a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

A new national anthem

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 10th, 2010

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
at Camp No near the base where they’re helplessly screaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars now mock all human right,
O’er the TV we watched were so emptily streaming
And the talk shows that scare, the thugs who don’t care
gave proof of our fright and our morals so bare
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er a land no longer free and the home of the knave?

From Waterboarding For Dummies (Mark Benjamin,, 3/9/2010):

Self-proclaimed waterboarding fan Dick Cheney called it a no-brainer in a 2006 radio interview: Terror suspects should get a “a dunk in the water.” But recently released internal documents reveal the controversial “enhanced interrogation” practice was far more brutal on detainees than Cheney’s description sounds, and was administered with meticulous cruelty.

Interrogators pumped detainees full of so much water that the CIA turned to a special saline solution to minimize the risk of death, the documents show. The agency used a gurney “specially designed” to tilt backwards at a perfect angle to maximize the water entering the prisoner’s nose and mouth, intensifying the sense of choking – and to be lifted upright quickly in the event that a prisoner stopped breathing.

The documents also lay out, in chilling detail, exactly what should occur in each two-hour waterboarding “session.” Interrogators were instructed to start pouring water right after a detainee exhaled, to ensure he inhaled water, not air, in his next breath. They could use their hands to “dam the runoff” and prevent water from spilling out of a detainee’s mouth. They were allowed six separate 40-second “applications” of liquid in each two-hour session – and could dump water over a detainee’s nose and mouth for a total of 12 minutes a day. Finally, to keep detainees alive even if they inhaled their own vomit during a session – a not-uncommon side effect of waterboarding – the prisoners were kept on a liquid diet. The agency recommended Ensure Plus. […]

The CIA’s waterboarding regimen was so excruciating, the memos show, that agency officials found themselves grappling with an unexpected development: detainees simply gave up and tried to let themselves drown.

NOTE, 03/15, at my father’s suggestion: I do intend to disturb and discomfort readers with this post, but I do not intend to impugn that vast majority of soldiers, veterans, and others who’ve served this country with honor. Nevertheless, it is as a human being, a citizen, and in fact a patriot that I believe t
he practice and acceptance of torture — past or present — raises unavoidable questions about what our country now stands for, and therefore what its symbols now stand for. It does not detract from honorable service at all — rather the opposite — to say that this country was better than what some of its leaders have made of it, and that I hope it will be again someday.

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