Hitchens: "Believe me, it's torture." - U2 Feedback

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Old 07-02-2008, 04:58 PM   #1
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Hitchens: "Believe me, it's torture."

excerpts from his upcoming Vanity Fair article. there's video on the website.

[q]You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.

This is because I had read that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, invariably referred to as the “mastermind” of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, had impressed his interrogators by holding out for upwards of two minutes before cracking. (By the way, this story is not confirmed. My North Carolina friends jeered at it. “Hell,” said one, “from what I heard they only washed his damn face before he babbled.”) But, hell, I thought in my turn, no Hitchens is going to do worse than that. Well, O.K., I admit I didn’t outdo him. And so then I said, with slightly more bravado than was justified, that I’d like to try it one more time. There was a paramedic present who checked my racing pulse and warned me about adrenaline rush. An interval was ordered, and then I felt the mask come down again. Steeling myself to remember what it had been like last time, and to learn from the previous panic attack, I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. 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.[/q]
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Old 07-02-2008, 05:28 PM   #2
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I don't even know what to say.
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Old 07-03-2008, 12:03 AM   #3
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'Ol Chris speaks no doubt from experience having drowned hundreds, no, probably thousands of times before in a glass of whisky.

Still, if the simulated drowning of a very bad man solely to gain information to save innocent lives is "torture," then maybe we just need a new word to describe the deeds of Mengele, the slow death of the Batton Death March, necklacing in South Africa, or the act of beheading someone and posting it on the internet.
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Old 07-03-2008, 12:19 AM   #4
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'Ol Chris speaks no doubt from experience having drowned hundreds, no, probably thousands of times before in a glass of whisky.

Still, if the simulated drowning of a very bad man solely to gain information to save innocent lives is "torture," then maybe we just need a new word to describe the deeds of Mengele, the slow death of the Batton Death March, necklacing in South Africa, or the act of beheading someone and posting it on the internet.


how do you feel about all the bad information that's "obtained" from waterboarding? the wasted resources spent tracking down this information only to have it dead end into nothing? is there any evidence that information that was "obtained" during waterboarding, 1) saved lives, and 2) could not have been "obtained" through any other means? finally ... are we really at the point where our standards only need to be slightly higher than some of the worst atrocities in history as you've enumerated above?
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Old 07-03-2008, 05:28 AM   #5
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The definition of torture doesn't have to be widened nor narrowed. Including such a gross treatment as waterboarding doesn't offset any other actions one might deem more gross.

Something I've read just yesterday shows again how silly it is to think waterboarding and other means of torture are key to secure the US: In Guantanamo, practices were used that the Chinese tried on US soldiers during the Korean war. The information they gathered from the soldiers back in the 1950's were worth nothing as the soldiers didn't tell the truth.

In combination with BonosSaint's psychology thread one question came to mind. If you say the US torturing alleged terrorists in order to prevent attacks, would you say it was morally right for the Chinese to torture American soldiers to gather information that they hoped could prevent themselves and the Korean soldiers from being overrun by some surprise attacks?
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:32 AM   #6
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Still, if the simulated drowning of a very bad man solely to gain information to save innocent lives is "torture,"
I love how you still function under the idea that everyone we waterboard is somehow proven to be a "very bad man".
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:35 AM   #7
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I'd just like to know how many people here who don't think it's torture would be willing to be waterboarded. Full on real waterboarding.
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Old 07-03-2008, 08:48 AM   #8
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I love how you still function under the idea that everyone we waterboard is somehow proven to be a "very bad man".
The government is always right.™

Except when Democrats are in control, because that's when right-wingers start cracking out their pseudo-religious "prophecies" about how specific Democratic president is the Antichrist.
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Old 07-03-2008, 10:38 PM   #9
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Interesting that when the Nazis applied Verschärfte Vernehmung, or as we might call it 'enhanced interrogation', we put them to death for it (torture being a war crime) and yet no Americans -- those 'just following orders' or otherwise -- have fallen to the same fate for doing the exact same thing.

