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Waterboarding Question September 29, 2006

Posted by skinbad in Terrorist Hemorrhoids.

Do you think all the discussion of “waterboarding” makes it a non-effective method of interrogation even if it’s still allowed? I’m not saying I wouldn’t beg to stop it (Wikipedia says CIA officers on the receiving end lasted an average of 14 seconds) before cracking, but I would keep telling myself, “They’re not really allowed to kill me.” I keep reading that it feels like you’re going to be asphyxiated. Wouldn’t the worst part of it be not knowing if they were really going to go through with it if you didn’t give them what they want? Now if I didn’t know I was in the U.S., or the people doing it were U.S. agents, that would scare me a lot more. Can CIA operatives lie to a suspected terrorist and tell him he’s really in Bulgaria: “Sure, Bush has talked about this, but those rules don’t apply here. If we don’t stop soon enough? We don’t care and no one will ever know.”

The same Wikipedia article says Khalid Sheik Mohommed lasted over two minutes before “begging to confess.” Did he not know they were being very careful not to kill him? Or is it so physically (and/or psychologically) painful that a person just can’t take it? I’m not saying I couldn’t consider it torture, but it still seems a lot different than someone cutting off fingers until you start to talk.

The broader question, I suppose, is if we have to spell out what we can and can’t do in interrogation, doesn’t the enemy gain an advantage in knowing what to expect?


1. sobek - September 29, 2006

My understanding is that the panic is produced by involutary muscular reaction — that is, you can’t psychologically push your way through it.

If that is the case, then to answer your question more directly, talking about waterboarding can only lose its effectiveness through discussion if the enemy specifically practices it on each other to build up resistance. I don’t know if that is physically possible. I don’t know if they would do it even if it were physically possible. I do know that two minutes is a pretty freakin’ fast breaking time, so even the toughest guy with all the practice in the world isn’t likely to soldier through the interrogation without breaking.

That said, there’s a scene in the movie Dragnet where Tom Hanks repeatedly slams Emil Muz’ testicles in a drawer, and that seemed to work pretty well. I think we should try more of that.

2. GrumpyUnk - September 29, 2006

During E&E in the Ranger Selection Course. Tied to a chair with eyes covered and a canvas bag over the head. Chair kicked over backwards and a friggin’ hose stuck in your mouth and water turned on. You’ll tell ’em anything they want.

No, I didn’t make the cut.

3. BrewFan - September 29, 2006

E&E in Basic was tougher then these terrorists get. I remember a little time spent inside a locker with some OPFOR dudes playing the drum solo of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida on the outside of said locker.

4. BrewFan - September 29, 2006

Except in Basic I think they called it Survival, Escape, and Evasion??

5. The Comish (sic) - September 29, 2006

E&E in Basic was tougher then these terrorists get.

No question. Unfortunately, it’s not tougher than what our soldiers get from them.

And of course it helps the terrorists to know that we can’t even cause any lasting damage. It’s bullshit.

During an episode of the West Wing (I know, I know), they had an episode called “A Proportional Response” about the President’s first military action. It was in response to some Americans being killed. The military came in and advised the President on what would constitute a proportional response: a few military intelligence targets with very limited civilian casualties. And the President said effectively, “Eff that. I see no benefit to a proportional response. Advise me on a disproportional response.”

He later explained that during the Roman Empire, Romans were guaranteed safe passage anywhere in the world merely by wearing a sign that said, “I’m a Roman.” And the Romans knew they had safe passage because if some foriegner dared hurt them, the Roman legion would come through and wipe out entire towns in retribution. You kill one Roman, 100 of your people will be killed, and your crops and homes will be razed. And it worked.

The episode did not mention that Nazi Germany did the same thing, but the President eventually came around. The President asked what the benefit of a proportional response was, and he ended up accepting the answer, “Because that’s what we do.”

I always thought that was pretty weak. And similarly, I don’t buy the idea that if we torture people who are torturing and murdering our own soldiers, we become them. Bullshit. We do it so they don’t have the ability to do it to us. And if they stop, we stop.

But if I’m in a street fight and some guy picks up a board, I’m not sticking to the Marquis of Queensbury rules. I’m going to do what it takes to win. I’m not going to handicap myself.

