by Jeffersonian Democrat
Wed May 6th, 2009 at 03:39:49 PM EST
On Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 04:03:27 PM CET, I published a diary in response to the release of the Abu Graib photos SERE training and torture. SERE - Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. I was one of the first here to scream SERE when I saw those images. Since then, Valtin especially, has done outstanding work in his effort to familiarize the non-military American citizen with the SERE program. He has also caused me great shame and anguish that an institution to which I once belonged and revered engages in these techniques now as an operational, rather than a training, procedure.
[Note, this is a reprint from Kos. Neveertheless, I thought that maybe I would share it with my European friends since I live here in Europe and hope to be able to soon call myself European as far as immigration goes, anyway, these are my thoughts. And this is a first in a series, if there is interest, I will post more of the series]
I wanted to weigh in with my own personal thoughts. There was a lot of debate on legal amnesty for CIA officers, and Phil in Denver wrote an excellent diary on Moral Equivalency. He wrote the diary I wanted to write last weekend until in trying to write a good diary, I ran into problems with internet research, my own experience, my knowledge of the military and limited knowledge of the CIA through that military experience as well as the interview process with the CIA itself (I made it up to the third interview and polygraph but didn't get called in and didn't make the cut in May 2001 and I now am greatful to the favor they did me by not hiring me because they spoke of assigning me to the paramilitary division of the Clandestine Service) and I could not reconcile myself to the argument I wanted to make. Namely, that by twisting SERE techniques of interrogation into lawful orders, a lower person in the chain of command has no choice but to follow them because one can only challenge unlawful orders without legal jeapordy; the insidiousness of the OLC made those things lawful.
So I wish to write this diary with something in mind that I wrote in December, 2005, and at the bottom of my diary I said:
It's a damn shame, to put it mildly, that these techniques were developed by our Communist "enemies" and now we're the ones using them. I recognized the techniques immediately when Abu Graib first broke.
First, I am going to refer to Senator Levin's comments today:
In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions. The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes.
I am also going to rely heavily on MCPO Malcom Nance, a Navy SEAL and a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California in his article Waterboarding is Torture... Period in which he states:
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.
Now for me personally, I supposed one could say that I have myself been tortured as a training exercise. However, I wish to stress that what I went through was relatively low intensity compared to the high or even moderate intensity, and equally important duration, that detainees go through. Because of my low-intensity exposure to this experience, I have a grudging respect for the detainees who have been able to resist, and they are worthy of study and inclusion into the SERE training program as examples of resistors.
Senator Levin listed these techniques as:
*stripping trainees of their clothing,
*placing them in stress positions,
*putting hoods over their heads,
*subjecting them to face and body slaps,
*depriving them of sleep,
*throwing them up against a wall,
*confining them in a small box,
*treating them like animals,
*subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights,
*and exposing them to extreme temperatures.
*Until recently, the Navy SERE school also used waterboarding
The only procedure that I DID NOT endure was waterboarding. I went through Army SERE and at the time, they did not use that method.
Nevertheless, a procedure he does not mention is the exploitation of phobia. My weakness and since that first day until now, is ice cold water and being submerged in it. I can no longer swim in lakes or streams, not to mention the California Pacific. It freaks me out, I have an irrational fear and reaction to cold water. Cold water is what broke me.
Anyone of you could use cold water and break me. SERE school taught me that, it taught me what my unique and human weaknesses were. Bugs in the box would not affect me, cold water will. Every person has their own "Winston" weakness and most of the time it is subconscious and unknown. SERE taught me to confront it, face it, and accept it, and most importantly, how to deal with it after the fact if it is used against me.
I wanted that to lead into two things. One, is the principle that you never allow a person to go through something that you could not endure yourself. It is a good principle. There have been historic interrogation incidents where the person interrogated is not the person threatened. Rather, they take the senior ranking officer and show him the most junior member captive, point a gun to their head, and say if you do not give us the information, we will blow their brains out.
How do you in that position try to keep information that may costs lives of soldiers while witnessing the life of another immediately threatened? Well, you have to judge if they are bluffing or not, and if you are wrong, you have to wake up facing the mirror every morning. Jessica Lynch reminded us that non-high risk personnel are vulnerable to capture as well. High-risk means Aviators, Pilots, USAF Pararescue, Navy SEALS, Army SF and Rangers, all non-female units. But what if you are threatened with give us info or we rape your soldier? Actually, this can happen to male soldiers as well.
You have to make a judgement whether you could endure it yourself.
Now this leads to thoughts on torture and specifically waterboarding. It is not well known that almost every class cycle of Navy SEAL training and Army Combat Diver School, someone drowns in the pool. The corpsmen and medics are there to "kickstart" you , as we call it, with CPR and immediately throw you back into the pool for cross-over exercises so that the fear of drowning does not fester. I have personaly noticed, and it could be bravado, Combat Divers and SEALs brush off the fear of drowning. Admittedly, it could be the beers and strippers during conversations at JB's Gallery of Girls in Virginia Beach.
However, this waterboarding gave me a concern that someone who has drowned before may not look at waterboarding as a big deal as they may endure drowning themselves. Thankfully this was unfounded. In fact, what I found from the MCPO, say a lot about the effectiveness of waterboarding.
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.
Keep in mind, the MCPO has waterboarded hundreds of people. But also keep in mind who he was waterboarding - that's right, big tough Navy SEALs going through training. Some of whom, statistically, have already drowned in BUDs. They nevertheless go into hysterics.
Don't buy the snarky "if it was so effective why did they do it 183 times". It is good for snark to illustrate the real problem, but I don't want people to get lost in "it's not effective". It's very effective for the actually purpose of totally eliminating a persons willpower and personality. I think Rachel does a disservice in this respect.
At this point, the diary is getting too long. A good place to stop for part one, consider part one as Wittgestein's Ladder and giving the information for an argument before the argument is made. Part two I wish to explore the actual argument, this is merely background information for it.