Friday, October 27, 2006

The BTK Presidency - Cheney Confirms Waterboarding

Dick Cheney, the black heart of this presidency, has spoken out forcefully for his right to Bind, Torture and Kill people his boss has unilaterally designated as "enemy combatants."

In an interview with conservative talk show host, Scott Hennen, on Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators subject captured prisoners at America's gulag in Guantánamo Bay to the interrogation technique known as "waterboarding:"

Hennen: "And I've had people call and say, please, let the Vice President know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives. [...] Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?"

Cheney: "It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President 'for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in. We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that. And thanks to the leadership of the President now, and the action of the Congress, we have that authority, and we are able to continue the program."

Swell. Our Vice President just admitted to drowning people until they confess to being terrorists... but it's okay, he's assured us, because drowning isn't torture.

Except that it IS torture. In 1947, the United States prosecuted a Japanese soldier for war crimes and sentenced him to 15 years hard labor for using the technique on a U.S. prisoner. The US court described the crime as "torture."

The physical effects of waterboarding can be extreme pain and damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and sometimes broken bones because of the victims struggling against their restraints. The psychological effects of waterboarding can also be longlasting. Dr. Allen Keller, director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, has treated a number of people who had been subjected to waterboarding. In an interview with The New Yorker, Dr. Keller explained that some victims were still traumatized years later... one patient couldn't take showers, and panicked when it rained.

This brings up an interesting question: What IS waterboarding, exactly? America's TV News has done a very poor job of explaining the technique to the American people, thus giving the impression that it's acceptable behavior, or that "The Terrorists" are only getting "dunked" in some water. See the attached newspaper illustration, which doesn't nearly get across the methodical, vicious and deliberate nature of modern CIA-improved waterboarding.

There are three historical variations of waterboarding:
  • (1) The Spanish Inquisition Method: the victim is strapped to a board, their arms and legs immobilized, and they are submerged in water until the prisoner believes he or she is drowning. The Inquisition started without the board, but soon realized that using the board prevented the victim from fighting back. Whenever possible since, the board has been used.
  • (2) The Vietnam War Method: the victim is strapped to a board with a wet towel placed over their face and water is dripped into their nose until they think they are about to drown.
  • (3) The CIA's Improvement: this is the system currently used in Guantánamo and in the CIA's secret Eastern European gulags. The victim is strapped to a board, the board is inclined about 20 degrees so that the feet are above the head, saran wrap is wound over the face so that it covers the eyes, nose, and mouth (facial hair is shaved to ensure a tight seal), and then, through a plastic tube, water is poured under the saran wrap covering the face, running down from the chin to the forehead, so that water is forced into the nose. Because of the angle of the victim's body, the water fills up the sinuses, then the throat and the mouth in that order. Unavoidably, the gag reflex immediately kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt. Because of the angle of the body, the lungs are NOT filled with water keeping oxygen in the blood and prolonging the victim's sensation that they are drowning. The saran wrap is there as a bonus multiplier. If the victim coughs to try to blow the water out of their throat or mouth, the plastic catches the water and shoves it back. The saran wrap also acts as a one-way valve, opening to let more air out and then closing again to prevent inhalation. Eventually the victim ends up with collapsed, empty lungs, no ability to inhale more air, a throat, mouth, and nose that's still full of water, and no capacity to get the water out since they've already fully exhaled.

    Modern CIA-designed waterboarding isn't about asphyxiation (like, say, the Nazi method of merely shoving a prisoner's head into a tub filled with water)... it's much more diabolical. Waterboarding is about the uncontrollable physical response to forced sustained water inhalation. If you've ever accidentally inhaled water you know that even the smallest amount of liquid in the larynx and trachea is an immediate, hardwired hotline directly to the panic portion of the brain that death is imminent. The terror of imminent drowning is the key element of the technique. According to ABC News, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the waterboarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

    The White House has redefined "torture" thusly: ""must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." That pretzled, logic was designed explicitly by the president's staff to exclude waterboarding. While Bush and his torture-happy staff might not think waterboarding is torture, experts such as John Sifton of Human Rights Watch disagree: "The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law." And it's not just gay liberal terrorist enablers like Human Rights Watch, either... The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts worldwide and many experts on the laws of war also consider waterboarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture.

    Most dishearteningly, not only is waterboarding clearly torture, but it's also pointless as an intelligence gathering tactic. Sure, victims confess... but many experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators argue waterboarding often provides false or misleading information because the victim gets so desperate that he begins telling interrogators what they want to hear in order to make the waterboarding stop. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq.

    The CIA's escalating interrogation method is reported this:
    (1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him,
    2. The Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear,
    3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury like a punch would,
    4. Stress Positions: Among the most effective techniques. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions,
    5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water. and finally,
    6. Waterboarding

    According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi finally broke after being waterboarded and then placed in a stress position and forced to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

    His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons, which was touted as another rationale for the Iraq War. It was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment. Al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, but rather to please his torturers... but the result is the same: more false "intelligence" which is used as "proof" that the waterboarding was necessary in the first place, thus leading to more waterboarding being used to obtain more "intelligence" which justifies more waterboarding and so on and so on.

    Confessions obtained this way are an unreliable tool. There is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques "appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention." Former CIA office Bob Baer says that waterboard is "bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough." Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets."

    It's important for Americans to recognize that noted characteristic... waterboarding is the tool of the Spanish Inquisition, of the Nazis, of the KGB, of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, of the South American Dictatorship... it's not a technique to gain intelligence, it is a technique designed and used exclusively in the past to gain forced confessions by despotic regimes when knew that the confessions were coerced but didn't care. But now the BTK administration has made waterboarding a key element of their intelligence services, which can ONLY lead to more false confessions and incorrect assesments of the real-world threats facing us. Torture and false confession are now the official voted-on policy of the United States of America and its Bind, Torture, Kill President.

    Incidentally, it's also important to note that the individuals who George B.T.K. Bush is torturing have not been convicted of anything. Guantanamo Bay currently holds over 500 prisoners. The Bush administration has repeatedly described these men as "the worst of the worst." Ten have been formally charged with crimes and will someday face military tribunals. The rest wait to learn what they have done wrong. Instead they have been denied the right to a fair trial free of evidence coerced through torture, non-rebuttabal hearsay evidence, and "classified" evidence that the defendant is not able to dispute. They have been denied the right to counsel, they are denied the most basic human rights, and now the BTK Congress has signed off on laws allowing them to be tortured and eventually murdered by their Republican BTK President.

    *** a reader wrote in to inform me that one of the key purposes of drenching people with water and making them stand in cold rooms afterwards is to induce a state of Hyperalgesia, which is an extreme sensitivity to pain, which in one form is caused by damage to nociceptors in the body's soft tissues. Hyperalgesia can be experienced in focal, discrete areas (commonly associated with wounds), or as a more diffuse, body-wide form (like that intended at Guantánamo. Conditioning studies have established that it is possible to experience a learned hyperalgesia of the latter, diffuse form... meaning that after doing this to a victim a number of times, the torture victim can LITERALLY feel the all-over-body pain without even being subjected to the cold or water. Neato! Pavlov would be proud. Or sickened. The idea that military doctors are cooperating with this torture bullshit is beyond the pale. First do no harm, scumbags.

    The Democrats had better rescind all of this shit, should they take over the House & Senate.