One connection amongst several I've heard about the decision to 'legalize' the un-legalizable may be the most disturbing to me.
From a review of Jane Mayers' book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals:
[...] Impressed by the ability of the Communist regimes to force false confessions from prisoners at show trials in the 50's, the military had researched Communist torture programs in depth in order to train its soldiers to resist as much as possible through its Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program. In a diabolical twist, the C.I.A. and the military used the lessons of the SERE program to devise an affirmative program of torture designed to extract information from detainees. The fact that torture techniques had proved useful in the past primarily for forcing false confessions does not seem to have given the C.I.A. much pause. [...]
The SERE program was designed mainly, I think, to be as unpleasant as possible in order to motivate U.S. pilots who had to bail out over hostile territory to use every means to keep from getting caught by the enemy by giving them a taste of what it might be like if they did.
I think it's probably a good training program for its intended result, but it's neither here nor there when it comes to authorizing these techniques from the White House on down for general use.
We're not talking torture techniques here as much as we're talking about the rationalization for their use.
The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.
Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.
Cut to the chase: The Bush administration, i.e. Cheney and his neocons, was looking for an al Qaeda/Saddam connection as perhaps the biggest reason/cover to start their criminal imperialistic war on Iraq. They needed a further selling point for something they had been planning since G.H.W. Bush wisely refused to march on Baghdad in '91.
They knew damn well that no such connection existed. They also knew from our experience with Chinese Communist brainwashing of American Prisoners Of War during the Korean War that such techniques were used primarily to obtain false confessions for political purposes.
A false confession of an al Qaeda/Saddam connection was as good as a real one for their purposes, and since a real one was impossible, THE ENTIRE TORTURE PROGRAM WAS DESIGNED TO OBTAIN FALSE CONFESSIONS SO THEY COULD LIE US INTO THEIR GODDAM WAR.
Just as an aside, if they'da waterboarded me six times a day for a month, I'da got a Hugo for the shit I'da made up!
In the end, of course, it didn't matter. The Cheney administration's full-court press on all fronts, mainly the lapdog media, kept the lid on the opposition and allowed them to start their criminal war anyway.
The administration knew that torture was notoriously poor at producing useful intelligence, but they continued it from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib and beyond and it turned out to be an extremely effective al Qaeda recruiting tool. The administration needed the perception of a strong al Qaeda to keep us pissin' our pants in fear and to maintain the illusion that they were 'keeping us safe' from a buncha illiterate goat humpers.
Cheney et al took a page out of the ChiCom handbook to help create the mess we're in today. They did a good job. They fucked everything up totally, and it will take generations to undo it, if undo it we ever can.
When it's Cheney's and his accomplices' turn to drop through the trap door, I once again volunteer to throw the lever. I will send them to Hell with a grin on my face as my duty to my country.