But I can't. But I think I'm a little closer to waying my peace here.
Physical pain is only one kind of distressing mental state. While imprisonment can be successfully dealt with by many people, no one who is waterboarded can put up with it for any length of time--supposedly KSM set the record at 2 and a half minutes.
The fact that waterboarding seems to contravene international law (unless you get a international judge who's willing to legislate from the bench and allow it) suggests a strong presumption against using it. I can imagine particular instances in which one can make a utlitarian argument for using it given the kind of information one might get. If we had a waterboarding program, it would be helpful to be reassured that we would only do it to people whom we have good reason to believe are high enough in the counsels of al-Qaeda to know about ongoing terror threats. But then you have to worry about the Potato Chip Effect (you can't eat just one). A waterboarding program that hits only the right people would be better than one that waterboards people who don't fit the category. It doens't look as if our program has done that. You then have to look at the collateral damage caused by the harm to our reputation. Does anyone seriously deny that Abu Ghirab photographs weren't put on al Qaeda recruitment posters? The fact that it would be hypocritical of them to do so is beside the point. You have the fact we could be brought to trial for war crimes for doing this, by people who don't think the Geneva conventions are so "quaint" after all. You have the fact that this requires brutalizing and desensitizing the people who do the waterboarding. When you add everything up (and I haven't begun to add everything up here) it looks as if we are selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.
Even if there is a way to waterboard someone without torturing them (Mike's good question) would we end up with people who do it who get sadistic pleasure out of it. C. S. Lewis has Fairy Hardcastle say that you can't get anyone to do this job (which involved torturing people) who doesn't get some kick out of it.
What happens to our character when preventing an admittedly horrible attack like a repeat 9/11 is so important to us that we treat anybody, even a terror suspect, as a subhuman. As Christians we believe that our character is the only thing that lasts forever, everything else, including lives, come to an end. The Gonzales memo suggesting that the "post 9/11 paradigm" "renders quaint" some of the provisions of the Geneva conventions is a scary statement. It says that because "those people" are the way that are, we shouldn't have to follow the rules we agreed to FOR GOOD REASON (and yes, I am shouting!) I can hear the admistration saying, with Uncle Andrew and the White Witch, "Ours is a high and lonely destiny." When we were attacked, the world sympathized with us, but some probably thought "Welcome to the world, USA." There have been brutal and ruthless enemies before. 9/11 is nowhere near the top of the list of great crimes of the world's history. It's only American conceit that suggests otherwise.
Using the Ring of Power to do good, that will probably help in the short run, but it will destroy us in the long run.