Waterboarding put to the test
Posted by sanityinjection on July 3, 2008
I never thought I’d be recommending an article in Vanity Fair for serious consideration. But in this fascinating piece, columnist Christopher Hitchens described how he voluntarily had himself “waterboarded” not once, but twice in order to really understand what it is like and form a firsthand opinion on whether it constitutes torture.
I have to admire Hitchens’ courage while perhaps questioning his sanity. What makes the article interesting isn’t the fact that Hitchens concludes that yes, waterboarding is torture – hardly a surprise – but rather one of the subsidiary points he makes. The procedure causes no permanent or even long-term damage, to the point where it can be re-administered after a short period of time. Hitchens actually asked to have it done to him a second time to see if he could hold out longer. He points out that there is a big difference between this technique and some of the methods of torture that are used in other places around the world, which no person would ever ask for more of. He firmly rejects any moral equivalency between those and the US use of waterboarding, without condoning the latter. Hitchens goes on to present a well-reasoned, multifaceted argument for why the US should not use this technique. For the record, I agree with him.