Is Waterboarding a Legitimate Method of Interrogation?

Is Waterboarding a Legitimate Method of Interrogation?

Apr 9, 2008


A college assignment.


At first glance, torture seems to be an unethical violation of basic human rights. In many ways, it can be. There are times when this violation is a necessary evil in order to save lives. In current times, it has been an effective means to preventing further terrorism. In one of President Bush’s past weekly addresses, he spoke of the prevention of several attacks, from a planned strike on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, to a plot to hijack a plane and fly it into Los Angeles' U.S. Bank Tower, both through the use of “tough questioning” (Serrano 17). This tough questioning, including effective methods such as waterboarding, is a serious matter that cannot be taken lightly. Waterboarding is a method in which the participant’s head is tilted back and water is poured into the mouth or nose until the participant believes they are drowning, often until they pass out, according to, and non-biased organization for the purpose of informing on the matter. This can be repeated for hours on end ( The resultant feeling is that of imminent death, pain, and panic as water is inhaled into the lungs, though the actual risk of death is fairly low. The psychological and physical torment is intense, and it is not unheard of participant’s having broken bones just from the struggle to break free.

As torturous as this may sound, the US is still believed to practice it regardless of the torture laws covered in the Geneva Convention. The convention calls torture “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” which is exactly what waterboarding is ( Why, then, does the US do it? Not only is it unethical, but it also leads to many answers that are made in desperation. Those who protest this argue just this, but this form of torture has to continue, for several reasons.

First and foremost, we are fighting a war here. These terrorists would not and do not think twice before torturing our prisoners of war, with much more horrific acts than that of waterboarding. Just several weeks ago, the fingers of five separate contractors were sent in the mail to the US military in Iraq. These men have been held captive for over two years, obviously being tortured the whole time. (“Terrorists” 1-2).Why should we extent the rights of mankind to those who will not respect them? We must fight fire with fire.

Little is actually known as to the extent of what the United States torture practices are, or how often they are used. Under the Army field manual and a 2005 law on detainee treatment, waterboarding cannot legally be used by the military. Congress has not passed additional legislation banning harsh interrogation techniques in all circumstances though (Kellman 15). It is known also that President Bush has validated certain forms of tough questioning, though all are undisclosed to the public. Not everything is as bad as waterboarding, either. These extreme types of torture are a last resort. These people start off easy. For example, they are made to stand for long periods of time, or kept in cold cell and doused periodically with water (Ross 10-11). Uncooperative prisoners are the one’s graduated to heavy forms of torture. Essentially, they bring it upon themselves.

Waterboarding has its downfalls, but so does sitting back doing nothing. Often times the participant is so panicked that they are willing to admit to anything, but shouldn’t that be indicator enough that they know no more?

The difference between the US’s forms of interrogation and the terrorists’ forms are that the CIA has admitted to using waterboarding on suspected Al Qaeda terrorists; each was a high ranking official, and each led to the thwarting of a terrorist plot. (Miller 1-2) These people are not killed, and it is never performed on an innocent person if it can be helped. These terrorists will torture anyone and everyone, regardless of what they know about the inner workings of our military, such as the contractors. If the person is found not to be useful, they are often beheaded.

It isn’t like this method is for the general public. This is an extreme case where we are fighting an enemy that has no regard for the lives of innocent civilians. These terrorists will stop at nothing short of the total eradication of the United States and anyone else not Islamic. To not torture them will not change a thing; there will be terrorist acts, assassinations, and torture from them all the same. To continue with it means getting the information needed to stop these acts of terrorism before they can take place. To say that these leaders that call all of these horrendous acts actually have our rights to prevention from cruel and unusual punishment is ludicrous; they wouldn’t do the same for us.

Works Cited

Kellman, Laurie. “Attorney General Nominee Unsure About Legality of Waterboarding.” The Associated Press. 31 Oct. 2007: 17 pars. 6 Apr. 2008. <>.

Miller, Greg. “CIA Chief Confirms Use of Waterboarding.” Las Angeles Times. 6 Feb. 2008: 27 pars. SIRS Knowledge Source. Proquest. Lansing Community Coll. Lib. MI. 2 Apr. 2008.

Ross, Brian and Richard Esposito. “CIA’s Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described.” ABCNews. 18 Nov, 2005: 33 pars. 31 Mar. 2008.

Serrano, Richard A. “Bush Vetoes Bill to Ban Waterboarding.” Los Angeles Times. 9 Mar. 2008: 19 pars. SIRS Knowledge Source. Proquest. Lansing Community Coll. Lib. MI. 2 Apr. 2008.

“Terrorists in Iraq Mail Hostages' Severed Fingers.” 2008: 22 pars. 1 Apr. 2008. 31 Mar. 2008: 11 pars.


The Contrarian is willingly waterboarded.