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I Waterboard!
December 22, 2007 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I Waterboard! If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.
posted by telstar (87 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

Hmm, It sounds like he didn't actually try smashing his fingers with a sledgehammer, so how does he really know?
posted by delmoi at 5:49 PM on December 22, 2007


That's funny because I'm pretty sure I'd pick the one that doesn't technically leave any long lasting physical impact other than a fear of saran wrap.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 5:51 PM on December 22, 2007


At least he retained enough good sense to make a What About Bob reference.
posted by The Deej at 5:52 PM on December 22, 2007


Very well. You have made your choice.

But first: kiki!
posted by hal9k at 5:58 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


why doesn't congress just pass a law declaring waterboarding torture? - oh, and if they vote it down, then we know who to place blame on
posted by pyramid termite at 6:00 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


That was terrifying. Someone in the Straight Dope comments jokingly asked if he'd made a video of it. Honestly, it's too bad he didn't. I'd love to see a demonstration like this go to the top of the YouTube videos.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:12 PM on December 22, 2007


pyramid termite: why doesn't congress just pass a law declaring waterboarding torture? - oh, and if they vote it down, then we know who to place blame on

Campaign Ad, 2008 or 2010:

"... in fact, John Jacobson voted to limit our country's ability to defend itself in Congress. [sound clip: 'We have to think of their rights.'] How about Americans' right to life, Senator Jacobson? Senator Jacobson: more concerned about terrorists' rights than American lives. Paid for by the Swift Waterboarders for Truth campaign."
posted by WCityMike at 6:12 PM on December 22, 2007


no shit, torture is still torture huh? it's absolutely insane that this is even on the table for discussion.
posted by facetious at 6:12 PM on December 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


This is BS I water board myself on the weekends and it's totally fine. This guy is making it seem much worse than it is, you just have to start easy and lean back on the tow line. Then jump your board over a wake or two and you've got it. Piece of pie!
posted by nola at 6:14 PM on December 22, 2007 [10 favorites]


I think any rational person, upon being told what waterboarding actually is, would probably conclude that it is torture. Those in positions of authority who deny that it is are doing so for political reasons. Therefore, this link is just about some guy who felt like he needed to prove that it was torture. For some reason.
posted by ninjew at 6:16 PM on December 22, 2007


This was the first time I really understood

a) how the Saran wrap method workd

b) how terrifying it would be
posted by unSane at 6:23 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Waterboarding demos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (alleged instruction tape)
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:30 PM on December 22, 2007


(I would point out that the last link is absolutely fake)
posted by Kickstart70 at 6:32 PM on December 22, 2007


Those waterboarding demos are worse than useless. I'd like to see training tapes of military people doing it to military people.

Or rather, I wouldn't like to see it, but i think people should see that.
posted by empath at 6:46 PM on December 22, 2007


I finally understand. I almost drowned once, and I couldn't breath just reading that.
posted by Skygazer at 6:54 PM on December 22, 2007


Just to let you know the new term is Freeboarding.
posted by Gungho at 6:59 PM on December 22, 2007


That's funny because I'm pretty sure I'd pick the one that doesn't technically leave any long lasting physical impact other than a fear of saran wrap.

"Physical impact" is the only damage you care about? So you'd be OK watching a loved one being raped?
posted by DU at 7:04 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Just to let you know the new term is Freeboarding.

Soundtrack, appropriately enough, by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
posted by rokusan at 7:06 PM on December 22, 2007


That's funny because I'm pretty sure I'd pick the one that doesn't technically leave any long lasting physical impact other than a fear of saran wrap.

Great. Good for you. Feel free to log back in at some point, and let us know what it was like. As far as it goes, for me, this sounds pretty fucking horrific.
Here's what happened:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.
It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.
I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.
There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.
At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.
I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.
And I understood.
Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question.
Some may go easy without a rag, some may need a rag, some may need saran wrap.
Once you are there it's all over.
posted by psmealey at 7:09 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


So you'd be OK watching a loved one being raped?

Way to keep it classy, guy.
posted by dhammond at 7:15 PM on December 22, 2007


Way to keep it classy, guy.

Because... water boarding is classy?
posted by delmoi at 7:29 PM on December 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


why doesn't congress just pass a law declaring waterboarding torture?

Related: Mukasey Won’t Say Waterboarding Is Torture But in 1947 the U.S. Called It a War Crime, Sentenced Enemy Officer to 15 Years Hard Labor
posted by prostyle at 7:34 PM on December 22, 2007


Because... water boarding is classy?

