Thursday, November 01, 2007

Home Fires....The Last American Soldier to Die in Iraq....Who Will It Be?

October 31, 2007, 3:39 pm
Requiem for the Last American Soldier to Die in Iraq

By Brian Turner

At some point in the future, soldiers will pack up their rucks, equipment will be loaded into huge shipping containers, C-130s will rise wheels-up off the tarmac, and Navy transport ships will cross the high seas to return home once again. At some point — the timing of which I don’t have the slightest guess at — the war in Iraq will end. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — I’ve been thinking about the last American soldier to die in Iraq.

Tonight, at 3 a.m., a hunter’s moon shines down into the misty ravines of Vermont’s Green Mountains. I’m standing out on the back deck of a friend’s house, listening to the quiet of the woods. At the Fairbanks Museum in nearby St. Johnsbury, the lights have been turned off for hours and all is dark inside the glass display cases, filled with Civil War memorabilia. The checkerboard of Jefferson Davis. Smoothbore rifles. Canteens. Reading glasses. Letters written home.

Four or five miles outside of town, past a long stretch of water where the moon is crossing over, a blue and white house sits in a small clearing not far from where I stand now. Chimney smoke rises from a fire burned down to embers. A couple spoon each other in sleep, exhausted from lovemaking. One of them is beginning to snore. I want them to wake up and make love again, even if they need the sleep and tomorrow’s workday holds more work than they might imagine.

Who can say where that last soldier is now, at this very moment? Kettlemen City. Turlock. Wichita. Fredricksburg. Omaha. Duluth. She may be in the truck idling beside us in traffic as we wait for the light to turn green. He may be ordering a slice of key lime pie at Denny’s, sitting at a booth with his friends after bowling all night. What name waits to be etched on a stone not yet erected in America? Somewhere out in the vast stretches of our country, somewhere out in Whitman’s America, out among the wide expanse of grasses, somewhere here among us the last soldier may lie dreaming in bed before the dawn as the sun sets over Iraq.


At the Spar in Tacoma, Wash., the bartender — Jolene — is about to flip the lights for last call. Let her wait a moment longer. If she can wait a few minutes more, the young woman at the end of the bar will finally do what she’s been wanting to do for hours. And it will surprise the young man she’s been talking with — she’ll kiss him. It will never be seen on a movie screen or written down in a book for people to enjoy centuries later. No one at the bar will even notice it taking place. But they should, because it’s one of the all-time best kisses ever. As cheesy and hyper-romantic as it sounds, this is a kiss for the ages, and it’s as good as they get.


Let the quiet moments of a life be recognized and not glossed over with thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future. For a rare, brief moment — let this moment be savored and fully lived. Maybe that soldier will drive a thresher in the Kansas sun today. Maybe she’ll cheer at a Red Sox game as her husband laments the fate of his Yankees. Maybe he’s in Hollister, Calif., thinking of the 100 things he’d written as a child — the list he titled “Things To Do Before I Die”:

1. write a book
2. travel down the amazon
3. travel down the nile
4. visit each continent
5. live in a foreign country
6. learn to speak foreign languages
7. be a major-league baseball player
8. publish in Playboy magazine
9. ride a motorcycle across America
10. cross an ocean by boat
11. scuba dive
12. climb a mountain
13. go to every major league baseball park, especially Yankee Stadium
14. be a tourist on a moon mission with NASA or another space agency
15. ride on an elephant and a camel
16. visit Angor Wat, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, the Hermitage, the Louvre, Stonehenge
17. invent something useful and helpful for people
18. …and on and on…

How many items will he have crossed off that list before he must put it away again?


Could that last soldier be in front of a video camera in Hollister right now, recording a final message in case she doesn’t make it back, making a videotape for a child who will never know its own mother?

If you’re watching this then it means I’m not around anymore. I imagine you’re probably in your late teens now. Maybe Mt. Kilimanjaro no longer has snow on its peak. Maybe the ice shelves on the northern coasts of Alaska have melted back and polar bears are dwindling in number. I always wanted to get up there and see Alaska. Maybe you’ll make it up there one day yourself. I wonder if it’s somehow possible for you to buy a plane ticket to Baghdad, to visit Iraq as a tourist. Will you visit the places where I’ve been? Will you talk to the people there? Will you tell them my name?


