The former head of the US Department of Homeland Security has said torture may be used in certain cases in order to prevent a major loss of life.
And how many lives has the Bush administration’s torture-friendly stance cost already? How many will it cost us? Violence leads to more violence; torture is violence of the darkest kind — calculated violence against a helpless victim. Nonviolence also spreads. Insisting on higher standards and taking a higher path allows one’s enemies the luxury of taking a higher path themselves. Reserving the right to use the worst means when you judge that the end deserves them suggests to your foes that no qualms should constrain them when they judge the end is important enough.
That’s exactly the calculation that Osama bin Laden made — yes, the people in Manhattan were themselves innocent, but this goal was so very important that they had to be sacrificed. The end justified the means.