“If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture” by underground

Although I think the man is brilliant, I have found that Christopher Hitchens is recently losing his thirst for justice and appreciation of human rights. So it was only fitting that having said that waterboarding was not torture as many claim, he put he put his money where is mouth is and fronted up. In the August 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, Hitchens writes of his experience of being waterboarded.

Tellingly, in order to go through with the trial, after various health checks, Hitchens had to sign a contract of indemnification, with the clause:

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.

Well versed in the thoughts of Orwell, Hitchens is capable of cutting through the government’s psychobabble and sees waterboarding for what it is, not as an “enhanced interrogation technique”, but as torture. Borrowing from Abraham Lincoln who said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong”, Hitchens come to a similar conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

Americans have in the past quick to condemn those who have used the technique against its own people. From the Washington Post (October 5, 2006):

In 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

Proponents of the technique claim the information gathered could prevent further attacks like 11 Sept, saving the lives of thousands which justifies the anguish suffered by few bad men. But even then, do these enhanced interrogation techniques provide credible reliable information? Would you not say anything to stop the pain of being torture? What if you knew nothing in the first place? What information would you give to save your life? A false confession? It is often mentioned in debates around torture that during the inquisition old women confessed to being witches who had placed curses on others in their village, who were then killed for their alleged crimes. Unless you believe that old women can in fact turn into cats, you must see the fallacy of torture as a means of eliciting information.

Hitchens covers the opposition to the technique this in his article, referring to a thorough argument by Malcolm Nance:

1. Waterboarding is a deliberate torture technique and has been prosecuted as such by our judicial arm when perpetrated by others.

2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.

3. It may be a means of extracting information, but it is also a means of extracting junk information. (Mr. Nance told me that he had heard of someone’s being compelled to confess that he was a hermaphrodite. I later had an awful twinge while wondering if I myself could have been “dunked” this far.) To put it briefly, 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.” Just put a pencil line under that last phrase, or commit it to memory.

4. It opens a door that cannot be closed. Once you have posed the notorious “ticking bomb” question, and once you assume that you are in the right, what will you not do? Waterboarding not getting results fast enough? The terrorist’s clock still ticking? Well, then, bring on the thumbscrews and the pincers and the electrodes and the rack.

Considering those in Guantanamo have not been charged or tried, how do any of us really know how dangerous or otherwise the detainees really are? How do we know the nature of their arrests or their connections to “terrorist” organisations? Considering the way in which detainees such Sami al-Hajj were released, it is safe to say that many who are incarcerated have committed no crimes, have no information and have had their human rights abused. What right does any country have to do that? National security? Guantanamo Bay has created more ill will for America and created more people who would seek to attack US interests than any information coerced under torture is likely to.

If America continues to play by these rules there will of course be consequences, that is the reality of the world. Other Western countries will condemn and Middle Eastern countries will seek revenge for the torture of their peoples. It is up to the people of America to oppose these actions and ensure they stop, for the rule of law, and for their own national security.


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[…] “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no … – So it was only fitting that having said that waterboarding was not torture as many claim, he put he put his money where is mouth is and fronted up. In the August 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, Hitchens writes of his experience of being …   Social BookmarkingTags: Amnesty International,christopher hitchens,Featured,guantanamo bay,universal declaration human rights,Vanity Fair,waterboardingTags: […]

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