As the usual rationalizations for U.S. torture (it works, it's not so bad, we didn't do it anyway) have come under increasing attack in recent days, a relatively new defense has emerged, from GOP members of congress, columnist Charles Krauthammer, Fox News' Jim Angle, and many others: Waterboarding can't be torture because we used it on "thousands" of our own troops as part of their training!
Of course, some have questioned the degree of waterboarding (was it the lite version?) and, of course, none of the military personnel were subjected to it 83 times. But the argument remains out there.
This week, I received a letter from a woman from Florida, mother of a young Marine, who has corresponded with me before about her military background and her son joining up, at Editor & Publisher. Her latest letter was extremely disturbing and also extremely relevant to the latest torture excuse. Here is it is, with her name omitted for obvious reasons.
Dear Mr. Mitchell, I have been so profoundly upset for the last few days that I can hardly express it, so I decided to write to you again. My son is ok physically, thank God, but what was done to him by his own leaders sickens me beyond belief. My son was in a field that required that he attend SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] school. He was trained as a member of a flight crew that could potentially go behind enemy lines, so SERE was required. I'm a veteran, I thought I had an idea of what was ahead for him, so I gave him a maternal pep talk and told him that it would be very hard but these people were on his side and were trying to prepare him for all possibilities and this would help make him prepared and tough. I didn't know how naïve my encouragement was. I thought they would teach him how to escape, and how to survive. I had no idea that it would be a sadistic exercise in dehumanizing and terrifying him. He was 19 at the time. I am sickened by this, and outraged. My 19 year old son was water boarded, among other despicable things, and I had encouraged him to succeed at SERE. They did more to him that he has yet to explain to me, one thing that went on long enough for him to start hallucinating and to think he was dying.... Now we all have found that the two men who came up with this program were using my son and everyone else who went through SERE as guinea pigs for their sick, sadistic torture program. Then they sold their torture program to the sadists in the Bush Administration and became overpaid military contractors who spread this poison throughout our military. My son is not reenlisting. He is getting out soon. He has been depressed for a long time now and can't wait to get out. This is why I'm writing to you: Yesterday on TV I saw some Republican mouthpiece, some ex-Cheney aide, who has never worn a uniform and has NO idea what the hell he is talking about, say that we never tortured anyone because we did it to our own troops and they volunteered to serve; therefore it isn't torture. His statement was allowed to stand unchallenged. My son did NOT volunteer to be tortured. He was NOT told what would be done to him at SERE. He was told he would be taught to survive. Instead he was tortured, humiliated, degraded, shamed, and told to keep quiet about it. How in God's name would that prepare any of our troops to survive capture? It won't. It will only make them break quicker in the hopes of not having to go through more torture. Who will speak up for my son and the others like him who joined the military to serve and who were subjected to sadistic torture, not by the enemy, but by the war criminals ostensibly on our side? These people, Cheney and his talking heads, everyone of them chicken hawks who avoided serving, should NOT be allowed to use torturing our troops as rationalization for their crimes. There is NO excuse for this. People need to go to jail for this, and I don't mean the Lyndie Englunds and other low-ranking troops who were led into this. I mean the people who ordered it at the top. The people who are still trying to justify their crimes and are now having their mouthpieces use my son and others who were tortured as their cover. And for what? So the sadists who came up with this, and they are sadists, can keep themselves out of trouble? They all stood by silently, including Cheney, while lower-ranking troops went to prison for the evil they ordered done. Now they want to use my son's torture as their rationalization? No! This must NOT be allowed to stand unchallenged. I can't stand feeling so helpless. I WANT A VOICE. I want to confront those evil people who are still selling this torture as if it were our only defense against terrorists, and who now are attempting to use our troops to defend their indefensible, morally corrupt, war crimes. My son was not given a choice, he was not made aware of what would be done to him, he was ordered not to talk about it. He was tortured - by sadists, for bigger sadists. Who will stand up to those responsible for this?* Greg Mitchell's latest book is "Why Obama Won." His previous book on Iraq and the media was "So Wrong for So Long." Email: Gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com. At Twitter: GregMitch