A man who has waterboarded hundreds of soldiers to prepare them for potential torture at the hands of regimes outside the Geneva Conventions sees what's at stake in the debate over restoring the rule of law in America:
This is about more than one tactic, waterboarding, that has gotten the lion's share of attention. As a general rule, interrogations without clearly defined legal limits are brutal. Particularly when they have an imperative to get information out of a captive immediately. Wearing prisoners out to the point of mental breakdown; forcing confessions through sleep deprivation; inflicting pain by standing for days on end (not minutes like in SERE); beating them against flexing walls until concussion; applying humiliation slaps (two at a time), and repeating these methods over and over.
If it were aimed at a U.S. Pilot, soldier or diplomat, I have no doubt all those defending the Bush Administration now would label these tactics torture. At SERE, I learned and taught that breaking the prisoner for compliance and instilling "learned helplessness" was our enemies' terminal learning objective. Worst of all was that an agency advising the Justice Department, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, knew that these coercive techniques would not work if captives devoutly trusted in their God and kept faith with each other. Yet those two characteristics are pre-qualifications for being allowed into al-Qaeda.