Cheney: This is Waterboarding

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cheney is on a lying tour about torture again.

Mr. Cheney said interrogators should have had the option to use the “enhanced interrogation techniques” his administration approved-including the use of simulated drowning, or “water-boarding.” He called himself “a big supporter of water-boarding,” which critics say amounts to torture.

“Now, President Obama has taken [those techniques] off the table,” Mr. Cheney said. “He announced when he came in last year that they would never use anything other than the U.S. Army Manual which doesn’t include those techniques. I think that’s a mistake.”

Enhanced interrogation techniques aren’t torture — the Bush Administration approved them, right???

The 2002 Bybee memo (see comments for link) on waterboarding describes the technique beginning at the bottom of page three:

…The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth…

…During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths… The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout…

A prisoner is bound to a tilted bench, with his head at the low end. His nose and mouth are covered by a towel, and they pour water on the towel for twenty to forty seconds. They then remove the towel for an arbitrarily short time and repeat.

One can imagine just holding the breath for twenty or thirty seconds at a time. Those time intervals seem short enough, right? What is the big deal?

Below is a video of Christopher Hitchens voluntarily participating in a waterboarding experiment. There is a lot that we can learn about waterboarding by carefully watching that clip and listening to Hitchens describe his experience. The private contractors do not expect him to last on the board for very long.

“I’ll let you know when it’s fifteen.

Fifteen on, fifteen off.

Third time through, if he hasn’t done it, we’ll go fifteen off, thirty on.

Fifteen twice, then thirty.”

Hitchens nearly gets through the first fifteen seconds. Beginning at 4:08 in the clip, he describes what he felt while he was on the board.

“If you hold your breath, it has the effect of tightening the grip of the stuff over your face and mouth and nostrils. It’s a smothering feeling as well as a drowning feeling.”

This drowning feeling that Hitchens describes, one of having liquid nearly enter the lungs, is a penetration trauma. There is an imminent threat to life that imprints itself on the nervous system much like a gunshot wound, a stabbing, or a rape. But this is all before the body sees a significant rise in blood carbon dioxide level. Even with the knowledge that it is an academic exercise, Hitchens got a taste of the penetration experience and aborted the experiment.

There is much noise from apologists that water never gets through the cloth to actually drown the prisoner. What they do not tell you is that this does not matter. When normal breathing gets interrupted, so does normal swallowing. During waterboarding, the prisoner’s head is tilted back so that any liquid — including saliva or nasal fluid — will build up at the back of the throat. This creates a constant aspiration threat. It is the fight to control this liquid at the back of the throat that sometimes results in the prisoner swallowing his own tongue and suffocating to death — hence the need for a trachiotomy kit in the interrogation room.

Hitchens describes having Post Traumatic Stress symptoms after the fact, starting at 5:15 in the video clip. He wakes up in the middle of the night feeling smothered, and sometimes has panic sensations when he becomes winded. And all of this after only fifteen seconds on the board. What happens when waterboarding goes on longer?

From the Bybee memo, top of page 4:

…Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers tbe mouth and nose, air now is slightly restric.ted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence ofthe cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of “suffocation and incipient panic,” i.e., the perception of drowning…

As carbon dioxide builds in the blood, there is a strong urge to suck in air. But there is also the effort to avoid inhaling the liquid that is starting to pool at the back of the throat. The whole body becomes wracked with spasms as the two basic reflexes fight one another. This the basis of the torture: it sets two neurologically hardwired and life-preserving complexes against one other, and this leads to an overall breakdown. The body fights a painful struggle that it loses after a short time.

This is not a “little dunk.” It is a controlled execution that is systematically interrupted each time it starts to become lethal — a grisly hypoxic/anoxic torture.

Waterboarding is brutally painful, and it is unequivocally torture. Bybee knows it. Cheney knows it. It is time that Americans understand, as well. Waterboarding is a misnomer — this is water torture.

And the talk about a technique needing to be painful like organ failure to be torture? Waterboarding causes organ failure. Hypoxia destroys the brain.


Skip to comment form

    • rb137 on February 15, 2010 at 03:34

  1. Outside of “us” doing it, it seems to have some destroy America value by keeping it in the news bandwidth cycles.  The inside job called 911 launched a crusade to dominate middle eastern oil countries and a where is Waldo hunt for CIA assest Osama bin long dead Laden.

  2. the US performed.

    It’s really important to keep this in the public view.  It’s also important to recall that waterboarding wasn’t the only torture used, it was part of an arsenal.  And the arsenal included other brutal, illegal acts as well: stress positions, assault, humilitation, solitary confinement, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Very important to note that waterboarding is just one of the most visible examples of a pattern and practice of illegal human rights abuses.  

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