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Waterboarding is Just Very Unpleasant . . . Right?

By       Message Robert Weitzel       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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 “This government does not torture.”

- George W. Bush -

 

All right! Waterboarding is a very unpleasant experience, which is sometimes fatal. I can also imagine that a small percentage of root canals are fatal, but no one routinely refers to them as torture—just very unpleasant.

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That said, if I were grabbed off the street by five guys in ski masks who jabbed a hypodermic in my neck, threw me in the back of a van, striped me to gooseflesh, gave me an enema and jammed a wad of cotton where only a proctoscope belongs, forced me into diapers and an orange jumpsuit, plugged my ears, duck-taped my eyes and put a sack over my head, shackled me in a stress position to the cold, aluminum deck of an unheated cargo plane for 15 hours, strapped me in a chair at some black dental site in Karachi and commenced the root canal in a shower of Punjabi expletives . . . then okay, maybe taken in toto I’d consider that experience torture.

 

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On February 13 the Senate narrowly passed—on a 51-45 party-line vote—an intelligence bill that will, among other things, ban waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation technique,” a Bush-era euphemism for torture.

 

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, traded his principled stance against waterboarding for a White House endorsement of his candidacy and voted against the ban. Torture is now officially a plank in the GOP platform. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were too busy campaigning to go on congressional record as either supporting or opposing the ban.

 

Such a narrow political plurality against the torture of a human being is possible in an overly-religious nation because of the mistaken notion that torturing a person begins and ends with “waterboarding” and because that term sounds a lot like “waterslide” and “water park.” Who hasn’t gotten water up the nose while playing in a pool but still enjoyed the overall experience?

 

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Dick Cheney refers to waterboarding as “a dunk in the water.” Attorney General Mukasey refuses to call it torture unless, of course, it’s happening to him. Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) defended his vote against the ban on waterboarding by saying, “It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger . . . the impact is psychological."

 

I have news for Mr. Lieberman. If I were strapped in a straitjacket and locked in a 2x3x7 foot box, the exquisite psychological pain of that experience would find no rival in burning coals. And I would say anything to make it stop. Torture, physical or psychological, is about as singularly personal an experience as birth and death.

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Biography: Robert Weitzel is a contributing editor to Media With a Conscience (www.mwcnews.net). His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI.

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