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Why Waterboard?

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"Why Waterboard?"

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James Fallows linked to an old David Corn post showing some photos from Phnom Penh where you can see a waterboard in action as part of something the Cambodians use to illustrate the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. The attached email makes a point that I’ve made before but that can’t be made often enough:

As has been amply documented (“The New Yorker” had an excellent piece, and there have been others), many of the “enhanced techniques” came to the CIA and military interrogators via the SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape] schools, where US military personnel are trained to resist torture if they are captured by the enemy. The specific types of abuse they’re taught to withstand are those that were used by our Cold War adversaries. Why is this relevant to the current debate? Because the torture techniques of North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and its proxies–the states where US military personnel might have faced torture–were NOT designed to elicit truthful information. These techniques were designed to elicit CONFESSIONS. That’s what the Khymer Rouge et al were after with their waterboarding, not truthful information.

Over and over again, you don’t see the world’s great geopolitical successes — the twentieth century USA, 19th century Britain, 18th century France — torturing their way to the top of the heap. Instead, you people who for whatever reason feel it’s important to generate some false confessions.

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