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Hitchens on Waterboarding: “Believe me, it’s torture.”

Published

Christopher Hitchens, pseudointellectual atheist extraordinaire, as part of an article for this August’s Vanity Fair magazine, submitted himself for perhaps a somewhat unique experience – waterboarding.

[youtube 4LPubUCJv58 Hitchens Waterboarded]

There has been some back and forth debate among policy makers the past few years about whether or not to categorize waterboarding as torture, as it is one of the interrogation techniques that have been used against our brothers in Guantanomo Bay.

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Hitchens writes in his VF article that waterboarding was originally a method of torture Special Forces underwent as part of their SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) Training component in the event they were captured by an enemy who ignored the Geneva Conventions.

Perhaps even more telling was the waiver he was required to sign, which stated the following:

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.

The agreement went on to state that even with the safeguards provided:

…during the ‘water boarding’ process, however, these measures may fail and even if they work properly they may not prevent Hitchens from experiencing serious injury or death.

Hitchens goes on to quote Malcolm Nance, a man who has been involved in the SERE training program for some time, who states:

“Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. Our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.”

I’ve underlined a serious moral dilemna which the US government and their dogmatic followers have ignored, and that is that Guantanomo prisoners who are innocent by even their own definition of innocent have been tortured using this technique (and others). No surprise here, just a reminder of what we’ve all known now for some time.

Interesting as this story is, Hitchens does not break new ground per se, as he is re-iterating much of what was stated in this Washington Post article which additionally goes on to state that during WWII, Japanese soldiers were convicted for torturing American POWs due to their use of waterboarding techniques against them (Frustrating, I know). What separates Hitchens’ article is his reversal of position on waterboarding due to his firsthand experience.

May Allah subhaana wa ta’aala reward and bless greatly those of our brothers and sisters who have been subjected to such harsh treatment, and give them patience and strength to endure the after effects of such techniques.

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Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Hassan

    July 5, 2008 at 8:52 AM

    Wow, he broke in just 5 seconds. It seems he is softening up, Although he admitted its torture, but its not far fetched that he would just say now, ok so we do torture but we need to do it. I hope Hannity and Limbaugh and co go through same experiment.

  2. Gohar

    July 5, 2008 at 10:38 AM

    i wonder whether advocates of the time-bomb argument would approve of waterboarding a rape victim refusing to name a repeat perpetrator who the police were certain would commit the crime again if not caught.

  3. Kadijatu

    July 5, 2008 at 11:46 AM

    sA that’s completely sick

  4. Siraaj

    July 5, 2008 at 11:08 PM

    What’s even more amazing, from the two brief sessions he did, he now has nightmares of being suffocated and begins to feel panic when his heart rate goes up even a little bit, and this was for a guy who got a code word and the metal handles. How about our brothers who get no such treatment when they’re waterboarded?

    Siraaj

  5. Eowyn

    July 6, 2008 at 10:38 PM

    I think what we are forgetting about, here, is, number one, how unpleasant it is to subject an entire segment of humanity to hurt, based on what we think they need to experience, based on the lesson they need to learn.

    Human beings really, REALLY don’t want to hurt each other.

    So, every time someone DOES hurt someone, it’s based on a personal vendetta. And that is never a good idea.

    Ugh. I do grow tired of trying to explain these things to people. I see it, but others don’t.

    Western mentality is all about discovery — NOT about morality. SHOULD we be more moral? Of course. Are we? No.

    We are all on a voyage of discovery about what is good and what is not. But the minute someone tells me I’m “wrong” about anything — is the minute a whole bunch of us laugh.

    I do think Islam suffers from not understanding human nature.

  6. Siraaj Muhammad

    July 6, 2008 at 11:52 PM

    think what we are forgetting about, here, is, number one, how unpleasant it is to subject an entire segment of humanity to hurt, based on what we think they need to experience, based on the lesson they need to learn.

    Human beings really, REALLY don’t want to hurt each other.

    So, every time someone DOES hurt someone, it’s based on a personal vendetta. And that is never a good idea.

    Ugh. I do grow tired of trying to explain these things to people. I see it, but others don’t.

    Western mentality is all about discovery — NOT about morality. SHOULD we be more moral? Of course. Are we? No.

    We are all on a voyage of discovery about what is good and what is not. But the minute someone tells me I’m “wrong” about anything — is the minute a whole bunch of us laugh.

    I do think Islam suffers from not understanding human nature.

    Uhhh, not quite sure I understood the point…?

    Siraaj

  7. al='iraaqi

    July 7, 2008 at 3:47 PM

    There is actually a brother who reportedly roughed through waterboarding for over a 1 min 30 secs. The CIA agents were pretty much in awe at how he could possibly withstand such torture. You can google this, CNN reported it a while ago.

    Nevertheless, 1 min 30 secs is not very long. So this gives you an idea at just how severe this form of torture is.

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