By L C Johnson (bio/blog) -- and don't miss the photo below the fold
The media are woefully ignorant on the subject of waterboarding and torture. Consider the coverage of former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, who is telling his story as an interrogator of Abu Zubaydah and insisting that waterboarding is an effective technique. ABC and CNN are repeating this absurd propaganda. However, if you read the transcript of his interview some key points are obscured in the media propaganda push (part 1 and part 2):
- Kiriakou never witnessed the waterboarding. It was carried out by another group of individuals (nfi).
- None of the information provided by Zubaydah concerned threats inside the United States.
The ABC interview with Kiriakou provides some important insights into the whole question of the CIA's role in using torture, which is now euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation".
CIA case officers are not trained in "interrogation". They are trained in recruitment. Recruiting and debriefing sources is more akin to romancing someone. You are not looking for a one night stand, you want a relationship.
So who did the CIA turn to for help with "enhanced interrogation"? It was either the military or former military working as contractors. Why? Because the military did train interrogators at Fort Huachuca and they were familiar with enhanced interrogation methods, including waterboarding.
Unfortunately, the media are helping to perpetuate several myths about waterboarding. Last Sunday in the Washington Post, for example, reporters Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen claimed:
A U.S. soldier in Vietnam supervises the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. Bettmann/Corbis
"Waterboarding as an interrogation technique has its roots in some of history's worst totalitarian nations, from Nazi Germany and the Spanish Inquisition to North Korea and Iraq. In the United States, the technique was first used five decades ago as a training tool to give U.S. troops a realistic sense of what they could expect if captured by the Soviet Union or the armies of Southeast Asia. The U.S. military has officially regarded the tactic as torture since the Spanish-American War.
In general, the technique involves strapping a prisoner to a board or other flat surface, and then raising his feet above the level of his head. A cloth is then placed over the subject's mouth and nose, and water is poured over his face to make the prisoner believe he is drowning."
Wrong. Dead wrong. A friend of VIPS sent the following to Ray McGovern yesterday reminding us that:
As I'm sure you know, waterboarding was a common practice used by the Marines in the Philippines during the war 1898-1902 when thousands were killed. I recall seeing photos as well as drawings of it among the military records in the National Archives. But now, they are spinning waterboarding as a practice the U.S. only used to show our people what to expect from the enemy.
Incidentally, a photograph (see below) appeared on the front page of the Washington Post showing a U.S. smiling officer in Vietnam participating in the waterboarding of an alleged North Vietnamese cadre. On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran the photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding. The caption said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk." The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier.
Hell, it would help if Washington Post reporters read their own damn paper. It is historical information, but real facts are better than uninformed opinions.
In this regard it is worth noting that waterboarding is torture as defined in the Convention Against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Convention defines torture as:
. . . 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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Writers and editors at the Post and other newspapers should also consult the following sections of this Convention:
- Article 2 - No Exceptional Circumstances Warranting Torture
- Article 3 - No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
- Article 4 - Acts of Torture Are Criminal Offenses
- Article 10 - Education & Information Regarding Prohibition on Torture Provided in Training
- Article 16 - Each State to Prevent Acts of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Since the United States is a signatory to this Convention, it is not up to President Bush to declare waterboarding is okay. It is not. It is torture. Plain and simple.