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Is Waterboarding Torture?

“Oh, don’t be afraid of a little water.” I remember my mom saying that to me when I used “it’s raining out” as an excuse to not do something in the yard, like pick things up. Apparently, there are those out there who like to say the same thing about waterboarding. Maybe it’s not unlike a little extra water hitting you in the shower. And it’s a controlled environment, so it’s not really dangerous. Moreover, if you know that it’s going to end, all one has to do is endure a little discomfort for a spell.

That’s radiohost Mancow’s stance. Or at least it used to be. In order to “prove” that waterboarding isn’t torture, he allowed himself to be waterboarded. After six seconds, he changed his tune. (I would link to the video on that page directly, but for some reason it keeps registering as “page not found.”)

Well, maybe this isn’t really a legitimate test of whether waterboarding is torture. After all, it’s not like Mancow has been trained to resist interrogation. That’s why I’ve also added the link to a Jessie Ventura spot on Larry King. Ventura has been trained, and he’s very clear that not only is waterboarding torture, it’s also dangerous.

It turns out that it’s easier to say that waterboarding is not torture when one hasn’t experienced it. But once one has been hit in the face with that raw experience, something changes. No longer are we able to distance ourselves from the madness, thus insulating ourselves. Immersion forces us to identify with the other. And once the power of identification claims us, it’s amazing how our perspectives change.

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