Morris D. Davis: Consign Bush's 'Torture Memos' to History





Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis is former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is now on the faculty of the Howard University School of Law. 

The Bush administration "torture memos" will be 10 years old this week. As the administration developed its interrogation policies, it concealed various forms of torture under the moniker "enhanced interrogation techniques." It consulted with the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice on the legality of these techniques, including waterboarding, walling (slamming detainees against walls), forcing detainees into stress positions and subjecting them to sleep deprivation. Ultimately, the OLC provided legal cover for the use of most of these techniques.
 
On Aug. 1, 2002, in a memo addressed to the general counsel of the CIA, Assistant Atty. Gen. Jay Bybee wrote: "When the waterboard is used, the subject's body responds as if the subject were drowning…. The subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning."
 
I know something about the feeling of drowning. The closest I've come to death was more than 20 years ago, while I was white-water rafting in West Virginia with some Air Force friends. As the raft careened through the rapids, two of us were tossed out. As the current pulled us past a large rock that jutted out into the river, it curled down and took me with it. I could see the surface five or six feet above me, but the water pushed me down harder than my legs could push me up. As I struggled to live, I thought about my wife who was pregnant with a child I might never see.
 
It was as if time slowed down. I experienced 10 minutes worth of thoughts in the minute I was underwater. Finally, my lungs aching, I pushed away from the rock rather than up toward the surface, and seconds later, I popped up, gasping, terrified.
 
As the CIA memo makes clear, that is the point of waterboarding...


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