Um, no?

Let me rephrase my snark into a more cogent point: It is downright stupid (and inappropriate, IMHO) to posit that someone is fine with rape just because waterboarding doesn't happen to be at the top of the list of things that frighten them.
posted by dhammond at 7:35 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought it was a perfectly valid reply to such a ignorant, thoughtless statement about "long lasting physical impact".
posted by puke & cry at 7:37 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


me too. am i to assume you've never been psychologically or emotionally scarred?

p.s the new term is "freedom-boarding" and if you don't like it you're a god-dammed communist.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 7:40 PM on December 22, 2007


We are a nation of torturers.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 PM on December 22, 2007


The alternatives presented were psychological scarring or losing a hand, more or less. I don't think it's necessarily ignorant or thoughtless to prefer psychological scarring. If you prefer the hand smashing, though, feel free.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 7:43 PM on December 22, 2007


Of course, having someone smash your fingers with a sledgehammer would also be pretty psychologically scarring, so come on.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 7:43 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you'll re-read QuarterlyProphet's comment (and mine), no one's saying that psychological trauma is okay. Being a bit more frightened by a sledgehammer individually smashing each of your fingers /= "Hey, waterboarding is fine, get over it...Go ahead and rape my wife while you're at it!"
posted by dhammond at 7:48 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would way prefer snowboarding, in case anybody here ever tortures me, okay?

Seriously, the fact that we even question whether one of the Spanish Inquisition's favorite toys is torture or not is ridiculous.

And it is a distraction from the real question: Is it ever okay to torture? Ever?

I think that is a complicated question.

My gut feeling is that as a nation we've turned into a bunch of paranoid wussies. I don't think we need to waterboard to beat crazy terrorist assholes, we just need some good old-fashioned spine. This is the new reality. Rather than huge world wars we have terrorist incidents. Sounds like a good trade-off to me. A lot less people killed and a lot less treasure blown. If we accept this, and fight morally, I think we'll be much less of a target.
posted by Camofrog at 7:52 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


We are a nation of torturers.

We are also a nation of adulterers, thieves, robbers, cheaters, liars, etc.

America is immoral? You don't say.
posted by Autarky at 7:56 PM on December 22, 2007


I think any rational person, upon being told what waterboarding actually is, would probably conclude that it is torture. Those in positions of authority who deny that it is are doing so for political reasons. Therefore, this link is just about some guy who felt like he needed to prove that it was torture. For some reason.

Yes, but the ratio of rational to non-rational voters is something like 1:fuckloads. Many of these non-rational valedictorians watch Jack Bauer torture motherfuckers in prime time, see him get the information he wants, ignore whether or not it's good information, and then win against the Big Scary Bad Guys anyway.

Waterboarding is torture. Torture is largely ineffective as a means of information reconnaissance. Therefore, waterboarding is useless, whether anyone thinks torture is or is not within the limits of what's acceptable during conflict or crisis. Getting the majority of Americans to understand this is tantamount to parting the sea.
posted by Mikey-San at 7:57 PM on December 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thank you for this post, telstar. So much of what is happening in the world at the moment is abstract - it gets talked about only in detached terms, spin-speak and witticism. My fear for the US and those of us within its sphere is that we will spin ourselves to death with rhetorical devices, making up funny names for torture, environmental collapse and killing\ and then "debating" with one another about the details.

Reading this link was a reminder that what is going on is REAL. And reading it reminded me how elusive reality is these days.

I'll send a little Christmas money this year to people that are fighting against this type of treatment of other human beings.
posted by salishsea at 8:01 PM on December 22, 2007


So, it's a totally effective torture, and we STILL don't know where bin Laden is. I bet our stupid torturers are doing it wrong.
posted by notmydesk at 8:04 PM on December 22, 2007


why doesn't congress just pass a law declaring waterboarding torture? - oh, and if they vote it down, then we know who to place blame on

Because this would exonerate the torturers. They would to proceed to do something similarly gruesome that would not be explicitly banned by congress, claim it wasn't torture and force congress to ban it, ad infinitum.
posted by null terminated at 8:07 PM on December 22, 2007


Also, it's interesting to watch conservative commentators say "If it's torture make a law saying it's torture". This isn't because they want the waterboarding to stop, but because it'd be next to impossible to convict if congress tacitly admitted the definition of torture was unclear.
posted by null terminated at 8:10 PM on December 22, 2007


We are also a nation of adulterers, thieves, robbers, cheaters, liars, etc.

