Hmmm, you know, some of those guys from "old Europe" weren't so dumb after all...
Cesare Beccaria on torture:
No man can be judged a criminal until he be found guilty; nor can society take from him the public protection until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted. What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen so long as there remains any doubt of his guilt? This dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary, if he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of the law, every man is innocent whose crime has not been proved. Besides, it is confounding all relations to expect that a man should be both the accuser and accused; and that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibres of a wretch in torture. By this method the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned. These are the inconveniences of this pretended test of truth, worthy only of a cannibal...from Of Crimes and Punishments (1764), Chapter 16, "On Torture."
Richard Hooker, author of the Washington State University's site on World Civilizations, notes in the section dedicated to the Philosophes:
Beccaria's book completely changed the face of European society: forty years after it was written, most European countries had abolished torture and maiming as well as severely trimmed the number of crimes punishable by death.
Forty years after 1764, that would be around 1800...and we in 2006 are bringing torture back. As one contemporary writer would say (regarding another civilization), What went wrong?