Saturday, May 02, 2009

The torture narrative

Now that the NYT has officially adopted 'brutal' as the adjective du jour with respect to American interrogation methods post-9/11, I was curious to know if, as I've been told, waterboarding is routinely used to train American servicemen. (Because, if it is, how can it be torture, as opposed to mind-f****ing?) So I Googled the phrase. Much to my surprise, a high and certainly the best 'hit' led me to a lengthy and intelligent article by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in the NYT of April 21. (The Gray Lady was still using the 'harsh' adjective that week.)

I was particularly interested in their description of the congressional briefings about waterboarding. The briefs went to the top-ranking Democrat and Republican in the House and Senate intelligence committees:

'Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.'

Not going to be used? The CIA holds a top-secret briefing for 2 out of 435 congressfolk, and she thinks it was just hypothetical?

'By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.'

The two senators, by contrast, were significantly less forthcoming. Basically they said, 'Briefed--moi?'

And, yes, US servicemen do get waterboarded in training, though apparently only tough guys like SEALs and Green Berets. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

2 Comments:

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,
Can you provide link to info about waterboard training? I have heard anecdotal stories by veterans, but no hard data.
Also, if waterboarding is "torture", what name is reserved for what I saw on Fox about UAE royalty's "process" of an accused embezelor?

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Dan Ford said...

The link is there--click on the highlighted phrase 'NYT of April 21'. I have, in addition, put out some queries to folks who might know more, but none has replied as yet.

I figure that if McCain were president and said (as he said in his campaign) 'Waterboarding is torture, period', then he has the credentials to have his opinion accepted. Much as if President Obama should say: 'Affirmative action has served its purpose and should be set aside, period'. But for now, I am inclined to think that it's only harsh interrogation--perhaps brutal interrogation, as the NYT now has it, but not torture.

The Good People like to argue that in 1945 and 1946 we executed Japanese who'd waterboarded American prisoners. This may be true, though I hadn't heard of such a thing. But even if it is true, I'm certain that the men thus excuted hadn't stopped at waterboarding. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

 

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