. It’s not hard to understand.

But here’s the part I don’t get. Obviously a lot of people deal with this issue by simply not thinking about it. But among the torture supporters who do think about it, what exactly do they think? Putting legal issues aside, there are two basic moral positions:

  1. The stuff we do is OK, full stop. If Iranians or al-Qaeda or Hamas used waterboarding or stress positions on Americans in order to wring information out of them, we’d have no cause to complain. War is war.

  2. It’s not OK in general, but it is acceptable when used against suspected terrorists. It would be wrong to torture Americans because our fighters are uniformed soldiers, not irregulars.

I guess — what? It has to be #2, right? That’s the usual legal distinction, and we certainly know that we wouldn’t accept waterboarding or stress positions or any of the rest against Americans with equanimity. So it has to be #2.

But is this also the moral position among torture apologists? Or something else?