This professional website is not the place to untangle Mr. Nance's eschatology. Waterboarding has become a tool of political gotcha that demeans serious discussion of the changing values underlying our operational approach to national security. It is politics, not morality, when senators vote their conscience along overwhelmingly party lines.
The repetition of the word waterboard is a means of embarrassing the current administration at the risk of narrowing the interrogation options that a president, current or future, may choose. That is why Senator Clinton has been circumspect in her comments. Both Mr. Tenet and Gen. Hayden have been firm in arguing that there is solid evidence that American lives have been saved by harsh interrogation. Picking on one technique is a political maneuver.
It does illustrate, though, how the values and standards of our society change over time. When I went through a Marine "POW camp" 45 years ago, I was tied up and walloped. That, as Mr. Nance points out, was part of the training. In my book, The Village, I described how in 1966 the police chief Thanh of Binh Nghia village used what is now called waterboarding, rubbing lye soap into a wet cloth and placing it across the face of the prisoner. (p. 67). I never saw a prisoner die or not be able to walk out of that room. But they talked. I reported it and our orders were to keep the Marines in our Combined Action Platoon out of that room. The PFs were under our command, but not the National Police.
Today, 40 years later, the order would be for the American adviser to physically stop Thanh and to bring him up on charges. We all know this is tough stuff. Iraqis, like the Vietnamese and the South Koreans who operated in Vietnam, sometimes thump prisoners and their own jundis. Advisers are expected to advise on operational matters, but on matters of physical abuse they are expected to impose - not advise about - American standards.
Our advisers are held to a very high moral code. Neither our advisers nor our military units are involved in waterboarding or other such techniques, be they labeled "torture", or "harsh interrogation" or whatever the vernacular.
Mr. Nance writes that he personally supervised the waterboarding of "hundreds of people". Nothing like that is going on. Nothing. The CIA has said the number of harsh interrogations is very low, implying a figure of perhaps ten to twenty in five years. The senators on the oversight committees have been briefed for years on the specifics. The Senate chose twice not to pass legislation banning waterboarding. Now they have stirred up a ruckus that forces them to take another vote in order to avoid being called hypocrites.
This subject has been exaggerated for political gain.
Waterboarding, Elsewhere - Max Boot