Because some people deserve it.
If Osama bin Laden is captured, he deserves to be tortured before he is executed. A day of excruciating torture for each of the more than 3,000 victims on 9/11 would be getting off easy.
Torture and execution as punishment for murder is not cruel. It is just. In fact, it is getting off easy. What torture could possibly be as bad as learning that one’s child or spouse or other loved one has been murdered? What parent would not endure torture (or ‘waterboarding’) to bring his child back? No torture could ever be enough punishment for the pain and suffering and loss inflicted by a murderer on the victim and the victim’s loved ones.
Torture is not inherently unusual. Forms of torture could be well-defined and standardized in law.
When, at the end of a movie, the murderous villain meets a gruesome death, do you say to yourself, “Oh, that poor man”? No. The villain deserved it.
There are only two reasons not to torture:
1. the possibility that the person to be tortured is not really guilty of the crime.
2. the pain and suffering inflicted on the torturer, from his witnessing an entity in human form (the murderer) experiencing extreme pain.
Under normal circumstances (if cases of murder can be considered normal circumstances), either of these two reasons is enough to forego torture. Though a murderer deserves torture and execution, society must settle for life in prison as punishment for the murderer. But, in an emergency, when innocent people face a significant and imminent risk of being killed, then torturing a convicted murderer or a known enemy combatant, in order to extract information to save lives, is justified.
On Memorial Day, we are reminded of the cost of freedom. We should also be reminded of our solemn responsibility to minimize that cost, to minimize the loss of American life—of soldier and civilian—in the defense of freedom. We can do so not by avoiding war when war is necessary, but rather by fighting wars with every weapon we have. That means more than providing our soldiers with body armor. It means using our weapons of mass destruction; the best body armor is a weapon that can annihilate the enemy from a safe distance. It means being willing to kill civilians in enemy nations in order to save Americans. It means using torture.
War is hell, when there are casualties on your own side.