Sadly, our current social/political discourse contains much to explain the necessity of torture in a utlitarian worldview.
Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly offered some thoughts on the concepts and uses of torture in this post and then posted a comment wherein torture is deemed acceptable.
Drum cites Paul Waldman who says:
"Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or confessions."
For myself, I would define torture a bit differently:
"Torture is the intentional infliction of physical or mental suffering."
As for a 'defense' of the uses of torture, Drum points to the following:
"I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don't want our side to lose....As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.
You'd be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid's forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child's bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of "evil," a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.
John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.
That was the motivation.
The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don't do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.
At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.
Yes, it's good if we do it, when it's for the right reasons. So far, it's been for the right reasons. And no, it isn't good when it's done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives."
See also previous posts on this topic.