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Water-Boarding – Yesterday and Today



 Water-Boarding is in the news, and the level of technical and historical ignorance that’s running amok among the body politic about it screams out for amelioration, almost as loud as the screams of the victims of real water-boarding, as actually practiced by the Inquisitors, not like our limp and tepid imitation.


Hopefully all this hue and cry directed against ourselves over this activity is a result of bona-fide historical and technical ignorance and utter absence of perspective, as opposed to a blind and Calvinistic urge to castrate ourselves as a Nation in a paroxysm of Political Correctness careening out of control.


The Inquisition


Harry Reid – fondly termed by the author Regent Reid [in] The Red, member in good standing among Washington’s Democrat Nobility – famously said last year that water-boarding was practiced by the infamous Spanish Inquisition, strongly implying that under George Bush we’d  become like them. Sir Reid evidently skipped history class when it covered the Inquisition, and hence it falls on my thick shoulders to make up for the missed lessons.


The Inquisition started in Southern France when Pope Innocent III inaugurated it around 1200 AD to stamp out the heretical Cathars. The forces of the Albigensian Inquisition – which this is called by History – butchered whole towns, since the Cathars were wide-spread and generally well-respected, leading lives of modest poverty and good deeds. (This was in dramatic contrast to the Orthodox catholic clergy). Indeed, it was during this first Inquisition where chief Inquisitor Arnaud –Amalric famously responded to the query about how to kill just the heretics (since it was hard — or impossible — to tell them apart from the Orthodox) with instructions to “Kill them all – God will know his own.”


The church did keep much better track of its large expenditures in hay, rope, iron collars, stakes, etc., per Otto Friedrich in his excellent collection of historical essays entitled “The Day the Universe Ended.”


Jumping ahead a few centuries, the Spanish Inquisition practiced somewhat fewer wholesale burnings than the Albigensian Inquisition, but they made up for this deficit in deviltry with greatly expanded use of torture. And that’s real torture, folks, not the comic-relief variety we employ, with which the good Inquisitors would have had no patience at all.


Primary Spanish Inquisition Techniques


We have all heard of the Inquisition’s dread devices like Thumb-screws to crush fingers and the Boot to crush feet. But interestingly these were not the time-tested techniques which the Spanish Inquisition came to rely on when things got serious.


Their “mildest” stage of primary technique was called the Strappado.


It was extremely simple and easy to operate. All you needed was some rope and a pulley attached to the ceiling. The Inquisitee would stand at ease, with hands tied together at the wrists behind his or her back. Another – longer – rope was looped around the pulley and also tied to the victim’s hands. Then, the victim was raised up, off the floor, via the pulley attached to the ceiling. (If you want to experiment with your own hands clasped this way and have someone raise them a bit, you’ll swiftly feel that your shoulders are going the wrong way).


This was a model of efficiency and effectiveness, and unless the victim was extremely double-jointed, it would completely dislocate the shoulders and rupture much of the connective joint tissues in them. John McCain and Bob Dole can probably attest to how enjoyable these sorts of injuries can be, though they did not (I believe) experience the technical excellence of the Spaniards’ simple but effective original.


If the Inquisitors didn’t like the answers, or were feeling feisty that day, they’d add weights to the victim’s body or better yet, jump on the victim while he or she was hanging suspended with shoulders the wrong way.


The next most severe of the Spanish Inquisition’s primary techniques was that familiar standby, The Rack. As the reader doubtless knows, this would stretch you out. Popping joints and ligaments, tearing tendons and muscles, and generally creating horrendous damage to one’s structural integrity, the Rack was truly horrific beyond imagining as a (generally) non-mortal but extremely severe Inquisitive technique.


Except, that is, for the most severe.


Real Water-Boarding the Inquisition’s Way


We’ve all seen on CNN, over and over, video of lots of water gushing down on a subject tied to a board.


This does not, to reiterate, do any actual damage. It’s highly unpleasant for sure, and has reputedly been used as a training device to toughen-up our own valiant special forces warriors, and from what I understand was in the past used as an initiation hazing ritual at certain of the sterner fraternities at military colleges.


Unpleasant as this undoubtedly may be, it would not have met the Spanish Inquisition’s exacting standards. For if the good Inquisitors were often skeptical of the answers obtained from their preferred methods noted above, they would doubtless have had little patience for water-games of our sort.


No, that would not have done for them. For if the answers obtained first from Thumb-screw, Boot, Strappado and even the Rack were problematic in their opinion, they’d progress to their version of water-boarding, which was rather unlike ours despite the name.


Theirs was like ours in that it used water, though they only dripped it gently rather than our “horrible” rude gush. And also like ours they used a board of sorts, though it was less comfortable due to an iron bar in the middle designed to grind against the backbone. But, that minor item was soon forgotten when the question and answer session got under way.


