The Act of Waterboarding: Everything You (Didn’t) Want to Know

Is it just me or have we all entered some kind of Twilight Zone in which torture and terror are both permissible as long as the defenders of freedom and democracy are using them?

This past Saturday, March 9, President Bush exercised his veto on a piece of legislation that would have banned interrogation techniques used by the CIA, such as Waterboarding.

In his weekly radio address he stated:

“The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror […] so today I vetoed it.”

What is Waterboarding?

Waterboarding is an incredibly controversial interrogation technique – or form of torture, depending on who is talking – that originated in the 16th century during the Italian inquisition.

A bound and gagged prisoner is immobilized on his back, head tilted downward. Water is then poured over him, causing an immediate gag reflex and simulating drowning. Often, cellophane is also placed over the prisoner’s face—further preventing him from taking any air. (remember how your parents told you not to place saran wrap over your face when you were little….)

While even reading descriptions of this procedure makes me feel horribly ill, others claim that Waterboarding is a valid interrogation technique to use on terrorists.

Fox news correspondent Steve Harrigan allowed himself to be waterboarded on the air to show his viewers, “what exactly it is,” whether it is “torture,” and if “the U.S. [should] use it.”

His conclusions:

“ …the thing that really impressed me was just how quickly you can recover. I mean, they took me to the brink, where I was ready to submit, tell them anything within minutes, and then, just minutes later, I was standing by the side of that pool feeling fine. So, as far as torture goes, at least in this controlled experiment, to me, this seemed like a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes.”

Ok, so besides his insensitively flippant attitude about the issue, there are some major problems with this statement. First of all, let’s define “healthy”.

Nathaniel Raymond of the Physicians for Human Rights’ Campaign Against Torture reveals that the violent choking caused by waterboarding results in throat spasms damaging the lungs, larynx and esophagus. Also, the deprivation of oxygen may lead to myocardial infarction.

Waterboarding also is deeply psychologically traumatic. Raymond states.

“We had one Turkish individual who was waterboarded and who is now unable to go out in the rain and is afraid of showering.”

Second of all, torture is PROHIBITED under international law. Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in April 2006, in which they make a detailed argument against the usage of abusive interrogation techniques.

You all know the response to such claims:

“Why do Human Rights matter? We are in a war against terrorists who want to kill us!!” Bush obviously had this mindset when he argued that the CIA shouldn’t be deprived of such an important tool.

There are two answers I have to this:

1. Who is a terrorist and where do you draw the line? Take a moment to think about this. In many countries, the army is just as complicit in terrorizing as the guerrilla fighters. In this country couldn’t we call some gangs terrorists? I grew up in the Los Angeles area during the Rodney King riots. The city was on fire. Isn’t that “terrorism?” What about those who fight for freedom—“freedom fighters”—those who sabotage a government in an effort to destabilize a repressive regime.

Without a definition of the enemy, we run the risk of fighting an endless and morally dangerous war.

2. This brings me to my second answer, denying a certain group of people their human rights is a treacherous path to embark upon. The process of dehumanization truly is a domino-like process as this past century tells us.

Regardless of whether you agree with the current trajectory of the War on Terror or think that Bush is the anti-Christ, it is essential to realize that maintaining practices such as waterboarding even against terrorists has universal implications and for that reason must be stopped.

Torture is NEVER the answer.

6 thoughts on “The Act of Waterboarding: Everything You (Didn’t) Want to Know”

  1. looks like these people that are against waterboarding are trying to protect the terrorists to me. yeah terrorists, you know, those people who would massacre our whole country without a second thought…

  2. j calrk said:

    If it saves one American soldier or Marine it is worth it.

    Nice logic, j, but how about when our enemies, terrorists or not, capture our guys and think all torture is fair game since we do it? You're an idiot.

    n0totron is retarded says :

    agreed – these people are sand eating scumbags

    Hey n0totron – you're just a bigot – and an idiot.

    Sacrament says :

    looks like these people that are against waterboarding are trying to protect the terrorists to me. yeah terrorists, you know, those people who would massacre our whole country without a second thought…

    Sacrament: Exactly what part of "prohibited under international law" don't you get.
    Hey, how about all three of you tough guys join the military and help out our men & women who are in desperate need of assistance. Yeah, thought so.

  3. OrthodoxAthiest

    Oh my goodness… here come the gun-toting rednecks.

    "If it saves one American soldier or Marine it is worth it."
    That's the problem… it won't. It may appear to save lives with a fluke instance of good information from this torture technique, but then count lives lost from bad intel., and our own forces who are attacked and our captured soldiers tortured because we have no honor in treatment of those we've captured. Plus which, how can we truly look ourselves in the mirror when we know we are no better than the Japanese with respect to human rights.

    As for Steve Harrigan… he should try a real dose of waterboarding. Over half the U.S.

    According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

    CIA officers subjecting themselves to such torture lasted an average of 14 seconds. The fact we know of Khalid Sheik Mohammed who received the admiration of his torturers for sustaining being waterboarded (only in that regard) for over two and a half minutes of our armed forces tells you it kicks your ass mentally. Steve Harrigan is a joke… as is the station he works for… as is this country's treatment of prisoners and its foreign policy.

    Time for a change. 🙂

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