Saturday, November 3, 2007

It ain't pulling fingernails, folks.

The trouble with the discussion of waterboarding is that it is generally done in the abstract. In today's Los Angeles Times Tim Rutten has a piece in which he quotes from a posting on by Malcolm Nance, Waterboarding is Torture… Period.*

Reading Rutten's piece is alarming, what with its description of the physical realities of the "American model" of waterboarding, but Nance's piece is downright frightening in its implications. A quote:

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

This is what we have done/could do/ would do? In the name of the United States?

Senator John McCain said people lie under torture. What lie would you or I offer under these circumstances, Dear Gentle Reader?

We are told some of our service personnel undergo a simulation of this procedure in order to prepare them against the eventuality they might be subjected to it. What on earth good would training do in this situation? How could one possibly deal with the possibility that the procedure would, in any certainty, stop?

What honor could accrue to the United States if we were to engage in such?

*There are also, at this web site, responses to Nance's post which take a totally different tack and speak in support of the procedure.

Trust, but verify.

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