The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


There's a video demonstration of waterboarding here.

This is the most objective demonstration I could find on the web. There are a lot of over-acted extreme nonsense versions of the same idea. This one, clearly tries to convince us that waterboarding is torture. It fails to convince me.

There is much talk of the Geneva Convention when discussing how to extract information from people who want to kill us. Those who would fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers are not bound by the Geneva Convention.

The previous administration claims their interrogation techniques were successful in foiling other plots to kill Americans. Cheney has called for the CIA to release documents that would prove it. The Obama Administration doesn't seem interested in that, they seem to want to cherry pick memos that suggest illegal behavior.

It is politics. It is a waste of time. And the administration has clearly said they will adopt different interrogation techniques. Fine. Move on.

It is clear that terrorists are a different enemy than we've fought before. Perhaps different rules are required.


caheidelberger said...

Fails to convince you, eh? Well, it convinced the U.S. after World War II:

"Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

"The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia" [Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, "In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Look at Past Use," New York Times, 2009.04.21].

Convinced yet?

caheidelberger said...

[Oops: sorry! Forgot the link to Shane and Mazzetti 2009.04.21]

Michael Sanborn said...


Thanks for reading. I rarely believe anything that's in the New York Times...too much personal experience with them.

That said, I'm saying the video in this post doesn't convince me. I'm more inclined to come in against waterboarding after hearing Sen. McCain's view. Here's a fellow with personal torture experience.

Prosecution of previous administration is counterproductive. If it is Obama's judgement to halt the practice, he's the president, he should do that. But continuing to divert attention away from the economy by continuing an attack on an administration that's Soooo history, is nothing more than a shell game designed to divert attention from something else.

Bill Fleming said...

Well maybe you want to do like Sean Hannity, Mike, and give it a try. It's torture, brother. Come on.

Michael Sanborn said...


Think I'll pass on the personal demonstration. I worded the original post badly in an attempt at brevity.

In my response to caheidelberger, I mention that I'm inclined to take McCain's word rather than the nuts who are doing "demonstrations" of waterboarding as torture.

The country is reeling from the collapse of the economy and years of one of the worst executives to occupy the White House, ever.

I think the country is better served by putting the Bush Administration in the past and moving on, no matter where moving on takes us.

Gerald Ford recognized that his country was in turmoil when he pardoned Richard Nixon in order to allow the country to begin healing. He knew that doing so would likely cost him a presidency of his own, and it did.

Obama has no such fear. He and his attorney general could move on, and his presidency would not be tainted.

caheidelberger said...

"rarely believe anything that's in the New York Times"... but you'll use a YouTube video as evidence. Interesting choice of sources... and far too convenient a dodge of the historical point. I suppose you won't believe the Washington Post, either:

"The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

"After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: 'I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.' He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. 'Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,' he replied, 'just gasping between life and death.'

"Nielsen's experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding" [Evan Wallach, "Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime," Washington Post, 2007.11.04].

Lt. Nielsen didn't just watch a YouTube video.

Michael Sanborn said...

I listed the YouTube video as one of the most objective "demonstrations" I could find and still found it unconvincing.

Sadly, I don't believe much in the Washington Post either.

Woodward and Bernstein were the reason I first became a journalist. Ben Bradlee was a personal hero and inspiration.

As I've said before, I think McCain has made the case that waterboarding is torture. The decision to use it or not use it to extract life-saving information is a moral dilemma. There is no good option.

Bill Fleming said...

Moral dilemma, yes. I agree.

Michael Sanborn said...


Bush and Cheney were faced with that moral dilemma. They chose to save the many at a cost of humiliating and scaring the hell out of the few.

President Truman faced the same dilemma when he chose to use terrible force to end the war in the Pacific.

Several biographies have him justifying the use of the atom bomb and the killing of thousands of innocents by saying he could not face the mothers of fallen American soldiers and telling them he had the power to save their childrens' lives but chose to be humane to the enemy.

I am thankful each day that such heavy decisions rest on the shoulders of others.

I believe we should move on and let those who made these weighty decisions ponder them in what little peace they can find.

Bill Fleming said...

I'm not willing to give Cheney a pass until we see the evidence, Mike. Once the facts are on the table, we can decide as to his true intentions.

Right now, he has presented himself as being somewhat delusional and paranoid and at best and a pathological liar at worst.

I have to believe that you, as a reporter, at least want to see all the facts before making your judgement call.

Hey, even Cheney's arguing for that.