Changelog: On Torture
I posted this as a comment in our earlier thread about George W. Bush’s acknowledgment that he approved waterboarding for terror suspects after 9/11, but refused to consider it “torture.” I thought it might be of interest to our general audience, as a look at why my opinions have changed on some subjects.
I actually understand the impetus to defend the waterboarding of people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, because at one point I did it myself. I admit that after 9/11 I wasn’t concerned at all with the human rights of the people who attacked us. I made light of the waterboarding issue, using the rationalization that it didn’t cause permanent physical harm and therefore couldn’t be classified as torture.
I now realize I was terribly mistaken. One of the real turning points for me was when Christopher Hitchens, who was a hawk in regard to the Iraq War and 9/11 and radical Islam, underwent waterboarding, was greatly affected by it, and wrote a piece unequivocally condemning it as torture. And when I started researching the history of waterboarding and its use against US troops in Vietnam and other wars, and understood that our government had no hesitation about classifying it as torture when it was used against us, I simply had to admit that I was wrong, and that waterboarding IS torture. It evokes a primal, uncontrollable panic reaction, and yes — people can be permanently harmed by it, both physically and mentally.
Just as with the issue of global warming, as I researched and read the source material and thought about it for myself, and tuned out the flood of propaganda from right wing sites and pundits and media, I had to admit that my earlier skepticism was mistaken and based on ignorance, some of which was the result of skillful propaganda spread by ideologues.
Waterboarding is torture.
You may think the use of torture can be justified in some extreme cases (I don’t), and that, at least, is an arguable position. Wrong, but arguable.
But it’s torture. We should at least have the honesty to admit that much.