George Bush's nominee for America's next Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey, has told senators conducting his confirmation hearing that, while he personally finds waterboarding repugnant, he can't say whether it's torture. What do you think?
This account of waterboarding taken from the 1958 memoir of French journalist Henri Alleg. Any doubts about waterboarding as full-bore torture are put to rest by Alleg's account:
"Together they picked up the plank to which I was attached and carried me into the kitchen. They rested the top of the plank, where my head was, against the sink.
Lo - fixed a rubber tube to the metal tap, which shone just above my face. He wrapped my head in a rag and held my nose. He tried to jam a piece of wood between my lips in such a way that I could not close my mouth or spit out the tube.
When everything was ready, he said to me, 'When you want to talk, all you have to do is move your fingers.' And he turned on the tap.
"The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments.
I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me. In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save myself from suffociation. In spite of myself, the fingers of my two hands shook uncontrollably. 'That's it! He's going to talk,' said a voice.
"The water stopped running and they took away the rag. I was able to breathe. In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw up the water I had swallowed. Befuddled by the air I was breathing, I hardly felt the blows.
"Well then?' I remained silent. 'He's playing games with us! Put his head under again!'
"This time I clenched my fists, forcing the nails into my palm. I had decided I was not going to move my fingers again. It was better to die of asphyxiation right away. I feared to undergo again that terrible moment when I felt myself losing consciousness, while at the same time fighting with all my might not to die. I did not move my hands, but three times I again knew this insupportable agony.
"In extremis, they let me get my breath back while I threw up the water. The last time, I lost consciousness."
Waterboarding is torture, no question about it. Cheney has no problem with it but then he's an old, diseased, cowardly bastard who's on death's doorstep himself. If Mukasey can't tell if waterboarding is torture his confirmation ought to be denied, no question.