Yes, but we endeavor to avoid such bad behavior. We don't steal, cheat, lie, or commit adultery as a matter of national security policy. We do torture as a matter of policy, and our government agents are committing torture with the consent and knowledge of the elected government and the electorate.

This weighs on me about once a month, when a new story about America's turture policy comes out. I feel entirely ineffectual to stop it.
posted by Nelson at 8:10 PM on December 22, 2007


Sorry dhammond, that comment by QuarterlyProphet was stupid. He said the lasting effect was waterboarding was a fear of saran wrap. That sounds like so much of the bullshit the pro-torture administration and their cheering fans try to shovel down everyones throats. It it pretty much spelled out that psychological damage was basically meaningless compared to immediate physical damage. I call a spade a spade.
posted by puke & cry at 8:12 PM on December 22, 2007


> We don't steal, cheat, lie…as a matter of national security policy.

Quote lightly edited because yeah, I'd be surprised to see adultery as a means for national security (you never know these days, though). The first three, though -- I'd be surprised if those _weren't_ regularly used, on multiple levels both within our government and while relating to other governments, in the name of 'national security'.

Not that that weighs directly on the mindbogglingly inane 'debate' as to whether or not waterboarding is torture.
posted by djwudi at 8:19 PM on December 22, 2007


You're right, djwudi, and my thinking is confused. The difference, of course, is torture is a deeper form of evil than lying, stealing, or cheating.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 PM on December 22, 2007


Also, it's interesting to watch conservative commentators say "If it's torture make a law saying it's torture". This isn't because they want the waterboarding to stop, but because it'd be next to impossible to convict if congress tacitly admitted the definition of torture was unclear.

It's also similar to why Congress doesn't need to pass a law against beating someone to death with a sledgehammer handle. It's already illegal. Asking Congress to pass a law just serves as a way to muddy the waters.
posted by ryoshu at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


And it is a distraction from the real question: Is it ever okay to torture? Ever?

No.

I think that is a complicated question.

It's not. See above.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:50 PM on December 22, 2007 [17 favorites]


I've always been under the assumption that waterboarding was torture without having to endure it myself since, if it wasn't torturous, why would they use it to torture people?
posted by destro at 9:02 PM on December 22, 2007 [12 favorites]


There you have it, folks. Straight from a COBRA-affiliated terrorist. Things don't get much clearer than that.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:18 PM on December 22, 2007


You think people will be round up, tried, and executed ala WWII? Or not?
posted by chunking express at 9:34 PM on December 22, 2007


I thought that was a great post.
posted by craniac at 9:47 PM on December 22, 2007


It sounds like the main point of this post is that it's not any kind of water-related sensation that makes waterboarding torture. Not water in your sinuses, not water up your nose, not some feeling of holding your breath.

What makes it torture is the autonomic, visceral I'M DYING reaction it teases out of your nervous system. Sounds like some serious psychic and physical shock.

I have to ask. If this isn't torture, what is it? Seriously, I'm not trying to come up with a clever way to say "it is torture." I'm just looking for a word to describe something like this that you'd do to a prisoner that precludes questioning. If anyone has a problem with the word torture, it's got to be on the grounds of degree. Because there sure as hell isn't any interrogation going on while this is happening.

And so, if it's not bad enough in degree to call torture, what do you call it? Really, what is the word for mildly irritating someone with great deliberation and an end?
posted by scarabic at 9:57 PM on December 22, 2007


Everyone on earth knows waterboarding is torture. Even those who prefer to call it be such innocuous sounding phrases as "advanced interrogation techniques." That's why the discussion is never "this is/is not torture," the discussion is "I do/don't care if someone who we think might be a terrorist is tortured if it will/probably won't protect me."

What happened, America? You used to be cool.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:13 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


too me this whole torture thing is frightening because i'm not sure where you draw the line between 'people that it is okay to torture' and 'people that it is not ok to torture.'

Cause if you're torturing suspected terrorists, why not suspected mass murderers? Why not suspected child rapists? Why not suspected drug dealers?

The whole ticking time-bomb scenario that gets people so worked up seems to apply just as much if you had someone you thought was a mass murderer in custody and you think he has a captive hidden away somewhere.

