29 September 2006

Waterboarding: The Khemer Rouge Did It, So Why Shouldn't We?

We are on our way to taking the unprecedented step of authorizing a domestic official - the US President - to "interpret" the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements to allow for torture and other clearly proscribed practices. It may be a good idea to have a look at what the Congress has authorized. Here are some photos of the apparatus the Khemer Rouge used to "waterboard" prisoners at Tuol Sleng Prison under Pol Pot. Of course, Tuol Sleng is the plaace where tens of thousands of Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

This is not a tool for 'aggressive interrogation.' It is a weapon of terror and torture. Period. You can find discussion of the practice and the images on David Corn's web page. Corn is legal affairs correspondent for The Nation. He obtained these photos from Jonah Blank, "an anthropologist and former Senior Editor of US News & World Report" which is hardly a leftist publication. But, in brief, the prisoner is restrained as in this picture and has water poured over a cloth covering her face. She is then left there to suffocate until the torturer removes the cloth. Unsurprisingly, this induces a sense of drowning. Blank's conclusion is pointed:

"Bottom line: Not only do waterboarding and the other types of torture currently being debated put us in company with the most vile regimes of the past half-century; they're also designed specifically to generate a (usually false) confession, not to obtain genuinely actionable intel. This isn't a matter of sacrificing moral values to keep us safe; it's sacrificing moral values for no purpose whatsoever."

Just so! And, as I noted in my last post, the predictable consequence is that the US will be held up by those recruiting terrorists as a vile regime that defies the rule of law and abuses prisoners. And those recruiters will be right.

[Thanks to my friend Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber for prompting me on this!!]



Blogger Peter Loewen said...

Dear Jim:

This is a real step into the abyss. It leaves me wondering how such a descent occurs. It has seemed so gradual and incremental.

29 September, 2006 15:09  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Peter, I agree. I am never one to use words like fascist and dictatorship with reference to US policies and officials. But I think the risk is real at this point. These folks are dangerous.

01 October, 2006 10:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"These folks are dangerous."

Oh puh-leaze! This is the same jabberwocky we heard during the Cold-War. Yes, if you are a muslim, "these folks" are dangerous. Frankly, that's how it should be.

Smell ya later, old fart!

01 October, 2006 19:51  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


So you are for a policy of torturing folks on the basis of religious affililation? How about Unitarians or Seventh Day Adventists?

02 October, 2006 09:41  

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