Friday, March 7, 2008

Waterboarding Ban Set for Veto Tomorrow: Let the Moralizing Begin

"Bush to veto bill banning use of waterboarding, other harsh techniques on terror suspects" International Herald Tribune (March 8, 2008)

Waterboarding isn't nice. A person subjected to temporary immersion in water feels some of the effects of drowning.

I wouldn't do it to my kids.

But then, my kids aren't likely to have a shot at killing thousands of people.

Not everyone has inhibitions about committing mass murder. Maybe it's a cultural thing. For example: Eight students were shot to death at a Jerusalem rabbinical seminary.

Their names:
  • Segev Peniel Avihail, 15, of Neve Daniel
  • Neria Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem
  • Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar, 16, of Shilo
  • Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat
  • Yohai Lifshitz, 18, of Jerusalem
  • Ro'i Roth, 18, of Elkana
  • Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kokhav Hashahar
  • Doron Tronoh Meherete, 26, of Ashdod
Hamas spokesmen had some words to say about the dead students:
  • Sami Abu Zuhri:
    "This heroic attack in Jerusalem is a normal response to the crimes of the occupier and its murder of civilians."
  • Taher al-Nunu:
    "We have warned before about the responsibility of the escalation in Gaza and warned of Palestinian anger." Mr. Nunu also said that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and the Israeli government are to blame for the attacks, since they tried to stop Hamas from killing Jews.
I wish that those statements weren't typical of Hamas, and that Hamas didn't fit right in with other terrorist organizations.

The fact is that there are quite a few people, in relatively well-organized groups, who hate America and Americans with a literally religious fervor.

They are:
  • Determined to kill Americans, or at least help others kill Americans
  • Not nice people
  • Not likely to respond positively to tea and kindness
I don't doubt that the 19 interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual are effective. The bill that the president is expected to veto would restrict the CIA to those techniques, when trying to find out who, how, and where the next thousand or so Americans are scheduled to be killed.

The American military banned "waterboarding, sensory deprivation or other coercive methods to break a prisoner who refuses to answer questions" in 2006.

I haven't made up my mind about waterboarding, and am glad that I don't have to make the final decision.
  1. On the one hand:
    Waterboarding is a coercive technique which may dislodge information that won't come out with more polite questioning.
    Thousands of lives could be saved by using it: and, it's probably more humane than squeezing a terrorist's head until facts pop out.
  2. On the other hand:
    Waterboarding and similar techniques are arguably "contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2297)
Like so many other questions which involve human beings, it isn't easy.

I'll readily agree that waterboarding is near the border between interrogation techniques that are merely inconvenient and/or uncomfortable for their subjects, and those which are actually torture. Which side of the line it's on, I don't know.

What I do know is that it's a near-certainly that politicos will be using the waterboarding issue to show how very, very ethical they are, or humane, or compassionate. I'm not going to enjoy that process, but as a responsible citizen, I'll have to pay attention to who says what. It's an unpleasant but necessary task: sort of like turning a manure pit.


Anonymous said...

Waterboarding has been said to be no more extreme than the methods of training our soldiers are subjected to. What do you think about such statements?

Do we torture our own troops?

That is the question isn't it?

Brian H. Gill said...


Well, that depends on what's defined as "torture."

And yes, that is the question.

I'm not evading you question (quite): the fact is, I don't have detailed information about American military training.

I'm writing another post about waterboarding today (March 8, 2008). What I think about what you asked will, I hope, be there.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.