04 November 2007

Calling a Spade a Spade

Much debate in the land of the declining dollar about the confirmation of GWB's next nominee for the role of Euphemizer General. Apparently the confirmation hearings are held up over the issue of whether Michael B. Mukasey considers the practice of waterboarding as torture. Torture, of course, is illegal in the United States and when performed by Americans against those in American custody. Today's L.A. Times has an article (behind a paywall, but shared with me by a friend) that criticizes the mass newsmedia for its euphemistic treatment of the dubious practice. It also has an explicit description of what happens during a waterboarding session, provided by "Malcolm W. Nance, a veteran special operations consultant to various U.S. intelligence agencies and a master instructor in the U.S. Navy's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program in San Diego. Nance also is an experienced Arabic-speaking interrogator."

Upstanding journals like the New York Times reported that Mukasey's confirmation is "in doubt over his refusal to state a clear legal position on a classified Central Intelligence Agency program to interrogate terrorism suspects." Nance, on the other hand, is far more explicit. Here's Nance's description of the euphemistic, sanitized and quite digestible-with-your-cornflakes "classified Central Intelligence Agency program to interrogate terrorism suspects," courtesy of the L.A. Times:
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word. Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim's face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

"Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration -- usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right, it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threatened with its use again and again.
The question about whether torture should be used is not a question: torture is illegal in the U.S. Period. The question for both the Administration and Mr. Mukasey to answer is, does the above description constitute torture?

And the question for me: How has the mass newsmedia become so complicit, and therefore chosen to obsolesce itself?

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