Unfortunately, the US right seems to be firmly in the pro-torture category. The latest case is Jonathon Moseley, a former campaign aide to Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. His 2009 Torturing the Word “Torture” is typical of this genre. It dismisses all the abuses heaped upon US prisoners as no big deal. After all, by definition, “torture” only means any techniques used by opponents of the US. If the US uses them, they are not torture. Got that?
And finally, of course, there is the now famous waterboarding: As described by the Justice Department release: “The subject is placed on a board with a cloth covering his nose and mouth. The cloth is saturated with water to simulate drowning. It creates “the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic.’ ” The reason that the technique works is that terrorists do not know if the interrogator will go too far.
Among the released memos is one from then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee emphasizing that waterboarding “will be stopped if deemed medically necessary to prevent severe mental or physical harm.” Another memo makes clear that supervising physicians were empowered to stop interrogations “if in their professional judgment the detainee may suffer severe physical or mental pain or suffering.
Despite the world-wide hysteria about waterboarding, the reality is a bit of a let-down. It should be well-known by now that US troops endure waterboarding as part of their training. The internet news outlet “Bleepin’ Truth” held a live demonstration of waterboarding in Tampa, Florida.It was broadcast by Bay News 9 television news.
This demonstration was different from others in that an actual, trained military interrogator reproduced the technique accurately.
There is no question that the experience is very unpleasant. That is the whole point. But we see videos of hundreds of people who walk away afterwards, and talk normally to camera. YouTube contains dozens of demonstrations.
To put this into context, we might do well to visit a Florida swimming pool and talk to rough-housing boys who regularly push each other under the water. If being submerged under water — and held there — with the sensation that one is about to drown is “waterboarding” then it is happening a hundred times a week somewhere in Florida’s swimming pools by rough-housing boys.
September 23rd, 2010