Human Rights First defines waterboarding as a type of water torture used to simulate drowning.
In 2009, Conservative radio talk show host Erich Mancow Muller believed the practice should not be considered torture, and that governments should be allowed to use it as an interrogation method. In order to prove his point, and his defense of the CIA using the method to interrogate detainees at Guantanamo Bay, he decided to experience waterboarding to silence the critics.
It didn’t really go as planned. After being waterboarded for six seconds, he told his listeners that it was “absolute torture”. In the video, he is assisted by Marine Sergeant Clay South, who informed his listeners that the average person can only withstand waterboarding for 14 seconds.
The International Committee of the Red Cross agrees with Mancow’s conclusion. Waterboarding is considered a violation of the Geneva Conventions because it falls squarely under the definition of torture. “Torture is any technique that causes severe pain or suffering,” Anna Cross, spokeswoman for the Red Cross said. “Whether physical or mental, inflicted for a purpose…waterboarding fits into this category and therefore qualifies as torture.”
“He’s going to wiggle, he’s going to scream. He’s going to wish he never did this,” explained Marine Sergeant South. Chicago Fire Department EMTs were on stand-by, and Mancow was placed on top of a 7-foot table with his legs elevated and his feet tied together.
Mancow gave the signal to stop almost immediately. He sat up, clearly shaken, and recalled how much it resembled the time he drowned when he was a child. “It was worse than I thought it would be, and that’s not a joke,” Mancow said. “It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back. It was instantaneous and I don’t want to say this: absolutely torture.”
The radio DJ wasn’t the first person to carry out a recorded demonstration of the torture. Journalist Christopher Hitchens voluntarily subjected himself to waterboarding and wrote about it for Vanity Fair. He also concluded that it was torture, and even though it was done in a safe and controlled environment, he suffered ongoing psychological effects for many years after the ordeal.
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