Waterboarding: Is it Torture?
Oct 28, 2006
Yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney brought America's prestige in the world a few points lower by endorsing "waterboarding," a torture technique used for many years to extract information from prisoners. Of course, he claims that waterboarding is not torture, and he justified his comments on the grounds that it could gain useful information that would "save lives."
The AOL News story reads:
"Cheney triggered the flap in a radio interview Tuesday. The interviewer, Scott Hennen, said callers had told him, 'Please, let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves lives.'
" 'Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?' Hennen asked.
" 'Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture,' Cheney said. 'We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in'."
Whether or not a technique is defined as torture has more to do with which end of the practice we find ourselves. To the one being waterboarded, it is torture. To the torturer, it is a method of saving lives at the expense of the one being waterboarded.
In an age of illusions, perception-based politics, and Newspeak (euphemisms), there is a Dictionary War taking place. Normally, everyone would accept the Newspeak Dictionary definition of torture without question, but this particular one is being resisted by a large number of people.
Waterboarding is defined in the Wikipedia as follows:
"The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt. According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in."
I think we should show a few examples of waterboarding on national television and let the people decide for themselves whether it constitutes torture. It is too easy to pass it off as "not torture" as long as we are well insulated from the actual practice.
But then, I think women contemplating abortion should watch an abortion being performed as part of a full disclosure of what it is. They should see the baby's head pierced and its brains sucked out. Or they should see how the baby is burned but "not tortured" in the womb by the saline solution that is designed to kill the non-child before it is born--oops, "expelled."
The problem with our public policies is that we are insulated from the full truth and do not really know what it is we are endorsing. In fact, if I may make a suggestion, I think that since Dick Cheney does not believe waterboarding is torture, I think he should stand behind his belief and allow himself to be subjected to it for, say, 14 seconds on national television.
After all, "it's just a dunk in the water." So say the spin doctors.
How does that differ from a nice warm bath? We could even throw in some bubble bath if he likes. Actually, this "dunk in the water" can be quite fun. Many of us have done this at the county fair. We throw the baseball, and if we hit the target, the funny man gets dunked in the water.
It has gotten to the place where the conservatives accuse the liberals of torturing babies by the practice of abortion, while the liberals accuse the conservatives of torturing suspected enemies to extract information. The liberals want to save lives by using stems cells from tortured aborted babies; the conservatives want to save lives by torturing enemies.
Everyone agrees that torture can save lives! And this is how each side justifies its bad behavior. Back in the days of the Inquisition, the Church justified torture on the grounds that they were just trying to make heretics recant so that their souls could be saved from a worse fate in an eternal torture pit. Very altruistic, I must say.
What I find most disturbing is the poll being taken on AOL in conjunction with the Cheney torture article. At this moment, 51% of the American people in the poll support Cheney's statement, while 49% oppose it. I believe those support figures would drop in half immediately if people actually watched a case of waterboarding in person, or even on television. But we have to live with the facts. Half the people in America essentially support at least relatively mild forms of torture, believing that such practices "save lives." They have fallen for the oldest justification for sin in the book.
Now here's the scariest part of all. . . What if President Bush were to be impeached and removed from office? Guess who would replace him.