This is getting ridiculous. Now conservatives are volunteering to be waterboarded. Now? Seriously? Where were they for the past eight years, when we were doing that and much, much more to people, many of whom weren’t guilty of more than jaywalking, let alone of terrorism against the United States?
Now, here comes Sean Hannity, belatedly offering himself up to be waterboarded.
GRODIN: You’re for torture.
HANNITY: I am for enhanced interrogation.
GRODIN: You don’t believe it’s torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
HANNITY: No, but Ollie North has.
GRODIN: Would you consent to be waterboarded? We can waterboard you?
GRODIN: Are you busy on Sunday?
HANNITY: I’ll do it for charity. I’ll let you do it. I’ll do it for the troops’ families.
Keith Olberman, admirably, called Hannity’s bluff by offering to give $1,000 to charity for every second Hannity endured waterboarding. (I would have made it $1,000 for every minute, with a 30-minute minimum. I mean, if we’re gonna make it interesting, let’s make it interesting.)
On MSNBC tonight, Olbermann called on Hannity to stay true to his word, and argued the benefit of having the arch-conservative pundit tortured would be that he might finally recognize the “deadly seriousness” of the debate over detainee treatment.
“What a breakthrough it would be if, by having reality literally forced upon him, a buffoon like Hannity were to realize the deadly seriousness of this,” Olbermann said. “The searing truth: that the moment of torture automatically makes the presumed bad guy recipient the victim, and makes the torturer into the evildoer.”
From there, Olbermann laid out his offer: “For every second you last, a thousand dollars — live or on tape, provided other networks’ cameras are there. A thousand dollars a second, Sean, because this is no game. This is serious stuff. Put your money where your mouth is, and your nose. Oh, and I’ll double it when you admit you feared for your life, when you admit the horrible truth — waterboarding, the symbol of the last administration, is torture.”
Admirable, but insufficient, especially given Hannity’s wussified responses — “I’m for enhanced interrogation.” and “No [I’ve never been waterboarded], but Oliver North has.” Oliver North has? And that’s supposed to mean what?
It’s time to up the ante. From henceforth, conservatives who previously supported the Bush administration’s torture regime should know that they will get no cred from merely subjecting themselves to waterboarding for a few seconds or a few minutes. for one thing, it’s been done.
Daniel Levin, a former DOJ official in the Bush administration who was tasked with reworking the administration’s definition of torture, had himself waterboarded back in 2004. He was that concerned about what he was being asked to recommend. And he came out of that experience calling it torture, and the administration fired him for his trouble.
Christopher Hitchens had himself waterboarded and came to the same conclusion.
Now, Hitchens probably wants an opportunity to get waterboarded for a minute or two, so he can get up with a big grin on his face and say something to the effect of “It wasn’t all that bad,” and “I’d do it again.”
But it needs to be remembered that waterboarding was not the sole feature of the Bush administration’s torture program. It was one among many techniques applied to many detainees, including some who were innocent of anything more than being a Muslim or an Arab, and in the wrong place and the wrong time. (Yes, it should be kept in mind that these techniques were applied to people who should never have been detainees in the first place, who were innocent of any crime that might have put them there.)
Just being waterboarded doesn’t cut it anymore, or it shouldn’t.
I’d say to Sean Hannity and any other conservatives looking to get waterboarded to they can attempt to pooh-pooh the experience, clear your calendar for about a week or so. No more can you get yourself waterboarded and claim to have experienced anything near what we’ve inflicted on people. Save up your vacation time for something closer to the real thing.
For starters, there’s the 16 or so techniques that Rumsfeld approved for use on Guantanamo Detainees.
- Yelling at the detainee (not directly in his ear or to the level that could cause physical pain or hearing problems)
- Techniques of deception
- Multiple interrogator techniques
- Interrogator identity. The interviewer may identify himself as a citizen of a foreign nation or as an interrogator from a country with a reputation for harsh treatment of detainees.)
- The use of stress positions (like standing) for a maximum of four hours
- The use of falsified documents or reports
- Use of isolation facility for up to 30 days…
- Interrogating the detainee in an environment other than the standard interrogation booth
- Deprivation of light and auditory stimuli
- The detainee may also have a hood placed over his head during transportation, and questioning. The hood should not restrict breathing in any way and the detainee should be under direct observation when hooded.
- The use of 20 hour interrogations
- Removal of all comfort items (including religious items)
- Switching the detainee from hot meals to MREs
- Removal of all clothing
- Forced grooming (shaving of facial hair, etc.)
- Using detainees individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress
- The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family.
- Exposure to cold weather or water (with appropriate medical monitoring)
- Use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation
- Use of mild, non-injurious physical contact, such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing
And that doesn’t include the sexual taunting and humiliation that have been employed in some cases.
If you want something a lot closer to the real thing, you can take a few pages from the interrogation log of Mohamed Al-Qahtani — the detainee whom judge Susan Crawford says we tortured, based on the cumulative effect of the techniques applied in his interrogation.
Qahtani was denied entry into the United States a month before the Sept. 11 attacks and was allegedly planning to be the plot’s 20th hijacker. He was later captured in Afghanistan and transported to Guantanamo in January 2002. His interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.
“For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators,” said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani’s interrogation records and other military documents. “Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister.”
At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani “was forced to wear a woman’s bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation” and “was told that his mother and sister were whores.” With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room “and forced to perform a series of dog tricks,” the report shows.
The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani’s heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.
His log is 83 pages long. Take your pick.
Of course, it’s impossible for any American to get the full experience. In Hannity’s case, he’d have to be held indefinitely, with no right to know why, what he’s charged with, or the evidence against him. Let alone the right to counsel, to examine evidence used against him and question witnesses who testify against him. It’s impossible for Hannity to be denied his rights as an American or a human being, at least by anyone in this country who’d be willing to waterboard him. If they tried to carry out much of the above — even with his consent — they’d be breaking the law. Several laws, actually.
But it has been done before, to a degree.
Just sayin’. That’s all.