Playboy Waterboarding Experiment

This video has been making the rounds, but I’ve been busy and saw it for the first time today.  A Playboy journalist makes a bet that he can withstand 15 seconds of waterboarding.  He learns all about the technique and is prepared intellectually for the psychological — psychosomatic, really — sensation that comes.  Even with that prep, he freaks after about four seconds.

Link (from Huffington Post)

I may be wrong (and today I haven’t the patience to sift through the Interwebs for a conclusive answer) but I believe our policy is that those who use this technique must be trained in this technique.  I do know the military trains soldiers both to use and to withstand this kind of treatment, and worse.  The CIA, who along with Special Forces are the only folks authorized to use more controversial techniques, also trains agents both to survive and to implement these tactics. [One more quick factual note: Waterboarding was only used against two particular subjects, ostensibly to “break” them into submission; here are two more more explicitbut way less reputable sources.]

I continue to resist drawing conclusions, but check the video link above if you’re curious as to exactly what we’re talking about when we say “waterboarding.”

Here’s one more link to similar story.

I’d like to see statistics comparing interrogation techniques and POW treatment before and after (or ratified v. rejected) the Geneva Conventions.  Making a civil rights argument for people who eagerly slaughter Americans is a little disingenuous in this day and age.

I appreciate that “torturing” them in return may only lead to enhanced rage on their parts.  But realistically, soldiers overseas have to deal with Iraqi townspeople who genuinely believe that Americans’ sunglasses give them the power to see through women’s clothing.  We’re not talking about a sophisticated media disseminating measured information to educated actors.  We’re talking about a culture of fear perpetuated in part by BDU-clad men hugely suited in body armor doing the best they can to implement rule of law.

From an I-<3-penal-theory perspective, I can’t help but consider the different rationales for these controversial tactics.  Guantanamo, in my view, is a deterrent designed to keep would-be terrorists away from terrorizing tools.  Lawyers who argue for “enhanced interrogation techniques” argue that these are primarily utilitarian.

Realistically though we’re dealing with a  soldier who’s been away from his family for over a year, forced to live in constant fear of mortars in the mess hall.  SF Soldier encounters a couple of <insert politically incorrect term of choice here> eager to brag about their success in planting the car bomb that killed SF Soldier’s buddy, and any “utilitarian” aspect of “just procuring information” pretty much goes out the window.  It falls to retribution, pure and simple.

Lists of permitted techniques should provide a ceiling, not a par.  In identifying a ceiling, we should look not to the lowest common denominator, but to the very weakest link.  In the chain of those rationally able to think through what they’re doing, the weakest link is SF Soldier who’s just waiting for his turn to “talk” to these <see above slur>.

Do see the video to get a sense of what exactly we’re talking about.


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