What will the name be? Anthony. Lynette. Fernando. Paula. Joshua. Letitia. Roger… Who will carve it in stone and who will leave flowers there as the years pass by? Who will remember this soldier and what will those memories be? Does he have brothers and sisters? Will his father sink into the grass in the backyard when he is told the news? Will his mother stare into the street with eyes gone hollow and vacant, the cars passing each day with their polished enamel reflecting the sunlight? What will the officer say when he knocks on that door?


The next time I’m waiting for a transfer flight in Dallas, or in Denver, or in Chicago, I’m going to make a point to watch for soldiers in uniform. If one of them is eating alone and watching football on a wall-mounted television, I’ll anonymously pick up the check for them, like someone did for me once when I was in my desert fatigues and preparing to deploy overseas.


Maybe, just maybe, as I stand here in the quiet moonlight of Vermont, the American who will one day be the very last American soldier to die in Iraq — maybe that soldier is doing a night jump in Ft. Bragg, N.C. Each parachute opens its canopy over the darkness below — the wind an exhilaration, a cold rush of adrenaline, the jump an exercise in being fully alive and in the moment, a way of learning how it feels to fall within the rain, the way rain itself falls, to be a part of it all, the earth’s gravity pulling with its inexorable embrace.

October 24, 2007, 7:22 pm
Verses in Wartime (Part 2: From the Home Front)

By Brian Turner

In my last post, “Verses in Wartime (Part. 1: In-Country),” I shared some of the poems I wrote while deployed to Iraq as an infantry team leader. These were poems written in journals, usually late at night or in the predawn darkness, with a red-lensed flashlight illuminating the page (so as not to wake nearby soldiers racked out after completing our missions).

The poems I’d like to share today were written this month, specifically for this Home Fires installment, and they will surely go through several more drafts before I might consider them for a future collection, or book. I’d like to invite readers of this blog into that process.

When my book, “Here, Bullet,” was published, I told myself I would not write another book about war. I wanted instead to focus on expanding my own possibilities on the page. Then, my old unit returned to Iraq for what turned out to be a 15-month deployment. They sent e-mails detailing some of the situations they faced. Things began switching from the past tense to the present tense. This war felt as if it were surfacing in my everyday life. I was slow to recognize it at first. And at the same time, many of the poems I was writing didn’t seem to connect to my own interior life and the life I’ve been living, here in America.

I realized that the war doesn’t often seem to exist here in America. Or, does it? Maybe it was just that I wasn’t able to recognize it when it surfaces. I have since been writing poems which try to span the oceans with an imaginative bridgework over the horizon — to bring Americans into the dusty streets of Iraq; to bring Iraqis into American cities and into our homes. I’ll admit — it’s definitely a surreal move, one that I’m still working on, and one I invite comments on.

The Cemetery Poem

Michelle finds me long past midnight, shoveling
the grassy turf in our backyard, digging
three feet by six, determined to dig further.
And if she could love me enough
to trust me, to not cover her mouth
in shocked recognition, her hair lit up
in moonlight; if she could simply shovel
into the earth and dig another hole
beside me, straining to bear the weight
each blade lifts in its gunmetal sheen,
then maybe, if she could trust like that
she’d begin to see them — the war dead,
how they stand under lime trees and ash,
here among us, papyrus and stone in their hands.

There will be no dreaming for me.
Not tonight. I dig without stoppingand tell her—
We need to help them, if only with a coffin.

Michelle stares out at these blurry figures
in silhouette, the very young and the very old
among them, and with a gentle hand
she stays the shovel I hold, to say —
We should invite them into our home.
We should learn their names, their history.
We should know these people
we bury in the earth.

It’s important to have a deep appreciation and understanding of those dying in the war — to stand among civilians caught up in it and the combatants who’ve waged it, to see beyond the numbers and connect with them in a way that pushes beyond journalism and the factual. But the sheer numbers of dead are staggering. Imagine them all lined up outside your own home, waiting to introduce themselves to you. Many might try to suppress this idea (as the “I” character does in this poem by setting out to bury these ghosts as they stand there in the moonlight). If we learn who the dead are and what they were like, if we allow the dead their own unique humanity, we risk the possibility of being overwhelmed by loss. I believe that, as a country which has initiated war, we have no right to do otherwise.

