Friday, May 29, 2009

Waterboarding is torture.

John Conroy tells about Bruce Moore-King, who underwent the Rhodesian army's version of SERE in the early 1970s, part of which was playing the roles of captured guerillas:
... an interrogator began asking him questions about the guerillas' operations. Moore-King, who was still hooded, refused to answer. His interrogators then put a hose to the outside of his hood just at his forehead. Water covered his face.

"You can almost breathe," he recalled. "The bag goes into your mouth and nose and you can suck a bit of air through it, but not enough to keep you going. The feeling of asphyxiation, of drowning, builds up slowly, so it hits you quite hard. The main thing is the fear. I was scared, and deep down inside I knew it was an exercise, but for some guy who doesn't even know if he is going to be killed or shot or whatever, the fear must be tremendous."
Moore-King went on to become a counterinsurgency soldier who himself tortured black Rhodesians, including near-drownings. It does not appear that he was in any doubt whether his own treatment would be torture applied to a real victim.

The question arises whether SERE was not always, on some level, about training torturers, not just training potential victims of torture.

... Regarding the 183 times that KSM was waterboarded, this reminiscence from a Uruguayan torturer about learning his trade is interesting:
The torture equipment consisted of a plank of wood, which the prisoner would be strapped to, and a tub, made from an oil drum, which was filled with water. The plank was attached to the tub with hooks so that when the interrogators lifted the board, the prisoner's head would be submerged.

* * * "[the interrogator] signaled two of the other persons and the put the prisoner's head into the water."

The prisoner was pulled out of the water, allowed to recover his breath, and asked the question again, and then, when he produced no information, he was again submerged. Garcia recalls that the first torture session lasted four to five hours with the whole class taking turns as interrogators or manning the plank. No one obtained any information of significance. * * * Sometimes, [the interrogator] said, people like this one have to go through this several times before they talk.
This "submarino" was "the preferred technique" over electrical shocks for instance, not only by Garcia but by another Uruguayan torturer: "There is something more terrifying than pain, he told me, and that is the inability to breathe."

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