Right Argues Semantics of 'Waterboarding'

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Jeremy Palowski at Washington's The Olympian whipped up Internet rage by reporting that a former U.S. soldier is accused of "holding his 4-year-old daughter's head under the water in the kitchen sink at their Yelm home Sunday night because she would not recite the alphabet." Joshua Tabor said he "submerged [his daughter's] face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline." After being picked up by the London Daily Mail and other foreign press, the solider is described as waterboarding the girl in reference to the CIA torture practice used under the Bush Administration.

Many pundits are reacting with disgust and concern. The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan summarizes liberal fears: "No doubt Marc Thiessen will object that since she wasn't strapped to an actual board and only dunked three or four times, rather than 183, and her father wasn't in the CIA, she wasn't really waterboarded' as the professionals do it. But do you notice how a foreign newspaper uses plain English to describe torturing victims by use of near-drowning: the 'CIA torture technique.'"

However, a few conservative blogs are bound up in the semantics, challenging the Daily Mail's credibility and countering that the incident is a non-story because the technique "is not technically waterboarding."

  • Not Waterboarding succinctly notes Don Surber: "Australian and British newspapers are calling it waterboarding, after the London Daily Mail picked up on the story today. The London Daily Mail said Tabor admitted to placing her face in the water. This, however, is a different technique in which the face is not placed in water. Instead, a cloth is placed over the face and water is poured over the cloth."
  • Stop Panicking, Liberals writes Cassandra at Villainous Company in response to Sullivan:
"Translation: if we arbitrarily redefine the definition of waterboarding, we can wax horrified ... Never mind that:
1. She wasn't strapped to an actual board with her head lower than the rest of her body.
2. Her face wasn't covered with cloth or cellophane.
3. Water wasn't poured over her face, the expected result of which is that - unlike what happens when one's face is submerged in water - the gagging reflex is triggered.
  • The Daily Mail Is Sensationalizing Things writes Confederate Yankee. "Joshua Tabor is mentally ill and an unfit father. No sane person disputes that. The UK Daily Mail, however, sensationalizes the brutality with the headline "U.S. soldier 'waterboarded his own daughter, 4, because she couldn't recite alphabet. Tabor's sadistic act--as described by the Daily Mail itself--isn't waterboarding or remotely similar to it. Tabor's act of brutality was drowning. Waterboarding, as brutal as it is, only simulates drowning, and is done by professionals in controlled conditions. Tabor could have very easily killed his daughter."
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