Come for the beaches - stay for the waterboarding
October 29, 2007 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Waterboarding is Torture… Period
posted by i_am_a_Jedi (63 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for clearing that up for us. We can all go home now.
posted by mds35 at 9:54 AM on October 29, 2007


Even if it's between two consenting adults?
posted by Anne Coulter's Butt Plug at 9:56 AM on October 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


I thought our current position was that as long as we don't call it torture, it is not torture. Don't we call it enhanced freedomboarding now? USA, USA, USA!
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:56 AM on October 29, 2007


I thought our current position was that as long as we don't call it torture, it is not torture.

Unless it's leaked to the media, in which case not only is it not torture but we don't do it.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't mind this post, but "batshitinsane" is a stupid and overused tag, friend.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 AM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


So this isn't an admission by someone unexpected, or some startling new angle, but just an essay about how something that most if not all MeFites consider to be torture is also considered by the essay's author to be torture?
posted by Bugbread at 10:13 AM on October 29, 2007


It's not torture, it's "high intensity kinetic interrogation"!
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:14 AM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


So waterboarding is different than wakeboarding?
posted by bDiddy at 10:15 AM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people.

So maybe it's a little bit unexpected.
posted by box at 10:15 AM on October 29, 2007


It's silly to give more weight to the opinion of a terrorism and counter-terrorism expert with 20 years of experience, including field operations and supervision of torture-survival programs, than that of Rudy Giuliani, who after all was mayor of New York on 9/11. 9/11!
posted by brain_drain at 10:16 AM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


Maybe he's commenting on the fact that anyone who thinks that a post to a blog entry in a niche magazine about a topic we've discussed to infinity and beyond must be batshitinsane?
posted by absalom at 10:17 AM on October 29, 2007


It's a measure of how low our moral standards have gone that there is any debate about whether controlled drowning qualifies as "torture" or not.
posted by Nelson at 10:19 AM on October 29, 2007 [6 favorites]


box writes "So maybe it's a little bit unexpected."

Article: "What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique."

So a guy who went through training to specifically show waterboarding as an example of torture has concluded that waterboarding is an example of torture. That's not particularly unexpected. But I derail, sorry. I'll shut up now.
posted by Bugbread at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2007


SLBOE is torture. Period.
posted by dersins at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


controlled drowning

so nobody gets hurt with waterboarding?

And nobody gets hurt playing with puppies?

And playing with puppies is not torture?

Therefore?

I know all I need to know.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:23 AM on October 29, 2007


"Kinetic interrogation". I like that. It rolls off the tongue. Overtones of lithe gymnasts extracting information one ragged gasp at a time. Perhaps waterboarding should be renamed "psychological hydraulics".
posted by topynate at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


The fact that the methods of interrogation are even a part of the public discourse is amazing to me. Whatever happened to the good old days of just conceding that our government did crazy shit in our name and let's not be bothered, Carson's on! It's a damn crisis of conscience. They're BAD. We're GOOD. End of story. Unless the story is one of the real twisty-plot like stories where you're not sure who's good or bad until the end, when one of the characters, being up until this point neither good nor bad, due to the deliberate ambiguity of the storytelling, makes a big speech about how he almost got away with it all, which I don't think this situation really resembles, but you get the idea, because I sure don't.
posted by billysumday at 10:27 AM on October 29, 2007


Cute. Very cute.
posted by koeselitz at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2007


bugbread, these articles are not written for us Liberal Patsies who decided a long time ago our views on the subject. It is written for the people who call us Liberal Patsies and Terrarist Lovers for not wanting to use a technique that the Pres'dint said was A-OK. Having military guys--guys who train Navy SEALS and whatnot, for Chrissake--stand up and say "Um, yes, this has happened to me and it is torture" adds credibility to the "Waterboarding is Torture" argument that we Liberal Patsies cannot.

I personally believe our leaders should undergo these techniques before calling them torture or not torture--or if for extreme age/health reasons could not they needed to watch a younger, stronger immediate family member undergo them. Refusal would result in the technique being labeled "torture". I assure you, that would draw a pretty clear line of what was or was not torture, unless the leader was truly as ridiculously Commited-To-Torturing-The-Terrarists as they pretended to be.
posted by schroedinger at 10:33 AM on October 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


Is that like a regular period or an enhanced period?
posted by Artw at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2007


Here is how the argument goes:

"The President says Torture is not the policy of the United States Government."

