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On Fox “News” this Sunday criminal Former VP Dick Cheney said the following about returning to the use of waterboarding in terror interrogations:

I certainly would advocate it; I’d be a strong supporter of it

This is an area of contention that I have had with President Obama nearly from the first days of his administration. Namely the purely political decision not to follow through on our legal responsibility to investigate any credible allegations of torture and to prosecute those who were found responsible.

The fact that the criminal Bush Administration admitted to waterboarding at least three of our detainees, which has been by US and international law an act of torture and a potential war crime yet none of the top level people have ever been investigated for it is a national shame that will not be wiped away for a long time to come.

Worse it has left the issue of torture and waterboarding in particular open. At this late point it is easy to get academic about this form of torture. Given that I thought I would give everyone a taste of what is would be like to be waterboarded. This is a first person fictionalization of it, it is my best attempt to reproduce what a person would feel in that situation.

Warning: if you have been a victim of torture, you might not want to read this. I have been told that it can be triggering for traumatic memories and while I want everyone to get as visceral as possible an understanding of torture I don’t want to traumatize anyone:

Your feet are shackled, and so are your wrists. When you were lead into the room you saw that it did not have the usual table, this room had a board, and a drain in the floor.

You are blindfolded by the guards and roughly forced to lie on the wet wooden board. Even though you are shackled they tie you down to the board with three ropes, one across your chest, on across your waist and one across your legs. You are now completely unable to move, your head is below the level of your feet making the blood rush to your head.

You can hear them moving around and hear a hose running, filling a bucket of water. Your heart begins to race as your mouth is forced open and a wet rag is stuffed inside.

There is enough clothe that it fills your mouth, and prevents your teeth from meeting, even at the back of your mouth. You feel a person sitting next you on the board, and they put their hands on your stomach, just above your diaphragm and push down, keeping you from taking a deep breath through your nose.

You sense someone else standing above your head, and then the water starts to pour over your face. Not a little, but a torrent of water, it is running up your nose, and you can not breath! Your gag reflex kicks in, but the rag in your mouth does not let you gag.

Your body begins to convulse, convinced in the most primitive of reflexes to try to do anything to get more air! You thrash but the ropes and shackles have you completely immobilized. You feel the water hitting your face, as the person on the bench presses down on your diaphragm, forcing what little air you have out, not in. You are now sure that you are going to die, that you are going to drown, not an abstract, but for real, and right now. Your chest buns with the need for more air, your eyes tear under the blindfold as you struggle to get one more breath.

You are no longer a rational human, you are now just a survival machine, ready to beg anyone, do anything to make the pain stop and get just one more breath. The water stops falling on you.

You suck air in through your nose and try to suck it in through you mouth. Both bring more water along with the small amount of air you can get. You hear the hose running again and know that this is not over, it is just starting.

Your heart is going like a trip hammer, and you are in a state of terror, like nothing you have ever experienced or thought of. You know if and when they ask you something, you will do or say anything, anything to prevent them from doing it again. Then the hands push on your stomach, and the water starts falling again.

You struggle, trying to hold your breath, but the gag reflex kicks in again, and again you become more animal than man as you struggle for breath your body wracked with pain and convulsively struggling to get free to breath.

That is roughly what it is like to be waterboarded. This is what Dick Cheney is talking about when he says:

I certainly would advocate it; I’d be a strong supporter of it

There is exactly no rational reason to use this kind of torture for interrogations. Once you have subjected someone to that kind of fear and pain nothing they say can really be trusted in intelligence terms. Only someone completely insane (and maybe not then) would resist telling you anything they think you want to hear if they know that they might be subjected to that kind of torture again.

There is a reason it torture is considered one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed. It does nothing but inflict horrible pain and suffering on the victim. That’s it, it does not produce good intelligence, it does nothing to make your side the good guys, it just destroys and degrades both the victim and the torturers. After all the reason to torture is really to scare your enemies out of fighting you; isn’t that the very definition of terrorism?

With the killing of Osama bin Laden we have seen the torture instigators and apologists come out of the woodwork to once again try to protect themselves from the consequences of their crimes, by claiming that we would not have tracked down the number one anti-terrorism target in the world.

They are wrong and they are lying. But as long as we have an administration that will not simply follow the laws of our nation and seriously investigate the known acts of torture carried out by the criminal Bush administration we will be subjected to war criminals like Cheney advocating that another administration follow him down the dark path of torture.

The floor is yours.

Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org