Friday, July 04, 2008

Code Word Red: Waterboarding IS Torture

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure.

-Christopher Hitchens, in the August issue of Vanity Fair


It's July 4, Independence Day in America. A time for fireworks and baseball and apple pie and ice cream and watermelon.

In case you haven't been keeping up with issue of how the US condoned torture in the War on Terror:
[Four U.S. Congress Members] Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002

By Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 9, 2007


In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group ... was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
However, in 2004, a quiet hero emerged from a most unlikely place -- from within the Bush Administration -- as described last year by Amy Goodman:
In a remarkable demonstration of commitment to his job, former acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, according to ABC News, underwent waterboarding when tasked by the White House to rework its official position on torture in 2004. Concluding that waterboarding is torture, he was forced out of his job.
Four years later, neoconservative pundit Christopher Hitchens says
Believe Me, It’s Torture

What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods, and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. The author undergoes the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist—not inflict—it.
You can watch a video of Hitchens on the waterboard:
How does it feel to be “aggressively interrogated”? Christopher Hitchens found out for himself, submitting to a brutal waterboarding session in an effort to understand the human cost of America’s use of harsh tactics at Guantánamo and elsewhere.

"Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

However, he goes on to appears to contradict himself just a couple of paragraphs later.

ADDENDUM: He presents the arguments on both sides of the debate "at their strongest" but has praise for those who endorse torture:
The team who agreed to give me a hard time in the woods of North Carolina belong to a highly honorable group. This group regards itself as out on the front line in defense of a society that is too spoiled and too ungrateful to appreciate those solid, underpaid volunteers who guard us while we sleep. ... As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.
Maybe if Hitchens were forced to endure the experience of actually drowning for more than a few seconds, again and again and again, he just might change his mind. He is certainly not convinced by the words of Malcolm Nance, a former master instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School. Hitchens again:
I passed one of the most dramatic evenings of my life listening to his cold but enraged denunciation of the adoption of waterboarding by the United States. The argument goes like this:

1. Waterboarding is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others.

2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.

3. It may be a means of extracting information, but it is also a means of extracting junk information. ...

4. It opens a door that cannot be closed. Once you have posed the notorious “ticking bomb” question, and once you assume that you are in the right, what will you not do? Waterboarding not getting results fast enough? The terrorist’s clock still ticking? Well, then, bring on the thumbscrews and the pincers and the electrodes and the rack.


Who do you trust...Mr. Hitchens or Mr. Nance?

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2 Comments:

At July 04, 2008 8:04 PM, Blogger Brian Carnell said...

You are misreading Hitchens when you claim he contradicts himself. Go back and read that entire paragraph from start to finish. Hitchens is not saying he believes water boarding is not "real torture." Rather he is describing the position of the folks who are actually doing the waterboarding and who are supportive of the U.S. position on waterboarding, and he then goes on to argue against that apologia for waterboarding.

"*On this analysis,* any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.

Against it, however, I call as my main witness Mr. Malcolm Nance. Mr. Nance is not what you call a bleeding heart. ..."

 
At July 04, 2008 10:45 PM, Blogger The Neurocritic said...

I disagree, Hitchens does contradict himself by ending the paragraph of which you speak thusly:

"I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint."

Michael Otterman at guardian.co.uk agrees with me:

Hitchens's tortured explanation

After having been waterboarded, Christopher Hitchens recognises that it is torture. But still he defends its use.

Granted, I did not provide the entire context for that paragraph, and I have amended the post accordingly.

 

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