What about water boarding?

"Water boarding is an extreme interrogation technique that does not disfigure an individual. And it is authorized by the US Attorney General. It is not defined as torture."

But we have precedent in the form of documented policy statements declaring water boarding as an unacceptable practice and labeled as "torture" as it was used against US POW's during the Vietnam War?

"Yes. It is unacceptable in terms of use against personal of defined military organizations and those described by the Geneva Conventions. The US government only employs extreme interrogations against those defined as Enemy Combatants who fall outside that judgment."

Who determines who falls outside that judgment?

"The President and Commander in Chief."

But you just said HE said it is NOT our policy? So HE decides who gets extreme interrogation and HE decides what extreme interrogation IS?

"Yes"
posted by tkchrist at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2007


All snark aside, SWJ is an excellent site written by people who really know what they're talking about. Extremely helpful for anyone who studies contemporary military issues.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2007


The author is pointing out, in exhaustive detail, that something the future Attorney General, Mukasey, will not say is torture, and that perhaps just as importantly, something our (American) newspapers and television news shows will not say is torture, is exactly that; and he is suggesting that we stop trying to pretend that it's something less than torture, or could even by anyone's measure of plausible deniability, describe as anything other than torture.

One of the oddest outcomes of the Bush administration's reintroduction of torture to the American legal system (or actually in the American case, first-time introduction of torture, since unlike in Europe, it was never legal here) is the lengths the press is willing to go to to avoid just calling it torture. Since that's something only third-world dictators do. That's not something America does.

It's by no means unprecedented for an "Enlightenment state" like the US to practice torture: France in Algeria after World War II is an excellent example. The French immediately began torturing Arab-Muslim Algerians suspected of involvement in the insurrection against French rule after the revolution began in 1954. Which didn't cause much of a kerfuffle back in metropolitan France until Henri Alleg, a leftist journalist who happened to be white and French was seized and tortured for some months by the paratroopers.

Of course, they used the waterboard on him, in addition to electric shocks, "stress positions" and all the other innovative techniques of modern torture.

Unfortunately for the French state, he got away, and wrote a book about it, called
"La Question"
(which has a double meaning in French: Question/Torture); needless to say perhaps Sartre had no trouble describing what happened to Alleg as torture. And it was in fact to a large extent due to revelations about torture by the French state which destroyed public support for the war to keep Algeria French. Alleg was white, which helped, but he was just a familiar face for something which the French realized were thousands of people getting the same treatment in their name.

For me, the shared situation between Algeria 1954+ and the US 2001+ is the imposition by the government of a kind of state of emergency/state of war, in which normal law no longer applies: in the permanent war on terror, we set aside our normal constitutional rules and torture the terrorists because they threaten our freedom.

What's different is that the press by and large is conspiring with the state to pretend that what's happening doesn't actually violate our Enlightenment norms, its not torture, and anyway they're terrorists and not US citizens.
posted by jackbrown at 10:43 AM on October 29, 2007 [10 favorites]


I personally believe our leaders should undergo these techniques before calling them torture or not torture--or if for extreme age/health reasons could not they needed to watch a younger, stronger immediate family member undergo them. Refusal would result in the technique being labeled "torture".

At the very least, our leaders and prospective leaders ought to undergo a highly public dialogue with individuals like the author of the piece, preferably in a setting where they're not able to spout some pre-prepared spiel instead of engaging in real conversation.
posted by weston at 10:48 AM on October 29, 2007


... we set aside our normal constitutional rules and torture the terrorists because they threaten our freedom.

Slight aside, but I am curious. I see this sort of statement often (I understand the writer in this instance is not expressing their view, but the view of others) yet I rarely see it questioned, even by "libs". How are the terrorists threatening American freedom? They attack from a position of weakness and are unable to invade, hold or otherwise impose their will on the American people. The best they can hope for is to kill a few (statistically very small) and sway public opinion. That is a long long way from threatening freedom.

So why isn't this reasoning challenged more?
posted by Bovine Love at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


So why isn't this reasoning challenged more?

9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11
posted by DU at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2007


So why isn't this reasoning challenged more?

