Thursday, July 10, 2008

The More Things Change.....

I'm just picking this up from Mimi because I'm feeling cranky. This is Christopher Hitchens on "waterboarding":

Here is the most chilling way I can find of stating the matter. Until recently, “waterboarding” was something that Americans did to other Americans. It was inflicted, and endured, by those members of the Special Forces who underwent the advanced form of training known as sere (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). In these harsh exercises, brave men and women were introduced to the sorts of barbarism that they might expect to meet at the hands of a lawless foe who disregarded the Geneva Conventions.
Hmmmm... a lawless foe like the United States? Like the sponsor of the School of the Americas? Like the sponsor of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib? But I digress....

But it was something that Americans were being trained to resist, not to inflict.
Let me stop him right there, and call BS on that. Until "recently," "waterboarding" was called "the ordeal by water." It was a favored technigue of the medieval inquisition, who first figured it out. And American troops were never trained to "resist" torture; that's physically impossible. They were trained to know they had a breaking point, and where it would come. Such training might help them hold out a bit longer than otherwise, but it was never meant to increase their "resistance." That's the same idiotic argument that Bush keeps using, to say that our "enemies" will "adjust" if they know what torture techniques we are using. Hitchens all but admits as much in the article:

This is because I had read that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, invariably referred to as the “mastermind” of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, had impressed his interrogators by holding out for upwards of two minutes before cracking.
I suppose a ticking time bomb could have gone off within those two minutes, but that's a scenario unrealistic even by 24's standards.

The whole purpose of torture is to prove the torturer is in charge, and that resistance is futile. And torture works, everytime, to precisely that degree: resistance is futile. But then, so is torture, as Hitchens, again almost tacitly, acknowledges. First, he says of the experience:

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered.
That's why the euphemism is so Orwellian (odd Hitchens doesn't note that, being such a fan of Orwell as he is). But then he makes the more interesting admission:

The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer.
Which is pretty much what every expert on interrogation has said: under torture, you will admit anything, simply in order to stop the torture. It was true during the Inquisition; it is still true today.

The picture, by the way, is from Vietnam, 1968.

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