I’ve spent a little time here on Blogging Blue talking about waterboarding, and I’ve made it clear I believe waterboarding is torture. I’ve read the argument that waterboarding can’t be torture since it’s used to train American military forces in SERE training, and I’ve also read the argument that waterboarding isn’t torture because it’s “a technique that is so common and accepted,” but I still haven’t changed my mind, and here’s why:
Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier’s severe punishment.
“The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army,” recounted Darius Rejali, a political science professor at Reed College.
So here’s three facts:
- Our military prosecuted several Japanese soldiers after World War II for using waterboarding against American and Allied troops.
- As recently as the Vietname War, our military has court-martialed its own soldiers who have engaged in waterboarding against our enemies.
- Army Field Manual 2-22.3, issued in 2006, explicitly prohibits the use of “waterboarding” as a prohibited action during intelligence interrogations.
Given those two incontrovertible facts, I’d like to hear someone explain how waterboarding was illegal in the past, but has now become perfectly legal as a method of “interrogation” by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Remember, Article 1 of the Geneva Convention Against Torture defines torture as, “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.”
That’s a rather wordy definition, but keep it in mind as you watch this video of waterboarding being performed (the actual waterboarding starts at 2:50 into the video):
So here’s my questions: how can any reasonable person think waterboarding as a means of interrogation isn’t meant to inflict severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on the subject of the waterboarding? What’s more, how can waterboarding be considered a prohibited interrogation technique by the United States Army, while on the other hand being perfectly legal as an interrogation technique for intelligence agencies?