My friend Mike Otterman, author of American Torture, writes for the Guardian Comment is Free in response to Christopher Hitchens’ piece in Vanity Fair claiming water-boarding is torture…yet suggesting America is somehow not as bad as those repressive regimes…who also use torture:
Now, neoconservative pundit Christopher Hitchens has waded into the debate. In a new article for Vanity Fair, Hitchens – like several other journalists before him – underwent the procedure. “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture,” noted Hitchens, who lasted roughly 10 seconds under the spout.
Hitchens cites the salient views of Malcolm Nance, a US counter-terrorism consultant who speaks eloquently against its use. “Mr Nance told me that he had heard of someone’s being compelled to confess that he was a hermaphrodite,” recalled Hitchens, adding: “I later had an awful twinge while wondering if I myself could have been ‘dunked’ this far.”
Still, Hitchens cannot escape the grip of American exceptionalism that has so permeated his work since 9/11. “Any call to indict the United States for torture is … a lame and diseased attempt to arrive at a moral equivalence between those who defend civilization and those who exploit its freedoms to hollow it out, and ultimately to bring it down,” he huffs.
For Hitchens, in America’s pitched battle with “tormentors and murderers”, the ends justify the means. I disagree. Communist techniques hinged on the infliction of pain elicit bad intelligence and helps fan the flames of hatred against the US. In the case of the “water treatment”, poor means corrupt good ends.