by Moritz Harms

Waterboarding. Often mistaken for a sport like Wakeboarding. Waterboarding is in reality a rather deadly experience as shown in the following video produced by Amnesty International.

The term originated in 1976 when first mentioned in a report when a navy spokesman admitted to have used a technique called ,water board‘ to convince Navy trainees that they would not be able to resist torture when being captured and interrogated by the enemy.

 WB Keywords

As shown in the graphic above the method implies being strapped down on a board which is then tilted in a 20° angle while the interrogators or torturers consequently pour water on a cloth which is covering your face. This makes it impossible for you to breathe and simulates the feeling of drowning.

Waterboarding originates from a method of torture which dates back to the early 1500s when it was used by the Spanish inquisition. And it is still used today. The only thing that changed is the name and possibly looking at the ,stronger, better, faster‘ standards in the western world the professionalism which is implied to conduct it nowadays.

The world we live in today has seen some troublesome times. In the last 100 years human kind was confronted with two World Wars and lately a new kind of Terror has emerged. The Western World was shaken by several radical islamistic attacks on western soil, which then were avenged in yet another still on going war. It seems therefore that all that is needed to coexist on this planet is to dominate and torture one another.

But there also were some astonishingly positive developments in the past century. A number of bills were passed to improve the human rights situation globally.

Following the horrific spectrum of atrocities that took place during the Second World War the human rights movement developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris in 1948, which was largely supported and signed by the world’s major nations. This declaration defined among other rights, especially the ‘right to live’, as well as freedom of movement, freedom of thought, etc. And although these rights can only be seen as the beginning and have been largely extended and improved since, torture still seems to be widely untouched. For many countries it still is an accepted and legitimate procedure to gain information when needed. A rather paradox symptom when comparing it to the global endeavour to change the world we live in for the better.

This is especially disturbing when understanding torture as one of the most extreme forms of violating ones personal freedom in a physical and emotional way and therefore undermining ones human dignity.

In this regard, it is particularly cruel when the mass media picked up on some newly published report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) which stated that the United States of America used waterboarding and other inhuman torturing methods to interrogate and punish their war prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.
A recent report on enhanced interrogation methods, which was published by the CIA on December 3rd 2014 confirmed these accusations and widened the extent of measurements and black sites used by the USA.

The USA who are usually globally known for fighting terror and human rights violations around the globe, conduct methods which are conflicting with these principles, right in their own backyard.
The United States is known for the extensive amount of funds, which are invested in the war industry. Unlike any other country in the world they took a major part in a horrendous number of wars. And when looking especially at the Vietnam War, their participation was always connected to the formation of notable anti-war protests. The global community is progressively appalled by the fact that every global, political struggle has to be solved by violently dominating the opponent. It therefore is even more startling that inhuman methods such as torture are still conducted, even though the majority of the global community dismisses it.

For me waterboarding is a keyword as it is possibly the most symptomatic term when it comes to the whole debate on torture in the 21st century. Even more, I find it extremely important that this term is not forgotten, as it contributes to the preservation of a global debate, which has the potential to lead to the abolishment of torture after all.

The term can be seen as a sarcastic symbol for the human rights situation in the western world. And although waterboarding as a frequently used interrogation method has been abolished since it has been massively shown around in the world media, it still and definitely has the potential to point out that we live in a hypocritical world – judging others for their flaws but avoiding to look at what is right outside of our front door.

Annotated bibliography:  

1. International Comittee of the Red Cross. ICRC Report on the Treatment of fourteen „High Value Detainees“ in CIA Custody. By Geoff Loane. Washington. Regional Delegation for United States and Canada, 2007.

The report which was published by the International Comittee of the Red Cross in 2007 can be seen as the first account of researched knowledge on the debate accusing the United States of America of torture related to their war on Terror. This might be interesting as it is the first official source of information on the topic. Additionally this piece of text is the main reason why the debate resolving around the topic started in the first place.


2. Senate Select Comittee on Intelligence. Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program. 2014.

The CIA report on enhanced interrogation methods which was released to the public on December 3, 2014. It was first published in 2012 but was hold back for another two years. This might be an interesting read as it contains first hand information on the methods and sites which are the center of this debate. Furthermore it is the main resource for the recent debate on the topic.


3. BBC. CIA ‘torture’: Senate due to publish report. 2014.

This article by the BBC on the topic can be seen as summary of facts on the topic. This should make an interesting read as it works as a shallow introduction. It does not go as deep as the previous two sources but still provides a good overview.


4. This is a website which was put online by an interested casual guy. While it is not a highly sophisticated source compared to a scientific report or a newspaper article it still is a good source of information. Next to an assembly of general information on the topic and a definition of waterboarding, a few eyewitness accounts can be found on this website. Making this source an extremely important addition to this bibliography.


5. Viewcaps. Torture: Pros and Cons of the Issue. Bookcaps. 2014.

A web publication which explains the Pros and Cons to different methods of torture in the 21st century. Next to other different methods of torture which are still in use today waterboarding is explained and summarized. It was then tried to analyze and accessed under ethical terms whether waterboarding can be seen as a method of torture.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s