"If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character...Would you slow down? Or speed up?" — Chuck Palahniuk

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Waterboarding IS Torture!"

Torture by mosquitoes in a Soviet gulag.
Painting by Nikolai Getman,
provided by Jamestown Foundation.[1]

First off I guess we need to establish a baseline as to what torture really is. From Wikipedia:

Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."[2] In addition to state-sponsored torture, individuals or groups may inflict torture on others; however, the motive for torture can also be for the sadistic gratification of the torturer. MORE!
The big argument going on now is whether or not waterboarding is torture. Well in an effort to find out pro-war atheist, drunkard and occasional correspondent for Vanity Fair Christopher Hitchens decided to find out first hand. Make sure you check out the Vanity Fair link it is a good read. Hitchens response after it was all said and done:

"I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture."

What is waterboarding? It is nothing new and has been around for centuries. In the 1500 it was the preferred method of interrogation at the Italian inquisition and as of 2005 was listed as a CIA approved "enhanced interrogation technique". What happens is a person is strapped down on a inclined board with their legs raised and head lowered. The person is bound so that they cannot move at all. Then their face is covered with a towel or some type of fabric and then the interrogator (torturer) pours water over the person face and it makes them feel like they are drowning.


I can see how this would be a very effective technique to getting people to say whatever you want them too. I cannot stand to have to covers of the bed on my face let alone being strapped down and having something covering my face and having water poured all over. The CIA loves it. From HowStuffWorks:

CIA members who've undergone water boarding as part of their training have lasted an average of 14 seconds before begging to be released. The Navy SEALs once used the technique in their counter-interrogation training, but they stopped because the trainees could not survive it without breaking, which was bad for morale. When the CIA used the water-boarding technique on al-Qaeda operative and supposed "9/11 mastermind" Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he reportedly lasted more than two minutes before confessing to everything of which he was accused. Anonymous CIA sources report that Mohammed's interrogators were impressed.

Most CIA officials say water boarding is not torture, although many see it as a poor interrogation method because it scares the prisoner so much you can't trust anything he tells you. Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a POW during the Vietnam War, says water boarding is definitely a form of torture. Human rights groups agree unanimously that "simulated drowning," causing the prisoner to believe he is about to die, is undoubtedly a form of psychological torture. The international community recognizes "mock executions" as a form of torture, and many place water boarding in that category. In 1947, a Japanese soldier who used water boarding against a U.S. citizen during World War II was sentenced to 15 years in U.S. prison for committing a war crime. MORE!

Hitchens wouldn't say how long he lasted but he did go under twice and he was ready to tell them anything they wanted to hear. As with most torture the person who is being tortured is either going to die or tell the torturer anything he wants to hear to get the torture to stop!

The Big question is does torture really work? Here are the 5 myths about Torture from the WaPo:

1 Torture worked for the Gestapo.

Actually, no. Even Hitler's notorious secret police got most of their information from public tips, informers and interagency cooperation. That was still more than enough to let the Gestapo decimate anti-Nazi resistance in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Russia and the concentration camps.

Yes, the Gestapo did torture people for intelligence, especially in later years. But this reflected not torture's efficacy but the loss of many seasoned professionals to World War II, increasingly desperate competition for intelligence among Gestapo units and an influx of less disciplined younger members. (Why do serious, tedious police work when you have a uniform and a whip?) It's surprising how unsuccessful the Gestapo's brutal efforts were. They failed to break senior leaders of the French, Danish, Polish and German resistance. I've spent more than a decade collecting all the cases of Gestapo torture "successes" in multiple languages; the number is small and the results pathetic, especially compared with the devastating effects of public cooperation and informers.

2 Everyone talks sooner or later under torture.

Truth is, it's surprisingly hard to get anything under torture, true or false. For example, between 1500 and 1750, French prosecutors tried to torture confessions out of 785 individuals. Torture was legal back then, and the records document such practices as the bone-crushing use of splints, pumping stomachs with water until they swelled and pouring boiling oil on the feet. But the number of prisoners who said anything was low, from 3 percent in Paris to 14 percent in Toulouse (an exceptional high). Most of the time, the torturers were unable to get any statement whatsoever.

