Here are some disjointed thoughts on torture.
First, Andrew Sullivan:
One reason I became a conservative was because as a teenager in the 1970s, conservatives seemed the only people to grasp the true evil of the Sovet Union. At the core of its evil was its deployment of torture to break free people's souls and to obliterate their liberty by the brute force of the state. Now conservatives are the ones justifying torture - by the United States. They have become what they once fought. Unchecked power does that to you.
Help me with the parallelism here - Khalid Sheik Mohammed is a free person and the United States is trying to break his soul just to uhh, quash his thirst for freedom? I wonder what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would say about that?
Powerline defends waterboarding; personally, I haven't read anything about waterboarding that makes me think I would find it to be especially terrifying - intellectually I appreciate the reports that most people submit in less than a minute, but emotionally, I don't feel it.
And I do not say that because I harbor any sort of illusions about being a "tough guy". Frankly, I think that if threatened with torture I would fold up like a cheap suitcase. In fact, let me be more emphatic - I think I would fold up in a way that would burnish the reputation of cheap suitcases. But "torture" for me is more like the Winston Smith with the rat/face-cage scenario from "1984" - ghastly and permanent trumps ghastly but transient.
As I recall, John McCain said something similar about some of the stress positions inflicted on him by the North Vietnamese, where a prisoners arms would be bent up behind his back. McCain's point was that, yes, it is painful but after a while the prisoner's arms go numb and the prisoner starts to worry about how much permanent damage is being done to him; some airman would have numb arms and shoulders for months afterward.
Well. Back to Andrew for a link to David Corn for a post title "This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like". Corn's theme is that waterboarding was the torture of choice for the Khmer Rouge and he offers some pictures as evidence.
Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this will be one of my longest posts. Here is Vann Nath, an artist and former prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, and his drawings of various Khmer Rouge tortures (one of his pictures appears without credit in the Corn post, presumably through no fault of Mr. Corn).
So, let's play Find the Waterboard! Not here; not here; not here; not here; not here; not here. Hmm, those Khmer Rouge offered a wide variety of nasty, didn't they? I don't think I am going to rank "waterboarding" at the top of the list provided by Vann Nath.
Let me lurch in a different direction:
Lou DiMarco (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Ret.) is a faculty member at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he teaches military history and courses on urban warfare and warfare in the Middle East.
Here is a paper he offered on torture as it related to the French experience in Algeria. One snippet highlights the absurdity of my own little exercise in attempting to estimate my own pain threshold:
...some French officers subjected themselves to electric shock to ensure they understood the level of violence they were applying to prisoners. What these officers did not understand was the huge difference between pain inflicted in a limited, controlled manner without psychological stress, and pain inflicted in an adversarial environment where the prisoner is totally under the control of the captor.
Well, yes. Let's also note that the French were a bit indiscriminate:
...many French commanders tolerated or encouraged widespread and often random torture. By one estimate, 40 percent of the adult male Muslim population of Algiers (approximately 55,000 individuals) were put through the French interrogation system and either tortured or threatened with torture between 1956 and 1957. This action likely irrevocably alienated the entire 600,000 Muslim population of the city from the French cause.
My understanding is that the CIA will be employing "coercive interrogation" only with high value prisoners.