Waterboarding Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens actually had himself waterboarded by the US Military to see whether it felt like torture to him. It did.

via Pharyngula, who has links to video.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, language, Politics, social justice


5 replies

  1. It’s a strange feeling, have been a fan of Hitchens’ since the late 1980s when he was still a proudly self-proclaimed socialist and before he Turned. (He has despised Bill Clinton as a liar and opportunist since the latter was still Governor of Arkansas and I think that had a lot to do with it.) But an article like this is why I still love him (Hitchens not Clinton) (Clinton too, actually; what can I say, I’m a fool for a man with brains) in spite of everything. He wrote a similar piece for Vanity Fair some years ago on witnessing a state execution, an experience he set up in the same kind of way and for the same kinds of reasons — he had written extensively in support of the abolition of the death penalty, and decided he needed to see what he was talking about. It was utterly chilling.

  2. Not everyone’s willing to cut Htichens such slack:

    Do I give Hitchens credit for coming to these conclusions? Hardly. You see, there are those of us who had figured all of this out years ago, and we didn’t actually have to undergo the experience to do so. It was enough to understand what the procedure was, to understand its history, to understand its effects, and to imagine oneself in the place of the victim. In other words, it took merely the most elementary historical and ethical sense, one that takes no special training or experience. In shorter words, if you actually have to get tortured to know what torture is and that it’s wrong, then you’ve already left the real world far behind.

    I can see that point, but I’m not entirely swayed by it. Perhaps Hitchens decided that he needed to get tortured so that he could describe it eloquently from personal experience. I do take this author’s point that Hitchens is both downplaying his previous dismissal of the argument that waterboarding constitutes torture and neglecting to unequivocally state that he was wrong.

  3. ” … to have been a fan of Hitchens’…”
    *rolls eyes*
    I think the person quoted there is missing the point. As with the witnessing of the execution (and can I stress again that Hitchens is and has always been an opponent of the death penalty, which may surprise a certain kind of observer to whom all things are simple and who lives in a kind of continuous present) — as with the execution thing, his point was that it’s all very well to bang on passionately about something, but there’s really nothing like personal experience to give your commentary some validity and solidity. This is an honourable old-school journalism point of view, and an honourable old-school journalist is of course what he is.

  4. I feel the persuasiveness of both those points of view. It would be interesting to know what the pro-gitmo camp makes of this.

    The exercise reminds me of Djuna Barnes having herself force-fed so she could write journalism about what suffragettes went through. In her case she was far from unsympathetic to the cause. There is value in a compelling first-person account of such an experience independent of who writes it, perhaps.

  5. There is value in a compelling first-person account of such an experience independent of who writes it, perhaps.

    And of course it helps when it comes from an ‘authoritative’ western media personality. You can’t take the word of those nasty A-rabs who’ve been ‘boarded’ by the American military. If they weren’t guilty they wouldn’t have been interrogated in the first place, right?

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