Friday, June 12, 2009

Is Waterboarding Torture? Absolutely Yes.

I was an active duty Naval Aviator in the US Navy from 1980 to 1984, flying with Fleet Air Reconnaisance Squadron One (VQ-1) in EP-3's. We collected and processed intelligence. I still have my original Naval Aircrew (NAC) wings which I earned in 1981 and I'm glad about that.

I didn't set out to be a flyer, I just wanted to use my Chinese language abilities in a setting that mattered. I scored too high on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) so, despite being fluent in Chinese at the time, I was assigned to the 52 week Korean language course at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA. Spoken Korean was much harder to learn than spoken Chinese, so I'm surprised that Chinese is a category IV language.

It was required that all male DLI students in the Navy be volunteers for aircrew and submarine duty. Women were not allowed to fly or ride submarines back then. Since aircrew are considered to be at high risk of capture I had to attend Level C Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school.

It was an interesting experience and the most intense training I received in the military. It was extremely realistic training, but despite being confined in a small box for hours, harshly beaten, interrogated using both rough and subtle methods, deprived of sleep, food and contact with my fellow prisoners, I was able to restrict what I revealed to only the allowable name, rank, and service number.

Then I was waterboarded, and I told them anything they wanted to hear to make the waterboarding stop.

One of the requirements of SERE school is that the student experience being broken under interrogation (because you WILL break under torture in the real world) and also that they experience "bouncing back" from being broken. This is as much to contribute to the service members survival as a prisoner of war as it is to prevent information being revealed. The assumption is that a POW will be broken under torture. Since the beatings, etc. didn't break most students, they needed a certain way to break a student. Waterboarding does that handily.

When I listen to all the folks in the news lately talking about whether or not waterboarding is or is not torture I'm astounded. Not a one that I've heard voicing their opinion has been waterboarded. They don't know a thing about the experience. Please.

Waterboarding broke me instantly. Every person I observed being waterboarded was broken. Every person I spoke with after the training who had been waterboarded told me they could not endure it. When I watched people being waterboarded for the second or third time during SERE training, it always took a lot of strong people to get them strapped on to the board - no one went voluntarily once they had experienced being waterboarded.

Because it was torture.

The sensation is drowning, and I was certain that I was going to die. Even though I knew I was in a training situation, I was sure that my instructors had made a terrible mistake and were accidently drowning me. It was utterly terrifying. Because it was torture.

Waterboarding is torture. Cheney is a criminal. As are the lawyers who wrote the "tortured" legal opinions that Cheney used to justify torture.

After 9/11 the Cheney/Bush administration decided to use torture on their detainees. A torture program based on SERE training. SERE training was designed to replicate the torture that was inflicted on US military prisoners in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Torture designed to get prisioners to confess to actions (typically "war crimes") that they DID NOT COMMIT! It was torture used to create raw material for propaganda.

It was not used to gain actionable intelligence, as Cheney claims. He's lying. It was pain inflicted to force a person say what had already been decided would be advantageous, for propaganda purposes, to have said.

For example, to force someone to say that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Since the real intelligence didn't back this conclusion, Cheney/Bush went to torture to get someone to confess to things that weren't true, because normal, useful, effective interrogation techniques don't elicit specific lies. This to justify the insanely stupid invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Cheney, Bush, and their (informed) apologists, are despicable liars, and belong in prison.

Morons, the lot of them.

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