Waterboarding And The Inquisition

Marc Thiessen rightly points out that one Spanish Inquisition water-torture method in which water was funneled down a victim's throat until his or her body was bursting with liquid is not what the CIA did to prisoners. The CIA technique is the Khmer Rouge's in every single respect, as you can see clearly depicted here. But he is wrong in thinking that the Inquisition didn't use the same basic method of using smaller amounts to bring victims to near-drowning and then relent, before subjecting them to it again and again until they told the torturers what they wanted to hear. He is wrong that they didn't strap people to a board to do it.

A reader notes the following diorama in the Museum of the Inquisition in Lima, Peru, re-enacting the technique in the Peruvian Inquisition. Before Thiessen tries yet another semantic dodge, the reader reminds us:

Some folks would argue that the Peruvian Inquisition was separate from the Spanish Inquisition, and it did have its own tribunal.  However, that's more of a procedural detail of running an inquisition in a far-off colony; the Peruvian branch of the Inquisition was authorized by the Spanish king and got its authority and tactics from the Spanish branch.

Now look at the diorama representation of it in the museum:

2207579073_d290633417

Notice that there is no pumping of water into the body until it swells into great pain; notice that the amount of water applied at any one time is not enough to drown someone entirely, just enough to bring the person to the brink of drowning, with all the involuntary terror that creates.These photos are from here and here.

What Thiessen is doing is justifying torture. And he is a Catholic. The hierarchy supports barring pro-choice Catholic public officials from receiving communion. But public officials who helped set up and defend the absolute evil of torture? The hierarchy is silent. It tells you something about the corruption at the top of the Vatican and the shameful abdication of the American bishops, whose opposition to torture has been present but remarkably subdued.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

Just In