Sunday, May 31, 2009

Torture in Vietnam

Scott Johnson at Powerline Blog cites a column by Col. Leo Thorsness. Thorsness was shot down in Vietnam in 1967, tortured for 18 days after his capture, and then intermittently until he was released in 1973. An excerpt:
When I wrote Surviving Hell in 2008, initially I did not include discussions of torture, knowing that others had earlier described it. My editors encouraged me to add it; if our younger population reads only current books, they may perceive that the treatment at Abu Grab and Gitmo was real torture. I added my experience being tortured so that readers will know that there is abuse and humiliation, and there is torture.

If someone surveyed the surviving Vietnam POWs, we would likely not agree on one definition of torture. In fact, we wouldn't agree if waterboarding is torture. For example, John McCain, Bud Day and I were recently together. Bud is one of the toughest and most tortured Vietnam POWs. John thinks waterboarding is torture; Bud and I believe it is harsh treatment, but not torture. Other POWs would have varying opinions. I don't claim to be right; we just disagree. But as someone who has been severely tortured over an extended time, my first hand view on torture is this:

Torture, when used by an expert, can produce useful, truthful information. I base that on my experience. I believe that during torture, there is a narrow "window of truth" as pain (often multiple kinds) is increased. Beyond that point, if torture increases, the person breaks, or dies if he continues to resist.


Our world is not completely good or evil. To proclaim we will never use any form of enhanced interrogations causes our friends to think we are naïve and eases our enemies' recruitment of radical terrorists to plot attacks on innocent kids, men and women - or any infidel. If I were to catch a "mad bomber" running away from an explosive I would not hesitate a second to use "enhanced interrogation," including waterboarding, if it would save lives of innocent people.

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