Types of Interrogation
I would like to take Fred Wolferman's May 1 column a step further. He rightly points out that the centuries-old definition of torture is based on pain. The key thing about waterboarding is it is not based on pain.
Waterboarding is no more painful than a bad head cold. Waterboarding is based plainly on fear -- a fear so primal it has existed since we crawled out of the sea billions of years ago.
Lots of coercive measures are based on fear, and no one thinks they're torture. "Drop that gun, or I'll shoot," says the cop. Is he torturing the perp? Of course not.
"Cooperate, and I'll take the death penalty off the table," says the DA. Coercive, yes; torture, no.
Once we start defining torture as fear-based as well as pain-based, we are indeed on the slippery slope of semantics and Alice-in-Wonderland politics.
What is not torture in the real world of good guys and bad guys? The "Get Bush at any cost" crowd has opened Pandora's box. We are right in forswearing torture based on pain. We are wrong in confusing waterboarding, sleep deprivation, creepy-crawling bugs and all the rest of the mind games used by skilled interrogators, with thumb-screws, branding irons and bamboo shoots under the fingernails.
Obama is putting us in a position where you not only can't hurt a terrorist, you can't even scare him!
More like this story