I've heard back
from several readers intimately familiar with U.S. military protocols for training service members to survive capture by the enemy and who, therefore, are familiar with the techniques, like waterboarding, being used now by the U.S. on detainees in its custody. Their accounts and what the experience taught them is compelling.
TPM Reader MN
was a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape instructor:
Since a âvoluntaryâ confession is the standard of the totalitarian regime for conviction and nullification of Geneva Convention rights, we wanted our people inoculated from this danger â¦ hence SERE was created. Survivors like John McCain, Nick Roe and Admiral John Stockdale created and refined the material through their debriefs and visits. Our schools were designed to show how a totalitarian enemy, with a complete disregard for human rights runs a death/prison camp. Your job was to survive and Return with Honor. Torture, we revealed, was a useless and single pointed device which was wholly unreliable â torture was for sadism and the pleasure of the torturer. It had no intelligence value and the information would always be suspect.
The horror of the recent revelations of the use of our schoolâs techniques in Iraq and Gitmo is disgusting. We are all horrified that we have destroyed the only tool we have to keep our soldiers safe â¦ the disgust of world opinion. Waterboarding is a torture. Period. It is not a simulation, when applied you are, in fact, drowning at a controlled rate â¦ we just determine how much and how long â youâll break. Everyone breaks. I ran a waterboard team at SERE and administered dozens of students through the process as a tool to show what the worst looks like, short of death. This is why there is a doctor and a psychologist standing right next to the student â¦ to do it safe and to help the student recover. Does it suck? Yes? Would I like to go through it again â¦ never.
That America has gone to the depths of torture hurts my very soul. I know we have damaged our warrior spirit and placed a dark stain on the honor of our military. Not since Mai Lai have we been so dishonored as we have with Abu Ghraib. We have found, though September 11th, the blackest part of our American soul and have embraced in in a fit of false macho. John McCain should be ashamed of himself â¦
TPM Reader GS
is a graduate of survival school:
I, like many of my fellow aviators, am a graduate of survival school, which is a mock-pow camp where we were subject to food, water and sleep deprivation, as well as mild beatings and waterboarding. Surprisingly, this was a very beneficial course, in that it taught us how to parse out information to minimize its relevancy, and recognize our own limitations and breaking points.
Waterboarding is just as your reader described; you are strapped to a board, a washcloth or other article covers your face, and water is continuously poured, depriving you of air, and suffocating you until it is removed, and/or inducing you to ingest water. We were carefully monitored (although how they determined these limits is beyond me), but it was a most unpleasant experience, and its threat alone was sufficient to induce compliance, unless one was so deprived of water that it would be an unintentional means to nourishment.
The problem for us as citizens is we don't know to what limit or frequency the administration's agents are using this technique. In my view, what we experienced as service personnel was an introduction to what interrogators could do to us, in order to at least prepare us for the initial shock of captivity. What is done by professional interrogators whose mission it is to extract information is undoubtedly more unrelenting and severe, and most likely exacerbated by any act of resistance.
Since we consider it immoral when captured US personnel are treated in any manner not humane, there is no moral ground for making waterboarding an instrument of our policy against others. Admittedly this is a tough position for some, but I believe how we live and how we fight shapes the perception of us as a nation, and while we may not discourage actual terrorists, we can influence those whose understanding and support are necessary in this struggle.