The subject of torture is something that has been in the news a lot lately. I'm surprised and dismayed by the fact that there is actually a debate on this subject. How can a country that has based itself on liberty and justice (perhaps not always living up to those ideals, but still expounding them) try and make an argument that torture is justified.
The author Michael Stackpole has a good editorial about this on his blog, in which he talks about this far more eloquently than can I, so go give it a read.
One aspect of this he doesn't really delve into though is the use of extreme measures in a desperate situation vs. condoning them via government fiat. While Mr. Stackpole speaks of the ridiculousness of the ticking bomb argument, and I agree, I could imagine situations where one might be driven to do something horrible. I'm not condoning it, only saying I could understand where the ticking bomb argument could come into play.
The difference between an individual making a decision to use torture in the heat of the moment and doing it as part of government prescribed policy are hugely different things. The individual must make a decision. They must look at the situation and say "Yes, this is worth it, I have to do this". And once they have taken that action they must answer for it. They cannot hide behind policy or bureaucracy, they must defend what they did and face the consequences. Having a policy that says that it is ok makes it routine, common, and removes responsibility from the individual. Any government that officially condones such action is firmly on the road to evil no matter how noble they think their cause is. I sincerely hope mine can reverse course before it is too late.