Why not some 'enhanced interrogation techniques' in that situation?
posted by empath at 10:29 PM on December 22, 2007


And again, I think anyone who has ever gotten a bum speeding ticket should not feel too confident in the ability of a government bureaucracy to responsibly use powers like the ability to detain and torture suspected criminals indefinitely without charging them with anything. As sure as water flows down hill, it will eventually get down to county sheriffs pulling out fingernails to extract shoplifting confessions from illegal immigrants.
posted by empath at 10:31 PM on December 22, 2007


And so, if it's not bad enough in degree to call torture, what do you call it? Really, what is the word for mildly irritating someone with great deliberation and an end?

Gym class?
posted by Mikey-San at 10:55 PM on December 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just last week, 100% of the Democrats in the House voted to ban waterboarding and other forms of torture in the Intelligence Authorization Act and 100% of the Republicans voted to allow waterboarding. Since the Democrats hold the majority the amendment passed in Congress. Unforturnately, when it went to the Senate, the Republicans filibustered so it failed. So the CIA is free to continue torturing.
posted by JackFlash at 11:24 PM on December 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


The question has already been answered, rather definitively. Waterboarding is torture. Our country said so, emphatically, by trying and convicting people as war criminals for engaging in it.

That doesn't stop many people from trying to re-write history (or ignore it) for their own ends. Of course, there's been an awful lot of history-re-writing and history-ignoring in our country in the past several years, so it shouldn't be surprising (however disgusting it may be).
posted by darkstar at 11:27 PM on December 22, 2007


(I would point out that the last link is absolutely fake)

So there's fake stuff on the internet about waterboarding but the Straight Dope story was totally true. Coz it was on the internet so it must be true yaaaaaaaaaaayy!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:38 PM on December 22, 2007


Even though I'm very liberal (Obama/Feingold '08!!), I thought the waterboarding debate was more crap-politics than anything. It just didn't sound all that bad compared to breaking fingers, drilling holes, testicular electrification, etc., so I figured it was being overblown as a sensationalizing-sound-byte to criticize Bush (since the masses prefer simple sound bytes to genuine analysis and thoughtful critique--of course, today's masses are to informed citizens, what Bush is to presidents, what Britney Spears is to music, what McDonalds is to food, etc.).

I do wonder if my downplaying waterboarding relates to the fact that I tend to downplay the horror of drowning in that I've met a lot of people who seem to think drowning would be "the worst way to go," whereas I don't think so. For me, it's just a few notches worse than freezing on my list of not-so-bad-ways-to-die. For me, burning is the worst.

In any case, I'm now totally sold against waterboarding.
posted by whatgorilla at 12:50 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The whole ticking time-bomb scenario

The whole thing about the ticking timebomb scenario is that it's incredibly stupid. Abdul Hakim Murad was tortured -- er, tactically interrogated -- in the Philippines and was involved in Project Bojinka. Given the seriousness of the threat

:boop: :beep: :boop: :beep:

And that the methods they used included waterboarding, beatings, and putting out lit cigarettes on his testicles

:boop: :beep: :boop: :beep:

Certainly torture worked in this situation. Right?

:boop: :beep: :boop: :beep:

Well, if 67 days is the answer to the question of a ticking time bomb, someone has the wrong answer.
posted by ryoshu at 12:58 AM on December 23, 2007


Any people who can waterboard a detainee who has been locked up for years without a trial and still call themselves the good guys are completely deluded.

America will have a very difficult time ever recovering the reputation it has lost.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:36 AM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


If only someone in, say, the Justice Department, had thought to try this same experiment....

Great post, thanks.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:38 AM on December 23, 2007


That's funny because I'm pretty sure I'd pick the one that doesn't technically leave any long lasting physical impact other than a fear of saran wrap.

I think the crucial difference between having your hand smashed and being waterboarded is that during the former, your life is never in danger. Sure, it would suck not to use your hand. Having your hand smashed is going to hurt a whole fuck of a lot. But you still know, logically and viscerally, that you will live through it.

As this guy demonstrates with waterboarding, even though you logically know that you're going to be ok, viscerally your body believes that it is going to drown. Logic goes right out the window at that point. All of the reptile "HOLY SHIT! GOING TO DIE!" centers of the brain light up and there's nothing the overthinking cerebral cortex can do to calm that down.

I don't know if I'd rather have one than the other, but the latter would certainly be more terrifying. And visceral terror is a much better incentive to give up information than mere pain.

