Daily Archives: June 4, 2010

Torturer In Chief Rears His Ugly Head

This week former Decider in Chief, George W. Bush admitted (finally) that his administration ordered the illegal torture of detainees. On Wednesday, while speaking at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, he said he has no regrets about authorizing the controversial waterboarding technique to interrogate terrorist suspects and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. His exact words?

Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I’d do it again to save lives.

Problem number one with Bush’s assertion is that the waterboarding of Mohammed did not save any lives. Indeed, it likely only produced misinformation. As the Los Angeles Times reported last summer, the torture only resulted in misinformation:

Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told U.S. military officials that he had lied to the CIA after being abused, according to documents made public Monday. The claim is likely to intensify the debate over whether harsh interrogation techniques generated accurate information.

Mohammed made the assertion during hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was transferred in 2006 after being held at secret CIA sites since his capture in 2003.

“I make up stories,” Mohammed said, describing in broken English an interrogation probably administered by the CIA concerning the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “Where is he? I don’t know. Then, he torture me,” Mohammed said of his interrogator. “Then I said, ‘Yes, he is in this area.’ “

Mohammed also appeared to say that he had fingered people he did not know as being Al Qaeda members in order to avoid abusive treatment. Although there is no way to corroborate his statements, Mohammed is one of the militants whom the CIA repeatedly subjected to the simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-cia-detainee16-2009jun16,0,316330.story

Problem number two with Bush’s assertion is that he directly contradicted his previous assurances to the American people that “We do not torture”. If Bush is trying to conclude that waterboarding is not torture, he is wrong. U.S. Code section 2340 defines torture as follows:

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
The technique of waterboarding is commonly defined as,

immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. By forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences drowning and is caused to believe they are about to die. {See,White, Josh (November 8, 2007). “Waterboarding Is Torture, Says Ex-Navy Instructor“. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/08/AR2007110802150.html. Retrieved on December 17, 2007.}

Conservative columnist, Christopher Hitchens voluntarily experienced waterboarding twice in 2008. He lasted 12 seconds the first time and 19 seconds on the next attempt. Of the experience, he said,

There is a common misconception that waterboarding simulates the sensation of drowning, but you are to all intents and purposes actually drowning.if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture. Believe me. It’s torture. {SeeHitchens, Christopher (August 2008). “Believe Me, It’s Torture“. Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens200808. Retrieved on April 17, 2009.

It is also worth noting that both John McCain and Mike Huckabee defined waterboarding as torture during their respective 2008 campaigns. It seems obvious that McCain knows a little bit about the subject of torture.

It would appear obvious from a reading of both definitions and from Hitchen’s description that waterboarding is torture. Furthermore, the United States has a past record of prosecuting water torture as a war crime. In 1947, a Japanese civilian who had served in the Japanese military as an interpreter was convicted for, among other things, committing water torture. The alleged water torture was specified as consisting of “forcing water into {the} mouths and noses” of two prisoners. http://www.2008electionprocon.org/pdf/asano_case.pdf .  Sounds a lot like waterboarding, doesn’t it? So, let’s not let former Bush administration officials and Fox News sycophants get away with denying that it is torture and it is illegal.

Next, we must deal with the justification for waterboarding on the basis that it yielded valuable intelligence. Forget it. This is a red herring of an argument. If waterboarding is torture and therefore a criminal act, it matters not what  valuable information was gleemed therefrom. The United States is a nation of laws. As an example, consider this scenario. Larceny is an illegal criminal act. Inasmuch as the U.S. Government’s computer systems seem to get hacked on a near daily basis, it would be quite valuable for the government to acquire a more sophisticated security system. It would be illegal, however for the government to acquire such a system by means of simply stealing it from say Microsoft. Indeed, the United States justice system would prevent or redress just such an action.

OK then, now that we’re finished with that, let’s have some fun with a song parody…

F Troop link: http://www.televisiontunes.com/F_Troop.html


(sung to the television theme of “F Troop”)

The dawn of the Iraq War was near
When coincidentally
Cheney and Bush got the limits pushed
And commenced torturous brutality.

The methods employed often maimed and killed
Which pleased Cheney’s vicious group.
The waterboard trick both chilled and thrilled
Nobody was appalled they were called Bush Troop.

With testicle bites and really bright lights
Their victims sure took a lickin’
From draft dodging war hawks
Who are just chickens.

When killing and maiming get them down
They know their morale can’t droop.
As long as they own old D.C. Town
They are sure to resume with a bang and a boom
Bush Troop.