Tortured….. Again!

Intellectual torture is back; generated by the renewed torture debate.  For the moment, accept the premise that waterboarding, the worst of our transgressions, is in fact torture. (Although it’s not!)

Premise One: No torture (read waterboarding) because we want to set an example so that our people are not subjected to similar treatment.

Response: We need only revisit the Nick Berg or Daniel Pearl videos for a reminder of what the enemy is prepared to do. The very theology they rely on demands stoning, cutting off of hands and feet for thievery and clitoral disfiguration to name a few of their ‘civilized’ practices.  That’s for the believers!  Imagine what’s in store for Infidels.  Fact is that actual torture occurs as a matter of policy throughout the Muslim world: Syria, Iran, Hiz’bAllah, Hamas and Egypt chief among them.  The outcry over those transgressions is not exactly long and loud.!

Premise Two: Other methods work.

Response: True they do, if you have time!  If you are under a time sensitive deadline “other methods” may not get you there in time.

Premise Three: Torture is abhorrent to our values. 

Response: True but still at loggerheads over a definition.   If we use torture (waterboarding) to train pilots and special ops teams do we not have a logical disconnect that argues that all such training must be outlawed as illegal? There are a variety of “aversion” training techniques used across the military and intelligence communities.  Is that training a bad idea?  What do we train and equip those folks with; snappy repartee?

Premise Four: Adherence to the Geneva Conventions:

Response: We must adhere to the Conventions related to anyone who has signed the Conventions.  Terror organizations tend not to worry overly much about that.  Terror organizations are not states, they don’t self identify with uniforms and they consider civilians to be valid targets based on no more evidence that they pay taxes in support of Infidel governments. Mutual disregard of the Conventions might be in order for non state actors.   

Premise Five: The Army Field Manual is enough. 

Response: Yes, but again, only if you have time; The Army Field Manual itself acknowledges the limitations associated with time.  The manual instructs that ‘before” the interrogation begins the following preparations should be made: initial preparation, review of prior documentation, evaluation of current physical and mental state, determination of legal status, interrogation plan, definition of goals and objectives, review by superior officer (if possible) and determination of techniques to be applied, etc.  Sounds time consuming; hopefully nothing goes BOOM in the meantime!

Premise Six: Rights of the incarcerated must be protected.

Response:  You bet!  Recall the mandatory preparations and protections that were place in advance of final approval of the waterboarding executed for THREE high value detainees. 

  • Psychologists engaged to determine potential long term effects of sleep deprivation and other techniques.
  • SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape) trainers from the U.S. military with extensive experience in the application of waterboarding techniques were engaged to insure severe consequences were not generated.
  • The psychological impact of waterboarding on SERE trainees was addressed in detail by the SERE trainers. 
  • A SERE trainer with experience covering 10,000 students reported two trainees dropped out of the training following the application of waterboard techniques.  Some delayed completion of the course but did eventually complete it.
  • In the nine years prior to 2001 26,829 SERE students went through Air Force SERE, 0.014% (37)  students were removed from the training for psychological reasons, none reported long term effects.  26,792 did not report any long term effects.
  • The trainer (redacted) was aware of one letter over his 20 years of experience questioning the possibility of long term effects.
  • Medical personnel evaluated the potential for long term harm for all enhanced interrogation methods.  
  • Medical personnel were present at all times with authority to stop the interrogation. Authority to terminate also resided with supervisors, trainers and senior officers present.
  • Medical evaluations were mandated in advance of interrogations and were utilized to guide the interrogation plan related to safely.

U.S. law is found in sections 2340 and 2340A of the Criminal Code.  The statute requires that for pain and suffering to reach the level of torture it must be “severe” and carry the intent of inflicting severe pain.  The mandatory predicates for “severe” and “prolonged harm” are:

  • Intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering.
  • Administration or threatened application of mind-altering substances calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.
  • Threat of imminent death.
  • Threat that any of the preceding acts will be done to another person.

 Reverse the premise: your wife, husband, son, daughter, grandparent, friend is in imminent, time sensitive danger with the possibility they could be saved with  information procured by aggressive interrogation?  What do you do?  Where does your moral center fall? That question renders the self righteous chorus mute every time!

