Waterboarding: It’s Not As Effective As You Think



(Nyhan, Brendan. 7 Nov 2007.  Terrorism and Human Rights (5): Waterboarding. Web. 3 Dec 2013.)


After the 9/11 attacks, the CIA was scrambling to locate the Al Qaida terrorist group and finding Osama bin Laden.  During the Bush administration, the government kept quiet and allowed top investigatory officials to use torture methods such as waterboarding to extract information from detainees.  In 2005, the government came out of the woodwork and admitted to using techniques such as waterboarding in order to find the location of Osama bin Laden.  Six years later, he was found and killed. Many have the opinion that using waterboarding to find Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaida members was justified and was not immoral or illegal.  However, many others think that waterboarding is a form of torture and is illegal, ineffective and unreliable.  They also believe that more traditional, psychological methods of extracting information from detainees and prisoners are far more effective and widely acceptable.

So, what even is waterboarding?   Waterboarding is an enhanced interrogation technique that heightens panic, suffering and fear by forcing water into the sinuses and throat by tilting the head back and through inhalation. There are also other ways to do “simulate drowning” such as putting a cloth over the prisoners face and pouring water over it.  In both cases, the water is inhaled into the lungs due to coughing; suffocation is thus avoided.

One argument that many Americans have is that waterboarding is not considered to be torturous because it is “simulated drowning” not actual drowning and it does not leave any physical marks on the detainee.  However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of torture describes it as, “something that causes mental or physical suffering; a very painful and unpleasant experience…as a way to force someone to do or say something.”  Waterboarding falls under this category of torture. Even though it does not leave permanent damage, it leaves psychological damage and causes temporary physical damage such as a collapsed lung, vomiting, drowning for periods of a time without asphyxiation and even unconsciousness.

Not only is waterboarding torture, it is also illegal in many ways.  First, after World War Two, waterboarding became illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949. It called for all prisoners of war to still be treated humanely and that they have human rights.  Therefore, after the war, many Japanese war officials were convicted of crimes against humanity because of their use of waterboarding.  Other laws such as the Torture Act and the War on Crimes Act, denounces waterboarding inside and outside of the United States.  Under the Torture Act, waterboarding is defined as, “severe pain and suffering” or “cruel and inhuman treatment”; therefore, waterboarding is in violation of the Fifth, Eighth, and Eleventh Amendment.  In addition, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 outlaws cruel and degrading treatment of war prisoners.

Duignan, Brian. “Waterboarding.” Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 6 Nov. 2013.

“What Waterboarding Is.” What Waterboarding Is. N.p.: n.p., n.d Waterboarding.org. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.

Nell, Martha. “Abajournal.” Abajournal.com. Abajournal, 8 Nov. 2007.Web. 28 Oct. 2013.


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