My brother derailed his military career over issues involving torture, avoiding it and advocating changes in policy that peaked when fifty generals signed a statement in opposition to what he proposed. That was a score or so of years ago. He was right. They are still wrong.
Torture is never an option. That is because it never works (intimidating people, co-opting people, interrogating people -- all of those work -- but torture and breaking people does not). That is well known from the Israeli experiences, other history and the FBI's long studies of the issues. Torture is merely an obscenity, seductive, and pornographic. It should never be an option [see link in sidebar to blog on that point].
On the other hand, should we prosecute people for having opinions we disagree with, advocating positions and being persuasive? Should John Yoo be prosecuted?
Before you answer, consider the academic who felt that Secretary of State Rice's doctorate should have been revoked for political reasons. The academic was brought up short when it was pointed out that if doctorates could be so easily revoked, the most likely target was not a close friend of the President of the United States, but Ms. Rice's critics.
Those who would prosecute Yoo are, quite frankly, the same people Ann Coulter advocates having tried for treason. Put to a vote in before the public, we already know from opinion polls that Yoo would win and his critics would be exiled from the country. Most of the efforts to attack Yoo are silliness at best.
At the worst they are an attempt to criminalize advocacy for those we disagree with. I see it often enough in efforts to make criminal defense attorneys share the fate of their clients, the attempts to castigate investigative writers like Taubes, claiming that his advocacy will do nothing but lead to early deaths for thousands and that he should be preemptively jailed for murder.
Of course, you may say, Taubes is right. At least he looks right now. But if I were using the scientific consensus of ten years ago, Taubes would be in jail.
Some things are obscene. Torture is one of those. Others are at best silliness, such as attempting to jail or assault the advocates of those we disagree with us, especially when they
represent the thinking of the majority. Should that succeed, what protects the minority from payback? Personally, I think of payback fantasies, revenge fantasies, as a form of pornography.
Our country deserves better. It needs better. Neither the obscenely attractive pornography of torture in a "just cause" nor that of revenge fantasies is one that we should allow to captivate us. We need to free ourselves, in all ways, from torture, obscenity and silliness.
For more on torture, read http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368