Can there be a prouder moment in our nation’s history? Yesterday Justice Department Official Steven Bradbury rallied to the defense of the CIA’s use of waterboarding, arguing that the technique used by the CIA was nothing at all like the “water torture” used by the Spanish Inquisition. “The only thing in common is the use of water,” he argued.
But as Marty Lederman, a veteran of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, writes, in distancing the CIA’s technique from that used by the Spanish Inquisition and the Japanese in World War II, Bradbury made it plain that the technique he was describing was closer to “the sort popularized by the French in Algeria, and by the Khmer Rouge. This technique involves placing a cloth or plastic wrap over or in the person’s mouth, and pouring or dripping water onto the person’s head.” He quotes Darius Rajali, author of Torture and Democracy, as saying that this technique was “invented by the Dutch in the East Indies in the 16th century, as a form of torture for English traders.”
So, in conclusion, comparing the CIA’s technique to the Spanish Inquisition is preposterous. We’re more in the mold of the Dutch 16th century/French in Algeria/Khmer Rouge way of doing things.
Let’s be very clear: This so-called “analysis” is at the very core of the OLC justification for waterboarding, and possibly several other components of the CIA program, as well. And it is flatly, 100% wrong, and indefensible, for reasons I have discussed at length. The fact that Judge Mukasey continues to abide by it is a scandal. And the fact that Congress has not said a word about this legal linchpin of the OLC/CIA regime is even worse.
Waterboarding, even the CIA version, entails excruciating and intense physical suffering. That’s why they use it.