While claiming that the CIA stopped short of actual torture Dick Cheney, in a sometimes rambling interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, defended the use of the enhanced interrogation methods and approaches including water boarding, employed by the CIA at Guantanamo Prison. With reference to the enhanced approach he said that the most important takeaway was that “It worked, it absolutely worked.”
Defending a broad utilitarian ethic where consequences determine the appropriateness of a given decision or action Cheney was adamant in his assertion that the enhanced methodological approach employed by the CIA paid off in the kind of actionable information that left the United States and servicemen and women serving around the world safer and much more secure. When pressed he said he would “do it again” if it meant the life or death of an American.
Cheney was pressed by Todd in the particulars of torture and the various and sundry and sometimes enhanced nature of the interrogation employed by the CIA but Cheney would have none of it. Brushing aside the sometimes aggressive interlocution, the former Vice President of the United States was quick to deflect the weight of the moral question and designation of moral culpability onto the enemy combatants themselves.
While torture is defined as the practice of causing another deep or severe pain, or forcing them to do something they would not otherwise do, Cheney attempted to walk back the definition suggesting that victims lived through the process and thus were not tortured in the classical sense. Cheney said that, “we were very careful to stop short of torture.”
While Dick Cheney understands that enhanced interrogation methods involve extreme discomfiture and pain on the part of its victims he said that the interrogation process itself fell short of what the United States armed forces and citizens around the world were confronted with on a daily basis. When the topic of water boarding came up Cheney was quick to note that in terms of proportion, American prisoners often had it worse than their American imprisoned counterparts. Americans, Cheney suggested, are more likely to get their heads cut off while those imprisoned enemy combatants subjected to water boarding had to deal with only the uncomfortable aspects of the advanced or enhanced technique but got to live to see another day.
Water boarding as a technique was approved by elements within the Bush Administration though Cheney and others claim that Bush himself was, at least initially unaware of its use. As an interrogation technique it initiates by holding a captive down, putting a piece of cloth over the face, mouth and nostrils. Water is then poured on the cloth giving the victim the clear sensation of drowning. A gag then panic reflex kicks in and the victim struggles mightily to get free thus causing the heart to beat faster. This in turns creates a deeper sense of oxygen deprivation and hunger. Often times the gag reflex is so powerful that the victim will regurgitate and subsequently choke on his own vomit.
With the publication and dissemination of Dianne Feinstein’s report last week on enhanced interrogation and its application the question of torture has again come front and center. While Dick Cheney contends that the book on enhanced interrogation should be closed, Feinstein and her report seeks to open it wide for all the world to see.
By Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Andrew Wilson – Flickr License