“It’s an experience our country should not subject people to.”

by matttbastard

Another SERE swim lesson veteran uses the ‘T’ word to describe waterboarding:

I remember that the blindfold was heavy and completely covered my face. As the two men held me down, one on each side, someone began pouring water onto the blindfold, and suddenly I was drowning. The water streamed into my nose and then into my mouth when I gasped for breath. I couldn’t stop it. All I could breathe was water, and it was terrifying. I think I began to lose consciousness. I felt my lungs begin to fill with burning liquid.

Pulling out my fingernails or even cutting off a finger would have been preferable. At least if someone had attacked my hands, I would have had to simply tolerate pain. But drowning is another matter.

Even though I knew that I was in a military facility and that my “captors” would not kill me, no matter what they threatened, my body sensed and reacted to the danger it was in. Adrenaline helped me to fight out of the position the men were holding me in. I can’t really explain how I managed to stand up, still with one man clinging to each arm. I only know how horrible it was. The experience was probably only a few minutes, but to me it seemed much longer.

Waterboarding has, unfortunately, become a household word. Back then, we didn’t call it waterboarding — we called it “water torture.” We recognized it as something the United States would never do, whatever the provocation. As a nation, we must ask our leaders, elected and appointed, to be aware of such horrors; we must ask them to stop the narrow and superficial thinking that hinges upon “legal” definitions and to use common sense. Waterboarding is torture, and torture is clearly a crime against humanity.

Unfortunately, ‘common sense’ was buried beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center, alongside those other outdated September 10th concepts, ‘accountability’, ‘irony’ and ‘international law‘.

h/t Gary Farber

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Quote Of The Day: Moving Targets

by matttbastard

In the course of a few short years, water-boarding has morphed from torture that unquestionably violates both federal and international law to an indispensable tool in the fight against terror.

Charting that progression is almost not worth doing anymore, so familiar are the various feints and steps. First, the administration breaks the law in secret. Then it denies breaking the law. Then it admits to the conduct but asserts that settled law is not in fact settled anymore because some lawyer was willing to unsettle it. Then the administration insists that the basis for unsettling the law is secret but that there are now two equally valid sides to the question. And then the administration gets Congress to rewrite the old law by insisting it prevents the president from thwarting terror attacks and warning that terrorists will strike tomorrow unless Congress ratifies the new law. Then it immunizes the law breakers from prosecution.

That’s how Americans have come to reconcile themselves to illegal warrantless eavesdropping and to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. It’s why we’re no longer bothered in the least by the abuse of national-security letters or extraordinary rendition or by presidential signing statements. Deny, admit, codify, then immunize. The law as quickstep.

– Dahlia Lithwick, Anybody’s Guess (h/t War in Context)

More from Charles Pierce (h/t Chet Scoville), Hilzoy @ ObWi and skdadl-with-one-‘sk’, who charts the logical next step in the Left-Hand Path that has been eagerly undertaken by the Bush administration:

If torture is situational ethics, then we are on to Dostoevsky territory. Torture is an assault on the body, yes – the body may recover; it may be maimed; or it may be destroyed. But torture is aimed most profoundly at the mind, at destroying the mind, at driving the victim mad. And in that madness, what any of us will see is the vision that is the exact opposite of civilization, especially of democracy. The tortured and the torturer both know that once all the rules are conditional, there are no more rules. Civil society ends. Everything is permitted.

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