The U.S. government continually claims that it does not torture people, yet it admits to using “waterboarding” as a method of interrogation. If there was ever a debate about whether or not waterboarding was a form of torture then it has now been definitively answered.
Neo-Con author and journalist Christopher Hitchens, a former Trotskyite turned staunch Iraq war proponent, underwent the lightest form of waterboarding possible and at the end of it still concluded, “Believe Me, It’s Torture”.
Writing in Vanity Fair, Hitchens described the experience.
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.
Now watch the video and compare it to a real waterboarding situation likely to be experienced by one of the goat herders, taxi drivers or teenage kids rounded up and incarcerated at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib
The most terrifying aspect of waterboarding, according to accepted definitions, is that the victim experiences the strong sensation that he is drowning and near death.
In contrast, Hitchens is constantly reassured that he can stop the exercise at any point not only by dropping steel implements but also by uttering the code word. Detainees at Abu Ghraib would not enjoy the same privilege, and would be undergoing the experience in the knowledge that fellow inmates had already been tortured to death.
In addition, water is gently trickled onto Hitchens’ head in contrast to how it would gush down upon a “terror suspect” while they were screamed at and also brutally restrained by interrogators.
After a matter of seconds, Hitchens drops the steel implements and the mock interrogators help him to recover.
The wider point here is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged “mastermind” of 9/11, underwent the same process in entirely different circumstances. This is why he admitted to being responsible for all manner of things, only stopping short of claiming culpability for killing Kennedy, creating AIDS and being the real Santa Claus.
As Hitchens notes, “Even the C.I.A. sources for the Washington Post story on waterboarding conceded that the information they got out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “not all of it reliable,” underscoring the point that torture has no benefit other than further disgracing America’s name, conditioning the public to accept a government that tortures, and putting American POW’s in more danger in the future.
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