Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Waterboarding: Successful since Vietnam!

Waterboarding is a sick practice, and its endorsement by the Bush administration just goes to show how much contempt they hold for the rule of law and decency in the name of jingoistic machismo. But of course you expect me to say that. Would you rather hear it from an ex-military officer? Meet Larry Rottmann:

Contrary to what President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, CIA Director Michael Hayden, former White House Advisor Karl Rove, previous U.S. Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Anthony Gonzales, and many media outlets claim, waterboarding is not "simulated drowning" and it is not "controlled drowning" and it is not "coercion by water" and it is not a "humane interrogation tactic." Waterboarding is brutal torture by water. Period.

How do I know this? Because when I was attending Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1966, all us young lieutenants-to-be were taught exactly what waterboarding was, and how to use it on the prisoners we were expected to capture in Vietnam. [...] "It's guaranteed to make'um tell you anything you want to know," bragged the vets. And when someone pointed out that these techniques seemed to be in direct contradiction to the Rules of War and the Geneva Convention which we were also learning, we were told that in Vietnam, we should just throw out all the rules.

Sounds like the actions of the world's greatest superpower and moral leader, eh? Well, it gets even better:

They introduced us to: "The Bell Telephone Hour" (wiring up prisoners' genitals to electric field phones); "Rice-a-Roni" (kneeling on grains of rice on hardwood floors); "The Bayer Aspirin Headache" (leaning against a concrete wall with only the forehead for hours at a time); "The Tin Drum" (being stuffed into a 55-gallon steel barrel, while people beat on it with baseball bats); "The Night of the Living Dead" (sleep deprivation for days at a time); "The Chilly Willie" (being stripped naked and locked in freezing cold cells) and "Baby Makes Three" (listening to a nonstop crying baby for days); and also "Waterboarding" (smothering a reclining prisoner's mouth and nose with a towel, while pouring water on his or her face).

And to prove the effectiveness of these interrogation methods, the instructors "volunteered" us officer candidates to play the part of POWs, and they showed us how the various torture techniques worked by demonstrating some of them directly on us. It was there that I experienced waterboarding firsthand, and I can verify that it is a horrifying and frightening experience. It is terrible torture, plain and simple, and if not administered correctly, it can — and has — led to death.

And who practiced said torture on these officers-in-training?

There, the enemy (played by angry, stressed-out Vietnam vets who had recently returned from the war) subjected us to extreme verbal abuse, pushed us around, physically assaulted us, and interrogated us individually and in groups for three days and nights, while subjecting us to the various torture techniques, including waterboarding. It was a pretty ugly scene. [Emphasis mine]

Wow. One can only wonder how else this rage has been channeled over the years...

I will happily return the favor by personally volunteering to vigorously waterboard each and every draft-dodging, right-wing chickenhawk in Washington, D.C.

And why not? It's not torture! It's "enhanced interrogation." Which should be kept in mind when our Iraq veterans come home, angry and stressed out, to their soon-to-be-thrown-out leadership who won't testify under oath. I'm not saying (nor is Rottmann really saying) that anyone deserves to be waterboarded, but the anger felt by Rottmann and his counterparts is only going to multiply as the secrets of this illegal war come to light. And if these legitimate complaints aren't given an audience, then that anger and stress will channel into hundred of thousands of homes, families, friends and employers. And that could do harm to all of us.


rhonda said...

i think the most disturbing thing about not only waterboarding, but with a lot of those "enhanced interrogation" techniques is that there is even a question of ethics to anyone. to me, things like cruelty and torture are pretty cut-and-dried, and wrong on any level. most people would insist voraciously that waterboarding is torture if it were done to someone they love, yet when it's done to a bunch of off-white people in another country, somehow a disconnect occurs and the unthinkable actually becomes debatable. that misplaced flexibility is more unsettling than to just outright call it what it is.

Nick said...

""Rice-a-Roni" (kneeling on grains of rice on hardwood floors); "The Tin Drum" (being stuffed into a 55-gallon steel barrel, while people beat on it with baseball bats); "The Night of the Living Dead" (sleep deprivation for days at a time); "The Chilly Willie";"Baby Makes Three" (listening to a nonstop crying baby for days);"

Call me a "cold-hearted conservative", but I see nothing wrong with the techniques I quoted above.

