Today is Guy Fawkes Day. Scott Horton passes along some lessons for governing authorities. Here is the first:
1. Torture Never Works and is Always Wrong
As set out in The King’s Book, King James I’s personal account of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes was seized and taken to the Tower of London. There, by special warrant issued by the king, he was subjected to torture over the next four days (“No new torture was to be used,” the king directed. The torture was to be mild at first, and then progressively more painful.) The purpose of the torture was first to secure the voluntary confession by Fawkes of his participation in the plot, and second to learn the identities of others who participated with him. Sir William Wade, Lieutenant of the Tower of London at this time, supervised the torture. For three or four days Fawkes said nothing, let alone divulge the names of his co-conspirators. Only when Fawkes learned that some of the conspirators had themselves confessed or that they were dead, did he admit their names. The torture therefore failed to secure any information beyond that which was already known. ...
What was the result of the use of torture? It wasn’t necessary to secure his conviction in the first place. Fawkes was caught in the act, with innumerable witnesses. No useful information was gained by it. The king, for having authorized its use, was viewed by many of his own subjects as a cruel tyrant. The conspirators, for the cruelty of their treatment, were accepted by many of their co-religionists as martyrs.
Torture was a weakness, not a strength of the Government. In twenty-three years, this would be the accepted wisdom of a society sickened and revolted by the official use of cruelty and of torture. In one hundred and seventy years, a nation would be born committed to suppressing it forever. . . or, as it turns out, until the arrival of George W. Bush.
Malcolm Nance's op-ed on waterboarding is getting a lot of attention on the right. Nance is a former SERE instructor and trainer who has conducted controlled waterboardings on U.S. military personnel, and has undergone waterboarding himself. Here is what he has to say about it:
Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.
In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. 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. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. 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.
The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.
Nance spares no detail in describing what happens to a person who is waterboarded:
There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists
1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.
2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.
Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.
An extensive list of links to other resources on waterboarding follows the essay, and be sure to check out the comments section, too.
Heads up, Fool: terrorist discomfort is not the issue at all, for anyone. The issue is our discomfort -- at doing things that are un-American and unpatriotic, and that undermine and betray everything this country is about.
Poor Ephron. Heartbroken because we've used waterboarding a reported three times against terror suspects.
Since when did terrorist discomfort become the No. 1 issue for some Democrats? When you're so far to the left of Schumer, you may want to step back and look at the good of the country for a change. The Bush administration has 14 months left and Judge Mukasey will in all likelihood be his final Attorney General.
Can't you, how shall we say, move on already?