Friday, December 28, 2007


Such a sanitized name for an abhorrent practice, this "waterboarding." And just what does it mean to "simulate drowning?" Andy and I have thought for some time that if people actually understood what this "enhanced interrogation technique" is and does, there would be riots in the streets. No WAY is there any question about this being torture.

And yet our President and his rotten regime have bought themselves some credibility by confidently stating that there is some gray area. When I was a very mediocre member of my high school debate team, we learned that this was an underhanded, unsportsmanlike tactic, and it was strongly discouraged. And I called out my opponents for using it. No, you do not get to win just because you are good at asking rhetorical questions with a suggestive tone of voice. Not yours!

Clearly, our national debate has a tragic flaw because we let Bush and others in his administration do this with impunity on just about every policy issue. (Catch me when I'm less tired, and I'll cite examples. Right now, I'm so worked up I want to stick to the subject of torture.)

I don't like reading about the specifics of what my government is doing to keep me safe. It scares the bejeebus out of me. I never signed off on keeping any human being incarcerated indefinitely without a chance to appeal or even to know the charges against them. I never agreed that the CIA could take people to far-off places so that the laws of our country wouldn't apply to their "interrogation." I never once agreed to so much as imagine that the Geneva Convention doesn't apply for everyone. And I get Habeas Corpus-that is not negotiable.

This evening, I read an account written by someone who tried waterboarding on himself, and it sickened me to the very center of my being. My government is doing this to actual people, and they claim to be doing it on my behalf. I was appalled before, but now I'm enraged. And I am convinced that you should be too. As a human being.

A terrifying account of "waterboarding" that is not suitable for all audiences.

If that doesn't convince you that the perpetrators of this form of torture are war criminals, I urge you to evaluate your attitudes. If you're as outraged as I am, let's figure out how best to stop the torture. (I really don't know where to begin. If you do, gentle reader, please share.)

This requires action.


Joe said...

There's no doubt its torture. And, as Amnericans, we're supposed to be better than all that. The only way out of it is to vote in a President who agrees that its torture and will put a stop to it. Only Obama has said he will restore Habeus Corpus to this country. I'm taking it as he'll stop the torture. It makes me embarassed to be an American.

Oh, and thanks for coming by my blog with positive comment.

Peter said...

My understanding is that the US successfully prosecuted nazis after WWII for using this technique.

Not only that, but I believe waterboarding could probably be considered in a different / worse class than mere torture. It's been stated elsewhere that waterboarding constitutes a mock execution--something which the Geneva Conventions take a decidedly dim view of.

This administration doesn't just need to be impeached, they need to be tried for war crimes and locked away in the same place they hold people like Pinochet.

This whole situation of the US torturing people in my name makes me inexpressibly angry.

k said...

Andy and I have thought for some time that if people actually understood what this "enhanced interrogation technique" is and does, there would be riots in the streets.

Sadly no. According to several opinion polls done over the past few years, between one and two thirds of Americans support their government's use of torture, depending upon how the question is worded (see this collection of poll results). Further, this is not peculiar to the US. Compared to other countries, the US is on the more pro-torture end of the scale, however the percentage differences are small (source).

After spending a long time on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that this is not caused by a lack of information or understanding, but is a personality trait. I have wasted a lot of time trying to inform people about Coalition-sponsored torture, only to find out that for a certain type of person, it didn't make any difference to their opinion once they "found out". The ignorance, the semantics -- they are all excuses, not reasons for why they hold these opinions. The conclusion that what the government is doing is okay was reached before the evidence was even considered.

Let me explain a bit better. There is a particular personality type called the authoritarian follower, and I believe that they are the ones that are supporting this. Every population has some proportion of people that fit this personality type. That previous link is a free online book that describes their characteristics and why they're important in this case. Most interesting, however, is that ordinary people who aren't normally 'authoritarian followers' can be induced to behave like them under certain conditions. These are also described in the book.

SWE said...

Thank you for the insightful comment. (And welcome!!) This book will be added to the pile of things I'm currently reading. Fascinating (and horrifying) stuff.