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Waterboarding IS torture

The Senate is still wrangling with the nomination of Michael “Accent on the 2nd syllable, not the 1st” Mukasey to be our next Inquisitor Attorney General.  The only thing holding up his nomination are those pesky questions about waterboarding.

Is waterboarding torture?  The AG nominee can’t answer this simple question with a yes or no.  Well, gee, it depends, I don’t know, how are you defining it, what the media calls “waterboarding”, delicate circumstances, and so on, Mukasey continues to wriggle and sidestep the question.

Because the answer is “yes”.  Waterboarding is torture.  We prosecuted the Japanese for war crimes when they waterboarded our troops in WWII.  The museum to the atrocities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia show numerous pictures of those genocidal maniacs waterboarding innocent Cambodian villagers.  We supposedly invaded Iraq because Saddam was an evil bastard who tortured his citizens (sometimes by waterboarding).

So Mukasey must dance, for if he says under oath what most Americans know in their hearts and minds, that waterboarding is torture, then that opens up Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, and any other administration figure complicit in these techniques to charges of war crimes in the International Court.

But don’t take my word for it; read the words of a former master instructor and chief of training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego.  These guys train our soldiers to resist torture techniques if they are ever captured by the enemy (after the jump…)

I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques employed by the Army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What is less frequently reported is that our training was designed to show how an evil totalitarian enemy would use torture at the slightest whim.

Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique – without a doubt. There is no way to sugarcoat it.

In the media, waterboarding is called “simulated drowning,” but that’s a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.

Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia – meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.

So, how does it feel to have America equated with the most murderous, torturous regimes in the history of the world?  The fact that we even have to have a debate, not on whether we torture, but what we can define down from torture and still get away with, shows just how far George W. Bush has taken this country down from a shining city on a hill to a psychotic meth addict in the gutter.

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