Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is Waterboarding Torture?

Hispanic Pundit would like to know how a person would react to the argument that waterboading isn't torture. It's a good question in that it does reflect a common response from the advocates of Bush's "enhanced interrogation" techniques.

I might start by asking such a person if they thought the display of one of Pol Pot's waterboards was out of place at the Genocide Museum in Cambodia. I would note that Ronald Reagan championed and signed the UN Convention on Torture, which appears to define torture in a way that would include waterboarding. I would also direct them to additional torture law, which includes U.S. law, and I would ask them to explain how waterboarding wouldn't qualify under the definitions in that law.

Finally I would note that the United States has repeatedly prosecuted others for waterboarding as if it was a serious crime.

I think many that don't regard it as torture just don't understand what is happening. For instance Bob Dutko said yesterday on the air that when somebody is waterboarded, water doesn't actually make its way into the mouth and nose. This is just entirely wrong. So he obviously doesn't understand what is happening. Watching Chistopher Hitchens or Mike Guy get waterboarded would probably be helpful for such people.


HispanicPundit said...

I've seen the video before. I grant that its gravely discomforting, but I still wonder if its torture.

I think most people that find waterboarding an acceptable form of harsh interrogation classify it more as a mind game than real torture. That's the difference. Sure its gravely discomforting, but so is being locked up in prison for life - yet we accept that.

In fact, real drowning (a harsher technique, IMHO) is used in special forces training. So if its acceptable to use on our special forces, shouldn't it be acceptable to use on possible Al Qaeda operatives?

Then comes the question of where you draw the line? If waterboarding is torture, then is sleep deprivation torture? What about emotional mind games? Where do you draw the line?

Personally, my definition of torture is simple: I ask myself, if someone paid me $1,000 dollars to do it, would I undergo it? I certainly wouldn't undergo having my arm chopped off, or limbs broken for $1000. But mind games and waterboarding? Just as Christopher Hitchens did, I would.

Jon said...

We waterboarded KSM for sessions that went as long as 40 seconds. You up for that if you can earn $1000? I'd probably be willing to come up with the money because I know for a fact my money is safe. Mike Guy bet he could last 15 seconds. He went 5. If you won't do it for $1000, this would mean that by your definition our waterboarding amounted to torture.

Or we could do it to you 183 times in one month like we did to KSM. Heck, how about just 83 times like we did to Zubaydah. Want to earn $1000?

What if we kept you awake for 183 hours by keeping you in a 50°F cell and sprayed you with water to keep you awake. Worth $1000?

You want your big government to have the authority to use it on possible al Qaeda operatives? You trust them that much to just give them that blank check? As long as they assert that they might possibly be an al Qaeda operative?

Where to draw the line? I'm fine with the legal definitions. Reagan was fine with them. The U.S. was fine with them in times past when we prosecuted waterboarding. That's the whole point of the law. To draw those lines. The lines are drawn in the law.