Friday, November 10, 2006

The Torture Paradox

The US Veep claiming waterboarding prisoners is a "no-brainer" is pretty appalling, though I have noted more than a few media outlets claiming waterboarding is not too bad of a torture. This article by Heather Malick gives the viewpoint of someone who actually had this technique used against him, by the Japanese in WWII:
"He directed the full flow of the now-gushing pipe onto my nostrils and mouth. Water poured down my windpipe and throat and filled my lungs and stomach. The torrent was unimaginably choking. This is the sensation of drowning, on dry land, on a hot dry afternoon. Your humanity bursts from within you as you gag and choke. I tried very hard to will unconsciousness but no relief came."
We should not visit upon our enemies that which we would not accept as treatment for those of our own as prisoners. It doesn't matter if some of our enemies do that and worse - the reason we're better than our enemies, among other things, is that we do not torture.

The underlying paradox is this: if the treatment is so brutally effective, how can it also be harmless?


At 3:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It simulates the feeling of drowning. I think most Americans have a rather simplistic, superficial idea of torture, being if it isn't pulling someone's skin off with pliers or something then it isn't "really" torture, but something lesser like "abuse". This is pretty myopic. Torture can be inflicted without even touching someone, like playing a really annoying song really loud hundreds of times in a row to screw with their heads. Being kept in a freezer in your underwear for hours. Et cetera. Torture can be psychological is what i'm saying, and simulating drowning by all accounts is horrible and for anyone to quibble about whether "waterboarding" which as a term sounds like some sport you would see on cable actually qualifies as "torture" is disingenious.

Also, not only is it as you said something that Americans wouldn't want inflicted upon captured American troops, it is something that the U.S. government would consider a war crime. Such a matter actually came up right after World War II in a war crimes trial against a Japanese officer who "waterboarded" some American prisoners. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor.


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