Waterboarded: You Are Being Watered and Drowned

Vanity Fair magazine describes how the author Christopher Hitchens underwent the controversial drowning technique, at the hands of men who once trained American soldiers to resist, not inflict it. What more can be added to the debate over U.S. interrogation methods and whether waterboarding is torture? Try firsthand experience. Here an abstract of Christopher Hitchens’ description of his experience:

“This 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. But it was something that Americans were being trained to resist, not to inflict.

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. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and-as you might expect-inhale in turn.

The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.”

Last March, after President Bush announced that he had vetoed legislation that would have banned the use of waterboarding, I wrote this:

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Tortur

Let us not forget that on Saturday, March 8, 2008, President Bush announced that he had vetoed legislation that would have banned the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that he said have prevented attacks. The bill that he rejected would have provided guidelines for intelligence activities and has the interrogation requirement as one provision. The bill would have limited CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques that are allowed for use by military questioners. In 2006, the Army Field Manual banned the use of methods such as waterboarding or sensory deprivation on uncooperative prisoners.

Therefore, at this moment in history, let us not forget what is still being executed by our government. Rather than simply describing it as an “advanced” or “enhanced” interrogation technique, let us call it by its proper name: Torture.

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

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Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

Let us not forget that on Saturday, March 8, 2008, President Bush announced that he had vetoed legislation that would have banned the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that he said have prevented attacks. The bill that he rejected would have provided guidelines for intelligence activities and has the interrogation requirement as one provision. The bill would have limited CIA interrogators to the 19 techniques that are allowed for use by military questioners. In 2006, the Army Field Manual banned the use of methods such as waterboarding or sensory deprivation on uncooperative prisoners.

Therefore, at this moment in history, let us not forget what is still being executed by our government. Rather than simply describing it as an “advanced” or “enhanced” interrogation technique, let us call it by its proper name: Torture.

Let Us Call It by Its Proper Name: Torture

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Barack Obama Unequivocably Cuts Ties to Ex-Pastor

Earlier this morning, Barack Obama closely reviewed excerpts from Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s reckless and freewheeling speech that was given at The National Press Club breakfast on Monday morning in Washington. Deeply and visibly angry, Obama insisted upon holding a second press conference about Wright today in Winston-Salem (NC) in order to unequivocally denounce Rev. Wright’s conduct, as well as to to completely sever himself from his ex-pastor’s tirades. I have waited to post about this matter. In the meantime, mainstream and blogger pundits already have rushed to fill the print and internet media with clairvoyant mind-readings and armchair psychobabble about Obama’s comments today. As for myself, this ongoing affair has bolstered my own conviction that it is not a matter of simple antiquarianism that we should always be mindful of our Founders concern for a separation of Church and State, and of the dangers inherent in allowing that distinction to become more and more obscure.

Marc Ambinder provided an accurate summary of Obama’s Winston-Salem comments this afternoon in The Atlantic Magazine:

The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago,” Obama said. “His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs… If Reverend Wright thinks that’s political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn’t know me very well and based on his remarks yesterday, I may not know him as well as I thought either.”

I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church,” he said. “But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS; when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century; when he equates the U.S. wartime efforts with terrorism – then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced, and that’s what I’m doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.”

It is antithetical to my campaign. It is antithetical to what I’m about. It is not what I think America stands for,” he said.

Ambinder concluded his summary by noting that, “Obama has denounced Wright’s remarks before. But in the past, Obama gave Wright “the benefit of the doubt“–i.e., said he considered such remarks aberrations, outliers, deviations not in keeping with the sermons that he himself had heard over his two decades at Trinity. Now, according to Obama, Wright’s willingness to repeat such “ridiculous propositions”–in effect, “caricaturing himself”–has led him to the conclusion that either Wright has changed or that he was wrong about the minister all along. “Based on his remarks yesterday,” said Obama. “I may not know him as well as I thought.” By acting nutty in public, in other words, Wright gave Obama the license to openly say in public, “I now see why all of you think he’s nutty.”

