CIA Torture? Then I Was Tortured

By | June 20, 2019 | 1 Comments

Politicians ‒ mainly Democrats but also some Republicans ‒ claim that after 9/11, the U.S. government used “torture” on terrorist suspects. This charge is one among many that “progressives” here and in Europe use to defame America. But is the charge accurate?

The “torture” included: deprivation of sleep, humiliation, exposure to cold, emotional stress, use of “stress” positions until the subject soiled himself, and threats of physical violence. These methods reportedly were used on only about 28 of the worst offenders, and valuable information was obtained – for example, information that averted an attack on the Los Angeles Library Tower, the tallest building west of Chicago.

One method involved giving the detainee only liquids to eat, then removing his clothes. This resembles preparation for a colonoscopy, which people undergo voluntarily. It is unpleasant, but it isn’t “torture.”

Another detainee was afraid of insects, so he was confined in a box with a caterpillar. This reminds me of the time my wife and I went to a restaurant and were served vegetables crawling with worms. It was revolting, but it wasn’t “torture.”

The harshest technique, apparently used on only three detainees and only when vital information was needed, was waterboarding. This involved tying the detainee to a horizontal board, covering his face with a cloth, and pouring water on the cloth. This gives the sensation of drowning without the risk. It reminds me of a root canal. I don’t mind dental work, but I hate the feeling of choking caused by lying on my back with a rubber dam blocking my throat. It is uncomfortable, but it isn’t “torture.”

The inappropriate use of the term “torture” slanders Americans who obtain information that has prevented terrorist attacks. And it dilutes the word until real torture no longer disgusts us. But if all this was “torture,” then I have been “tortured.”

● I was in the Army Reserve, where I went places I didn’t want to go and did things I didn’t want to do, under threat of imprisonment if I didn’t comply. This included putting on a gas mask, going into a chamber filled with tear gas, and taking off the mask. This caused severe eye and nose irritation, and often vomiting.

● Military personnel undergo SERE training to prepare them for being captured, including waterboarding. Yet no one protests when our own troops are treated this way. Why the difference? Is suffering objectionable only when our enemies suffer?

● During internship and residency, I was often deprived of sleep to the point of being irritable, confused, or even silly.

● In the midst of my residency, I was injured in a vehicle accident with the Army Reserve. I limped for months on a badly swollen knee, while the 14 stitches in my face healed. But my supervisor made no allowance, and was irritated at my inability to keep up with him on the stairs.

● The first time I drove on a highway after my accident, I broke out in a cold sweat and had a vivid memory of the event. This was mild PTSD, but I didn’t know it.

● During my residency, I was on call every third night. That meant that one week I worked Sunday, the next week I worked Saturday, and only every third week I was free for the weekend – that is, after 12 noon on Saturday.

● In addition, I attended Army Reserve meetings every Wednesday night, and all day Sunday once a month. So I was free for one and one-half days about one weekend a month.

● The on-call room held two or three beds, and there were no cell phones or pagers. If anyone in the room was needed, the phone rang, and everyone woke up. I was lucky to get one or two hours’ sleep.

● At night and on weekends I was totally responsible for the lives of my patients, with no one to ask for advice. This heavy responsibility, plus the excess number of patients and lack of sleep, caused emotional stress − and a duodenal ulcer.

● Chief residents and attending physicians criticized me in front of my colleagues. We considered this teaching, not “humiliation.”

● When my fellow resident was ill, I was responsible for four interns caring for between 40 and 60 patients. While I was trying to do the work of two people, the chief of the service appeared holding a yardstick. He slapped it into his hand as he angrily asked why we were not at a conference he had scheduled. I protested that we had many critically ill patients, but he insisted. So we left our patients and went to the conference. My only alternative was to refuse, be fired − and leave my ward even more understaffed. But at least I would have found out what he intended to do with the stick. I know what I wanted to do with it. You want stress and threats? You’ve got them.

● Our patients included alcoholics who vomited blood, sometimes on me. In the emergency room, I saw a man with his throat cut ear-to-ear, a man shot in the head, and a comatose child hit by a car. I’ll never forget two young Marines in uniform. They had shotgun wounds, one in the leg (he lived) and one in the back (he didn’t). When I see war or crime movies, sometimes I think I smell blood. And I can’t stand the smell of Parmesan cheese – it reminds me of vomit. You want bad memories? You’ve got them.

● Nights at old San Francisco County Hospital were cold and damp. (Watch the film “Bullitt.”) I wore two scrub shirts and a tee shirt under my white jacket. There was no snack bar or vending machine, so if I missed the evening meal, I was hungry as well as tired and cold – a bad combination.

By leftist standards, I was “tortured” regularly. But so are many other young people who go through medical training, not to mention our military, firefighters, paramedics, and police. Then there are construction workers, miners, farmers, and others who do actual, physical work, under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions.

Those who define “torture” so loosely probably have liberal-arts or law degrees and work in offices. They think getting a report in on time is “stress,” getting a stain on their shirt before a staff meeting is “trauma,” driving a BMW older than two years is “humiliation,” and having to drink plain coffee instead of decaf nonfat latte macchiato is “deprivation.”

They have no idea of real torture – you know, what Saddam did until our troops stopped him. Or what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the three who were waterboarded, did to Daniel Pearl – before Pearl was beheaded. Those who insist that we follow the Marquess of Queensbury rules, while our enemies follow no rules at all, may claim to be “humanitarian,” but in fact they are aiding the triumph of barbarism.

If the detainees were “tortured,” so was I, and so are millions of people who undergo rigorous training, then actually work for a living. And if you think what happened at Guantanamo was “torture,” try going through basic training, not to mention airborne or Special Forces training. Then try living under combat conditions in Afghanistan.

When leftists feel as much empathy for our own troops as they feel for our enemies, I will pay attention to what they say. When they show as much concern for Daniel Pearl as for the man who beheaded him, I will listen. When they are as distressed by the nearly 3000 innocent people who died horribly on 9/11 as by the discomfort of 28 terrorists, I will hear them.

Until then, they should shut up. Listening to them is painful − in fact, it might be “torture.”

We live in a dangerous world. We need to know what our enemies are doing and planning. Weakening our government’s intelligence-gathering ability can have only one of two results: Either private companies will take over the intelligence field, which will endanger our freedom. Or the need will remain unmet, which will endanger our lives.

Those who claim we practiced “torture” should consider this: If they added together all the discomfort and indignity suffered by all the detainees we interrogated, the total would not come near to equaling the pain and terror suffered by just one of the hundreds who jumped out of the World Trade Center on 9/11 to avoid being incinerated at 1500 degrees, and then spent ten seconds falling, to hit the pavement at 120 miles per hour.

That is the calculation we should make before rendering an opinion on those who used admittedly rough methods to prevent another 9/11.

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