Because waterboarding hypothetical terrorists hypothetically protects us from a hypothetical nuclear explosion in a major population center.

Haven't you watched 24?
posted by chlorus at 11:10 AM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


But 9/11 did not alter the state of American freedom. The only reduction in freedom has been the imposition of rules by the American government, not by the terrorists.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:14 AM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


Uh, you snarkers at the beginning of the thread? Did you pay any attention to the identity of the author of this article? Did you stop to consider for a second its audience? I don't get it-- this is an important article, as far as I can tell, written by someone with complete authority to address the subject, and someone deeply embedded in the structure of the US military. Mocking this piece kind of misses the point, don't you think?
posted by jokeefe at 11:17 AM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?

This is a voice of sanity, no? Who might have some influence with those same Americans who are, as he says, "cheering and encouraging ... torture"?
posted by jokeefe at 11:19 AM on October 29, 2007


Haven't you watched 24?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia has. And he took its lessons to heart.
posted by Nelson at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2007


It's just another indication that the Bush administration has turned the US into the national equivalent of Blackadder's Captain Rum

Blackadder: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew.
Capt Rum: Opinion is divided on the subject.
Blackadder: Oh, really?
Capt Rum: Yes. All the other captains say it is; I say it isn't.

posted by Jakey at 11:20 AM on October 29, 2007


How are the terrorists threatening American freedom?

Don't you know Bovine Love? Why, they could acquire a nuke.

And, see, after repelling into some training camp (we'd be all dressed as Ninjas), and throwing a bunch of cool kung-fu spin kicks, we would capture this one guy. AND this one guy, see, he has all the terror type knowledge.

Oh. You pussy liberals. You would hold back torturing this one baby eating terrorist and sacrifice the lives of bazillions of good Christian soccer moms and their sweet little pink babies all because you're too squeamish to spill some tap water down some AY-rabs throat.

We should hold nothing back to save those babies. Nothing. This terror guy would spill the beans after five minutes with me. And then at the last minute I would parachute into the secret bomb location and cut the "blue wire just as the LED readout was beeping down to "1" .

What I want to ask these mouth breather who concoct the Torture as Necessity scenarios is:

"We should do ANYTHING to save the hypothetical millions of innocent lives? Anything? Really? How about anally rape the terrorists family in front of him? Including the five year old daughter of the terrorist? Or. What if he says 'If I can have anal sex with Bush, I will tell you the location of the Bomb'? Should we do that?"

"Why that's sick and preposterous!" They would say.

"SO YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT A MILLION INNOCENT BABIES!" I would say.
posted by tkchrist at 11:26 AM on October 29, 2007


"I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor."
It strikes me that there are those who take US leadership in justice an honor on faith [USA!. . .USA!. . .USA!], and then there is the reality-based community. For the past 50 years I've struggled to bridge this chasm in my own mind. "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. "
I remain disheartened by the average American's unwillingness to even consider--much less concede--that there is a very dark side to our history. How can we promote the effort to set this great country right?
posted by ahimsakid at 11:30 AM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


So basically, if the terrorists succeed in attacking America, the government would have to take away our liberties. So by torturing terrorists and preventing them from success, the government is saving us from having to have our liberties taken away from us by the government.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:34 AM on October 29, 2007


Some of the comments on this thread make me retch. All of you US citizens are personally responsible for the vileness of your government's recent actions. Only those few of you who are constantly calling for change deserve the slightest respect.
posted by mr. strange at 11:44 AM on October 29, 2007


How are the terrorists threatening American freedom?

To rephrase the Pope, the terrorists threaten our freedom by giving the government an excuse to take it away.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:47 AM on October 29, 2007 [7 favorites]


We're so angry and it's so sad. I'm not referring to those of us who are reading about this (although we are and it is), I'm referring to those doing it. We write off Bush, Cheney, etc as evil -- but only the most unrealistic movie villians are completely unsympathetic. Why are they doing this?

It's obvious of course, because the country was hurt and they want revenge. So do many civilians.
We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks.
Of course they are cheering, because each terrorist tortured means they're closer to not having to feel vulnerable.