Of course, the information anyone obtains during torture is mostly useless. Which makes it idiotic that anyone does it at all in the first place. Oh yeah, it's also idiotic because it's inhumane, but it's really especially stupid that we're in the practice of systematically destroying people for a purpose that doesn't even work.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:42 AM on December 23, 2007


I'm not an American, though I lived there for 7 years, married there, had a kid there, but am now back in Europe. Its becoming hard to really voice one's opinion on such matters these days, because as soon as you put together a sentence with in subject position and in predicate position, one gets accused of knee-jerk anti-Americanism. So let's please be clear that I'm here talking about an abstract entity (aMERICA) that plays on the world stage, that is rapidly becoming a pariah among the community of nations, and that is very very good a lots of things, because it creates conditions in which the humans involved compete with one another and the general society benefits from the winners of that competition.

In that sense, aMERICA has done it again. Forget your iron maidens, nut crackers and bellies of rice. Torture has always had the problem of being either too damaging or being bearable. Waterboarding (based not only on this description) is a refinement. It looks to me like the best (most efficient) form of torture ever designed. I'll bet there were a lot of techniques tried out before this one floated to the top. Bet its documented too somewhere in the archives. Waterboarding is the internal combustion engine where thumbscrews are a steam engine. Its vastly more efficient. And if you outlaw it, they will refine it, and produce something better.

I'm scared. Whatever that aMERICA thing was in the past was relatively harmless for the rest of the world. It's not any more.

Let the kneejerk "how dare you" begin.

posted by fcummins at 6:03 AM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Damn, use preview Fred. '...with "America" in subject position and "something horrid" in second position.....' Sorry.
posted by fcummins at 6:19 AM on December 23, 2007


Spot the difference:

a) Special methods of questioning
b) Enhanced coercive interrogation technique
c) Refined interrogation techniques

The answer is c) as that one was used by the Gestapo... who of course never tortured anyone. From here.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:57 AM on December 23, 2007


fcummins - I don't think you're going to get much of a backlash here.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:41 AM on December 23, 2007


Theres another horrible thing about this activity that doesn't get as much lip service, but is most pernicious and dangerous of all, and that is that it rots all discourse and intelligent debate. America in its soul was never designed to support this sort of behavior by its government, and so to have it happening right under our noses with such a blatant and arrogant and insultinig abuse of power, is too much to stomach.

There are still people out there telling themselves, "Oh it's alright, we'll get through this, it's not all that bad, things are not as bad as they seem...Bush has America's best interests in mind" and they don't see that they've become apologists for some thing that can't be apologized for. There used to be a time when even as late as a couple of years ago, I was willing to debate these folks and at least try and reach an understanding, but there's no understanding to reach anymore. Seen in the cold light of day for what it is (and that light just gets colder and colder), I no longer want to reason with anyone who supports this type of behavior or tries to downplay it. As far as I can see, if someone has ever supported Bush, anytime after the incompetence began to shine in Iraq and New Orleans should be deeply ashamed of themselves and (I would also be incredibly angry), if they're still supporting Bush they should do the rest of us a favor and just check into a mental institution because at this point it's not about reason but some sort of built in pathology: Rage or bigotry or fear or sadism or mysticism or just plain old stupidity.

This is something deeply foul, and it stinks and it's doing serious serious damage the kind that will last long after Bush/Cheney (are hopefully) gone. It's not going to be business as usual in Jan. 2009. Someone has to answer for this and that's not something I'm casting out like a curse, it's something you can see through the course of history or a Greek tragedy or a Shakespeare play. When this level of badness gets out into the world there's an equal and opposite reaction. (History has it's laws of as well as nature does.) What shape that will take is hard to tell. Hopefully it will take the shape of charges and jail time for those responsible.

The reason the GOP are sticking together through all this is that they know the minute they begin to come apart and show any real understanding of what's happening, is the minute the veneer gets shattered and the death knell sounds for the GOP. So they'll stand together in a state of mass denial and gloss over this for as long as it takes. They're waiting for another terrorist attack, the kind that was suppposed to have happened already , the kind that was supposed to make all this extreme behavior look "palatable". The WH didn't count on nothing happening this far out to 2008 and now they look as foolish as any individual who's given in to ignorance and fear and made that his or her predominant issue in how they carry themselves in the world.
posted by Skygazer at 7:59 AM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


For me, it's just a few notches worse than freezing on my list of not-so-bad-ways-to-die.

Freezing to death is actually pretty easy -- by the time your time comes up you start actually feeling warm again, you're completely exhausted and you lie down because you *have* to take a nap *now*. The only thing is that you don't wake up. So intellectually you know you really must not go to sleep but with enough exposure you're not acting rationally anyway.