And I think it’s pretty revealing that the people who are the most worried about us becoming bad people by using certain tactics, are generally not the ones risking their own lives. And don’t kid yourself. The effect of these laws is that Americans and American soldiers are at greater risk because we’re not doing everything we can to win.

One more story — In Vietnam, the French had an interrogation tactic. They’d take 3 VC up in a chopper, which would hover about 100 feet off the ground. They’d ask the first guy to talk. If he refused, they’d push him out. Then they’d ask the 2nd guy to talk.

Because the point in a war is to kill the other guy, and make sure your guys don’t get killed. I don’t buy the idea that these guys are trying to kill us, but as soon as we’ve got the advantage, we’ve got to roll out the red carpet and fluffy pillows.

I don’t buy into the benefit of a proportional response, so I’m sure you can guess how I feel about no response at all.

6. The Comish (sic) - September 29, 2006

Wow. That was long. Sorry about that. Got a little carried away.

7. BrewFan - September 29, 2006

And I think it’s pretty revealing that the people who are the most worried about us becoming bad people by using certain tactics, are generally not the ones risking their own lives.

True dat.

8. Sobek - September 29, 2006

“And I think it’s pretty revealing that the people who are the most worried about us becoming bad people by using certain tactics…”

Not only that, but they also tend to think we’re as bad as them anyway, because of Kyoto or McDonalds. No one who thinks Bush is as bad as bin Laden has any room to complain about the dangers of us “becoming as bad as them.” They think we’re already there.

9. Wickedpinto - September 30, 2006

I don’t know what the experience is, but I wouldn’t accept gas chambering prisoners for information. And I think that, as it’s described, WaterBoarding is worse.

I do not support warterboarding, I don’t, at least not as a policy. If individuals make a decision, then circumstantial validation should be a point of defense as in “the smoking gun” argument” but I don’t support validating it as a common practice.

Personaly? I would LOVE to have my own little terrorist mastermind in my garage that I could waterboard at a whim, JUST FOR FUN! but I would never support a national acceptance of the practice.

What I do myself, is and should not be a part of national policy.

However, if I were allowed to recieve one of these F’s in rendition, and allowed to keep them in my garage? I promise you they will suffer every day giving me every bit of info they have ever collected. and just for fun, they would keep talking, though I no longer care.

These guys do not deserve the first bit of humane treatment, but our NATION shouldn’t be a party in the inhumane treatment of anyone absent specific situation.

10. hey Pinto - September 30, 2006

What do you think of the new Iron Man Movie?

11. kevlarchick - September 30, 2006

Waterboarding doesn’t seem so bad for someone who would just as soon slice your head off in front of a video camera and cheer. Comish has a valid point. You don’t win by caving. Ever. These terrorists are more fanatical, more hardened, more ruthless than most of our front line men.

That being said, I am still troubled by the fact that there are probably innocent (or less guilty) people being sacrificed by the enemy for their greater good. Is it possible that an innocent man, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, could get caught up in an American military sweep and taken prisoner? I think so.

12. Dave in Texas - September 30, 2006

Waterboarding won’t kill him. And as has been testified to it’s effectiveness, we’ll know soon enough if he’s got something to say.

I worry more about less effective techniques that drag that process out. Or don’t work.

13. lauraw - September 30, 2006

As Megan described the enemy: These people will saw halfway through your neck with a knife, then stomp on your chest to make spurting blood and gurgling noises for the camera to capture. They will find this amusing, smiling and praising God while engaged in this activity.

Waterboarding? Yes, please. Go Torquemada on the fuckers. I really don’t care, as long as our civilization triumphs and theirs falls. We can feel bad about ourselves later, when they’re gone.

14. Dave in Texas - September 30, 2006

I don’t think the left really appreciates just how much most of us do not care what you do to these bastards.

15. compos mentis - October 2, 2006

Anything that quick, effective, and physically harmless should be used whenever possible. Fear of death? It’s war for crying out loud. Besides, isn’t a Muslim terrorist’s ultimate goal to die for Allah and get his 72. So why be afraid?

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