05 November, 2006

Fun for all involved!

Check out this bizarre segment on Fox News, where a reporter has himself waterboarded in order to, essentially, redeem the technique. His report concludes that, since he was "feeling fine" moments after his "torture", waterboarding was really "an efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and still have them alive and healthy".

This should go without saying, but judging from the comments on the linked thread, it needs to be said: this is deeply fucked up. Let's first briefly mention the fact that there really is no way to properly simulate torture in this situation - the victim is a volunteer, his interrogators* are merely demonstrating, and he is free to tap out if he feels uncomfortable. Needless to say, this bears little resemblance to actual torture. Other accounts of waterboarding I have read emphasize that the purpose is to convince the subject that they are going to die; that this is an execution.

Now, what is apparently being proposed is that torture (as the reporter candidly calls it) is fine so long as it doesn't do physical damage to the subject, or cause excrutiating pain. I'm appalled that this is being discussed. We are not seeking the most efficient and least physically invasive mechanism of information-extraction, here. The reason torture is unacceptable is not because it merely leaves scars on the victims (although, obviously, mental scars do not fade as quickly as physical ones), but because it makes a beast of both the torturer and the tortured, both of whom must lose a part of their humanity in the process. Cruelty should not be held as a virtue by civilized people. And I think civilization (in the sense of civility) is something we should still be aspiring towards.

But it seems I am wrong. I simply don't comprehend how we've lost our way so thoroughly. This flies in the face of the most basic principles of freedom, which we allegedly prize so highly that we fight and die in wars around the world to preserve. We're off the slippery slope. We're in freefall down a sheer rock face. And there's broken glass at the bottom.

* Who are apparently active duty soldiers, and quite gleeful that they know not only how to perform these torture techniques, but lots more. Presumably this story was reported with the eager cooperation of the Pentagon. I don't know what to make of their desire to advertise their prowess in this odious field, especially since the "reporter" neglected to clarify where or whence this training came from.

Thus falls the argument that because some US Marines underwent waterboarding and other non-injurious torture techniques as part of POW resistance training during the 1990s, it is surely not too much for those we interrogate. But the situations are not analogous. This is not a clinical exercise; we are not merely monitoring resting heart rate, galvanic skin potential, blood pressure, etc. There are human actors involved. They know what they do, and to whom. And that's far more important than the mere biology of it.

E.g., due process, presumption of innocence, and the basic right not to be subjected to barbaric punishments.


I know! I mean there's been a bit of an outcry, but in general people seem okay with it. Or at least using it as a partisan issue! Sheesh. We should all be against torture. We are supposed to be the good, noble defenders of the world. Does that change if we suspect maybe you were involved in something really bad? September 11th was horrible and Sadam was a bad guy, but wasn't the fact that he tortured people part of the reason he was so bad?

I think I believe those army reservists who said that they were "only following orders" now.

Besides that water-boarding! Really!?! Perhaps we'll start keel-hauling people again like they used to do in the 1600's. That was such a humane and wise time.... So I'm wondering if we've always tortured our prisoners? Were we ever any better than the other guy?  

Posted by Traveler

Ooooh, I'm surprised the Administration let the story run. I thought it was protocol, in the name of national security, to prevent former detainees tell others about the interrogation techniques, even if they cry bloody torture.  

Posted by judevac

aw, cute. porn for fox's cornered market of sadists.

next week: naked in a cell with a large attack dog, after a week in solitary confinement in a box. how will steve survive without his NFL? 

Posted by hibiscus

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