If Waterboarding is the ‘Worst’ Torture, Why Don’t we see Demonstrations of the Other, Milder, Techniques?

I will first say that I do not think that there should be any more demonstrations of torture. Soon it will become considered a cool thing to do, and some one will get hurt.

But an interesting question came to mind from a discussion with some commenters at the FDL post mentioned below. Trying out the old waterboarding has become a kind of fashion among media celebrities these days. So far, these voluntary guinea pigs say, often to their surprise, that it is torture. See for example

C’mon In, Hannity — The Waterboarding’s Fine!
By: Swopa Friday May 22, 2009 2:30 pm

Why not try out the other supposedly milder techniques to see whether they are torture? It would be useful, because people like Cheney emphasize that this awful waterboarding was only used on three people, for a limited period of time, under very closely and carefully supervised conditions. So, why all the fuss? The milder forms were used on many more captive, and apparently for indefinite periods. If any deaths occured because of torture, it must have been from these milder techniques. I haven’t heard of any demonstrations of these other milder forms of torture (excuse, me, I mean EIT) yet. Why not?

Some one could volunteer to see how often they could tolerate being
1) hanged in a stress position,
2) blasted with deafening noise,
3) deprived of sleep,
4) smashed against a wall or a plastic shield,
5) stuffed into a small coffin or contorted into a small box,
6) hosed down or immersed with freezing water.

Intuitively, the very idea of demonstrating other techniques, or trying them out to see whether they are really ‘torture’ seems repellant and outlandish to me –something that could never happen.I suppose there are problems with each technique. The extreme indignity and violence of some of these techniques (for example, hanging in stress position, smashing heads, contorting some one into a little box) might give the wrong impression -it would be so repellant and disgusting to most people that it might not permit a "fair judgment". I wonder if videos of the demonstrations could even be shown publicly.

Others may take a long time: for example the noise torture or the being kept awake.There are subjective factors. How loud should the noise or music be? What is the minimum duration that would be considered a fair trial of the methods. Sleep deprivation will take more than 24 hours for most people, and what if one decided to quit after ?? hours and just say it was not so bad? The subject might have to precommit to a certain number of hours, but would not be acceptable, I think, from an ethical point of view. Smashing some one’s head into a hard surface can be faked, so may not be convincing.

Waterboarding might be the popular choice for demonstrations because it doesn’t involve violence, and the mechanism of potential medical damage (drowning by aspiration) is well enough understood and can be controlled easily enough to control, to be considered safe to even do under the most controlled situations.

The obvious indignity and humiliation of other methods are not so obvious, since the face is covered. Most people have experienced the sensation of not being able to breathe and understand the panic that sets in after only a few seconds. It will be quick since most people can hold their breath for less than a minute.

Immersion hypothermia from freezing water might be a candidate for another technique to demonstrate. That technique can kill within 15 minutes. That might be too gross because the subject will slowly become blue and puffy, confused and disoriented, and start to suffer violent shaking. Then the shaking alternatives with perfect stillness as the body cannot deliver enough energy to the shivering muscles to function continuously. Then they might become combative, or just more disoriented and confused before they slip into a coma.

I suppose one the problem here is the hypothermia victims often become very susceptible to cardiac arrest, which is deadly. And subjects may become so dumbfounded and confused that they cannot signal that the experiment should end before they are in a very dangerous condition. However, if such a demonstration could be done, the confusion and disorientation that accompanies hypothermia might provide the basis for a informative discussion of how to obtain reliable information through torture.

Since I do not believe that anymore waterboarding tests should be done, I certainly do not approve of demonstration of the other techniques. But here is a question for torture advocates: If waterboarding is the worst torture, why have there been several demonstrations of that technique, but none of the supposedly milder techniques?

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