Those of us that are liberals and try to have a mature, objective view of the US's place in the world can claim all we want (with varying degrees of truth) that it was all our fault, that we brought it on ourselves, that it was just blowback. But none of that means anything to the immature ones who are lashing out like children whose block castle was knocked over by a mean older brother. They feel vulnerable, scared, victimized, unsafe, defensive.

A popular refrain after 9/11 was that to avoided doing something means "the terrorists have won". Bravery immediately meant victory (pretty nice feedback loop there). But bravery doesn't mean you're not afraid, it just means you do it anyway. Maybe the best way to combat this nationwide thirst for blood is to stop denying that 9/11 scared the shit out of most of us and let people know that it's okay to be afraid. And that the only way to stop the cause of this fear is to stop making enemies and start trusting other countries.
posted by Brainy at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2007


Bovine Love, I have a theory.

Freedom, as we have perceived it since WWII, was freedom to travel about and live in a bubble of protection. Aside from places where Americans were in direct danger, we could travel the world and perceive ourselves as not only safe but justifiably so, since we had the might of the US both politically and militarily at our backs. That was the freedom to exploit, expand, and be free of consequences.

That freedom has dwindled, largely due to our own use of it, and the "terrorists" put a face on the feeling of unease, lack of safety (even in formerly 'safe' places full of english-speaking folks) and storm of consequences surrounding our worldwide escapades.

The terrorists threaten the freedom to act unilaterally - not because they are just, not because they provide some balance legitimate alternate voice.

Because they aren't afraid of us like they're supposed to be, they threaten the American Freedom from Concern which, and I'm not being snarky, really is one of the things that brings so much success to this country. The feeling that consequences are something you can buy, charm, or cheat your way out of is a cornerstone of capitalism, and they aren't folding their hand like they're supposed to when we go all in.

(After reading Brainy's post, I'll rephrase this is "Freedom from Vulnerability")
posted by abulafa at 12:01 PM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


The feeling that consequences are something you can buy, charm, or cheat your way out of is a cornerstone of capitalism, and they aren't folding their hand like they're supposed to when we go all in.

wow. your description of capitalism there sounds like it was lifted straight from the DSM's description of the traits that make a sociopath. maybe that was by design.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2007


9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11

I'm tired of hearing this over and over. The answer is .81 repeating.
posted by srboisvert at 12:20 PM on October 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


As a result of all this, I have developed a very simple test to determine if something is or isn't torture. It is as follows:

Do you need to explain to people why what you are doing is not torture?

If yes, then it's torture.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 PM on October 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


An excellent piece whose intended audience is not MetaFilter. The second comment in the SWJ thread shows how effective it is:
...I thank you for this important and disquieting article. I recall Franz Kafka's reference to "An axe in the frozen sea". He was talking about writing. And this is the effect your authoritative essay has had on me.

I, like so many of us, am still reeling from the shock of 9/11. The more I have learned about our enemies since that awful day, the more my heart has hardened against them. ... I see us as being weakened by our very own high-minded ethical standards. ... I bristle at any suggestion of our moral failings by the highly-vocal, activist antiwar left. I feel that they are purposely undermining the moral foundations of their own country in a time of war for their own selfish political agenda.

This was my mindset coming into this article. ...

However, because of your obvious experience and credentials, I followed your argument to the very end. ... In short, I've started to have some serious doubts about my previous convictions. I have to think about it some more. You may very well be right, after all. And I might be wrong.

Isn't this what good political writing is all about? Not just preaching to the choir, but standing up for something you believe in and fighting for it with the best words you can conjure up.

In this you have most certainly been successful, and I thank you for upsetting this particular applecart.
In other words, jokeefe is right. But don't let that stop anyone from making juvenile snarks. We have a reputation to maintain, after all.
posted by languagehat at 12:26 PM on October 29, 2007


Oh, and please delete the "batshitinsane" tag. Jesus.
posted by languagehat at 12:31 PM on October 29, 2007


These sort of metafilter posts are torture. Period.

if you ask me
posted by seanyboy at 1:14 PM on October 29, 2007


The answer is .81 repeating.

We don't need another Reagan, thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:41 PM on October 29, 2007


Even if it's between two consenting adults?
posted by Anne Coulter's Butt Plug at 12:56 PM on October 29


Eponysterical?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:44 PM on October 29, 2007


wow. your description of capitalism there sounds like it was lifted straight from the DSM's description of the traits that make a sociopath. maybe that was by design.

