Along with President Trump, I too would like to see waterboarding return as a tool for getting information from captured enemies. My support for this comes from my personal experience of being waterboarded while I was in the Marine Corps.
I’m a former Marine Corps helo pilot and attended what was the last SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training course located near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. During my training I was captured by the “enemy” and waterboarded.
My waterboarding did not occur in some medically safe, hermetically purified room, designed for that purpose with a few doctors and medics standing nearby to render immediate assistance. That’s what I saw a few times on TV way back when Senator McCain called it "torture". I was taken, blindfolded via my poncho that the instructors put on backwards with the hood tied tightly closed, to someplace in the training area (which at that time was located in a big square, framed by four small state highways and county roads and not on base). There, I was forced to the ground and, face up, tied spread eagle to stakes.
Now, let me back up for a second and explain to you naysayers and civilians that when the Marine Corps creates a training environment, it is intentionally designed in such a way that you are not predisposed to think, “Hey, this is just training so anything that happens, I know is just fake.”
While I was spread-eagled, able to see nothing, the instructor came over to ask me questions to test my resistance to answering. I refused to answer a question about my unit just as I was told to do earlier that week during the classroom phase of training. Suddenly, he loosened my poncho hood, pulled it down so I could see, then quickly put some kind of towel or cloth over my face and the towel or cloth was held tight to the ground on either side of my head making it impossible to move my head side to side. I was shocked about the towel and at that time had no idea what was about to happen next. He poured water on the towel where my nose and mouth were located and I literally could not breathe, as if I were drowning and could do absolutely nothing about it.
Now, I don’t know much about how the human brain functions, but all thought left mine except abject, animal fear and knowing, absolutely knowing I was going to die right then, period. There was no, “Okay, this will end in a few seconds and I’ll be fine,” or “Come on Ken, you’re a Marine, take this,” or “This is just a training exercise and it’s not real so calm down.” None of that. And I would suspect that it’s the same for anyone else who’s been waterboarded. Sorry Marine Corps, but I failed to resist, because when the instructor finally stopped after what seemed like years, and asked me the question again, I told him the answer, the right answer because I never wanted to experience again what had just happened.
Yes, I felt the shame and remorse later, feeling that I turned into a little two-year-old girl in a pink tutu after I was waterboarded. But there was a lot more training to go, and in order to pass the course (and never retake SERE school again), I had to start over from the beginning of the field course and go all that night and the next day to get to the checkpoint by 1500 (3 p.m.) or fail the course. Me and my SERE school partner, who I assumed was also spread-eagled nearby when we both were captured, made it by the skin of our teeth but we both passed.
Okay, so what’s the bottom line? In my humble opinion, waterboarding is not torture. It is an effective technique, albeit an extremely terrifying and dehumanizing technique, that will make anyone sing the truth like a canary. Torture, to me is something permanent, like cutting off fingers or dislocating and relocating body joints over and over inducing extreme pain, giving one a disability for life. Torture is being forced to watch your son or daughter get beheaded or watch your daughter get beaten or stoned to death because she was raped by seven males; or watching your only son get burned alive on the nightly news after he was captured. That, to me, is torture and I am very against it, whether it works or not. I’m sure President Trump is against that as well. Plus, I have serious doubt that any enemy can train themselves enough to take a session of waterboarding in order to keep mum.
And those who disagree and think waterboarding is torture because Doctor So-and-So, or Special Ops Colonel So-and-So, or Senator McCain says it is, fine. My opinion is based on my own experience. I believe waterboarding ought to be used to get real time information from an enemy in order to save the lives of those in harm’s way, period.
Not that it’s going to make a difference to policy, but based on my own experience, that’s my two cents.