The Cheney/Rice et al. defense of waterboarding as not being torture is largely based on the curious idea that it can’t be torture if we do it to our own special forces as protective training in the SERE program — to help them withstand similar acts of torture if captured.
Thus it’s worth continuing to hear the opinions of people who have been through special forces training. On Larry King Live via Huffington Post:
Claiming that he was water-boarded as part of Navy Seal training he received during the Vietnam War era, Ventura says:
[Water-boarding] is torture… It’s drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you — I’ll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.
As previously discussed, even if Americans being waterboarded by Americans as part of training did not experience it as torture, that would not indicate that the same procedure would not be torture if applied to an enemy with no reason to trust their interrogators. And of course the evidence is that the interrogators did not always stick to the approved procedures.
There can be little doubt that the intent of the Administration was to extract information by extremely disorienting, dehumanizing, and coercive methods, that it was predictable that any limits set would be exceeded, and that the idea that we mistreat our own volunteers as preparation to withstand torture has absolutely no exculpatory weight regarding similar procedures applied to detainees under our total control.
And not only was this a conspiracy to torture by calling it something else, it was done, as I take Amy to agree, without any particular concern for whether the interrogations would be optimally effective. Having JPRA (the SERE experts) supervise interrogation training is like having an expert in how much chemotherapy a patient can withstand train orthopedists to administer maximum safe dosages of anti-cancer agents to people whose only complaint is a broken arm.