The United States is in the middle of a resurgent national conversation about the ethics and legality of torture, thanks primarily to President Donald Trump's choice of Gina Haspel, the current acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who oversaw the torture of detainees at a "black site" prison in Thailand, to head the agency. Among the questions that come up as part of one of America's most enduring post-9/11 debates: Does torture work? What are the long-term consequences? And at what point does torture compromise the country's moral standing?
These are important questions worthy of consideration, especially in light of Haspel's pledge not to restart the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" programs during her May 9 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. And a few days later, an Army Green Beret turned UFC Fighter offered up his little contribution to this moment of reflection:
"This wasn’t an attempt to demonstrate bravado," Kennedy wrote on Twitter. "Just trying to show people what this is."
That's a commendable impulse, sure — except that getting waterboarded in a controlled setting, voluntarily, in a familiar setting, surrounded by buddies who will stop any time, without the terror of extraordinary rendition, solitary confinement, stress positions, and sleep deprivation that define the CIA's broad interrogation program.
I guess? Whatever Kennedy's doing in his backyard with his pals — well, that's objectively not the same as what we're talking about, regardless of the broader ethical context (Speaking of: A 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report characterized CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques broadly as extraordinarily vicious, but fruitless in yielding any “unique” intelligence that could be obtained by other methods. And 109 retired military leaders want the Senate to block Haspel's nomination simply over the torture issues. So there's that).
I am 100% in favor of other forms of waterboarding, though ...