  • D.D.Mao

    I believe we had this discussion during the Abu Gharib prison scandal(a little while before you came on board)and I was the only voice which questioned the practice.

    You make a very convincing arguement until pictures of our military being dragged through the streets,set on fire, or facing an angry mob is published and then the country goes into it’s outrage mode.Having remembered the Vietnam era I can recall how the supporters of the war wore P.O.W. bracelets and of course the coming home of the prisoners some of which were held 10 or more years.Afterwards stories of the torture they received at the hands of the V.C. were sickening.

    Just as you discribe “your wife,husband son,daughter,grandparent,friend is in imminent,time sensitive danger…….” I am sure the enermy also feels that their wife,husband,son,daughter etc. is in imminent danger and therefore in their eyes is justified to apply torture to our military personel.They would like to know and prepare for any future attack or stratigic strike just as we would want to know.Unfortunatly we have been fighting enermies who aren’t signers of the Geneva convention(IE: Vietcong and now Muslim Brotherhood among others)this however does not justify the torture of prisoners to extract information.Just because you aren’t fighting an enermy who signed a document doesn’t mean you can fight with the attitude anything goes.If we are to consider ourselves a moral civilized society who fought to free oppressed people and not for imperialism we must set standards.If not we are LEAPING BACK INTO THE ABYSS OF BARBARISM.

    You make waterboarding sound so innnocent.If the purpose of it is to extract information there must be some danger to it in order to make them talk.Why not apply torture to criminals also then such as a suspect who we apprehend for kidnapping? This would also lead to the slippery slope of torturing political prisoners or enermies of the state such as the Weathermen,Black Panthers etc.THIS BRINGS UP THE QUESTION WHO DRAWS THE LINE AS TO WHAT DEGREE OF TORTURE IS ACCEPTABLE FOR THE LEVEL OF INFORMATION DESIRED?

    While I don’t subscribe to the theory that keeping Gitmo open is a recruitment incentive for terrorist subjecting them to torture surely will attract martyrdom for their cause.NO it may have worked this time to apprehend Bin Laden but this self rightous charade of acceptablity IS NOT WHAT AMERICA IS ABOUT as the President would say.

  • Bill Hedges


    I agree with you completely.

    “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”
    General George S. Patton

    This quote is somewhat off base because Patton was fighting a uniformed enemy. Out of uniformed solders would have been shot, after extracting information.

    Making a gift of American citizen’s rights to terrorist, is near treason to me.

    Normal war is HELL, terrorism is far worse. They have no Geneva convention rights. Terrorist do not honor Geneva convention treatment. If I fight a NO HOLD BARRED fight, I do not tie one hand behind my back. I fight for my life. I’ll throw dust in your eyes, whatever it takes. If my enemy fights in uniform and according to the rules of war, I would give him Geneva convention treatment if captured. A tic for tac. Terrorist do not. Have we not seen American heads in foreign streets. I would not go that far…

    For terrorist and being nice to:

    “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster”

    William Tecumseh Sherman

  • landreaux

    It’s simply a case of where you draw the line on the definition of torture. When you read the legal opinions that came out of the Bush administration is is clear that they grappled with the issue in a serious manner. Even “flicking” was subjected to a legal opinion. What is “flicking” you may ask. It is the act of dipping your finger in a glass of water and “flicking” the water at the detainee.

    A country that needs a legal opinion on “flicking” is not in jeopardy of decending into barbarism. Nor is a country that engages in an open debate about where the red line is. Personally and especially in light of the protections that surrounded the process I don’t believe waterboarding is torture. More to come on what real torture looks like.

  • D.D.Mao

    As Conservatives who base much of our beliefs on morals and right and wrong we seem to be drifting toward liberalisms the end justifies the means by accepting torture.

    Torture in general and waterboarding specificly rest not on it’s usefulness but on it’s wrongness. It rest on the psychological trauma and terrifying panic.You referred to American pilots being trained using waterboarding in your essay. This was done for the purpose of preparing them for what to expect if captured.Navy Seals use a similar technique of tying their hands and feet and throwing them in a pool to teach them not to panic under stressfull circumstances.This training is under supervision of trained military instructors while I question whether if the interrogators felt they were close to obtaining information while waterboading terrorist they would suspend the operation.

