Is waterboarding torture? If it is, we’ve been torturing our service members for years. As a United States Naval Aviator, I attended SERE school in the California desert in 1985. SERE (which stands for Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape) prepares combatants for the possibility that they might be taken prisoners of war.
While many aspects of the training remain classified, I can say that we received treatment far more challenging and uncomfortable than anything the terrorists ever experienced at Gitmo or Abu Grab. As has been reported elsewhere, waterboarding was common at SERE school as it was in my class. It was done to help us resist giving up sensitive information in the event we were interrogated by the enemy. SERE is probably the most impactful training I’ve ever experienced.
Now, despite decades of its use on American service members, President Obama declares that waterboarding is torture when used on terrorists. Is it? Reasonable people cannot disagree whether scalding a person’s skin, dismembering him, or beheading him constitutes torture. Those are undeniably torturous acts that our enemies have inflicted on Americans. But since waterboarding leaves no permanent physical damage, reasonable people can disagree over whether or not it’s actually torture and should be used on terrorists. I’ll address that question in a future column.
What I’d like to address in this column is the shocking inconsistency of the President’s position. Despite being against waterboarding, President Obama does not seem to think that scalding, dismembering, or beheading is torture in all circumstances. In some circumstances, the President actually approves of such treatment, so much so that he is now exporting it to other countries with our tax dollars. He’s even thinking of forcing certain Americans to inflict it on the innocent.
In fact, the President along with most in his party and some in the Republican Party, think that such brutality is a Constitutional right, which they cleverly disguise with the word “choice.” Choice in these circumstances actually means scalding, dismembering, or de-braining a living human being—which is literally what saline, D&C, and partial birth abortions respectively accomplish. (Before anyone labels me an “extremist” for making this point, realize that I’m just factually describing what these procedures literally do. In my opinion, the “extremists” are those who deny these verifiable truths.)
Frank Turek is coauthor of I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and the author of Stealing from God: Why atheists need God to make their case. See more of his work at CrossExamined.org.