Guarding the Bomber

With his legs gone, bandaged at mid-femur,
he palms the invisible above him like a conductor
in difficult passages of light, fluorescent and streaming,
two gauze-wrapped stumps directing movement
from his shoulders while I wipe salt from his lips
with a wet rag, checking the feeding tube, the I.V.
in his neck, listening to his morphined Arabic
as I imagine him lying there in the debris
and settling dust, his brain snapping back
into momentary consciousness, realizing
that his own feet — still in their sandals —
wait for him across the room, and that his hands —
driven beyond the body — negotiate
black wires and hot wires still, arming
explosives in a 155 mm shell casing,
much of his body unable to sweat, working here
beyond me and my thoughts of his Paradise,
wondering if the virgins will care for him
as I do, changing his bedpan, bathing him
with sponges and reassurances in English —
a language he hates, its vowels
a smooth sheen of oil on steel — no,
he’s far beyond my rifle and desert fatigues,
his ghost limbs dextrous and agile — he’s connecting
the many wires he sees within me, searching
for any flash of brilliance sealed within.

In the Quran, there is one section which discusses how there are a number of angels which must guard the pit of Hell so that those trapped within it cannot escape. What a horrible task something like that might be. As I read the passage, in an odd way it reminded me of when I was in Mosul. An Iraqi man (who had accidentally blown himself up while trying to create a roadside bomb) was placed in a room on the base, with a guard to watch over him (even though his arms and legs had been blown off), while he “recuperated.” I tried to write this poem first from that guard’s point of view, but the poem didn’t work because the medic and the guard had two very different stories to tell.

Many who read this might be offended or disturbed by this line of thinking — caring for those who would kill us — and I fully understand why this may well seem impossible and reprehensible. And I respect that fact. Still, the angels at the edge of the abyss — wouldn’t they want, at some point, to lift those trapped in Hell; to try, if in only the smallest of ways, to offer an alternative to pain and suffering; to try to influence the perceptions of those who would do us harm by showing kindness? If we can never forgive, if we forever guard the pit and lift no one out from the flames, what might that say about us? I’m not saying I’ve been able to do this — the poem is simply considering the idea.


Here is the whole blood we crave, that bloodstream of war blood, the darkened sidewalks of blood, explosions of roadside blood, shrapnel and bullet-borne blood, scorched asphalt blood, newspaper lifeblood, type O or A or B or AB negative, fire-engine blood, arterial gore blood, mantling blood, Akbar’s spilled blood, Allison’s blood, Abdula’s blood, Sadiq’s blood, Jamal’s blood, Joe’s sunset blood, Ali Baba’s red story of blood, corpuscle by corpuscle turned red as fire, red as copper, red as burning oil, red as history’s burning pages, red as the stammel-dyed civilians lying in the adrenaline streets, their skin turned russet — like the roughened skins of winter apples, wine-colored, vinaceous, lurid, in bloom and draining, the dead and the dying with their gift of blood, a river of blood, an overflowing cup of platelets and rust, an overflowing cup of suffering, an overflowing cup of transfusions, and all of it, every gallon of it, every pint, every spoonful, each precious drop we plunge into any vein that can take it, hypodermic and sweet, that sweet fix needle, our bomb-blast narcotic, this trauma-junkie’s delight.

after Campbell McGrath

In “Blood,” I wanted to meditate on the word “blood,” (I’m sure that part is obvious) but more than that — I wanted to meditate on how I often think about Iraq and Afghanistan and war overall. I remember being glued to television news reports during the opening weeks of the first Persian Gulf War. And there is an aspect of this — something dark and deep within the psyche — which I know I’m not very comfortable with: It’s the curiosity which leads drivers on the freeway to slow down near a car wreck in order to view the aftermath, the gore. It’s a disturbing part of human nature — a curiosity regarding death. As Chris Hedges writes in his book, “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”: “[W]ar is a drug, one I ingested for many years…The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.”

