Waterboarding


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The practice of waterboarding is an interrogation method used to extract information from detainees.  It involves immobilizing the victim, usually with their head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over their face, often with the face covered.  The detainee experiences the sensation of drowning and believes they are about to die, even if they know that they are not actually going to drown.  Many people consider this to be torture.  Some do not.

Count me amongst those who don’t think it should be used in any circumstances…I know, it’s not considered fashionable to be a conservative and be against the use of waterboarding in some cases.  The usual arguments are threefold:

  1. Other countries do much worse to our men and women in uniform.
  2. It’s not really torture since no lasting physical harm is done to the detainee.
  3. We need to have more extreme interrogation methods if we believe our men and women in uniform or our citizens are in imminent danger.

In response to #1, yes, other countries obviously do much, much worse to our men and women in uniform.  We’ve all seen, or at least heard of, prisoners being shot or even beheaded.  There’s nothing remotely terrible about waterboarding in comparison to those atrocities.  However, comparing waterboarding to extreme torture like that isn’t really a fair argument.  Comparing one bad thing to another and saying one is okay because someone else practices the other is poor reasoning.

As far as it not being torture because there is no lasting physical damage, I’m not so sure that’s the case.  Some believe that lung and brain damage can occur during waterboarding.  There have even been claims that it could cause the detainee to suffer a heart attack.

Lastly, an argument that is perhaps valid is that we need to have more extreme interrogation techniques if we believe our soliders or citizens are in imminent danger.  That’s fine and dandy.  If there are some extreme techniques that are not considered torture, I’m fine with using them.  Go ahead and deprive them of sleep, play loud music, etc., but I am still against waterboarding.  It’s been said that waterboarding has produced information that has lead to the thwarting of terrorist acts.  Okay, but do we know if that same information could have been extracted using other methods?

What it comes down to for me is this…I don’t want us to become like our enemies.  If we accept waterboarding, who’s to say we won’t accept something even more extreme than that?  It’s a slippery slope that I don’t want us to go down.  Lastly, I’m just not comfortable with us doing something like waterboarding because I wouldn’t want it done to our men and women.

I know, there are probably some fellow conservatives out there who think I must be out of my mind.  If so, bring it on.  I can handle it.

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7 Responses

  1. Dave, you wrote, “It’s been said that waterboarding has produced information that has lead to the thwarting of terrorist acts. Okay, but do we know if that same information could have been extracted using other methods?”

    Yes, we do know. The memos repeatedly reference the fact that the CIA interrogators exhausted all other methods of extraction without success. This lack of success is what prompted the CIA to ask permission to engage in “enhanced interrogation”. In other words, they tried other methods. They didn’t work. If the Obama would release ALL the information, we could see just how well it worked. But they won’t release that.

    The idealized position of “we don’t want to be like them” is fine theoretically. However, as a practical matter, it’s an all together different story. If water boarding a terror suspect prevents a bomb going off at my child’s college where she is studying theater, then I say “do it” because I’ll not forgive this president or this government if I were to find out that her death was preventable.

    • Theory and practicality don’t necessarily have to be two different things.

    • Is it extreme torture? Obviously not. However, what it boils down to for me, is this…

      Would I want this done to my son or daughter if they were in the hands of the enemy? I think the answer is pretty clear, an obvious no. I would hope that we would treat our prisoners the same as we would like to see ours treated, not in comparison to how they actually do treat them, which is obviously much worse than anything we do.

  2. History has shown that theory and practicality are almost always different things.

    I would LOVE to take the high road Dave but I know this: our enemies don’t want to kill us because we use enhanced interrogation techniques. They want to kill us because we are an impediment to their world vision.

    The attacks upon our troops and representatives in Beirut, the USS Cole, Nigeria and the World Trade Center all took place long before the implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques. Therefore, one cannot be associated with the other. And our enemies will torture and kill our people long after we stop.

    Sorry bro, I can’t go along with you on this. American lives are at stake.

  3. Dean, I agree that they want to kill us for the same reasons you mentioned above. That is not the point.

    We could do all kinds of nasty, immoral things things because American lives are at stake but we’ve always been above that. I can’t imagine God almighty condoning that. I don’t want to see lives lost any more than you do but I can’t agree with waterboarding.

    I certainly agree that there are far worse things that could be done and I don’t even really think it should be considered “torture” in the sense that other things really are far worse.

  4. Yes, we COULD do all kinds of nasty, immoral things… but we don’t. I think our difference lies in defining what exactly constitutes torture.

    I am not sure I would consider water boarding torture. I like the CIA term “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”.

    For sure, water boarding is not on par with, say, strapping an enemy combatant’s testicles to a car battery and letting them have a few jolts. Now THAT is torture. Water boarding ain’t nothing compared with that…or, say, beheading, as our enemies are so fond of doing.

    If it will save American lives, I am definitely liberal when it comes to the acquisition of intelligence.

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