T Nation

What Cheney is Fighting to Protect


Courtesy of Professor Darius Rejali of Reed College, author of a history of torture:

This specific water torture, often called the "water cure," admits of several variants:

(a) pumping: filling a stomach with water causes the organs to distend, a sensation compared often with having your organs set on fire from the inside. This was the Tormenta de Toca favored by the Inquisition and featured on your website photo. The French in Algeria called in the tube or tuyau after the hose they forced into the mouth to fill the organs.

(b) choking - as in sticking a head in a barrel. It is a form of near asphyxiation but it also produces the same burning sensation through all the water a prisoner involuntarily ingests. This is the example illustrated in the Battle of Algiers movie, a technique called the sauccisson or the submarine in Latin America. Prisoners describe their chests swelling to the size of barrels at which point a guard would stomp on the stomach forcing the water to move in the opposite direction.

(c) choking - as in attaching a person to a board and dipping the board into water. This was my understanding of what waterboarding was from the initial reports. The use of a board was stylistically most closely associated with the work of a Nazi political interrogator by the name of Ludwig Ramdor who worked at Ravensbruck camp.

Ramdor was tried before the British Military Court Martial at Hamburg (May 1946 to March 1947) on charges for subjecting women to this torture, subjecting another woman to drugs for interrogation, and subjecting a third to starvation and high pressure showers. He was found guilty and executed by the Allies in 1947.

(d) choking - as in forcing someone to lie down, tying them down, then putting a cloth over the mouth, and then choking the prisoner by soaking the cloth. This also forces ingestion of water. It was invented by the Dutch in the East Indies in the 16th century, as a form of torture for English traders.

More recently it was common in the American south, especially in police stations, in the 1920s, as documented in the famous Wickersham Report of the American Bar Association (The Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, 1931), compiling instances of police torture throughout the United States.

Perhaps the main thing to remember here is that all these techniques leave few marks; they're clean tortures and so people who are unfamiliar with them are in genuine doubt as to whether there is much pain. In the absence of a bloody wound, who is to say how much pain there was?
It seems the method that the U.S. has authorized is closest to c), the Nazi one, or d), the one developed by the Dutch and deployed in the American South.

Sure doesn't sound like torture to me.


Oh come on... how can a seesaw ride be considered torture. Silliness.


I had an indian teacher that got stuck in france after 9/11 the police thought he was a terrorist. They slapped him around a few times and let him go. If other countries do that kind of thing, its ok w/ me as long as it is measured and not taken too far


The US is reserving this treatment for a tiny minority of confirmed terrorists.

They can drown 50 of the murderous bastards if it saves one innocent life.

As long as they are 100% sure they have the right guy, I say go for it.

Remember Cheney is fighting to save people from terrorism, this is just a weapon, just like a gun.


I dunno Zap... we were 100% sure Saddam had wmd...


What happened to the soap bar in a sock technique.



I couldn't agree less.

How can you be sure, when there are no trials, no external control, etc.?

That means never - glad we agree. :wink:

No, it's not. All of these practices are torture, and anyone who encourages them or orders them belongs prosecuted. Funny, how the argument turns from "oh no, there is no torture", or "oh no, this is legally no torture" to "yeah, it's torture, but it's right".

I find it sad, when upright people start to loose track: by supporting or justifying this practice, you support any evil dictator's abuses. You should really think about what you wrote.





Great point.


I can't see how the US decides to harp on people about the fundamental undeniable human rights owed to all life, the importance and sanctity of life (because it is life), and then turns around and figures that torture is appropriate.

Are human rights important or not?

If they are important, then they should always be important, no matter what. If they aren't important, then why all the religious psycho-babble about the sanctity of life when people want to end their own life painlessly due to terminal illness?

Come on folks, figure out what you stand for, then, stand for it. I keep hearing how liberals are moral relativists, but on many important issues it is not liberals that are turning their back on principles.

The issue of human rights is based on a principle. If you believe in that principle, just like if you believe in freedom or democracy, then there are results that you have to accept even if you don't like them.

Sometimes freedom means that people can do things you don't like. Sometimes in a democracy you don't like the leader chosen. When it comes to human rights, sometimes you have to treat someone gentler than you feel they deserve or have treated others.

The thing that makes us better than animals, or better than other regimes, is our ability to rise above our hatred and to control our reactions. If we can't really do that, then we should stop pretending we aren't the same as everyone else on the planet.

It is sad that these principle based issues get broken down into politics and talking points. Politics is very far down below principles. It really is.

So, what, if any, principles do you stand for? If you stand for them, then dammit, stand for them all the time, not just when it is convenient or when it agrees with your chosen party line.

If you can't do that, then don't even bother to call yourself a man, T or not. If you don't have principles you are just an emotion driven animal.

Oh yes, the obligatory dig, it is clear that the current administration is a pack of animals, with no adherence to principles even though they do regularly claim their importance.

Proceed to flame me at will, I am rather used to it and I am wearing asbestos -- but it isn't doing well for my lungs I do have to admit.


So you say we (the US) does torture?

Didn't our dear leader say in no uncertain terms last week that we do not torture?

