This slate article speaks about the nature of torture in modern society. I found it interesting, but I think that it misses an important point. Although it states "The opportunity to inflict torment gives absolute power to the otherwise powerless", it fails to relate this idea to the reason that a wide range of the human population find torture acceptable; given the proper circumstances.
The solace that torture provides to an individual who feels powerless is two fold. First, the inflicting of pain on others obscures our own; it furnishes a distraction of delusional superiority where our discomfort can be enshrouded by the agony of another. Second, torture affords the illusion of control; the ability to cause suffering to others promotes a sense that despite the unpredictability of our existance, our manipulative abilities will enable us to master the situation.
Despite the reversvations many might posess towards torture in a personal setting, the use of such actions fullfill an emotional need that supersedes the intellectual qualms. Thus, the search for situations where torture becomes justifiable, and can even become a form of entertainment; whether in Guantanamo or on "24"
Sadly, I feel that the true object of torture is toture; just as Eric Blair would have O'Brien tell us; and the soon we face the need for such depravity, the better chance we have for preventing such abuses in the future.