April 26, 2009

Torture: Liz Chaney vs. the U.S. Census Bureau

Greetings. Dick Cheney's daughter Liz is now making the interview rounds, defending her Dad's views on the definition of "torture" -- in particular his continuing insistence that waterboarding is not torture.

In a fascinating interview on MSNBC, Liz claims that since the U.S. SERE program (misspelled as "SEER" in the linked item) employed limited duration exposure to similar techniques in training, the frequent and lengthy application of those techniques in non-training situations does not constitute torture.

Unfortunately for Liz and Dick, the entity that operates that training program itself called those techniques torture, and took lengths to explain why they should not be used against adversaries, as I've previously noted. I guess the ex-VP and his daughter literally didn't "get the memo."

All of this discussion about waterboarding inspired me to spend some time on the topic deep within the marvels of Google Book Search. There seems to be no question among historical observers about how to categorize waterboarding.

For example, in Punishment and Reformation: A Study Of The Penitentiary System (1895 and 1910), by Frederick Howard Wines, LL.D., Special Agent of the 11th U.S. Census on Crime, Pauperism, and Benevolence; and assistant director of the 12th U.S. Census; the author includes a long chapter describing historical torture techniques.

In his discussion of the Spanish Inquisition, we find the following text:

"In the torture chamber, the three principal forms of coercion were by the cord, by water, and by fire. In the second of these, which has not been described, the body was extended at full length upon a frame so constructed as to bend it slightly backward and to elevate the feet above the head; the face was covered with a wet cloth, kept wet by constantly falling drops of water which had to be swallowed, in order to prevent suffocation."

That's an exact description of waterboarding, of course.

If Cheney and others wish to argue that it's permissible to use torture to accomplish ostensibly positive ends (in fact, the same precise rationale provided by the Spanish Inquisitors) then they're free do so. But let's get past this argument about whether or not the U.S. engaged in torture. It did. Use the word: torture. Accept the history and the comradeship of other historical proponents of torture throughout time.

Stop pussyfooting around. Get out there and proclaim to the world that you're damn proud to support the use of torture in the name of the United States of America, and that naturally you support its use by any other country that feels the need to do so in its own defense.

Embrace your inner torturer. If nothing else, that's the intellectually honest thing to do.


Posted by Lauren at April 26, 2009 01:40 PM | Permalink
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