Being brought back to life from the brink of freezing to death, THAT's incredibly painful, especially the part where your toes and fingers (and sometimes other extremities!) just die off, leaving you with very, very sensitive dead appendages. The British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes came back from one of this trips with frostbite on several fingers, which his doctor wanted to leave on for a few weeks so he would have enough extra skin to close the amputation wounds. It was so painful that Fiennes went to his toolshed and cut them off himself with a hacksaw. After another trip he had a dead toe from frostbite, which fell off while he was taking a bath.
posted by clevershark at 9:14 AM on December 23, 2007


The biggest problem of the "ticking time bomb" scenario isn't even the inherent stupidity of it or of those who continue using it as an excuse. Its purpose is to open the door to any torture technique. It may be used to excuse waterboarding one day (essentially the contemporary scenario), but its logic is that because it's such an extreme situation ANYTHING is excusable by it. If the scenario is dire enough to warrant waterboarding, why is it not enough to justify breaking fingers, pulling fingernails, electrifying testicles, etc.?

And then once waterboarding is "in", why not use it as a matter of routine? I mean surely if it's acceptable while investigating terrorism it should be acceptable while investigating a murder, drug dealing, and so on.

It's part of a little game the right wing has been playing for the past few years -- moving the goalposts of acceptable discourse to such ridiculous extremes (Coulter, Limbaugh, Malkin, etc.) that even subjects that were unacceptably extreme 10 years ago are now accepted without so much as a shrug. The standards are debased so much that no one raises an eyebrow nowadays at the fact that large parts of New Orleans are still largely uninhabitable ruins, for example.
posted by clevershark at 9:28 AM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hey, when's the new season of 24? I need a little reassurance that the American torture policy is saving lives.
posted by Nelson at 9:54 AM on December 23, 2007


The USA will not survive intact. The official and public support of torture, the blatant lying to other nation's leaders, the surveillence society, the unsustainable incarceration rates, the overwhelming debt load... it's simply impossible for the USA to remain a viable, large country.

It'll take a generation, but IMO the USA as a single nation is toast.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2007


The biggest problem of the "ticking time bomb" scenario isn't even the inherent stupidity of it or of those who continue using it as an excuse. Its purpose is to open the door to any torture technique. It may be used to excuse waterboarding one day (essentially the contemporary scenario), but its logic is that because it's such an extreme situation ANYTHING is excusable by it. If the scenario is dire enough to warrant waterboarding, why is it not enough to justify breaking fingers, pulling fingernails, electrifying testicles, etc.?

My retort to those who use the ticking time bomb defense is:

Okay, let's say it's really that extreme of a situation and let's further say that the torture will actually provide useful information. Both are extremely unlikely, but let's assume they aren't. Now, shouldn't the people doing the torturing be brought to justice for performing the torture? It's just one guy getting tortured, what more is it if one guy goes to jail for life for attempted murder? It all saved the basket full of babies and kittens strapped to that time bomb in that warehouse next to the catholic preschool, didn't it?

Apparently, though, not only do the ticking time bombers want to be able to torture their way out of a problem, but they want to do it without any consequences for anyone besides the victim of the torture.
posted by odinsdream at 1:14 PM on December 23, 2007


Are neocons the only ones that can determine language?

Here's an idea: starting now, let's stop calling it "Waterboarding".

It's too friendly sounding, and a deliberate trick of language, like calling a nuclear weapon a "Peacekeeper". Like: Waterboarding! whee! I'll rent a boat and a tow-line and we'll go waterboarding! Gee, wish I was a terrorist, they get to go waterboarding!

Let's call it something real like "Simulated Drowning" or "Mortal Terror" or "Visceral Fear Response Techniques" or even something nefarious like "PsyOps". Stress the effect of it, the friendly sounding Waterboarding with unclear pictures of guys with watering cans getting dumped on their heads allows for cognitive dissonance; "Sure those liberals say it's torture, but come on, look at that guy with the watering can! Now a keg-stand, thats' some tricky shit!"

Spread the word, write your senators and congressmen, bake a suggestive cake, something! Let's stop using the right's language to describe something they're in favor of.

Just an idea.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:21 PM on December 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


What was it called, in the Spanish Inquisition?
posted by effugas at 3:38 PM on December 23, 2007


Waterboarding shall henceforth be known as TERROR.

Technique Eliciting Rapid Response Or Reaction.