Someone's never had an econ class.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2007


watching 24 is torture
posted by valentinepig at 3:33 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


or did someone already use that joke...10 comments ago?
posted by valentinepig at 3:34 PM on October 29, 2007


We're not where we need to be yet. We haven't been able to get people behind the idea of impeachment, so clearly there is still some level of disconnect between the average American and what these people have done in our names.

Because while impeachment would be a good start, it doesn't address what really needs be done.

Trials for war-crimes. For every one of the people who encouraged torture to be something that is considered acceptable.

And while I desperately believe that this needs to happen, that the only way we are ever going to face the rest of the world again is to demonstrate that we don't accept what has been done, the fact that we can't even get them out of office shows me that we aren't there yet.

Soon. I hope.
posted by quin at 3:45 PM on October 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


quin, one thing to always mention, like a mantra, in the impeachment debate is this: first Cheney, then Bush; first Cheney, then Bush; first...
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:52 PM on October 29, 2007


“As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately.”

Why do highly trained experianced service members hate the troops?

“What's different is that the press by and large is conspiring with the state to pretend that what's happening doesn't actually violate our Enlightenment norms, its not torture, and anyway they're terrorists and not US citizens.”

And, what’s often overlooked, the effect it’s had on the troops. Certainly there are some who can stand to torture people, even those who enjoy it, but most military folks find it repugnant. It is, or rather is supposed to be, a tactic used by our enemies. It’s one of the things that defines them as our enemies. And here we are using it. Or rather, here is the civilian leadership thrusting it upon the military - the most experianced of which know the effects this has on morale and what it signifies as doctrine and are very much opposed in it’s use.
In the meantime you have people demanding the military speak out/act against it, like they have some choice, while they themselves sit on the couch and decry them as cowards for “going along” with all this. Fact of the matter is (idiots on the far end of the bell curve aside) anyone with any experiance with waterboarding pretty much feels exactly like this. And time and again it hasn’t been the military saying “gee, we really need to waterboard people” it’s been some partisan shills.
And that’s the thing, the troops are just so great, until they come home and start to question your politics.
And indeed - as the use of waterboarding grows amongst our enemies (because we’re using it more) and as it grows in use within American society (because seriously, you think the local P.D. isn’t going to want in on this miracle of interrogation) the kind of people who are going to be growing in number are those who think it’s ok - and of course, have no conception of it.
For many people, this is merely a political position, some have an ethical position against it, but some people are dealing with it as a practical reality and anticipating the obvious consequences.
It’s those that no one seems to want to talk about.
It goes without saying no one should be subjected to this (outside of training).
posted by Smedleyman at 5:15 PM on October 29, 2007


Excellent article, Jedi. Thanks
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on October 29, 2007


America desperately needs a truthboarding.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:41 PM on October 29, 2007


This is horrifying.
posted by niccolo at 8:57 PM on October 29, 2007


Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora fought to stop policies that authorized cruelty toward terror suspects. "Cruelty harms our nation's legal, foreign policy, and national security interests," says Mora. "I can't put it any plainer than that."

Via.
posted by homunculus at 9:35 PM on October 29, 2007


Thanks for the article, and I'm glad to learn about the site as well.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:29 PM on October 29, 2007


Well, duh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:27 AM on October 30, 2007


It is a sad reflection of the political discourse of the day that this even needs a proof.
posted by Neale at 4:05 AM on October 30, 2007


Why isn't what quin said totally obvious to every American? Seriously, I don't understand.

I favorited Quin's statement. It's much the same as I've said myself (except I said pack them off to The Hague, and that's a deliberate difference, being quite aware that subordinates American jurisdiction to the international court).

So they say this torture thing is about vengeance? What about vengeance for what these thugs have done to America? Or just some realistic justice, whatever that could be.
posted by Goofyy at 8:45 AM on October 30, 2007


Bush Administration Blocked Waterboarding Critic
posted by homunculus at 5:19 PM on November 2, 2007


Retired JAGs On Waterboarding: ‘It Is Inhumane, It Is Torture, And It Is Illegal’
posted by homunculus at 4:02 PM on November 3, 2007


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