Barack Obama Renounces Ex-Pastor Wright

I strongly encourage viewers to read an article by Peggy Noonan about her overall impressions of the current state of the presidential race, which was published last Friday in The Wall Street Journal and can be accessed here.

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35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race

Barack Obama was greeted by the largest crowd of his campaign on Friday night in Philadelphia.  It was the biggest gathering of Obama supporters that the campaign had ever seen, exceeding the 30,000 who greeted Obama and Oprah Winfrey in December in Columbia, S.C.  An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people pressed into Independence Park to hear the Democratic presidential candidate, four days before Pennsylvania’s crucial presidential primary on April 22nd.

Beyond the stunning fact that more people came out for Obama’s rally in front of Independence Hall than any other event since he announced his candidacy, there was a remarkable spontaneous demonstration of support that occurred when his speech ended.  At least 5,000 people had nowhere to go but up Market Street.  Obama’s charge of the night: “Declare independence!” was with them.  They started with the familiar “O-Bam-A.”  By 7th and Market Streets, they had graduated to “Yes we can!”   By 10th and Market Streets, with hundreds of supporters streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering.  At first, a few Philadelphia policemen cops tried to move the surging crowd to the sidewalks, but it didn’t work.  The police finally retreated to the sidewalks, and a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching.

Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech is now being hailed as one of the most powerful discourses on race ever given by a politician.  Obama’s speech on race recognized that some blacks and whites still harbor significant anger and resentment.  While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist.  Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and white cultures.  His life, indeed his DNA, embodies a truly American experience.  Obama mapped out his vision for getting beyond the distractions of race toward solving the real problems Americans face: the war, the economy, health, education and the environment.

Obama told the crowd that the United States is at a critical moment in its history, not unlike what the founding fathers faced in Philadelphia.  “It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do,” Obama said.  “After years of a government that didn’t listen to them, or speak for them, or represent their hopes and their dreams, a few humble colonists came to Philadelphia to declare their independence from the tyranny of the British throne.”

The Illinois senator called Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a “tenacious” opponent but said that it was time to move beyond the old politics of the 1990s.   Hillary Clinton “is a tenacious campaigner and is a committed public servant,” he began.   But her message, he said, is “that we can’t really change the say anything, do anything special interest game of so we might as well choose a candidate who knows how to play the game.”  He mocked her “kitchen sink strategy” and then stated, “I’m not running to be the president who plays the same old game. I’m running to end the game.”

Barack Obama: “A More Perfect Union” (Full Speech on Race)

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Hillary: Can Obama Beat McCain? Yes, Yes, Yes!!

With the Pennsylvania primary just six days away, Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia gave Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a last chance to settle old and new scores as they headed into a week that could make or break their presidential aspirations. Clinton wanted to extend her five point lead in Pennsylvania, while Obama was trying to unveil a debate performance that reflects the recent national poll figures that show him surging way past Clinton in the areas of trustworthiness and electability.

During the debate, Obama and Clinton each defended their handling of missteps and misstatements on the campaign trail and directed sharp criticisms toward each other. They began their first head-to-head encounter in nearly two months focused on political disputes, rather than upon their relatively narrow policy differences. Obama, who leads in the number of delegates needed to claim the nomination, fielded tough questions about his relationship with his former pastor, his patriotism and his description of small-town voters as “bitter,” the latter a controversy that has engulfed his campaign for much of the past week.

Obama argued repeatedly that voters are smart enough to differentiate petty issues from important economic matters. “So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person’s statement, if it’s not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death,” Obama said. “And that’s what Senator Clinton’s been doing over the last four days. And I understand that. That’s politics. And I expect to have to go through this process. But I do think it’s important to recognize that it’s not helping that person who’s sitting at the kitchen table, who’s trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.”

Clinton addressed questions about voters’ deteriorating level of trust in her after her recent false claims to have ducked sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. In perhaps her fullest explanations of her Bosnia gaffe to date, she noted she had already apologized and said that while she had gotten the details wrong, she was otherwise proud to have taken the trip. “I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb,” Clinton said. “I’m embarrassed by it, I have apologized for it, I said it was a mistake. It is, I hope, something you can look over.”