That'll allow the government to legitimately stop doing it as part of their War on Terror.
posted by knapah at 3:51 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


What was it called, in the Spanish Inquisition?

Tortura del agua. Water torture sounds worse than waterboarding anyway.
posted by knapah at 3:52 PM on December 23, 2007



People nearly always underestimate the impact of psychological torture when it is compared to physical torture. I think this is because everyone thinks (usually incorrectly) that they have such good control over their minds that they wouldn't let it get to them.

What people miss is that this control itself is easy to reduce by environmental changes: a bit of food deprivation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation and your ability to control your mind slips. People tend to dismiss that stuff because they probably have voluntarily undergone each of these separately in a situation in which they had some degree of control in the past-- they miss the synergistic effects and the profound impact that actually not having control has.

They also forget that this isn't *simulated* drowning-- it's real drowning, but if you've got attentive and well-trained torturers, they stop before it kills you. The fear is genuine because you *are* actually at risk of drowning (I'm not sure how this guy made sure he wasn't-- I guess volume of water and no restraint).

Being terrorized can leave lasting mental scars just as physical torture can-- PTSD is no picnic and it can be much more incapacitating than physical disability. Research finds that most people tend to actually adjust amazingly well to things like losing limbs-- they get back into their normal range of moods surprisingly fast-- but there is no adjusting really well to suffering post-traumatic anxiety and depression as the states themselves are an experience of feeling awful (and if you have adjusted, you have altered them).
posted by Maias at 5:05 PM on December 23, 2007


I vote "Water torture". If you call it terror, you politicize it. There's been quite enough of that.
posted by fcummins at 5:41 PM on December 23, 2007


Y'know the saying, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck"?

If it tortures like a third-world dictatorship, and has election fraud like a third-world dictatorship, and has debt like a third-world dictatorship, and so on and so forth...
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on December 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Water Torture or Drowning Torture sounds about right to me.
posted by signal at 5:48 PM on December 23, 2007


Isn't anyone else suss about this bloke's claims???

Self administered waterboarding to the point of death-panic-shuddering-in-the-corner. No witnesses, no cameras.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:24 PM on December 23, 2007


I'm not going to take a position on whether this guy really did it, or is just a good writer, or whether it's worse than something else.

My only position is this: I now understand what waterboarding is, as a step-by-step activity instead of a political football. And all I can say is that as an American I have a lot of thinking to do.
posted by davejay at 10:36 PM on December 23, 2007


An "Update" of sorts on page three of the thread:

Couple of things
Two days later, it doesn't seem all that bad. I mean it's a little water up the nose, what's the big deal?

I got the same thing after my first 50 miler. During it and immediately after I thought of it as terrible suffering, and pointless and swore never again. A few days later I was like "that wasn't really so bad." A year later when I did it again, I was like "Yes, it was. What was I thinking."

So, no. No lasting psychological damage or anything like that I seem to be pretty good at revising traumatic experiences after the fact to make them more palatable.

The only change I'd make now is that I'd rather be waterboarded then lose my fingers. I'm sure I'd change my mind again once it started.

***

I'm not really prepared to deal with some of the larger questions that were asked.
There's been some debate (not on this board) but Nationally, whether waterboarding is torture and whether it is an acceptable interrogation technique.

Clearly, there is some kind of line in interrogation. Is it torture to look at a guy mean and make him nervous? Have his room at 68 rather than 72 degrees? Undercook his eggs? Make him eat his favorite ice cream real fast so he gets a headache? A component of interrogation is to make the person being interrogated feel out of balance, uncomfortable, dependant, and wanting to please his interrogators. I do this to my kids if I send them to their room. Coercion happens at all kinds of levels.

The question I wanted to answer was where did waterboarding fall? Should we do it?

My conclusion is that waterboarding would be a very extreme form of torture. Wherever one might choose to draw the line, waterboarding would be out there on the far end.

If we are going to waterboard, we might as well be doing electroshock, beatings, etc. or other forms of "uncivilized" medieval torture. It's just as bad and worse than most.

posted by ChestnutMonkey at 11:08 PM on December 23, 2007


as soon as you put together a sentence with in subject position and in predicate position, one gets accused of knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

The funny thing is, most Americans are so disconnected with the political process that all these discussions and arguments about what is plainly obvious to anyone with half a brain might as well be going on in Europe or China or Burkina Faso or some third world country. It's the rare American that makes the connection that, "Hey, wait a minute, they're talking about here!"

if it wasn't torturous, why would they use it to torture people?