Because I’m a news junky, I find myself constantly reading news reports and catching media programs on radio and TV. This poem attempts to acknowledge the part of that curiosity that is morbid and destructive, and finds heightened appreciation for life through a tenuous and fragile conduit — the experience of someone else’s loss.

I’d like to ask that people respond to this posting of poetry (if interested in the following idea) by offering up a request for a poem dealing with the Homes Fires theme. I like the idea of being given a challenging “assignment” by someone here in our country, or abroad, and taking up the pen to try to create something lasting and worthy of being read. It would be a collaboration that is definitely unique in my experience. How would you suggest approaching a poem with the intent to study the war that exists among us here in America?

Even more, I’d love to see the poems you write in response to that very same meditation.


As Dennis Miller once said while returning to the stage for an encore—this is the caboose’s lament…I thought I should update those of you who might have read my June Home Fire’s entry (“Vegas, Baby”) and wondered what has become of the young woman and the infant boy described in that story.

The young mother tried to go back to living with her own mother, only to find that her own mother (the one with a prison history and more) was doing drugs in the home. (She didn’t tell us this outright, but rather inferred it; I don’t think she wanted to indict her own mother.) So, she decided to check herself in to a six-month-long intensive program to deal with her own substance abuse issues. Her little boy is staying with her throughout the program.

I live in a different city at a distance of an hour away. So, when she is released from the program, Michelle and I have invited her to stay with us until she can get back on her own two feet, get a job, an apartment, and so on. We’re hoping to provide an environment that will help her to make healthier decisions for her and her baby. We’re hoping she’ll take us up on the offer.

Catapulting the Propaganda - Paul Craig Roberts

November 1, 2007
Catapulting Propaganda
The Wages of Hegemony


"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

Bush, at the Athena Performing Arts Center at Greece Athena Middle and High School Tuesday, May 24, 2005 in Rochester, NY

When he departs the White House on 20 January, 2009, the current resident will bequeath to the American people and the next administration an interminable war in the Middle East and a depreciated currency.

And that's the good news. It assumes there is a successor administration and that no Cheney-contrived "national emergency" will make it possible for Bush to test drive National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-51 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20 to cancel the 2008 election.

Neoconservatives led by vice president Dick Cheney remain determined to effect "regime change" in Iran. The allegation of weapons of mass destruction falsely brought against Iraq is now being deployed against Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says that there is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA is the institution that polices the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty by inspecting the nuclear facilities of the signatories to the treaty of which Iran is one. However, the neocon/Cheney/Bush regime is prepared to bomb Iran on the basis of fibs alone.

Faithfully repeated by the propaganda ministry that masquerades as the "mainstream media," those fibs have been trotted out so many times in recent months that significant numbers of Americans now believe themselves to be in peril from nonexistent Iranian nukes.

In this way the regime gains the complicity of the American people and their representatives in Congress for what will be unprovoked aggression against a third Middle Eastern country, a third war crime under the Nuremberg standard.

The "war on terror" is a hoax. It serves as a cover for the drive for US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Iraq, Iran, and Syria became neoconservative targets, because they were the only Middle Eastern countries that are not American puppet states or dependencies.

Afghanistan was attacked, because the Taliban were uniting the country under the banner of Islam, a development that, if successful, could lead to the overthrow of the governments in America's puppet states and dependencies.

The war rhetoric against Iran ratcheted up when the White House belatedly realized that the result of "bringing democracy to Iraq" was to empower the majority Shi'ites, thereby creating a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to southern Lebanon and alarming America's Sunni Saudi Arabian dependent.

Israel's goal is to have the Americans eliminate the Muslim states that support Hamas and Hezbollah's opposition to Israel's theft of the remainder of Palestine and southern Lebanon, whose water resources Israel covets. Israel's goal thus precisely coincides with that of the Cheney regime.

The "Cakewalk War" in Iraq was supposed to be over in a few weeks and to pay for itself out of Iraqi oil revenues. The war is now five years old and has cost American taxpayers, and those left dependent on government programs by decades of a welfare state, $1 trillion in out-of-pocket and already incurred future costs.

As large and troublesome as this cost is, it pales in comparison to the damage the war has done to the value of the dollar and its role as reserve currency. Since 2001, the Euro has risen 60 percent against the dollar.

