More on Waterboarding

Matt, in response to my last post on waterboarding, brings up an important distinction:

But they have a kernel of a decent point — waterboarding isn’t deadly and has no long term physical effects to speak of. I don’t want to sound like Rambo, but I could probably handle waterboarding in a controlled situation where I know it would stop eventually, and knew that the people doing it to me weren’t trying to harm me. Of course, that’s not how waterboarding is experienced by detainees. What makes it torture is that when in captivity, you are being interrogated and then get waterboarded. You do not know that your assailants are every going to stop, you don’t know what else they’re planning for you. There is no safeword, there is no way out.

Just so. The psychological damage inflicted by torture, particularly when it comes to the tactics allegedly used on detainees at Guanatanamo and the CIA black sites, is in many ways a lot more troubling than the physical scars it leaves behind. Like in the case of José Padilla, for example:

The psychiatrist said Mr Padilla suffered from a facial tic, problems with social contact, lack of concentration and a form of Stockholm Syndrome, by which people in captivity sympathise with their captors.

Sure Padilla has all of his limbs and organs functioning properly, but he also has serious mental illness as a result of his treatment that is going to be with him in some form or another for the rest of his life. And as Matt points out, even if Ashcroft and Reynolds agreed to be waterboarded, it could never properly simulate the unimaginable anguish of long-term torture with no perceivable way out. That’s what the detainees being waterboarded are really being subjected to, and that’s the sort of monstrous treatment that people like Ashcroft and Reynolds continue to defend.


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