Nicely sums up the argument.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:59 AM on December 24, 2007


I'm probably overthinking this, but why would we be torturing people if it wasn't to terrorize them? Surely the Administration, CIA, military, etc. know torture is only somewhat effective means information gathering. But torturing people is very effective if one wants to terrorize a community, break it's strongest individuals, and keep the followers from organized resistance. "This is what we do to people who mess with us."

The legal ambiguity and secrecy is only to create the playing field. The "critical information" is an excuse, a conceit. The ticking time-bomb talk is smokescreen. All the debate between congress and the justice department is stalling, trying to keep the ball in the air, and the game going on. The helplessness I feel is the fear that it might someday happen to me, at random, because my community is on some powerful person's shit list.
posted by wobh at 8:41 AM on December 24, 2007


I think most of the world has understood that the USA is a terrorist nation for quite some time.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on December 24, 2007


I have absolutely no dog in this fight (likely I would agree on the bigger policy points but for entirely different reasons), but that home experiment, in my eyes, demonstrates the exact opposite of everything it's being interpreted to demonstrate. It invoked a neat extreme lizard brain fear response without leaving one bit of permanent or even temporary physical damage, and, realistically, not one bit of psychological "damage".

Page two:

I agree. I wouldn't do it again. But I think it was safer than when I get up on a ladder and clean the gutters.

Page three:
Two days later, it doesn't seem all that bad. I mean it's a little water up the nose, what's the big deal?

I got the same thing after my first 50 miler. During it and immediately after I thought of it as terrible suffering, and pointless and swore never again. A few days later I was like "that wasn't really so bad." A year later when I did it again, I was like "Yes, it was. What was I thinking."

So, no. No lasting psychological damage or anything like that :) I seem to be pretty good at revising traumatic experiences after the fact to make them more palatable.
Likewise Youtube shows some activists performing it in public as an anti-waterboarding protest, but again, this demonstartes the opposite of what it is trying to demonstrate. Because no protesters would put on a routine demonstration like this of, say, the anal pear, (physical torture) or getting raped (psychological torture). Yes that does communicate something. When the man in the link says he would be 1000 times more likely (or whatever) to have his fingers smashed than get waterboarded again, well, the real behavior of him and others says something very different.

I realize this will be taken by the usual suspects as A DEFENSE OF TEH WATERBOARDING!!1! Whatever. As an outside observer, I don't see how any of this hyperbole helps make a case. Torture or not, acceptable or not; the fact that these people are doing it to themselves at home and in public, with no lasting damage to show for it, hardly makes a convincing case for meaningful physical or psychological damage being inherent to the process. (And note, the argument in the link itself is that the entire effect is in the lizard brain trigger, not the act of who is doing it, or in what context - meaning these demonstrations are just as "real" as in the applied contexts. Again, if anything, the link is an embarrassment to the case of significant torture)
posted by dgaicun at 3:10 PM on December 24, 2007



Actually, no. Doing it to yourself removes a *key* element of torture: lack of control over the experience by the subject.

Contrast the experience of being in excruciating pain with no way of knowing if it will ever stop-- vs. having a switch you know will turn it off.

The out of control part is what causes the trauma: rat research shows that if you put rats in a situation of inescapable stress, they are more vulnerable to tumor cells and to other diseases whereas if you deliver the same amount of stress but give the rats a way to stop it, none of those vulnerabilities are seen.

also, the ones in inescapable stress eventually develop something called "learned helplessness" where if there's a way out, they don't even bother to try to find it anymore.

this is actually an excellent animal model for depression: you can test antidepressant efficacy by whether animals develop learned helplessness more slowly on drug or have it reversed by the drug.
posted by Maias at 3:45 PM on December 24, 2007


It invoked a neat extreme lizard brain fear response without leaving one bit of permanent or even temporary physical damage, and, realistically, not one bit of psychological "damage".

What would you say psychological damage is there, sport?

Even if it were not damaging (I'd say anything that provokes an extreme irrational fear response -is- psychological damage), it is far from the only argument against torture. Bunky.
posted by JHarris at 3:55 PM on December 24, 2007


Actually, no. Doing it to yourself removes a *key* element of torture: lack of control over the experience by the subject.

I only wrote that this is contrary to the argument of the linked author. He argued this was entirely irrelevant to the key evoked response.

What would you say psychological damage is there, sport?

The author experienced no sequelae.
posted by dgaicun at 4:13 PM on December 24, 2007


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