Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mort Rosenblum on Waterboarding, El Submarino and The Many Friends We Have Lost to Torture

Mort Rosenblum's latest on Huffington Post:


Ask any reporter who knows brutal regimes: No hairs can be split over torture. Victims see no ambiguity. The memory stays fresh all their lives. More than pain, they recall smoldering contempt for their torturers.

You might have asked Baudouin Kayembe, the courageous owner of a weekly paper who helped me when I covered the Congo in the 1960s. But he died from his torture.

Over 40 years, Baudouin's intimates never forgave Mobutu Sese Seko, the man responsible, nor American authorities who kept Mobutu in power.

I saw this repeatedly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. But nothing made the point like Argentina's "guerra sucia," its dirty war on terror.

Government goons particularly favored "el submarino." They held suspects' faces underwater until lungs nearly burst. Sometimes they waited too long.

As is usually the case with torture, it backfired. Little useful intelligence was gained. Survivors talked to anyone who would listen. Decent societies reacted. And it took Argentina decades to live it down.

Each time I interviewed victims, hearing their bitter words and watching their hands shake, I felt a flash of gratitude for the blue passport in my left pocket.

We Americans reviled torture, as individuals and as a nation. When it was exposed, we reacted. Torture was one reason we invoked for overturning Saddam Hussein.

Today, we Americans have come up with "waterboarding," which sounds like a fraternity prank. It is el submarino: cruel and, for a people that respects itself, unusual.

Obviously, we are a far cry from an Argentine military which put thousands to death in a long nightmare of official terror. But what are we prepared to accept? ... (MORE)

I have posted variations of this video about Mort all over the place. But, what the hell. I enjoy it every time I watch it.
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