After Osama bin Laden’s death earlier this month, there was a rush by Republicans and former Bush administration officials to give credit to the use of “enhanced interrogation.”
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said bin Laden wouldn’t have been captured and killed if it weren’t for information received from terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after he was waterboarded, according to Fox News.
Additionally, former Bush administration official John Yoo said, “Perhaps one day, (President Barack Obama) will acknowledge his predecessor’s role in making this week’s dramatic success possible. More importantly, he should … restart the interrogation program that helped lead us to bin Laden.”
Claims that “enhanced interrogation” led American forces to the terrorist mastermind are arguable. Even if enhanced interrogation, or waterboarding, helped discover his whereabouts, the technique should be recognized for what it really is: torture.
Waterboarding first appeared in the 14th century and was known as “water torture,” among other things, according to NPR. During waterboarding, a cloth is placed over the mouth and nose of the person to be tortured and water is poured over the cloth at intervals in a process that simulates drowning. The technique was valued by torturers because it left no marks on the body, damaging only the lungs.
The U.N. defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.”
By this definition, waterboarding is undoubtedly torture.
Despite public figures rushing to waterboarding’s defense, America has taken a stance against it for decades. Following World War II, Japanese officer Yukio Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for waterboarding a U.S. citizen. An American soldier was court-martialed in 1968 after a photo was published where he can be seen torturing a North Vietnamese soldier in this way. Even as recently as 1983, a Texas sheriff and three deputies were sent to prison for four years for using water torture on a prisoner.
The debate over the effectiveness of torture is a legitimate one to have. The question is whether it’s worth it. Should America sacrifice its ideals in the quest to save lives? Perhaps. But let us be honest in this debate and call “enhanced interrogation” by its true name.
Vince DeFrancesco is a senior majoring in journalism.