“First, They Wet My Face / Now I’m a Believer / Didn’t Leave a Trace / Of Doubt in My Mind.”

Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle: Christopher Hitchens gets inarticulate

While perhaps not exactly an advocate for waterboarding, journalist / pro cynic Christopher Hitchens has certainly been seen as an apologist for the highly debated technique of “information extraction.”

But no one would accuse Hitchens of being uncurious. So, when Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter asked him if he’d like to be waterboarded, then live to tell about it, the doughy, two-pack-a-day smoker leaped at the chance.

Try and ruminate on this, bud….The result: A piece (via Boing Boing) in the August 2008 VF plaintively titled, “Believe Me, It’s Torture.” Yes, and, not this only, but a video of Hitchens going through the experience, right.

As the writer notes in his own hard-earned words,

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.

“Your Constitution, my toilet paper.”I recall listening to the testimony of David Addington, chief of staff and former legal counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, right, before the House Judiciary Committee on June 26.

(Addington is generally credited with being the legal brains behind pretty much every outrageous and kingly power President Bush has claimed to possess. In a review of Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, The New York Review of Books straightforwardly called him “The Man Behind the Torture.” That was the subject that the House wanted to discuss with him.)

I kept wishing, during Addington’s snarky tete-a-tete with the American people, via their representatives, that some Congressman would have brought out the equipment needed to waterboard a person, then, while maintaining a line of inquiry with the attorney, come down from the dais, and put his hands on Addington, as though he was about to throw him on the device.

While that official would have been charged with assault and, certainly, reprimanded, it would have made great video, if done correctly. It would have made every news channel, putting the issue of torture in front of every American. But that would never happen, and no congressman would do that, because we’re a nation of laws.



#1 clay on 09.13.08 at 9:42 pm

Definitely torture and Hitchens didn’t even last 30 seconds…..

#2 jdehnert on 08.13.10 at 4:33 pm

Here is the clincher. Suppose the offer was to be water boarded without a safety switch, and for as long as the interrogator/torturer deems necessary?

If people thing that 30 seconds is torture, imagine what 30 minutes feels like!

The people we are doing this to endure this for orders of magnitude more time than 30 minutes. Potentially for days without any idea if, or when it will be stopped.

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