Clinton, who has been quoted as saying in private conversations that she does not think Obama can win the general election, made her clearest statement to date of her confidence in Obama. When asked whether Obama would win against Sen. John McCain, Clinton adamantly replied: “Yes, Yes, Yes.”

Obama responded by saying that he believes he’s better suited to beat McCain, that his ability to unify the electorate would be the key to winning in November. “When we are unified, there is nothing that we cannot tackle,” he said.

Hillary: “Can Obama Beat McCain? Yes, Yes, Yes!

Read an article that is extremely critical of the debate’s moderators, as well as of the entire ABC News coverage of the Philadelphia Democratic debate, in this morning’s edition of The Washington Post here.

And Greg Mitchell calls ABC News’ coverage of the debate A Shameful Night for U.S. Media in today’s Huffington Post here.

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Abused Chicago Riders Revolt Against Daley’s Decayed Subway System

After years of increasing abuse and neglect, Chicago subway riders finally got fed up, drew the line and revolted against Mayor Daley’s pathetic subway system. A jam-packed rush-hour subway train had been stopped underground in Chicago’s Loop for over an hour on Tuesday morning, held up by a broken-down train ahead. In the stifling, hot and stuffy air, passengers had turned nervous and impatient. Some were throwing up and getting sick from a complete lack of circulating fresh air. Finally, the Chicagoans revolted, ignoring the unpredictably intermittent announcements and pleas from transit workers, who were themselves in a state of total confusion about what was really going on. En mass, the riders decided to leave the stalled trains and to make a long and dangerous trudge through the dirty, dimly lit underground tunnel toward the eventual light of freedom.

As usual in Chicago’s disreputable world of machine politics, Hizzoner’s political flunky transit officials were quick to put all of the blame on the Chicago citizens, on the passengers, saying that the unauthorized evacuation caused bigger problems. Afraid that the passengers making to their freedom through the dark and dirty underground tunnel might be electrocuted by the subway’s electrically charged third rail, transit officials cut off all power to part of the Blue Line, which travels a large U-shaped route between Chicago’s West Side and O’Hare International Airport. Service was terminated for about four hours, and more than a thousand passengers had to be helped off several trains.

Esmeralda Cuevas, 26, who works in Chicago’s Loop as an administrative assistant, was on the train immediately behind the stalled one when she saw a number of haggard people walk by a window of her stranded subway car. “I felt a sense like I want to be with them,” Ms. Cuevas said. “I was impressed with their courage. I thought, ‘I can stay in here with these people and feel hot and uncomfortable, or I can start walking.’ ” And walk she did. So did most of the other stranded passengers from a total of four trains, who forged ahead despite intermittent, confusing public intercom announcements asking them to return.

Some two hours after her ordeal began, Ms. Cuevas finally emerged from the subway crying, with dirt all over her hands and face. An executive at her office downtown advised her to avoid the subway for a few days and to take cabs. But since he didn’t have the generosity to offer to pay for her cab rides, Ms. Cuevas said that she plans to take the train, but on an elevated line, not the underground subway.

At least seven of the Chicago subway passengers suffered injuries and breathing problems that required hospitalization. At the present time, none of their injuries or ailments is thought to be life threatening.

Revolt: Trapped in Underground Subway

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Martin Luther King: A Remembrance

Martin Luther King, Jr: He Marched President Obama into the White House

THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON: “I HAVE A DREAM”

KING’S FINAL ADDRESS: “I’VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAINTOP”

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING: BIOGRAPHIC NOTES

One of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct action as methods of social change, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. As the grandson of the Rev. A.D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and a founder of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, and the son of Martin Luther King, Sr., who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer’s pastor, King’s roots were in the African-American Baptist church. After attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, King went on to study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and Boston University, where he deepened his understanding of theological scholarship and explored Mahatma Gandhi‘s nonviolent strategy for social change. King married Coretta Scott in 1953, and the following year he accepted the pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King received his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. On December 5, 1955, after civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to comply with Montgomery’s segregation policy on buses, black residents launched a bus boycott and elected King president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott continued throughout 1956 and King gained national prominence for his role in the campaign. In December 1956 the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama’s segregation laws unconstitutional, and Montgomery’s buses were desegregated.

