In order to determine whether or not "water boarding" is indeed torture, Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens decided to do the most logical thing: experience it first hand.
“If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”
Arms already lost to me, I wasn’t able to flail as I was pushed onto a sloping board and positioned with my head lower than my heart. (That’s the main point: the angle can be slight or steep.) Then my legs were lashed together so that the board and I were one single and trussed unit. Not to bore you with my phobias, but if I don’t have at least two pillows I wake up with acid reflux and mild sleep apnea, so even a merely supine position makes me uneasy. And, to tell you something I had been keeping from myself as well as from my new experimental friends, I do have a fear of drowning that comes from a bad childhood moment on the Isle of Wight, when I got out of my depth. As a boy reading the climactic torture scene of 1984, where what is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world, I realize that somewhere in my version of that hideous chamber comes the moment when the wave washes over me. Not that that makes me special: I don’t know anyone who likes the idea of drowning. As mammals we may have originated in the ocean, but water has many ways of reminding us that when we are in it we are out of our element. In brief, when it comes to breathing, give me good old air every time.
The entire terrifying account is truly worth the read. It's also important to remember, as Hitchens explains, that his experience would end the moment he wanted it to and that he would be returned afterwards to his rather privileged life; not some dark cell for an indefinite period of time under the harshest of conditions. Whether or not one thinks the United States should be using this "technique" is (I guess?) open for debate. What's not, however, is the fact that it is torture. Can we all agree on that already, please?
And in case you needed anything more to feel outraged/ashamed about today, check out this story from The New York Times about where the Gitmo "interrogtation techniques" originated from:
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
As John Cole wonders, "Can the indictments start now?"
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