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More than 3 examples of waterboarding.

May 27, 2009

Obama, Dick Cheney, and Congress have been wrestling with GITMO and waterboarding for months. Commentary magazine has a good look back at how GITMO was formed, and how some of the stories about the place came about. Waterboarding has been a key topic of the debate.

The intelligence community says that enhanced interrogation techniques were performed on 3 (three) detainees.  Tampa Bay online claimes that it was done over 267 times, which is supported by the record. But what do you think that means? Do think that means prisoners were taken from their cell, 267 times? Nope. That’s only the number of times the water jug was tipped. During a given session, you can be waterboarded dozens of times, though the Office of Legal Council specified a limit on the total amount of time that could be spent pouring. So most of the 267 “sessions” likely lasted for 1 or 2 seconds. Fox News has an excellent breakdown of the conditions that were allowed, as well as the Red Cross’s investigation. So, maybe it wasn’t 267 sessions, but instead, it was more like 5 sessions. But still, torture is torture, right?

It depends on who you ask. Like the Attorney General, Eric Holder.  In testimony before Congress, Holder said that intent was critical in determining whether or not torture has taken place. While AG Holder belives the CIA committed torture, he said that the US Military is not commiting torture by using waterboarding during SERE training:

Holder:  No, it’s not torture in the legal sense because you’re not doing it with the intention of harming these people physically or mentally, all we’re trying to do is train them —

Lungren:  So it’s the question of intent?

Holder:  Intent is a huge part.

Lungren:  So if the intent was to solicit information but not do permanent harm, how is that torture?

Holder:  Well, it… uh… it… one has to look at… ah

Does that clear things up? To me, the term “torture” implies some sort of severe physical or mental pain to the subject.  That’s also the Red Cross’s view. I picture people shackled to dungeon walls, with hot coals being dropped in their mouths.  Or bamboo under the fingernails. To me, torture is not something I’d want to watch.

And yet, lots of folks have undergone waterboarding for the benefit of an audience. Don’t believe me? Here’s a few samples:

Playboy journalist Mike Guy: says it might not be torture, and it might give you a buzz.

Radio personality Erich “Mancow” Muller: Says it’s torture, but also says he nearly drowned as a child. Then proceeds to thank the torturers.

Fox reporter Steve Harrigan

Jesse Ventura: start at around 2:43. His was in SERE training when he was a Navy Seal – he said SERE training was torture.

Sean Hannity said he’d get waterboarded for charity. Olberman bet him $1,000 a second.

Some guy named G man his response “I’m ok”

Some more demonstrators, in front of the Justice Department

Kaj Larsen: did it in service, does it again here.

Berkley demonstrators: note that the actor who got waterboarded doesn’t break character.

Some more demonstrators, in front of the Justice Dept. Note that this session lasts longer than the CIA and OLC would recommend. Again, the actor who got waterboarded doesn’t break character.

Christopher Hitchens was waterboarded.

Some high school kids do waterboarding USA.  Before: “It’s a lot of fun it’s not torture”. Ok, so that’s not really waterboarding.

Demi Moore was quasi-waterboarded in GI Jane. She wasn’t inverted, though, so the sensation was much less intense.

So, all these folks have been waterboarded to some extent. None of them have any damage. In fact, they all seem able to continue with their planned activities just fine. Is waterboarding tough? Sure. Do I want to be waterboarded? No way. Is waterboarding torture? I don’t think so.

Later this week, I might right about some of the other evil tactics used on “inmates” at GITMO. Like the “attention grab“. I guess every football coach in the 50s could be guilty of this.

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