And such examples could be multiplied. The Japanese fascists, no strangers to torture, said it best in their field manual, which was found in Burma during World War II: They described torture as the clumsiest possible method of gathering intelligence. Like most sensible torturers, they preferred to use torture for intimidation, not information.

3 People will say anything under torture.

Well, no, although this is a favorite chestnut of torture's foes. Think about it: Sure, someone would lie under torture, but wouldn't they also lie if they were being interrogated without coercion?

In fact, the problem of torture does not stem from the prisoner who has information; it stems from the prisoner who doesn't. Such a person is also likely to lie, to say anything, often convincingly. The torture of the informed may generate no more lies than normal interrogation, but the torture of the ignorant and innocent overwhelms investigators with misleading information. In these cases, nothing is indeed preferable to anything. Anything needs to be verified, and the CIA's own 1963 interrogation manual explains that "a time-consuming delay results" -- hardly useful when every moment matters.

Intelligence gathering is especially vulnerable to this problem. When police officers torture, they know what the crime is, and all they want is the confession. When intelligence officers torture, they must gather information about what they don't know.

4 Most people can tell when someone is lying under torture.

Not so -- and we know quite a bit about this. For about 40 years, psychologists have been testing police officers as well as normal people to see whether they can spot lies, and the results aren't encouraging. Ordinary folk have an accuracy rate of about 57 percent, which is pretty poor considering that 50 percent is the flip of a coin. Likewise, the cops' accuracy rates fall between 45 percent and 65 percent -- that is, sometimes less accurate than a coin toss.

Why does this matter? Because even if torturers break a person, they have to recognize it, and most of the time they can't. Torturers assume too much and reject what doesn't fit their assumptions. For instance, Sheila Cassidy, a British physician, cracked under electric-shock torture by the Chilean secret service in the 1970s and identified priests who had helped the country's socialist opposition. But her devout interrogators couldn't believe that priests would ever help the socialists, so they tortured her for another week until they finally became convinced. By that time, she was so damaged that she couldn't remember the location of the safe house.

In fact, most torturers are nowhere near as well trained for interrogation as police are. Torturers are usually chosen because they've endured hardship and pain, fought with courage, kept secrets, held the right beliefs and earned a reputation as trustworthy and loyal. They often rely on folklore about what lying behavior looks like -- shifty eyes, sweaty palms and so on. And, not surprisingly, they make a lot of mistakes.

5 You can train people to resist torture.

Supposedly, this is why we can't know what the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" are: If Washington admits that it waterboards suspected terrorists, al-Qaeda will set up "waterboarding-resistance camps" across the world. Be that as it may, the truth is that no training will help the bad guys.

Simply put, nothing predicts the outcome of one's resistance to pain better than one's own personality. Against some personalities, nothing works; against others, practically anything does. Studies of hundreds of detainees who broke under Soviet and Chinese torture, including Army-funded studies of U.S. prisoners of war, conclude that during, before and after torture, each prisoner displayed strengths and weaknesses dependent on his or her own character. The CIA's own "Human Resources Exploitation Manual" from 1983 and its so-called Kubark manual from 1963 agree. In all matters relating to pain, says Kubark, the "individual remains the determinant." MORE!

I tend to beleive it is more a method of fear and intimidation not too mention in the case of the BCS and New America they are doing this to keep enemies and conflicts going on. This is another reason the BCS was pissed about the Supremes allowing Gitmo detainees access to counsel. These prisoners can really start talking about how they were being treated and the BCS don't want that type of information out there because it is evidence for their upcoming trails at the Hague for war crimes!

Enhanced Interrogation Is Torture!
The New Defenders Of the Geneva Convention

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