For, the good Inquisitors used a technical innovation lacking in our limp version. Specifically, they’d insert a long cloth down the Inquisitee’s gullet and even into the lungs a bit. Then, they’d let the water flow gently, unlike our rude gush. The gently flowing water onto the long rag would often cause hemorrhaging of the lungs, for this technical enhancement compared to our limp and tepid efforts would cause a vastly more painful sensation of endless drowning, with greatly enhanced verisimilitude (and, much more bona-fide agony on one poor subject than seen in all of Gauntanamo’s history in aggregate).


The Inquisitors’ water-boarding innovation sometimes led to bloody rupture of the lungs, and hence slow, horrible gasping death. Again, this is in stark contrast to our so-called torture, which to reiterate does no actual damage other than perhaps to a terrorist’s pride (for example, when a captured Islamist hungry for American lives gives up his fellow plotters).


Japanese War Crimes


It has been even noted by some on the Left that water-boarding was practiced by Japanese WW2 war-crime experimenters, as a torture on captured Americans for which they may have even been executed. Again, they shamelessly and inaccurately strive to link our forces protecting us to actual fiends.


I do not know for sure if the Japanese water-boarders practiced our limp version, or if they preferred the more robust variety developed by the Spaniards. Inasmuch as the Japanese war criminals most definitely did enjoy other Experiments in Excruciation such as boiling alive, burning alive, infection with biological warfare agents, various lethal nerve gasses and other satanic practices, it’s probably a good bet that these Japanese spoke Spanish a la Spain circa 1500, not a la Guantanamo circa 2001, when the topic was water-boarding.


(In an act of dishonorable self-gelding that may even rival that of the Obama Administration, our government gave a free pass to the head of the Japanese Experimenters because we wanted the benefit of his expertise with biological and chemical warfare. Doubtless much of this expertise derived from his extensive experiments on American prisoners of war).


Monty Python


A decade or more ago, Monty Python did a hilarious sketch called “The Spanish Inquisition” where they would threaten the terrified Inquisitee with dread devices like the “terrible tickle feather” or even the more ghastly “Comfy Pillow.”


That sketch is no longer funny, because our actual interrogations are almost as ludicrous as this, even before the current politically-motivated hand-wringing over our so-called puffed-up “torture.” Anybody with intellectual honesty and actual knowledge of actual torture in history cannot help but be offended by this Orwellian misuse of the word.


But worse, put yourself in the position of someone who actually experienced the Inquisitors’ bona-fide water-boarding, hemorrhaging lungs and all. Or a Strappado victim unable to raise his or her arms. Or somebody slowly beheaded with a knife or skinned alive by the Taliban or other Islamic fringe fiends. One wonders as to how they would feel about the politically motivated hue and cry over our limp version of water-boarding, where wetness and maybe a runny nose is the most severe actual damage. I’m sure they would deeply appreciate all the concern over this extremely mild version of the actual torture they’ve endured, and would particularly appreciate how their vastly more severe and prolonged agonies, sometimes unto death, seem rarely or never to be mentioned. Indeed, thanks to the brave and patriotic main-stream press — which as noted before has reductively morphed into an odd combination of Court Jester and Town Crier — one can scarcely find any mention of what our enemies have done and still do to our captured warriors and their allies, even though their sufferings at the hands of the Islamists make our water-boarding seem as nothing.


In effect president Obama, Princess Pelosi, Regent Reid, other Noble Washington Democrats and the Main Stream Press are metaphorically spitting on our captured warriors’ bona-fide horrendous suffering, since their real agony is denigrated to exactly the same extent as our so-called torture is puffed up and exaggerated to make it seem, falsely, comparable to the real thing. This instance of Political Correctness is actually disgusting because it so denigrates the meaning of actual torture, and thereby spits on the bona-fide torture victims.




Sadly, it seems that our nation’s effort to fight terrorists with ACLU lawyers, coupled with our culturally masochistic outrage over water-boarding (which leaves the subject unharmed and intact)  — while at the same time we’re comparatively un-excited over our enemies’ literally skinning people alive or slowly beheading them with a knife or saw — strongly suggests that OhMyGod! Obama’s administration is a fan of Heaven’s Gate cult. This was that odd bunch out in San Diego a few years ago which wanted to hitch a ride on a comet, where the males also castrated themselves with a sharpened spoon or good scissors and reported it was “so liberating.”


We seem, in other words, to be metaphorically gelding ourselves before our very eyes, with our President wielding the blade.


For us to put more emphasis on our unpleasant but non-damaging efforts to extract vital information to save American lives, with so much less media and “leadership” outrage over their horrors (some of them directed at our warriors) which would have made even a medieval Inquisitor blanch, is the apex of moral and intellectual dishonor (to say nothing of self-destructive idiocy). It’s probably also the moral nadir of America, at least so far, since our founding. It’s sad proof that we are succeeding in gelding ourselves as a nation.


Evidently America can now dispense with its razors as well as its water-boards, for it would seem to have little need to shave under the current Administration.


April, 2009

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