Waterboarding

September 26, 2017

Torture or Education?

My article as originally published in American Thinker:

The release of the Senate CIA “torture report” has certainly prompted some mixed reactions, mostly divided along party lines.  The mainstream media have expressed moral outrage – outrage – over the contents of the report, while the conservative media has rightfully questioned the timing of the release, the numerous holes in the report, and the validity of describing as “torture” the methods used by the CIA.  Add to mix the hypocrisy of the MSM ignoring Obama’s dead-by-drone policy that has blown many terrorists and innocents into chunks.

As to whether the interrogation methods employed by the CIA constitute actual “torture,” a Human Events article from 2007 (since we’re dredging up the past) written under a pseudonym by a retired naval aviator (yes, a slight pro-Navy bias is detectable) may help provide some context:

Based on lessons learned from survivors of the brutal North Korean and North Vietnam torture of US military prisoners of war, the Department of Defense ordered all branches of the services to implement comprehensive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.) training programs. Every member of Congress should be extremely well versed on the military S.E.R.E. programs since they have had direct oversight and funding of these programs for over 40 years. [snip]

What actually happens in S.E.R.E. in the field? Classes of 40 or more “students” are put through beach and water (swimming) survival techniques, similar to the TV show “Survivor” but without the rewards challenges. The class is then moved to a remote location to survive and evade prior to entering the US Navy run POW camp.

Once captured, these “students” were hooded, with their hands bound; fully interrogated; and then finally brought to the POW camp:

Arriving at the POW Camp I was kept hooded and placed in a small box, 2 feet wide, 3 feet long and maybe 3 feet high. I was left the fetal position, sitting on my butt, stripped nearly naked (just week old BVD’s) and left sealed with your defecation can inside your box. Heat, cold, isolation, no communications, and constant noise, music, propaganda, coupled with verbal abuse by your captors is the norm, 24/7.

Almost makes club Gitmo sound like paradise, but it gets worse:

Then it was time for the dreaded waterboard.  What I didn’t know then, but I do now, is that as in all interrogations, both for real world hostile terrorists (non-uniformed combatants) and in S.E.R.E. a highly trained group of doctors, psychologists, interrogators, and strap-in and strap-out rescue teams are always present. My first experience on the “waterboard” was to be laying on my back, on a board with my body at a 30 degree slope, feet in the air, head down, face-up. The straps are all-confining, with the only movement of your body that of the ability to move your head. Slowly water is poured in your face, up your nose, and some in your mouth. The questions from interrogators and amounts of water increase with each unsuccessful response. Soon they have your complete attention as you begin to believe you are going to drown.

And if a “student” POW escapes and is subsequently recaptured?

This time we went right to the water hose in the face, and a wet towel held tightly on my forehead so that I could not move my head. I had embarrassed my captors and they would now show me that they had total control. The most agonizing and frightful moments are when the wet towel is placed over your nose and mouth and the water hose is placed directly over your mouth. Holding your breath, bucking at the straps, straining to remain conscious, you believe with all your heart that, that, you are going to die. [snip]

S.E.R.E. training is not pleasant, but it is critical to properly prepare our most endangered combat forces for the reality of enemy capture. Was I “tortured” by the US military? No. Was I trained in an effort to protect my life and the lives of other American fighting men? Yes! Freedom is not Free, nor does it come without sacrifice. Every good American understands this basic principle of our country and prays for the young men and women who have sacrificed and are out on the front lines protecting us today.

The author writes that there may have been as many as 40,000 of these students who were “tortured” over the years in the SERE program.  He also specifically mentions one pilot who wasn’t given the opportunity to utilize his SERE training:

Lt Tom “Stout” McGuinness of the VF-21 “Freelancers” went through S.E.R.E. training during my tenure. But when it came down to the crisis moment, his “interrogators” did not give him the waterboard. They merely went into the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11, slashed Tom’s throat, and flew the first aircraft into the North Tower of World Trade Center on 9/11.

I must admit that facing the kind of training our soldiers had to endure in the SERE program sounds horrendous and may explain why I chose a different path in life.  But I am forever thankful for those who willingly volunteer to rigorously train and bravely serve in order to protect the United States of America.  Perhaps individuals who don’t care to receive the same type of education that many of our elite U.S. military forces once received should think twice before willingly becoming terrorists