And why did good people die in all our wars, was it for a higher cause? Or to simply enforce our will as Zap here suggests?

I am curious why you chose Zap Branigan as your online name and avatar, it is so fitting for the type of posts you grace us with.


actually cheney is fighting to make his bank account larger, as well as the bank accounts of his bosses in the NWO.


Another interesting note: the CIA has made it known it does not want the torture exemption, the only people fighting for it are Cheney and Bush.


This is a tough issue to me. On the one hand, I think torture is wrong. I don't enjoy the idea of people, innocent or guilty, having their toe nails pulled out or being suffocated or whatever.

On the other hand, even though I think torture is a bad thing, that does not mean that it should never be used. If there was a situation where a person had knowledge that he would only divulge under torture, and that knowledge could prevent the deaths of innocents, I think it would be difficult for me to argue that he should not be tortured.

Just as a thought experiment, say Zarqawi was captured, and that he had knowledge of a suicide bombing that was set to take place somewhere in Baghdad in the near future, but refused to divulge it. Now I think there is no doubt that Zarqawi is a bad dude, and that he would be put to death anyway in the future, and that furthermore he is the type of guy that probably isn't going to give information willingly. If there was a form of torture that could force him to divulge the details of the bombing, I think it would be immoral to allow the innocent people to die, and I think I would have to condone his torture. I think if there was even a 1% chance that the torture would work, I would have to condone it.

Now I understand the Zarqawi example is perhaps a one in million situation. And I understand that many if not all of the detainees might not have any information that could potentially save lives, and some of them are innocent. And furthermore I am aware that many experts believe torture is not an effective means to extract information. For these reasons and others I think for the most part the United States should not engage in torture.

But I do not buy the argument that this is an issue where principle eclipses all other considerations. Where you accept possibly disastorous results so that at the end of the day you can say "at least we stayed true to our convictions."

If the Zarqawi example was stretched, and we captured someone in this country with knowledge of a planned attack that might kill tens of thousands in an American city I wouldn't hesitate to endorse torture as a tool, and I don't think many other people would either. In this scenario I would change my mind about America's torure policy, I would make the exception.

In the end I think it's a Hobsons choice, and it's just a matter of where each individual draws a line in the sand. And I think that line is in different places for different people, and that it is subject to change for most.


Two things.

First, the argument has always been that there has not been any sanctioned torture. It still is the argument, and it will continue to be the argument unless and until someone can demonstrate otherwise.

Second, I can think of certain circumstances in which I would countenance actual torture, but it would necessarily be some hypothetical involving someone you knew had information on a planned attack that you could stop or mitigate if you could extract that information, and it was a time-sensitive situation. However, that is beside the point of the first argument.


I should point out, that with all my ranting, even I would be able to understand instances of torture under very extreme conditions.

As was mentioned on the news, something like torture should perhaps be explicitly okayed on an instance by instance case by the president himself via an executive order.

This would put his personal credibility on the line and he'd want to be damned sure it was the right thing to do, such as saving a lot of lives based on knowing someone had precise information.

I simply don't agree that, by policy, a country should allow torture or conduct it surreptitiously by shipping unfortunates, whether known to actually be terrorists or merely suspected of it, to other countries so they can wipe their hands of it because it isn't happening in a US jurisdiction.

That is duplicity. It is shameful.


Where did I say that? I have no idea what we do.

Of course he did. What do you expect him to do? He is a politician.

Of course it is. Are you being naive?

Do you realize that we actually kill people in war? War is not like the A-Team. People die. Innocents included.

I will not lose sleep over a few murdering scum bastards being waterboarded.

I do get angry when some feckless politician tries to score political points by damaging our ability to prosecute the war.

What the fuck are you talking about?


I think a point that is missed here is this:

To some people deserve torture and would it do some good? Well, yes. We all draw the line in the sand somewhere else, but in the end if you take a hypothetical question far enough we would all agree that there is a point were we would probably do it ourselves.

However, this is not what we are talking about. If a government has the right to torture who will make the decision?

Some mid-level government employ?? An administrator that would probably just order torture to cover his ass? You know, he reeeeaaallly tried everything...

A judge, that has either has to be elected (must please the masses) or has to be appointed (must please only one person)?

Will there be pro-torture and against-torture candidates? Will this become a question like pro-life and pro-choice?

I once read a story about a girl named Pandora, that just loved to play with boxes.


Great post Orion.

Where to draw the line in the sand?

I think the Bush administration is being very clever in trying to hide what is going on.

I don't think I would like to see these practices formalized and institutionalized.

I don't think judges issuing warrants is the way to go.


Was reading Molly Ivins this weekend, and saw her join her leftist friends in repeating their mantra of "torture doesn't work". Yes it does. The water fun described above works very well in fact.

The reality is in certain places and certain situations it has been and always will be used. Ask John McCain if he ever told anybody anything, and then ask him if they might have encouraged his participation with "the rope".

Saying the CIA is against torture is a red herring. Valerie Plame and her ilk at the CIA offices are against it, but field people may have a different take.

A non issue of squishy leftists uncomfortable with the realities of winning wars.