06 July 2008

Malkin, Hitchens, and Torture

Michelle Malkin isn't impressed by Christopher Hitchens' being waterboarded so that he could find out what it was actually like. From Malkin:

He seems to have recovered pretty well. Occasionally has trouble sleeping.

Gee, I sure do hope Khaled Sheikh Mohammed isn’t having any of those lingering after-effects. I’d be pretty sad to learn he wasn’t sleeping soundly.

Except, of course, that Hitchens deals with this issue in the original article.

As they have just tried to demonstrate to me, a man who has been waterboarded may well emerge from the experience a bit shaky, but he is in a mood to surrender the relevant information and is unmarked and undamaged and indeed ready for another bout in quite a short time. When contrasted to actual torture, waterboarding is more like foreplay. No thumbscrew, no pincers, no electrodes, no rack. Can one say this of those who have been captured by the tormentors and murderers of (say) Daniel Pearl? On this analysis, any call to indict the United States for torture is therefore a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down. I myself do not trust anybody who does not clearly understand this viewpoint.

Okay, so Hitch not only anticipated the point you're making, but still has a serious hard-on for killing all the brown people he can in Iraq. But he goes on to give a list of reasons why waterboarding isn't really the best thing we can be doing in this war (which I'll let you go read the article for yourself to find), and closes with this thought:

Which returns us to my starting point, about the distinction between training for something and training to resist it. One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true?

Well, yeah. I stand by my earlier assertion, that if we're arguing about whether a technique is torture or not, one ruling guideline might be whether or not it was in common use by the fucking Iquisition. Waterboarding a few of their guys doesn't make us morally equivalent to them, but it definitely starts us down that path, and if we're really going to claim to be fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, maybe we'd better actually start living those values even when it's inconvenient.

Malkin closes her blog post with this thought:

I can see agreeing to waterboarding for an article like the one Hitchens was writing.

On the other hand, crippling electric shocks, probably not.

As much as I might like to see Michelle Malkin undergoing water torture or undergoing electric shocks (both links seriously NSFW!) in a more inviting context, I think she'd chicken out even at these much more consensual and lighter uses of these techniques. Which is a pity. Because as anyone who has ever tied up a lover (or been tied up) knows, different people have different trigger points, and even on different days what's perfectly okay and what's seriously over the line can change drastically. Some people can't take anything harder than a couple of light slaps, whereas others do seriously extreme body modification stuff and even play with seriously scary things like knives. More power to them. But if the guideline is "what I, personally, would undergo isn't torture" then you're looking at a seriously gray line.

(Anyone who thinks I wrote this entire blog post so that I could link to Water Bondage and Wired Pussy in a political post knows me far too well....)

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