Monday, April 20, 2009

Torture: Should We Just Ignore It And Move On?

What is waterboarding? According to Wikipedia:

Waterboarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. By forced suffocation and inhalation of water the subject experiences drowning and is caused to believe they are about to die. It is considered a form of torture by legal experts, politicians, war veterans, intelligence officials, military judges, and human rights organizations. As early as the Spanish Inquisition it was used for interrogation purposes, to punish and intimidate, and to force confessions.

In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, waterboarding precipitates a gag reflex almost immediately. The technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage. It can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage or, ultimately, death. Adverse physical consequences can start manifesting months after the event; psychological effects can last for years.
Thus, while there is absolutely no question that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah are both evil individuals, the following news made my stomach turn. The Empty Wheel (via Paul Krugman) with the details:
According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:
The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

183 times in one month; that means, on average, they subjected Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the sensation of drowning to death six times per day. Obama's statement on the memos:
We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again.

Whether or not this method of torture was legal (a form of waterboarding was ruled legal by then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee on August 1st, 2002, who "JUST HAPPENED" to have been nominated by President Bush to be a federal judge months prior), is the release of their names enough?

I certainly don't think so. If you have similar thoughts and feel an additional investigation needs to take place, you can sign the petition telling Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the torture here.


  1. I'll be signing that petition. In my opinion, even though it's not politically possible, the entire prior chain of command should be tried for war crimes.

    I went through Code of Conduct instruction and SERE training when I was an officer in the US military, and this is black and white torture, no question.

    Historically often only the losers of conflicts are prosecuted for war crimes, and often even if they lose they will make amnesty a condition for surrender, so I doubt much will come of this.

    But this to have the top of the chain of command endorsing and directing outright war crimes is truly one of the worst chapters in American history- almost up there with slavery and Native American genocide.

  2. Hey Doomsday. I hope you're also supportive of the same treatment and investigations for members of Congress. This includes the left's darling....Nancy Pelosi. They had absolute and documented notification and they approved "enhanced" measures, including waterboarding.

    Lastly - before you label me a right-wing nut you should know I am a Libertarian, I voted for Ron Paul, and I think George Bush was at best the second worst President in the last 100 years. Sadly, the last three congressional delegations are of equal quality.

  3. Stick to making pretty charts. If I wanted to read about some poor terrorist's "rights" being violated I'd be reading the NY Times.

  4. Jake- thanks for the comment and the pointer. Keep up the good work!

  5. I agree with George Washington and John F. Kennedy..."Si vis pacem parabellum"

  6. peace / preparing for war is different than giving up the fundamental rights this country is based upon...

    back to the "pretty charts"