Torture happened, and is happening. For the same purpose: defense of state and empire. It wasn't just, and isn't just.

What 'greater good' is being served if people will say anything to get you to stop? Forcing an admission with waterboarding might as well be forcing a heretic to recant with thumbscrews, brands, and strappado. Just because the result is what you want doesn't mean it's factual, or valid. If anything, false confessions just set back the search for the real criminals while false leads are pursued, innocent people punished for crimes they didn't commit, and the public is lied to about "progress" being made which is wholly fictional.

Man, this stuff makes me angry
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:32 AM   #10
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Interesting that when the Nazis applied Verschärfte Vernehmung, or as we might call it 'enhanced interrogation', we put them to death for it (torture being a war crime) and yet no Americans -- those 'just following orders' or otherwise -- have fallen to the same fate for doing the exact same thing.

The American C.I.A = The Nazi S.S.

You wield a mighty hammer of moral equivalency to get that square peg into that round hole.
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:49 AM   #11
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'Ol Chris speaks no doubt from experience having drowned hundreds, no, probably thousands of times before in a glass of whisky.

Still, if the simulated drowning of a very bad man solely to gain information to save innocent lives is "torture," then maybe we just need a new word to describe the deeds of Mengele, the slow death of the Batton Death March, necklacing in South Africa, or the act of beheading someone and posting it on the internet.
1. You don't know that it's a very bad man.

2. It is torture, which is illegal.

3. The information could easily be faulty.
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Old 07-04-2008, 01:21 AM   #12
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1. You don't know that it's a very bad man.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (one of only 3 men waterboarded) was "The principle architect of the 9/11 attacks" That's from the 9/11 report.
The other 2 aren't much "nicer."
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2. It is torture, which is illegal.
Illegal? By what law? Can't be U.S. law because the congressional Intelligence committee was fully briefed and never acted. I still don't think a law has been passed to specifically outlaw it's use.
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3. The information could easily be faulty.
Surely some of it was, but much of it was very useful in disrupting plots and identifying al-Qaeda's leadership structure. (hint: no attacks in U.S. since 9/11).
Google Brian Ross and John Kiriakou or George Tenet and interrogation.
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Old 07-04-2008, 01:05 PM   #13
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The American C.I.A = The Nazi S.S.

You wield a mighty hammer of moral equivalency to get that square peg into that round hole.


i agree that you can't make the comparison. it is invalid.

so why are we using their "techniques"?
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Old 07-04-2008, 03:00 PM   #14
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So, there's no objection to my comparison between the US Government and the Spanish Inquisition, but there is an objection between my comparison between the US Government and the Nazis? Interesting.

More interesting, though, is the way my argument was reduced from a single comparison between methods which says 'in this way, these two are akin, so why are they being treated differently?' to 'they are the same in every way' which is clearly not what I said or intended. Square peg, round hole, meet the mighty hammer of fallacious interpretation, mashing one statement into another so it can be discarded without being addressed.

People who torture others should all be treated alike. You violate the Geneva convention, you are put on trial, you are punished. It shouldn't matter whether you're a Nazi or an American.

Incidentally, American laws prohibiting torture:

US CODE: Title 10,SUBCHAPTER X—PUNITIVE ARTICLES -- Chapter 47 of the US Code of Military Justice including (X133) conduct not becoming an officer or a gentleman, and (X93) cruelty or maltreatment (of a prisoner)

US CODE: Title 18,2441. War crimes -- US Criminal Code chapter 118 War Crimes

US CODE: Title 18,CHAPTER 113C—TORTURE -- US Criminal Code chapter 113 Torture

But, you know, those laws don't exist.
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Old 07-04-2008, 04:14 PM   #15
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It's not by accident that the US signed the Rome-statute, but didn't ratify it.
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