Why was the Bush administration initially so eager to cover up its torture, and conduct its abuses in secret? Once the truth about the Bush administration’s policy of institutionalized torture came out, it turned out to be something that the right thinks works for it politically and they like to brag. But back in the high tide of the torturing, they clearly understood that they were doing something shameful and wanted to keep it secret. And even today they’re ashamed of what it is they were actually doing. In their constant invocations of SERE training as way of showing that waterboarding’s not so bad they reveal themselves. The logic of their arguments is that brutality works and it’s good, but they can never quite bring themselves fully and fulsomely embrace that idea and instead want to turn around and minimize the enormity of their actions. But if the justification of the brutal coercion involved in waterboarding is that it works then why is the semantic argument about torture even relevant?
My guess is that a lot of the torture apologists are actually somewhat conflicted on this issue. They've committed themselves to defending this garbage, but deep down they feel there is in fact something wrong with it. After all, our national identity used to be based in part on the fact that we didn't do stuff like this. I think this theory explains the dilemma quite nicely. I don't think all these people are sociopaths (Rove is the only one that comes closest, in my opinion), but the makeup of the right is such that I don't really expect there to be too many people to stand against this brutality.
My major concern is that the younger generation of conservatives--ones who grew up when their leaders defended torture--aren't going to be particularly conflicted about this stuff. We anti-torture people have a lot of work to do.