Why Waterboarding Should Not Be The Focus

The reason the Khmer Rouge technique has broken through the cultural noise is that it has a graphic, unusual and specific dimension. People can imagine it. They can go into Cambodia's museum of torture and see the instrument used and approved by president Bush. They can visualize the torturer strapping a human being to a board and making him feel as if he is drowning for the 97th time. They can visualize Cheney watching it; and the CIA destroying the evidence thereafter. But the other torture techniques - which can sound deceptively banal in comparison - are no better and can be worse. To believe that only waterboarding came close to "torture" is to know nothing about the history and practice of torture. Here's how "sleep deprivation" really worked:

A CIA inspector general's report issued in 2004 was more critical of the agency's use of sleep deprivation than it was of any other method besides waterboarding, according to officials familiar with the document, because of how the technique was applied.

The prisoners had their feet shackled to the floor and their hands cuffed close to their chins, according to the Justice Department memos.

Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains.

The memos said that more than 25 of the CIA's prisoners were subjected to sleep deprivation. At one point, the agency was allowed to keep prisoners awake for as long as 11 days; the limit was later reduced to just over a week.

According to the memos, medical personnel were to make sure prisoners weren't injured. But a 2007 Red Cross report on the CIA program said that detainees' wrists and ankles bore scars from their shackles. When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs "anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort," a May 10, 2005, memo said.

Maybe Hannity will take Menachem Begin's word for it that this is indeed torture. He lived through these techniques when Stalin, rather than Bush, implemented them. A prisoner tortured in this way, according to Begin, becomes:

"wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget ... Anyone who has experienced the desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable it with it."

Or another "no-brainer" for the Bush administration.