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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