Waterboarding: Yes, it really is torture
Waterboarding Too Dangerous, Internal DoD Memo Reveals, by Jeffrey Kaye
Jeffrey has a very important piece this week in Truthout which shows that the use of waterboarding is dangerous to military personnel subjected to it. Indeed, the excuse that since waterboarding is used on American soldiers means it can't be torture is just bunk.
According to the documents that Jeffrey examined, military reports showed that waterboarding is damaging to those who are subjected to it, even when they are being subjected to it as a training exercise. In fact, the reports said that subjects waterboarded to help them learn to resist torture by the hands of an enemy, found that rather than learning how to resist torture, the lesson taught subjects that they too could be broken.
The water board has always been the most extreme pressure that required intense supervision and oversight because of the inherent risks associated with its employment.... Forcing answers under the extreme duress of the water board does not teach resistance or resilience, but teaches that you can be beaten. When a student's ability to develop psychological resiliency is compromised... it may create unintended consequences regarding their perception of survivability during a real world SERE event. Based on these concerns and the risks associated with using the water board, we strongly recommend that you discontinue using it [underlined in the original].
Jeffrey notes in the piece (emphasis mine):
The paper indicated that waterboarding continues at the California SERE School because it is "an emotional issue with former Navy POWs."
So what emotional issue would arise in the matter of waterboarding that keeps the military from stopping the practice? From my perspective, it is for the same reason that hazing persists from one class to the next and why sexual abuse is passed from one generation to the next. Because when someone is ashamed of their own weakness they can become obsessed with a need to make sure that they are not alone in their victimization. The pathology induced by being horribly abused (especially by those you trust) is that someone else must pay. And what better way to make someone else pay than by showing them that they too can be abused?
In the case of the Navy POWs, they endured being waterboarded, so others must too. Yet because this practice doesn't teach resistance (which is what soldiers are told beforehand), but instead shows how easily one is broken and can be subjected to some else's will, they believed it was their own personal weakness at fault when they were broken. And their response to their recognition that they were weak is to bury this shame by shaming others in the same way. This is why the sins of the father are passed down to the sons: because shame begets shame and bequeaths shame unless and until there is an intervention.