On CNN, West asserted waterboarding is "not torture," claimed, "[Y]ou wake up feeling fine the next day"

››› ››› ANDREW IRONSIDE

On CNN, Washington Times columnist Diana West said: "What I would like to see is people really start thinking about what is torture. If putting people into human-size shredders, as Saddam Hussein did, is torture, then waterboarding, which my senior military sources tell me you wake up feeling fine the next day -- it is not torture." However, in congressional testimony, Allen S. Keller, M.D., director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, stated, "To think that abusive methods, including the enhanced interrogation techniques [in which Keller included waterboarding], are harmless psychological ploys is contradictory to well established medical knowledge and clinical experience." Keller stated of waterboarding specifically, "Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD," and said it poses a "real risk of death."

During the November 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, discussing the Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey, Washington Times columnist Diana West said: "What I would like to see is people really start thinking about what is torture. If putting people into human-size shredders, as Saddam Hussein did, is torture, then waterboarding, which my senior military sources tell me you wake up feeling fine the next day -- it is not torture." However, as Media Matters for America has documented (here and here), Allen S. Keller, M.D., director of the Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, submitted written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that stated, "To think that abusive methods, including the enhanced interrogation techniques [in which Keller included waterboarding], are harmless psychological ploys is contradictory to well established medical knowledge and clinical experience," adding, "These methods are intended to break the prisoners down, to terrify them and cause harm to their psyche, and in so doing result in lasting harmful health consequences." He said of waterboarding specifically, "Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]," and said it poses a "real risk of death."

Also, Keller has explained that there are immediate physical risks associated with waterboarding, including "actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs." Keller wrote:

Water-boarding or mock drowning, where a prisoner is bound to an inclined board and water is poured over their face, inducing a terrifying fear of drowning clearly can result in immediate and long-term health consequences. As the prisoner gags and chokes, the terror of imminent death is pervasive, with all of the physiologic and psychological responses expected, including an intense stress response, manifested by tachycardia, rapid heart beat and gasping for breath. There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD. I remind you of the patient I described earlier who would panic and gasp for breath whenever it rained even years after his abuse.

In his testimony, Keller stated that his "perspective ... is based on more than 15 years of experience as a doctor in evaluating and caring for victims of torture and mistreatment from around the world, and studying the health consequences of such trauma."

Additionally, when challenged by CNN contributor Roland Martin -- who noted Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) declaration that waterboarding is torture -- West responded: "John McCain's torture is nothing like waterboarding. Anything we do is always going to be more humane than anything our enemies do."

From the 7 p.m. ET hour of the November 1 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: President Bush plays the terror card as he tries to rescue the embattled nomination of his pick for attorney general. Judge Michael Mukasey once a seeming shoe-in for the job but not necessarily any longer, as senators are demanding he say definitively whether or not waterboarding is torture. Joining us now to talk about that and more in New York, our CNN contributor Roland Martin, along with CNN's own Jack Cafferty. Here in Washington, Diana West, a Washington Times columnist and the author of a book entitled The Death of a [sic: the] Grown-up.

[...]

BLITZER: All right. What do you think, Diana?

WEST: Well, there's a lot to respond to there. I think for starters, I would say that I would take issue with this notion of this being a 9-11 card. I mean, we are in a period of resurgent Islam, global jihad, I mean, this is a serious period. The president does need an attorney general. Some of us knew that this would come up once Gonzales was gone, and we would see the Democrats playing politics and trying to keep the attorney general seat empty. I don't think this is so much about Judge Mukasey trying to protect the president from prosecution. I do believe many other legal experts would say the president would always have immunity here. What I would like to see is people really start thinking about what is torture. If putting people into human-size shredders, as Saddam Hussein did, is torture, then waterboarding, which my senior military sources tell me you wake up feeling fine the next day -- it is not torture.

MARTIN: Hey, Diana?

WEST: Yes.

MARTIN: In the same speech President Bush gave today, he said that we should trust the generals on the ground in Iraq to tell us what we should do. So guess what? Unlike you and me, why don't we trust the member of Congress who's actually been tortured, John McCain, who spent five and a half years in Vietnam.

WEST: Nothing like waterboarding.

MARTIN: No, no, no. Now, one second, one second. John McCain said waterboarding is torture. Now, who would you rather believe: someone who has never experienced torture or a member of Congress who has actually been tortured? I'm going to go with John McCain on this one, as opposed to those who haven't.

WEST: John McCain's torture is nothing like waterboarding. Anything that we do is always going to be more humane than anything our enemies do.

MARTIN: Now you know what he felt? You know what he felt?

WEST: I don't need to know what he felt.

MARTIN: Wow.

WEST: I do know that I -- no, it's -- that's ridiculous. Then no one can have any opinion about anything unless they've had primary experience. It's absurd.

BLITZER: But, Diana, John McCain does say flatly that waterboarding is torture.

WEST: I know that. I understand that.

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham, who's a Republican senator from South Carolina, himself a military Air Force attorney, a lawyer in the Air Force, he says it's illegal.

WEST: Yes, I know that. But this is not -- you know, John McCain is not king, and he is not the only voice on this.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Interrogation
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Diana West
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
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