Kneeling on grains of rice on hard wood floors...hell, that used to be a practice in some of our schools.

Sleep deprevation...one of my best friends, an Architect major, used to go days without sleep to meet project deadlines in school.

I don't know much about waterboarding. But, I will say this. If it is known that a captured Al-Queda member may have information regarding a pending attack on the U.S., I say "Get that information ASAP!!"

Would waterboarding work?? I don't know. I'll leave that up to the experts.

I will say that John McCain, having been tortured himself, does carry alot of weight in my opinon of these matters, and he is against waterboarding.

Ian McGibboney said...

Rhonda, everything seems cut-and-dry to conservatives when it comes to gays, women, God and guns. But when torture becomes the issue, suddenly there's more gray area than on John McCain's scalp.

Nick, the reason they took those punishments out of schools is the same reason they don't belong in POW camps: because they're utterly barbaric. And to say the U.S. can do it because our enemies do so is to lose all moral high ground that we claim as leader of the world. It virtually guarantees that the same things, if not much worse, will happen to our troops when they're captured. Oh, and information gathered under duress is notoriously unreliable. I know I'd say anything I thought would keep me from drowning.

McCain's roaring approval of the same techniques used against him in Nam shows how unstable/willing to pander he is. Which is why he's going to get trounced in November.

Nick said...

Making a suspected terrorist kneel on rice or stay awake for a few days is "utterly barbaric"???

I've knelt on hard rice before.

And as for the sleep thing, then we should start prosecuting college professors then when their students go 2-3 days without sleep.

McCain's "roaring approval" of the techniques used against him? I seem to remember him on the stage at the GOP debates arguing AGAINST waterboarding and for closing down Gittmo.

pudding-monkey said...

Nick, do you really not comprehend the difference between staying up all night to work on an assignment BY CHOICE (the other choices being failing the course or starting on assignments earlier) and being FORCED to do so, under threats, for days? Not to mention that being forced to do so would likely not be the beginning or the end of things.

RGNPWNER said...

Rice is pretty kewl

Hathor said...

A baby crying and its not yours and you know its fake, torture? I can see it being annoying, but I think it is stretching it, saying its torture.

Nick said...


I comprehend the difference quite well. I also comprehend the fact that if college students stay up for days at a time in order to get a degree, then we sure as hell should cry for a terrorist captured on the battlefield when he's doesn't get to sleep for a few days.

And...I still don't see how the rice thing is torture. Some of the work-outs my college track coach put me through felt more like torture than kneeling on rice.

Nick said...

Good point, Hathor. I could see how listening to a baby cry out of hours of neglect or pain could be torture, but not a fake cry.

Then again, many of these people have no problem with suicide bombers targeting innocent children, so feeling pain for a baby probabaly wouldn't be an issue for them anyway.

Ian McGibboney said...

What you guys are forgetting is that even the most insubstantial things can work horrors when applied constantly. Being forced on your knees on rice (or even flat concrete) for hours will swell your knees into volleyballs. An annoying human voice (such as a baby's incessant crying) has been shown to be more aggravating than a jackhammer in studies.

Look, I was a grad student too, but I'm not so insensitive to the plight of POWs that I would even remotely compare anything I've ever been through to what they went through, often for many years.

Finally, Nick, I was indeed wrong to claim that McCain endorses torture. After a little research, I see that he has led the charge against it. Now I see why so many neocons are pissed at him.

Terry Troll said...

nick: you remember well. The man does not even have the nomination yet and he is already flip flopping away.

Leah Martin said...

Okay, all I have to say is:

First, Intel gained from torturing prisoners of war is inadmissible in courts designed to try suspects of terror activities in the US. So what's the point?

Second, Intel gained from torturing prisoners has been shown to be unreliable, inconclusive, and generally completely unhelpful the thwarting terrorist activities. So what's the point?

Third, half of international law is customary. Is this really a precedent Americans would like have set into legal standards? So what's the point?

The point is this, as someone who works in the field and is at direct physical risk for kidnapping and torture when in the field, I hope for my own safety and the people I work with the answer is a definitive, NO!