I have serious issues with Christopher Hitchens’s waterboarding.
More precisely, Hitchens can have himself waterboarded to hell for all I care, but the Vanity Fair story is crappy journalism.
It makes no sense. Hitchens goes to great lengths to explain the faulty logic behind waterboarding terror suspects, but nowhere does he explain why he himself did it.
I’m serious. Nowhere.
Did he do it to find out what it feels like? If so, my question is this: what sort of a person needs to have himself tortured to empathise with the real victims?
Did he do it to prove that waterboarding is indeed torture, regardless of what Bush says? If so, I’ve got to ask: does any sane person really need Hitchens’s trickery to believe it’s inhuman to pour water into someone’s nose until he’s about to drown?
Did he do it to show remorse, as is his habit, for supporting neocon stupidity? If so, let’s commend him for the gesture and hope that next time he’ll suffer his pangs of contrition in private.
Or did he do it just to prove to himself he can withstand at least as much pain as the al-Qaeda detainees he loathes?
Inane as it sounds, I’m afraid this is the most plausible explanation for Hitchens’s egotistical nonsense.
How else do you explain stuff like this:
I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.
This is because I had read that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, invariably referred to as the ‘mastermind’ of the atrocities of September 11, 2001, had impressed his interrogators by holding out for upwards of two minutes before cracking. (By the way, this story is not confirmed. My North Carolina friends jeered at it. ‘Hell,’ said one, ‘from what I heard they only washed his damn face before he babbled.’) But, hell, I thought in my turn, no Hitchens is going to do worse than that. Well, O.K., I admit I didn’t outdo him.
The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it.
Journalistic experiments don’t have to be cheap stunts. But there is always a fair amount of self-indulgence in these first-person escapades. I should know. I’ve lived in an empty bear cage in the Helsinki zoo for a week to find out what it feels like to be gaped at and spat on. Once I sat for a week in a broom closet four storeys underground with the Internet as my only companion to prove it’ll drive you nuts. In the end, the only thing I proved was that even a young man’s endurance has its limits. It’s ego tripping. But at least you can be honest about it.
Hitchens, however, never comes clean. Evidently the editors of Vanity Fair believe he is such a strong brand that no explanations are needed, as if his name alone could validate any bullshit. Witness the blurb: “Watch Christopher Hitchens Get Waterboarded”. Indeed, waterboarding is not the story here, nor the abuse of human rights by the world’s greatest democracy — it’s Me, Myself and Christopher.