"Mr. Thiessen makes two basic arguments. First, he says that waterboarding, the simulated drowning technique used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, and others, is not torture. “I didn’t get into the Catholic theological stuff of it until I sat down to write the book,” Mr. Thiessen said in a phone interview. So when Mr. Bush asked him, in 2006, to write a speech explaining the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, Mr. Thiessen asked himself other kinds of questions.
“There’s a standard of torture in civil law,” he said, “which is severe mental pain and suffering. I also have a common-sense definition, which is, ‘If you’re willing to try it, it’s not torture.’”
Thousands of American soldiers have been willing to undergo waterboarding as part of their resistance training, Mr. Thiessen notes; therefore, it stands to reason that it is not torture."
First, I hate it when people refer to waterboarding as "simulated" drowning. It isn't simulated at all. It is drowning, just in a controlled setting.
Second, the most specious claim is that because people are willing to undergo waterboarding makes it not torture? Seriously? Even though those soldiers are being trained to withstand, wait for it, torture? And the same technique that we executed Japanese officers for, or that appear in Khmer Rouge museums on torture?
Third, all of this ignores that waterboarding is merely the most well known of the torture techniques. As I get older, I have to say that the sleep deprivation part gets me about as much as anything. Having had some bouts of that during illness, I cannot imagine the amount of imposed sleep deprivation on some of these people--all to get bad intelligence, btw.
Or let's consider the stress position. Imagine yourself shackled to a D-ring in the floor with both feet and hands connected. You can't put yourself in an upright position, but also can't lay down. Try that for a few minutes and tell me that would not be horrible--especially when you are in a situation where you are being abused in other ways. And the list goes on. Forced hypothermia, fake burials, etc. Thiessen says that these are not torture because they are not "physical or moral violence" (the Catholic catechism condemns torture which meets that standard), and I am reminded that the sadists and thugs of history have always been good at leaving no visible marks. That doesn't excuse their sadism or their thuggery, or their evil.
Thiessen goes on to say that the church lacks "competence" to judge torture:
“Perhaps,” he added, “they should clarify it. We were in the middle of a war, and there was no teaching on that. But the church only gives general moral guidance, and people of good faith have to interpret that guidance.”I don't like to use the word "evil." But it is very hard to read this man (as well-intentioned as he genuinely might be) and not think that this is exactly how evil happens.