This means much more to Americans than the higher cost of a European vacation and status symbol German cars. The US dollar is losing its reserve currency role when the Euro, the currency of a nonexistent country--Europe--becomes so much more desirable than the dollar that it rises 60 percent in value.

The Euro is a monetary unit that has run far ahead of the political entity whose currency it is. Europe still consists of separate sovereign states, and many of them are unhappy with the Euro. Yet, since 2001 people throughout the world have been shifting from dollars to Euros.

It is not normal for people to flee from the reserve currency. It only happens when people believe it cannot continue to fill that role.

The US dollar is under double assault. One assault is from the offshoring of American jobs, which turns US GDP into foreign GDP and worsens the US trade deficit. It is not possible to achieve a trade balance when the production of goods and services for the US market is being moved offshore by US corporations.

The other assault is from the US budget deficit. Americans have become so hard pressed that their savings rate is negligible. The US government has to rely on foreigners to lend it money for its annual expenditures. Washington's two biggest bankers are China and Japan, the countries with the largest trade surpluses with the US.

The transformation of the Iraq "cakewalk" into an interminable war has run up a one trillion dollar price tag, and an even larger war with Iran is looming. US generals and neoconservative ideologues predict a decade or multi-decade long war in the Middle East. Washington's bankers are waking up to the reality that they will not be repaid.

The only reason the dollar has not already lost its reserve currency role is that the only alternative is the currency of a non-existent political entity. Yet, even the Euro, a virtual currency, may have taken the dollar's role by the end of 2008.

Full of hegemonic hubris, the US government does not understand that US power and hegemony have always depended, not on missiles and military force, but on the financial power conveyed by the dollar's role as reserve currency.

The reserve currency is world money, good in any country to pay any bill. The reserve currency country is not a debtor in the usual sense. As the reserve currency can be used to settle international accounts, the reserve currency country can borrow at will until lenders lose confidence in the currency.

There is abundant evidence that the loss of confidence in the dollar is underway. When it is complete, the US will no longer be a superpower.

The decline in American power and influence could be dramatic. Part of America's power results from European countries going along with Washington. However, the sharp rise in the Euro's value has hurt European exports, squeezing profit margins, wages, and encouraging offshore production. Fights over monetary policy between European capitals could doom both the EU and the Euro, leaving the world with no reserve currency and America with embittered former allies.

By going to war for hegemony, the Bush Regime has brought about American decline. While the neocons have spent two administrations trying to deracinate Islam, real threats to America's power have been neglected. Offshoring, which turns US GDP into imports and larger trade deficits, together with war debts, has eroded the dollar's status as reserve currency, undermining the foundation of American power.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Labels: , = Torture

I’d like to digress from my usual analysis of insurgent strategy and tactics to speak out on an issue of grave importance to Small Wars Journal readers. We, as a nation, are having a crisis of honor.

Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, "For those who don't know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked …" He then speculated that “If you ask Americans whether they think it's okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment … 90% of Americans will say 'yes.'” Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: "You know, that's the debate. Is waterboarding torture? … I don't want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure."

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

History’s Lessons Ignored

Before arriving for my assignment at SERE, I traveled to Cambodia to visit the torture camps of the Khmer Rouge. The country had just opened for tourism and the effect of the genocide was still heavy in the air. I wanted to know how real torturers and terror camp guards would behave and learn how to resist them from survivors of such horrors. I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard. Next to it was the painting on how it was used. It was cruder than ours mainly because they used metal shackles to strap the victim down, and a tin flower pot sprinkler to regulate the water flow rate, but it was the same device I would be subjected to a few weeks later.

On a Mekong River trip, I met a 60-year-old man, happy to be alive and a cheerful travel companion, who survived the genocide and torture … he spoke openly about it and gave me a valuable lesson: “If you want to survive, you must learn that ‘walking through a low door means you have to be able to bow.’” He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. He remembered “the Barrel” version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk.

Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators. I devoured the hundreds of pages of debriefs and video reports including those of then Commander John McCain, Colonel Nick Rowe, Lt. Dieter Dengler and Admiral James Stockdale, the former Senior Ranking Officer of the Hanoi Hilton. All of them had been tortured by the Vietnamese, Pathet Lao or Cambodians. The minutiae of North Vietnamese torture techniques was discussed with our staff advisor and former Hanoi Hilton POW Doug Hegdahl as well as discussions with Admiral Stockdale himself. The waterboard was clearly one of the tools dictators and totalitarian regimes preferred.

There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Evan Wallach wrote a brilliant history of the use of waterboarding as a war crime and the open acceptance of it by the administration in an article for Columbia Journal for Transnational Law. In it he describes how the ideological Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo validated the current dilemma we find ourselves in by asserting that the President had powers above and beyond the Constitution and the Congress:

“Congress doesn’t have the power to tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique....It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

That is an astounding assertion. It reflects a basic disregard for the law of the United States, the Constitution and basic moral decency.

Another MSNBC commentator defended the administration and stated that waterboarding is "not a new phenomenon" and that it had "been pinned on President Bush … but this has been part of interrogation for years and years and years." He is correct, but only partially. The Washington Post reported in 2006 that it was mainly America’s enemies that used it as a principal interrogation method. After World War 2, Japanese waterboard team members were tried for war crimes. In Vietnam, service members were placed under investigation when a photo of a field-expedient waterboarding became publicly known.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we willing to trade our nation’s soul for tactical intelligence?

Is There a Place for the Waterboard?

Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified ‘taking off the gloves’; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.

There may never again be a chance that Americans will benefit from the shield of outrage and public opinion when our future enemy uses of torture. Brutal interrogation, flash murder and extreme humiliation of American citizens, agents and members of the armed forces may now be guaranteed because we have mindlessly, but happily, broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of indignity, cruelty and hatred in the name of protecting America. To defeat Bin Laden many in this administration have openly embraced the methods of by Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Galtieri and Saddam Hussein.

Not A Fair Trade for America’s Honor

I have stated publicly and repeatedly that I would personally cut Bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic MRE spoon if we per chance meet on the battlefield. Yet, once captive I believe that the better angels of our nature and our nation’s core values would eventually convince any terrorist that they indeed have erred in their murderous ways. Once convicted in a fair, public tribunal, they would have the rest of their lives, however short the law makes it, to come to terms with their God and their acts.

This is not enough for our President. He apparently secretly ordered the core American values of fairness and justice to be thrown away in the name of security from terrorists. He somehow determined that the honor the military, the CIA and the nation itself was an acceptable trade for the superficial knowledge of the machinations of approximately 2,000 terrorists, most of whom are being decimated in Iraq or martyring themselves in Afghanistan. It is a short sighted and politically motivated trade that is simply disgraceful. There is no honor here.

It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle need to stand up for American values and clearly specify that coercive interrogation using the waterboard is torture and, except for limited examples of training our service members and intelligence officers, it should be stopped completely and finally –oh, and this time without a Presidential signing statement reinterpreting the law.




Bush Administration Blocked Waterboarding Critic
Former DOJ Official Tested the Method Himself, in Effort to Form Torture Policy
Nov. 2, 2007—

A senior Justice Department official, charged with reworking the administration's legal position on torture in 2004 became so concerned about the controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding that he decided to experience it firsthand, sources told ABC News.

Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure to inform his analysis of different interrogation techniques.

After the experience, Levin told White House officials that even though he knew he wouldn't die, he found the experience terrifying and thought that it clearly simulated drowning.

Levin, who refused to comment for this story, concluded waterboarding could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision. And, sources told ABC News, he believed the Bush Administration had failed to offer clear guidelines for its use.

Bush Administration Blocked Critic
The administration at the time was reeling from an August 2002 memo by Jay Bybee, then the head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which laid out possible justifications for torture. In June 2004, Levin's predecessor at the office, Jack Goldsmith, officially withdrew the Bybee memo, finding it deeply flawed.

When Levin took over from Goldsmith, he went to work on a memo that would effectively replace the Bybee memo as the administration's legal position on torture. It was during this time that he underwent waterboarding.

In December 2004, Levin released the new memo. He said, "Torture is abhorrent" but he went on to say in a footnote that the memo was not declaring the administration's previous opinions illegal. The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.