    Japanese were tried,convicted and hung for waterboarding crimes against American P.O.W.’s during the second World War. See:

    In addition the “International Convention Against Torture” ratified by the United States in 1994 specifically allows for “NO EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES WHAT SO EVER”

    Terrorist prisoners may not have combatant rights under the Geneva Conference but they do have human rights.Let us measure the weight of our conscience and not fall into believing lackadaisical rhetoric from Washington.

  • landreaux

    We will have to agree to disagree on this one. The multiple levels of protective supervision and the decentralized authority to stop the interrogation insured against actual harm coming to the THREE people we did this to.

    Maybe my willingness to waterboard under very, very limited circumstances (ticking time bomb scenario) is based on the amount of time I’ve spent studying these guys (the bad guys) and what they are counting on. They are counting on us having this debate and they are counting on it coming down in their favor. Remember, we have told them that the Army Field Manual is all they have to worry about because those were the only techniques the Obama Administration would apply. So what’s moral about telling your enemy in advance exactly what will and what will not happen to them. Even were there an internal prohibition on waterboarding WHY TELL THEM!!!

    We also know that their ideology insists that they only resist to a certain point. Be assured that the Army Manual is well within the scope of that resistance.

    Again, I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree because in the final analysis I’ll trade a rare instance of intense discomfort and panic for lives.

    Their actions in hundreds of situations are considered by me to be completly amoral.

  • D.D.Mao

    Framing the arguement in the context of following the “Army Field Maual” doesn’t work.The practice of waterboarding had Japanese hung after W.W.II and is outlawed according to the “International Convention Against Torture”.The practice has been appalled for over 100 years.

    You are right “We will have to agree to disagree” on this one. I always enjoy reading your pieces on the Middle East which provides me with an insight that I am not aware of as well as the rest of your esay’s.
    With Respect……….D.D.Mao

  • Bill Hedges

    I tried both links and got nothing. I understand there is a worse form of water boarder than type used by America. I expect the Japanese used the worser form.

    “It might be: waterboarding PLUS amputating the prisoner’s healthy arm, or waterboarding PLUS killing the prisoner. But waterboarding on the order of what we did at Guantanamo would be a reward in a Japanese POW camp.”

  • Bill Hedges
  • D.D.Mao


    Perhaps if you try to google “Waterboading” under the wikipedia site.Look under section 5 where it describes the History of waterboading.You might find it a bit more informative than a snark quip from Ann Coulter.

  • D.D.Mao

    The second site you might want to google is called “Convention Against Torture and other Cruel,Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

    We have been through this once before as I said and somehow I don’t think any amount of proof or arguements will persuade you or Ms.Coulter.Your unwillingness to own up to defining deviancy with the arguement of different levels of waterboarding is agonizing drival.This is not a college initiation we are discussing but subjecting the victim to psychological trauma and terrifying panic.I’m not getting into parsing each word with you but if want to believe anything can be made to mean anything you go right ahead.

  • Bill Hedges

    I will stay with form of American water boarding is not in same classification as that used in Japan. As is duscussed in my sources. I provided my evidence.

    Unless you can cast doubt on Ms.Coulter journalistic abilities on this subject, I at times may quote her. Though I believe this may have been only time done by me.

    I am pleased with my remarks and leave you to your opinions. Have no intension to try and sway you or get into “word games” with you. I come here to leave a few comments every once in awhile. At another site I go to I challenge liberal’s views. If you prefer my not coming here, tell me, and I will cease.

  • D.D.Mao

    I used the term “agonizing drival” because Ms. Coulters remark isn’t even an opinion…’s a snide remark which holds no weight as proof.Perhaps Ms.Coulter would be wise to follow the advice of John F. Kennedy when he said “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

    I hold no authority to tell you not to post on this site.
    Wishing you the best……D.D.M.

  • landreaux

    Gentlemen, gentlemen. Civil, please.