Waterboarding (Or: What the hell are we doing?)

Waterboarding is a technique used to simulate drowning. A prisoner is put on a board, with his/her head sloping down. The interrogator pours water over the prisoner’s face, which causes water to be inhaled into the lungs. Since humans, as far as I know, can’t breath water or liquid (except maybe in the movie The Abyss), the prisoner will gag and the prisoner will think he/she is dying because he/she can’t breathe.

Needless to say, it can cause some serious psychological damage, as well as physical damage . . . damage that often lasts longer than the actual event. As John McCain has commented, imagine having a gun held to your head and firing a blank. Nothing I want to be put through.

According to the CIA, it appears that if there is no blood (or at least not a lot of blood) then there’s no foul. But one thing is for certain. If police did this to citizens charged with crimes, their confessions would be thrown out of court and the police would be subject to a 1983 civil rights violation. Then why was the CIA allowed to conduct waterboarding on terrorist suspects or those that it considers to be enemy combatants or some new legal class of persons that one of the White House lawyers made up after a long night sniffing glue?

Well, with the CIA’s track record of extraordinary rendition and the government’s mess with Guantanamo, what’s another candle in the proverbial cake of “government abuse of power”? And, even though waterboarding has technically been outlawed, do you really think the CIA is following that mandate? I can only imagine some whack job CIA attorney writing some memo entitled, “Waterboarding is not torture if we use orange juice.” In the same vein, I can only imagine some whack job White House attorney writing some memo entitled, “Waterboarding is not torture if we kidnap the suspect and send him to Egypt to get waterboarded.”

What other torture methods are the CIA using that are beyond the scope of checks by either congress or the justice system (we all know that the current executive branch is useless when it comes to “checks”)? What gets me is how the Republicans thought Clinton split hairs over language (it depends on what the definition of “is” is). Yeah, Clinton ejaculated on Monica’s dress. But you know what? He didn’t ejaculate on the constitution day in and day out.

But the other interesting line of questioning is when is waterboarding or other forms of torture justifiable by the U.S. government? In this neverending “war on terror,” it appears that the ends justify the means. If it can prevent a terrorist attack, then dammit, we need to waterboard and, hell, we need to burn them on a stake if necessary! We’re fighting terrorists, not boy scouts! Give me a break.

That’s essentially what the U.S. government is saying. And that’s extremely disturbing, because that’s exactly what the framers of the constitution tried to protect the people from. Our constitution prevents that very argument. The ends never justify the means when due process and the equal protection of the laws are violated. Although ex-CIA agent Mike Kiriakou believed that he thought waterboarding is something “Americans should not do,” he still felt the technique worked. Did it though and at what expense? And let me ask you this, Mr. Golden Child Mike Kirakou. How many of these suspects did you waterboard that were completely innocent? I know “completely innocent” is not a word in the CIA’s vocabulary. You were just following orders, heh?

The American government should treat any suspect — whether a citizen or not a citizen or a pseudo-something a la enemy combatant — the same: with dignity and under procedures that respect the constitution. It is very difficult to trust a government that purports to treat its citizens fairly and those who are not unfairly. When the government is straining to make such distinctions, you have to ask yourself whether there is even one to begin with. Further, when you fight for the rights of non-citizens and the pseudo classifications of people like an enemy combatant, you are essentially fighting for your rights. If the American government can torture and violate the rights of individuals that utterly shock the conscience without impunity or consequence, then do you really think they won’t do the same to you? Wake up and smell the facism.

Now don’t get me wrong because I’m citing “technicalities” such as constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. Don’t call me some “soft on terror liberal cocksucker.” Law enforcement has a lot of leeway when it comes to interrogating suspects. They should do it zealously and relentlessly. But, I would have thought after World War II, there would be a damn clear bright line when it came to torture. That’s off limits for the American government. And it’s off limits for any government, and in particular, any government that our C – I – friggin A sends a suspect to.

9/11 did not change the constitution. It certainly changed our perspective. But 9/11 did not change the rules of the game. I was there in Manhattan on 9/11. I saw the planes hit. I saw the buildings collapse. I have the dust on my clothes. I have friends who died. I’m pissed, too, at the terrorists who did such a thing. But I’m also pissed at our government who has used 9/11 as a casus belli to do whatever the fuck it wants. Time to take it back.

Torture is never justifiable under any circumstances. Period. No exceptions.


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