But Levin never finished a second memo imposing tighter controls on the specific interrogation techniques. Sources said he was forced out of the Justice Department when Gonzales became attorney general.

Critics Decry Waterboarding as Torture
Critics say waterboarding should never be used.

According to retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, "There is no question this is torture -- this is a technique by which an individual is strapped to a board, elevated by his feet and either dunked into water or water poured over his face over a towel or a blanket."

The legal justification of waterboarding has come to the forefront in the debate swirling around Michael B. Mukasey's nomination for attorney general.

While Democrats are pressing him to declare waterboarding illegal, he has refused to do so. He calls it personally "repugnant," but he is unwilling to declare it illegal until he can see the classified information regarding the technique and its current use.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

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Bush...Early Torment, Early Torture

Channeling Bush’s Inner Sadist: An Insight Into His Obsession with Torture
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Thu, 11/01/2007 - 6:10am. Analysis

We were writing a review of a BuzzFlash premium of a collection of Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" cartoons last weekend when we serendipitously came across this tidbit, posted in a 2004 Associated Press article (watch for the end of the excerpt):
Cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who has skewered politicians for decades in his comic strip "Doonesbury," tells Rolling Stone magazine he remembers Yale classmate George W. Bush as "just another sarcastic preppy who gave people nicknames and arranged for keg deliveries."

Trudeau attended Yale University with Bush in the late 1960s and served with him on a dormitory social committee.

"Even then he had clearly awesome social skills," Trudeau said. "He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable ... He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation."

…. Trudeau said he penned his very first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming pledges by branding them with an iron.

The article in the campus paper prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a senior that year. Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times "it was just a coat hanger, and ... it didn’t hurt any more than a cigarette burn."

We now vaguely recall the article when it first came out, but at that point Bush’s torture obsession didn’t have the horrific longevity and toll that it has acquired by this point in 2007.

For a boy who allegedly shot BB guns at his brothers and did who knows what to small animals, Bush as recalled by Trudeau offers no small insight into what is clearly a sadistic (and as we have repeatedly said, sociopathic) individual.

Bush has continued to insist that his administration does not conduct torture by merely redefining what torture is, as distinct from how it is outlawed under International law and agreements. You can see how he accomplishes this "redefining" by his claim to the New York Times, while he was at Yale, that branding fraternity pledges was not cruel because "it didn’t hurt any more than a cigarette burn."

The Democrats have long treated the torture issue as though it were a public policy issue and not an outgrowth of a psychological deviancy on the part of Bush (along with the Cheney/Addington "we are accountable to no one" worldview).

As BuzzFlash has long argued, Bush is a model narcissistic sociopath, who is devoid of the ability to empathize. It is the characteristic of such people to have the ability to "appear" to be concerned about others, but that is just for show. The inner heart is empty. You can knock all you want, but you won’t find anyone home in the empathy department when it comes to sociopathic personalities.

The long-ago forgotten recollection of Garry Trudeau, as corroborated in the Yale Daily News and the New York Times, indicates quite clearly Bush’s mindset: inside of the "great hugger" is a "great sadist."

That may explain why Bush's latest appointment for Attorney General has been so brazenly coy in claiming that he has not made up his mind yet on whether or not water boarding is torture. (Not to mention Mukasey’s Stepford-like assertion of the doctrine of "unitary authority" for the executive branch, which is what grants the White House its ability to torture at will.)

The Bush Administration’s obsession with torture is deep-seated and personal. George’s love of it in particular is not so much for what it might do in assisting in the war on terror, as it is a perverse exercise in humiliation and the exercise of absolute power to inflict pain on other people through the use of unaccountable and an all-powerful authority.

What we have been seeing unfold before us since the rendition and Abu Ghraib stories first broke (and there were earlier indications in Afghanistan of mass killings and torture, although not as widely reported) is the elevation of a sadistic fraternity head to the highest office in the land, but his delight at "harmlessly" branding pledges has just progressed to the next level: torture, murder (remember the tortured to death cadavers at Abu Ghraib), and the "disappeared."

and a very good site...

AND....this Wikipedia on Waterboarding

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