A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Reiterated Army stance against waterboarding is heartening

Malcolm Nance [Director, Special Readiness Services International]: "In my testimony last week to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Torture, I attempted to clarify exactly what is involved in waterboarding. Simply put, waterboarding, when used in any capacity in a coercive environment against detainees, captives or hostages, with the intent to illicit information or to break the will to resist, is unequivocally torture.

The intense national discussion over this torture technique brought immediate scrutiny to a war crime practice. It has been revealed that Americans have actually been carrying out this practice in conflict with our laws and international treaties. Somehow this brutal torture based on real drowning, has made its way into the American lexicon as "simulated drowning." In October 2005, the US Senate banned the use of torture by the military, though the intelligence community appears to have a loophole that has yet to be closed. The US military immediately complied with the laws banning the use of waterboarding and placed the ban directly into its interrogation field manual, FM 2-22.3.

I am pleased to report that on November 6, 2007, the Department of the Army stood up for its honor, tarnished by the abuses and murders at Abu Ghraib and Kabul. In a statement to the Army leadership, the Secretary of the Army noted that he wanted "to eliminate any confusion that may have arisen as a result of recent public discourse on the subject" and reiterated that Army policy and doctrine considers torture, including waterboarding, to be a banned practice.

It is heartening to see that Army leadership decided to reiterate that the Army stands above its enemies and will not allow its personnel to practice acts that are war crimes. The message is necessary. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on orders from White House policy makers, created a significant grey area on the inappropriateness of torture. These same politicians based their body of knowledge on interrogation from stereotypes of its efficiency seen in the popular media and old movies. This ignorance concerning the inefficiency of interrogation, in the face of the Defense Department's own empirical data on American captives from 200 years of conflict, rapidly filtered down to the field and resulted in the Army determining that our soldiers committed murder, torture and abuse. It made a stain on our battle streamers, but it is not indelible.

Waterboarding is just one of the tortures used by our past enemies from the Nazis to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Torture is beneath us as a nation and tarnishes our honor. I look forward to the mandatory video message from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to everyone in the Department of Defense. From the privates in the field to the top generals and civilian leaders, they all need to see and hear the Secretary personally repudiate these techniques. He must clearly state that the honor of America's military is a force multiplier in the defense of our nation and that the Department of Defense will take the moral high ground and no longer use the tools of its enemies."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

Support JURIST

We rely on our readers to keep JURIST running

 Donate now!

About Professional Commentary

Professional Commentary is JURIST's platform for newsmakers, activists and legal experts to comment on national and international legal developments.

Hotline welcomes submissions, inquiries and comments at professionalcommentary@jurist.org.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.