Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Waterboarding is torture (again) and really always was
From the New York Times summaries of one of the newly released torture memos:
Waterboarding

Aug. 2002, May 2005

“This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of 12 to 24 inches. ... The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated.”
And from a WaPo article dated October 5, 2006:

On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."

The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."

The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.

Twenty-one years earlier, 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.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

We also hanged them, according to John McCain. And next, the unbelievable justification for waterboarding U.S. detainees:

“Although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. ... Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition infliction of severe mental pain or suffering. ... Indeed, you have advised us that the relief is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.”
And then there's the admission, by the DOJ officials who wrote the torture memos, of what they were authorizing, as caught by the HuffPo's Sam Stein and Stuart Whatley:

The May 10, 2005, memorandum from the attorney general's office to the CIA defines torture as -- among other things -- activity where a subject suffers prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from "the threat of imminent death." From there, waterboarding was justified as a technique that, while possibly qualifying as a "threat of imminent death," had "safeguards" in place "that make actual harm quite unlikely." The qualifier seemed to clear the Bush White House of illegality.

But in a footnote at the bottom of page 43 of that same memo, the authors dropped the formalities. "For purposes of our analysis," the footnote reads, "we will assume that the physiological sensation of drowning associated with the use of the waterboard may constitute a 'threat of imminent death' within the meaning of sections 2340-2340A."

For purposes of analysys??? Those on the right justify all of this because in their mind, it doesn't rise to the level of what, say, Saddam Hussein was up to. But what's truly scary, if you read the various winger commentaries floating around the blog world, they are entirely comfortable with the barbarism described in the memos, and some even seem to feel that our techniques should be more like Saddam's, not less. And their biggest beef is that Americans are too pansified to embrace the violent treatment of prisoners under Bush's "leadership."


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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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