The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, October 06, 2007

How much waterboarding...?

So the memo comes to light specifying what techniques can be used to extract information. I doubt it will convince anyone one way or the other. But I am flat certain that if these identical techniques were being used against OUR servicemen, anyone who claimed it wasn't torture would be thought an insane liar.

Torture, according to international law, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

That was the United Nations. How about the American Heritage dictionary:

1. Infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion.
2. An instrument or a method for inflicting such pain.
2. Excruciating physical or mental pain; agony: the torture of waiting in suspense.
3. Something causing severe pain or anguish.

tr.v., -tured, -tur·ing, -tures.

1. To subject (a person or an animal) to torture.
2. To bring great physical or mental pain upon (another). See synonyms at afflict.
4. To twist or turn abnormally; distort: torture a rule to make it fit a case.”

Wow! That last definition sounds to me EXACTLY like what the Bush administration has done to make Waterboarding not a “torture.” And remember: this is the stuff that they’ll put down on paper. Do you really believe that people don’t exceed their given limits under stress? You have to build in a safety tolerance, knowing that going over the line 5-10% can be absolutely expected. Trying to pretend that’s not true is just naive.

To those who say that torture is only sufficient damage to cause death or organ failure, I can only say: really? Cutting off your toes one at a time, putting a blowtorch to a woman’s breasts, slicing the skin off someone’s stomach and rubbing salt in the wounds…none of these things are torture? I can’t believe that you believe this. I have to think that some people’s terror of death is so gigantic that they are willing to do ANYTHING to save their bodies, even if it costs their souls.

And those folks will not consider the techniques allowed to be torture, no matter what I say. Fine. But answer me one question:

Even if his precious legacy was at stake, how much waterboarding do you think it would take to get Bush to say it WAS torture?

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