Thursday, November 08, 2007

Waterboarding By Any Other Name

In a convincing op-ed at The Washington Post Evan Wallach, a former JAG and currently a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York and adjunct professor of who teaches the law of war at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School, wants us at least to call a spade a spade in the debate over waterboarding:
That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as "simulated drowning." That's incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is,the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding's effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

There can be little doubt that these forms of water-based interrogation are torture. We have always known that they are torture. And arguments of convenience to try to argue otherwise are little more than intellectual chicanery and amoral, indeed immoral, posturing.


Matthew Guenette said...

Great post Derek. I swiped its soul and stuck it over at my blog as well. Thanks man, for just being on top of things.

dcat said...

Matt --
Thank you. I've done a lot of work on South Africa during the Apartheid years, and so I'm afraid I have virtually no patience for these semantic games, weak rationalizations, and moral elisions about torture.