Hitch takes one for the team

hitchens_waterboardingImage by Gasper Tringale for Vanity Fair.

I am not normally a big fan of Christopher Hitchens.  While I appreciate his aggressive support of Enlightenment values and an anti-fascist foreign policy, he has a tendency to be more wrong than right about much else.  But I am remarkably pleased about his decision to undergo waterboarding for an article in Vanity Fair.  First because humiliating ex-Trotskyists is all in good fun, and second because he is is fair enough to muster strong arguments for and against such treatment.

I find myself in agreement with this point in particular:

2. If we allow it and justify it, we cannot complain if it is employed in the future by other regimes on captive U.S. citizens. It is a method of putting American prisoners in harm’s way.

We will, of course, continue to train professionals to resist it, but as any POW can tell you, every man has a limit—and the enemy will waltz right up to that limit and kick it in the balls until it is no more.

Citizens of democracies may be tempted to think of waterboarding as an interrogation procedure because what we want from enemy POWs is information.  Not the unquestioning compliance of the prisoner; nor the satisfaction of having known we have destroyed his will.  Not the propaganda victory of seeing him recount his errors on television, nor the sly knowledge that a private seed of inexpungible guilt has been planted in the victim.

Lately, the enemies we have fought—Nazis, Japanese militarists, Communists and jihadists—have been totalitarian systems at heart.  They want control of the prisoner and destroy his will to resist.  They want him to appear in mass media as a propaganda tool.  They want to bend free men to their will just as they have bent their captive populations.  Any information that is gleaned is purely icing on the cake, and emphatically not the point of the torture.  If history is any guide, even if a POW coughs up classified information, his captors will likely be sadistic enough to torture him just for laughs.

And we will want to prosecute them and wring their necks for having done so.  But that task may be made more difficult if the enemy can point to torture being carried out by our own armed forces, sanctioned by our institutions of government.

Read the whole thing.  There’s video, too.

(Via Reg of Mitchieville, who linked to this first.)

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One Response
  1. Reg says:

    Us old skool Tories need to stick together 😉