Rosa Parks: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

Barack Obama Speaks at Selma, Alabama

Seeking to build upon the success in Montgomery, King and other southern black ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. In 1959, King toured India in order to further develop his understanding of Gandhian nonviolent strategies. Later that year, King resigned from Dexter and returned to Atlanta to become co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father.

In 1960, black college students initiated a wave of sit-in protests that led to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). King supported the student movement and expressed an interest in creating a youth arm of the SCLC. Student activists admired King, but they were critical of his top-down leadership style and were determined to maintain their autonomy. As an adviser to SNCC, Ella Baker, who had previously served as associate director of SCLC, made clear to representatives from other civil rights organizations that SNCC was to remain a student-led organization. The 1961 “Freedom Rides” heightened tensions between King and younger activists, as he faced criticism for his decision not to participate in the rides.nnConflicts between SCLC and SNCC continued during the Albany Movement of 1961 and 1962.

In the spring of 1963, King and SCLC led mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, where local white police officials were known for their violent opposition to integration. Clashes between unarmed black demonstrators and police armed with dogs and fire hoses generated newspaper headlines throughout the world. President Kennedy responded to the Birmingham protests by submitting broad civil rights legislation to Congress, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Subsequent mass demonstrations culminated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which more than 250,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D. C. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

King’s renown continued to grow as he became Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963 and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to Dr. King by President Jimmy Carter in 1964. However, along with the fame and accolades came conflict within the movement’s leadership. Malcolm X‘s message of self-defense and black nationalism resonated with northern, urban blacks more effectively than King’s call for nonviolence; King also faced public criticism from “Black Power” proponent, Stokely Carmichael.

King’s efficacy was not only hindered by divisions among black leadership, but also by the increasing resistance he encountered from national political leaders. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s extensive efforts to undermine King’s leadership were intensified during 1967 as urban racial violence escalated, and King’s public criticism of the U. S. intervention in the Vietnam War led to strained relations with Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

In late 1967, King initiated a Poor People’s Campaign designed to confront economic problems that had not been addressed by earlier civil rights reforms. The following year, while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he delivered his final address, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The following day, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated.

To this day, King remains a controversial symbol of the African-American civil rights struggle, revered by many for his martyrdom on behalf of non-violence, but criticized by others for his militancy and insurgent views.

Clayborne Carson, Editor
Martin Luther King Biographic Note
Stanford University

CORETTA SCOTT KING

After her husband’s death in 1968, Coretta King emerged as an important activist in her own right. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and led the fight to make her husband’s birthday a national holiday. Yet she also was known as a loving mother who reared four children alone. She instilled in them a reverence for the ideals their father espoused, as well as an independence to chart their own courses, even if it challenged long-standing ideals of who or what they should be.

She became an international advocate for peace and human rights. She met with presidents and world leaders and was arrested fighting against apartheid. And well into her 70s, she traveled the globe to speak against racial and economic injustice, promote the rights of the powerless and poor, and advocate religious freedom, full employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and AIDS awareness.

Coretta Scott King, 78, of Atlanta, died on February 4, 2006, at a holistic hospital in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, about 17 miles south of San Diego. Despite her physical struggles, friends and family members said her last days were painful, she had made a surprise appearance the previous month during The Martin Luther King Center’s annual “Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner” in downtown Atlanta. She was wheeled into the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, triggering an admiring standing ovation. She smiled, waved and kissed family members, but she did not speak. It would be her last public appearance.

A Musical Tribute to Correta Scott King:

On January 31, 2006, National Public Radio broadcast “A Musical Tribute to Corretta Scott King.” To honor Mrs. King’s memory, the program drew upon music from a long-standing tradition in Atlanta. From the 2005 edition of the annual King Celebration concert, the tribute to Mrs. King included Lift Every Voice and Sing, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the glee clubs of Morehouse and Spelman colleges. The tribute also included a 1998 interview on National Public Radio, during which Mrs. King had reflected upon the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement.

A Tribute to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement

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