Waldman asks the apologists to provide one:
Can you give a definition of torture that wouldn't include waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation? I have no idea what such a definition might be, and I have to imagine that if they had any idea they would have offered one. Because here's the definition of torture you'd think everyone could agree on: Torture is the infliction of extreme suffering for the purpose of extracting information or a confession. That's not too hard to understand. The point is to create such agony that the subject will do anything, including give you information he'd prefer not to give you, to make the suffering stop. That's the purpose of waterboarding, that's the purpose of sleep deprivation (which, by the way, has been described by those subjected to it in places like the Soviet gulag to be worse than any physical pain they had ever experienced), and that's the purpose of stress positions. The "enhanced" techniques that were used weren't meant to trick detainees or win them over, they were meant to make them suffer until they begged for mercy.
Exactly. Torture is defined as breaking someone in order to get information. Cheney's torture program bragged of "breaking" people. John Yoo even bragged of crushing a child's testicles if necessary – which would, in his view, be perfectly legal for a president to authorize. The minute you apply mental and physical suffering sufficiently severe to force someone to "break", it's torture. Of course it is. And remember that the Convention Against Torture that Ronald Reagan signed (what a brutal betrayal of Reaganism were Cheney's war crimes!) made it clear that it was not just banning torture as defined, but anything that came even near torture. This was the America Cheney threw away. Because he panicked.