Simulated drowning technique inherently inhumane

The new Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, wouldn’t admit during recent confirmation hearings that waterboarding constitutes torture.To waterboard, an interrogator binds a prisoner, tightens cellophane or a cloth over his face, and pours water on him. The wet cellophane or cloth triggers the gag reflex.

Then the process is repeated until the prisoner believes he will drown.

If that description doesn’t convince you the technique is torture, the federal code might.

Title 18, Section 2340 defines torture as an act “intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering … upon another person” and “severe mental pain or suffering” as the “threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering” or “the threat of imminent death.”

The prisoner fears death. It’s a mock execution. The United States tortures people.

Waterboarding is allegedly effective. According to a 2005 ABC News report, the technique caused CIA volunteers to cave in after an average of 14 seconds, and Al Qaeda’s Khaled Sheikh Mohammed impressed interrogators by lasting about two minutes before begging to surrender. Mohammed, after “a dunk in water” – as a conservative interviewer put it – gave away “enormously valuable information,” according to Vice President Dick Cheney on WDAY Radio.

But in 2006 the Seattle Times reported “some intelligence professionals say (waterboarding) often provides false or misleading information” because many subjects will confess anything to end the experience.

Still, if waterboarding did extract information from Mohammed, does that justify the procedure?

Of course not.

We should distinguish ourselves from our enemies by refusing to become brutes.

We used to make a point of maintaining our humanity.

A Washington Post article last month explained World War II interrogators recently discussed how in the 1940s they “wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners’ cells with listening devices.” We still gathered information. Henry Kolm said, “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture.”

This attitude helped our troops in the past. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former prisoner of war who was tortured for years in North Vietnam – beaten frequently, sometimes to unconsciousness. He said in a 2005 Newsweek article that he and his fellow prisoners took strength to resist revealing information from knowing “we were better than (our enemies), and we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them.”

When we give up our humanity, we begin to let go of our morals. One falls, then another, until we find ourselves no different than our enemies. They’re willing to turn on their own people; the United States should not do the same by asking its troops to torture.

Douglas Lucas is a senior writing and philosophy major from Fort Worth.