04.19.09

Enough With the Torture Sanctimony

It's good that we're not torturing anymore. But let us not forget the wretched feeling of watching 3,000 Americans die at the hands of fanatics who would happily detonate a nuclear bomb.

I’m glad that President Obama is not going to prosecute the CIA interrogators for torture. As National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair wisely commented in a written statement, “Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.” The memos, that is, issued by the Justice Department in the days following the 9/11 attacks, authorizing harsh interrogation techniques.

The operative question becomes: What do we do now with captive bad guys who possess information that could prevent another 9/11? We may have moved on. They, assuredly, have not.

These techniques, we learn, included “sleep deprivation,” “nudity,” “dietary manipulation,” “abdominal slap,” “attention grasp,” “waterboarding,” “water dousing,” “confinement with insects,” and “walling.” This last one is when the interrogator “quickly and firmly pushes the individual into the wall…The head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel… to help prevent whiplash.”

I think I remember that one, from boarding school—only the senior boys left out the rolled hoods and towels.

It is, yes, good that the U.S.A. is not doing this anymore, but let’s not get too sanctimonious about how awful it was that we indulged in these techniques after watching nearly 3,000 innocent Americans endure god-awful deaths at the hands of religious fanatics who would happily have detonated a nuclear bomb if they had gotten their mitts on one. And let us move on. There is pressing business. (Are you listening, ACLU? Hel-lo?)

The operative question becomes: What do we do now with captive bad guys who possess information that could prevent another 9/11? We may have moved on. They, assuredly, have not.

Remember the Monty Python “Spanish Inquisition” skit, where the lads torture the sweet old lady with such cruel techniques as “The Comfy Chair!” and “The Extra Pillow!”? Or the Spanish Inquisition musical number in Mel Brooks’ “History of the World”?

Auto-da-fé? What’s an auto-da-fé?

It’s what ya oughtn’t to do, but ya do anyway!

As the CIA sets about the revising its Interrogation Manual—that will be a fun project—here are some suggestions for up-to-date techniques that will have the dastards crying “Uncle!” in no time.

Traffic Jamming Subjects are placed in cars and made to endure daily commutes of up to four hours, five days a week. Technique may be enhanced by alternating the interior temperature by means of A/C and heat; also by having radio set to Rush Limbaugh radio show or Christian Broadcasting stations at high volume.

Telephoning Subjects are given rotary dial telephones and told that they will be released if they call a certain number and follow the prompts, which will instruct them to “press” various numbers. As subjects dial the numbers, the prompts will respond that they did not understand and repeat their instruction.

Televisioning Subjects are ushered into comfortable TV rooms with state-of-the-art TVs with cable, DVD, videogame players, etc. TV will display cable guide with hundreds of channels, all themed to delight murderous religious fanatics, e.g.: TALIBAN TODAY, DRIVING ISRAEL INTO THE SEA, THE IED CHANNEL, WHO WANTS TO BE A MARTYR? No matter which button or combination of buttons are pressed on the nine remote controls, nothing happens. After several hours, screen will spontaneously display the 1960 movie Exodus, which will remain on no matter which button is pressed or even if electrical cord is yanked out of a wall socket. (Note: The International Court of Justice at the Hague has ruled that being forced to watch Exodus constitutes “torture.”)

Confinement With Cheney In this “extreme” technique, the subject is placed in a confined area with former Vice President Dick Cheney. In past experiments, most subjects have broken “within minutes.”

Christopher Buckley’s books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and is editor at large of ForbesLife magazine. His new book is Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir.