Jesse Ventura says: give me Dick Cheney, a waterboard, and one hour, and I’ll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murder.
That’s clever, but I think Jesse is missing the point. The goal of waterboarding is not to get the truth from the detainees; everyone knows that most detainees will say anything to stop the waterboarding. It is my understanding, for example, that no fewer than 16 people, all from Saudi Arabia or Yemen, have already confessed to the Sharon Tate murder.
The hopeful result of permitting waterboarding against terrorist suspects is to scare potential terrorist suspects against being terrorists for fear that they will be caught and waterboarded. I think this is a good strategy and can be expanded in a number of directions.
First, the technique can be used in connection with other suspected criminal activity. Do we really think that Bernie Madoff would have bamboozled so many people if he knew that the consequence would be waterboarding? How about if it was 60 straight days of waterboarding? Same true of drug dealers, car thieves, and cheaters on SAT exams. There is no end to the possible categories of those who could be made subject to waterboarding.
Now, you can’t have waterboarding only used after a trial and a guilty verdict; that takes too long. And again, the goal is less crime, not more punishment. But you don’t want people subject to waterboarding at the whim of an arresting officer, so I propose the following: if there is an arrest and a waterboarding followed by a determination of innocence, the arresting official should be waterboarded. This will help eliminate police brutality.
Finally, there is no reason to concentrate only on waterboarding. There are many medieval punishments that can be brought back into play. And some new tortures made possible by technological advances. The more brutal and outlandish they are, the better they will accomplish the goals of less crime, and less police brutality.
It’s a strategy whose time has clearly come.