Christopher Hitchens is one of the more interesting atheists out there for me because as much as I agree with him on most religious issues I also disagree with him quite a bit on his politics. Awhile back in an article for Slate.com he appeared to be defending the practice of waterboarding. He basically repeated the Republican talking points that claimed waterboarding is an “extreme interrogation technique” but not really torture. A lot of folks called him on it and suggested that if it’s not torture then perhaps he should give it a go himself to prove it.
To his credit that’s just what he did. He writes about it in a new Vanity Fair article titled Believe Me, It’s Torture:
You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
You can see for yourself how long he lasted in the video they filmed of him undergoing the procedure, but it’s definitely worth reading the whole article as he tells us that he makes a second attempt at it. It’s one thing to read about people who have experienced this process, it’s entirely another to watch it happen and realize that our government has been doing this to people for some time now and doesn’t rule out doing it again. The fact that President Bush has condoned and authorized such a practice should be grounds for impeachment by itself.
The right wingers who continue to insist that waterboarding isn’t torture should be invited to partake of this exercise as well so they can see first hand just what it actually is. I know I’d pay good money to see pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, who has repeatedly equated waterboarding to being “no worse than frat-house hazings”, undergoing the process a few dozen times. I doubt he has the balls to put himself to the test the way Hitchens has.
Link found via Boing Boing.