You have to hand it to him: journalist Christopher Hitchens, who previously discounted that waterboarding was indeed torture, admits in the August issue of Vanity Fair that it is, indeed, torture. In the article, called “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” Hitchens gives a recount of being voluntarily waterboarded last year in North Carolina. You can watch the video—complete with weird, Enigma-esque soundtrack—and witness the self-described “wheezing, paunchy scribbler” undergo the water torture. Afterwards, Hitchens says:
Everything completely goes on you when you’re breathing water. You can’t think about anything else. It would be bad enough if you did have something, suppose they wanted to know where a relative of yours was, or a lover, you’d feel, ‘well, I’m going to betray them now, ’cause this has to come to an end, I can’t take this anymore.’ But what if you didn’t have anything? What if they’d got the wrong guy? Then you’d really be in danger of losing your mind very quickly.
What if they’d got the wrong guy, indeed.
Hitchens isn’t the first person to volunteer to be waterboarded. You’ll recall that Daniel Levin, the former acting assistant attorney general to John Ashcroft, was also voluntarily waterboarded in 2004 while he was attempting to rework the Justice Department’s legal position on torture. He also concluded that it is indeed torture but was forced out of the DOJ when Alberto Gonzales became attorney general, before he could complete a second memo that would have limited the military’s use of torture.
On Monday, the government announced charges against Abd Al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed Al-Nashiri, whom the CIA has admitted to waterboarding. Al-Nashiri says:
From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me. It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way. I just said those things to make the people happy. They were very happy when I told them those things.
Additionally, the Miami Herald reports:
In response to a reporter’s question, [Hartmann] said it would be up to a U.S. military judge — at trial — to decide whether to accept evidence obtained through waterboarding.
”That’s the beauty of the system,”‘ he said.
There you have it, ladies and gents: the “beauty” of the untested, deeply flawed military commission system is that you can make up the rules as you go along (and possibly use evidence obtained through torture)!