Sunday, March 9, 2008

Waterboarding: the Moralizing Has Begun

I was right. After President Bush vetoed the congressional attempt to protect terrorists from American interrogators, passionate blog posts began sprouting. This afternoon, the top ten hits I got from Google Blogsearch (four search terms: waterboarding harsh torture military) included this lot.

Some Top Blog Reactions to the Waterboarding Veto

  • " 'Just Say Yes To Torture' "
    "MO'THANSKIN" (March 8, 2008)
    Among many quotes: "Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said Bush 'will go down in history as the torture president' for defying Congress and allowing the CIA to use interrogation techniques 'that any reasonable observer would call torture.' " (If you don't agree with her, you're unreasonable?)
  • " We were lied to! Bush to veto waterboarding, improved homeland security, long term security deal with Iraq, we're still not safe, they wonder why? Duh"
    (That's the post's title - rather long, isn't it?)
    An Average American Patriot (March 08, 2008)
    "I keep saying the chief idiot has given me something different to worry about with my sons being in his wars now that he is telling the so called terrorists it is okay to waterboard and torture if they follow the chief idiots directions!"
  • "Bush’s Veto of Anti-Torture Legislation and Its Damage to America"
    Reflective Pundit (March 08, 2008)
    "Several months after 9/11, in an interview with al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden said, 'The values of this Western civilization and under the leadership of America have been destroyed. Those awesome symbolic towers that speak of liberty, human rights, and humanity have been destroyed. They have gone up in smoke.' "
  • "United States of Torture"
    Bad American (March 8,2008)
    "When I was trained by Army professional interrogators at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it was reiterated to me over and over by seasoned professionals that torture doesn’t garner any uselful information - people will say anything to make the pain stop.
    "When I reiterated this to a friend of mine yesterday in my store he asked the million dollar question: why do they do it then?
    "The answer is simple and sinister for anyone who has bothered to do the research on the subject and observed something otherworldly in Dick Cheney’s smirk: they do it because they enjoy it."
  • "Bush Wields A Necessary Veto"
    Cheat Seeking Missiles (March 8,2008)
    "The Dems and Soros-funded Human Rights Watch would restrict all interrogations to those allowed in the Army Field Manual -- but what does that mean?
    "It’s easy to find what interrogation techniques are banned by in the new Army Field Manual. Obviously, it bans all the stuff we all used to think of as torture: anything that could cause death or physical injury. Think Jack Bauer." (Jack Bauer is a protagonist in the television series "24.") (This post is worthwhile reading, if for no other reason that the author discusses actual interrogation techniques - something which traditional news media doesn't seem willing to do.)
Waterboarding isn't widely popular, I take it. That's no surprise, the way it's been presented: in vague, emotion-charged terms. That doesn't mean it's wrong. 'If two hundred million people really believe in a dumb idea: It's still a dumb idea.'

Hystrionics Aside, What is the Problem with Waterboarding?

Serious discussions on waterboarding seem centered on whether or not it's "torture." The more I learned about waterboarding, the less it seemed like "torture:" unless we stretch the definition of "torture" a bit ("anguish: extreme mental distress / unbearable physical pain" are some generally-accepted definitions).

I suppose what's "unbearable" depends on the individual. The "extreme mental distress" part of the definition raises an interesting point.

Final Exams as a Form of Torture

It's arguable that final exams are a form of collegiate torture, routinely inflicted on helpless studets by a cold, calculating, uncaring faculty. Anyone who has survived the first quarter (or semester, or whatever) has heard a fellow-student cry out "this is torture!" - or words to that effect.

With an election coming up, voting age at 18, and a substantial fraction of the late teen/early twenties crowd in college, I make this suggestion to open-minded and forward-looking politicians:

End the Agony! Stop Test Torture Now!

America must not allow the brutal traumatization of final exams to go on!

Young minds have endured this assault on their self-esteem too long. Millions suffer from Post Traumatic Test Syndrom (P.T.T.S.). Over a hundred thousand each year lose a job or end a relationship as a result of nightmares, flashbacks, or other psychological phenomena stemming from taking final exams.1
(Given what passes for serious ideas these days, a disclaimer: "End the Agony!" is a joke, a spoof: not intended to be taken seriously.)

Previous Posts about Waterboarding in this Blog

"Waterboarding: Harsh, Yes - But is it Torture?"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 8, 2008)
"Waterboarding: What is it? Why Do it?"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 8, 2008)
"Waterboarding Ban Set for Veto Tomorrow: Let the Moralizing Begin"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (March 7, 2008)

1According to research I imagined for this post (Eustace Finagle and Eugenia Glockenspeil. A Study of Post Traumatic Test Syndrome in Selected Populations. East Village MA: Jong Press, 2005.)


Anonymous said...

The moonbats on the Left are insane. If they want to know what torture is they should take a look at the Al Qaeda torture manual that was found by troops in Iraq, or what their Communist friends in China do to dissidents and the Falun Gong.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
let yourself be tortured

have water poured on you
or have fingernails torn out

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
never use torture

even to save millions
allow them all to die

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for commenting.

There does seem to be a double standard here, not in America's favor. That's nothing new.

What is new is an information medium that isn't controlled by the traditional information gatekeepers: the Internet.

I suspect that's part of the reason that there is so much consternation among the left fringe.

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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.