Swim Lessons

It is funny just how wrong someone can be in so few words, but it seems as though Republican Senator from Missouri Kit Bond is dead set on breaking records.  Per Think Progress, Kit said yesterday on PBS’ Newshour, There are different ways of doing it. It’s like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The waterboarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that’s beside the point. It’s not being used.”

Oh boy, where to start?

Let’s begin with the easy stuff, like “the stuff our trainees are put through”.   In this case, it’s not almost like that, it is that.  It’s part of the military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program, and is intended to innoculate military personnel against such techniques should they be taken as prisoners of war, and have the technique applied to them.

This alone should raise some flags.  Specifically, if waterboarding isn’t torture, what is the purpose of having to subject our soldiers to it so they don’t “break” in the field?  Just a thought.

Next, let’s talk about the whole waterboarding isn’t used part of the comment.  I’m sorry, but even if you take out the whole SERE program, I think it’s important to note that this entire flap over the CIA that has gobbled up the newscycles of the past couple of days are all about the usage of waterboarding in real interrogations.   Now, there are those who try to justify it by saying that it was only a small handful, or that these are al Qaeda operatives.  But torture’s kinda like murder; you don’t get to say someone only murdered a little bit, or that the person who was murdered deserved it.  You’re still a murderer.  Even if you aren’t, as I am, of the mind that any torture under any circumstances is unacceptable, you still have to recognize that this coupled with Abu Ghraib (and just because we forgot doesn’t mean the victims of that terrible scandal and their families and friends have), strikes a terrible blow for the image and credibility of the United States.

Finally, the likening it to swimming…  Unless someone is aquaphobic, however, both freestyle and backstroke swimming is highly unlikely to produce the following results:

Some of the enhanced techniques, particularly water-boarding, hitting, induced hypothermia, and stress positions are capable of causing “severe” or “serious” physical pain and suffering, the intentional infliction of which violates the “torture” and “cruel and inhuman treatment” provisions of the WCA. Each of the techniques can also cause significant psychological harm. According to one recent study, in fact, the significance of the harm caused by non-physical, psychological abuse is virtually identical to the significance of the harm caused by physical abuse.This mental harm can take many different forms, including:

• Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), manifested in: prolonged, recurring flashbacks and nightmares; significant impairment and instability in life functions; suicidal ideation; and, weakened physical health, among other consequences. Rates of PTSD range from 45% to 92% of torture survivors, subjected to both physical and mental torture.

• Depressive disorder manifested in self-destructive and suicidal thoughts and behavior, and other characteristics.

• Psychosis, in the form of delusions, bizarre ideations and behaviors, perceptual distortions, and paranoia, among other manifestations.

Now, I’ve been through a lot of swim lessons as a kid, and am currently a very strong swimmer.  But I guarantee you this: I would not expose myself to a single drop of water if I knew the above could result.

Thus, I am forced to repeat yet again, waterboarding is TORTURE.  There shouldn’t be this silly equivocation as to its legality, but instead it should be condemned swiftly, clearly, and publicly, and removed from practice both in the light of day, and out of it.

2 Responses to “Swim Lessons”

  1. I am AlGore's sweaty backfat says:

    Specifically, if waterboarding isn’t torture, what is the purpose of having to subject our soldiers to it so they don’t “break” in the field? Just a thought.

    Perhaps to demonstrate to our soldiers exactly what ‘torture’… isn’t?

    Or, perhaps because we don’t want to really “torture” our own soldiers…

    For example, should the training of our soldiers include:
    -“tear out their fingernails with pliers”?
    -“smash their testicles with a hammer”?
    -“saw off their head with rusty knife”?
    -“roast their lower extremities over open fire”?
    -“a session w/ the dentist from ‘The Marathon Man'”?

    How many American soldiers would “willingly” accept any of the above?

    Why is “waterboarding” admittedly used by our own military during ‘training’ when the above ‘techniques’ are not?

  2. If waterboarding is done properly, it is absolutely an effective interrogation technique.

    Here is an authentic demonstration — believed to have been leaked by the military:


    Follow the steps closely.

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