The United States government is complicit or actively engaged in the torture of terror suspects. U.S. prosecutors have admitted as much when they dropped several charges against alleged “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla late last month because the testimony supporting those charges had been obtained from informants under torture. The White House admits as much in their vocal opposition to an amendment to the defense bill set to be voted on that would specifically forbid torture by U.S. agents or armed forces. Evidence uncovered that suggests the U.S. government farms out it’s torture needs to third world countries that lack laws against inhumane treatment has yet to be repudiated, lending more credence to the notion that the U.S. condones or actively participates in torture.

At the same time that they advocate for the inclusion of torture as an interrogation tool, the White House is playing a game of semantics, something that Republicans continually roasted the previous administration for doing, by claiming that torture is only torture when it involves organ failure that leads to death or death itself. Anything that falls short of that mark is, according to the Bush Administration, not torture. Conservative pundits fall in line claiming that no written torture policy exists that can be found. They claim that no actual torture cells have been uncovered. They dismiss the systemic abuses at Abu Ghraib as depraved acts of a few bad apples. They go so far as to encourage the use of torture as a legitimate way to glean information from an adversary, especially if that foe is Islamic.

The majority of those most vocally supportive of using torture are from the right side of the aisle- the so-called compassionate conservatives. If ever there was a misnomer, it is this one. These are the people who fight to make sure that every fetus is born while stripping away funding for health and education. These are the people who lock up a harmless pot smoker for twenty years and release a three-time rapist to make room in the jail. These are the folks who loudly claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, a man notoriously described as peaceful in every possible way; a man who himself was tortured by the Roman government and eventually killed. Compassionate is not a word that describes the aspirations of these pundits and politicians.

Most people in America were brought up to believe in the Golden Rule. Do unto others and all that. Surprisingly, torture isn’t one of those things we would like to have done unto us. As such, we instinctively understand that at its root torture is an unjust policy. It is unjust because it goes against the very grain of our human psyche. But in times of external strife, and especially during this ongoing War on Terror, the Golden Rule justification can be manipulated or even completely sidestepped in the face of “imminent danger.”

Imminent Danger is the code word du jour to imply that something bad is about to happen, but we could probably stop it from happening if we take drastic action immediately. American’s now have a better understanding of what our president means when he describes a situation as having imminent danger. He described an attack by Iraq as such. Subsequent evidence has shown us otherwise, but that hasn’t stopped the White House from continuing to use this as a rationale for questionable interrogation tactics. The theory that getting information to reinforce your beginning premise is the goal of all interrogation offers ripe ground for the acceptance of torture. After all, if you aren’t hearing the information that you want or need to hear, by applying torture, one can get a suspect to confirm pretty much anything. And therein lies the first real problem with torture, namely that any information retrieved through torture is automatically suspect and unreliable. Such information, when acted upon, can often serve to exacerbate an already difficult situation, simply because the information was not true. Torture does not guarantee the truth. It only guarantees a confirmation of the torturers questions.

The second big problem with torture is that through its use, we expose our own citizens and service men and women to an increased risk of torture if they are captured or kidnapped by those who are our enemy. One of the hallmarks of America has been her unwavering commitment to human rights, if not in law, than at least in word and deed. America has been held as an example for the world to follow with its tolerant attitude towards other cultures and its more humane approach to the treatment of prisoners, especially prisoners of war. Our government spearheaded many of today’s international treaties that provide for the proper treatment of POW’s and other criminal detainees. By abandoning our legacy in the face of a devious foe, we undermine our own reputation as the “good guy.” America has succeeded in defeating horrendous enemies before without resorting to torture. Surely we can do so again.

For some, the end does justify the means. If a million lives are saved through the information gleaned from one suspect with the aid of torture, isn’t this a good trade off? The answer is not so black and white. Certainly it is good to have saved a million lives from senseless violence or death, but each of those lives is now stained by the act of inflicting torture on another. The truth is that these extreme examples of success are seldom, if ever, the results of torture. Often, suspects are being tortured to corroborate other information gleaned from torture interrogations. In no case that I know of has the use of torture saved the lives of a million people. Indeed, the greatest terror successes since 9-11 have not been stopped or discovered despite the use of torture by the U.S. or its temporary allies.

What about the claim that terror suspects are coached to say that they have been tortured while being interrogated? It would not surprise me if that were true. The enemy is not stupid and understands that the majority of Americans abhor the use of torture and cannot condone it. If the enemy can claim torture with a measure of believability, they can foment some level of sympathy from the general public and repaint their own aggression as an act against repression. Sadly, whether a suspect has actually been tortured is almost a moot issue in some cases, simply because we know that this government has been engaged in or farms out torture in the War on Terror. If we never engaged in the practice, and if we never encouraged our allies to engage in it, such claims would be patently hollow and would not be available for the enemy to use against us.

By using torture ourselves, our government has sullied the good reputation of America as being a country of humanitarian beliefs and humane treatment of all people. By advocating for torture, this government has made the safety of our citizens and our soldiers secondary to their need for information that corresponds to their own pre-ordained formula for the Middle East. And by allowing torture to take place in our name, the Bush Administration has given our sworn enemy ammunition to turn our allies against us and to justify their nefarious cause. Such is the folly of torture.