Friday, September 22, 2006

...I saw water-boarding long ago in Vietnam. A half-naked young man, suspected of being a local Viet Cong guerrilla, was handed over by his American captors to South Vietnamese troops.

Four of them held him down. An old, dirty rag was coiled around his face covering his nose and mouth. A fifth held a five-gallon tin of water slowly pouring it into the coiled rag.

The water took the place of air for that prisoner. His chest heaved violently as he sought the air and took in only water. I turned away before I could see whether he talked or drowned. An American captain shrugged; it was a Vietnamese thing.

There were other field expedient tortures in Vietnam, including the infamous telephone generator, where wires were clamped on genitals and the handle cranked at increasing speeds, and wattage, as the victim screamed and bucked.

Those abominations existed in Vietnam, but they were not carried out by Americans. There was a line that was never to be crossed. It was a line between barbarity and civilization. It was a line between them and us.

...What's the middle ground on torture? No water boarding or work on the fingernails allowed but sleep deprivation and the ice-box and minor beating around the head and ears are just fine?

We once stood for something good in this world. We once took the high moral ground in our struggle with the evil that exists. We once upheld the Geneva Conventions not only because we expected our enemies to apply them in their treatment of American prisoners but because they were the law, and they were right.

Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda boys hiding in their caves in Waziristan are surely laughing over all of this. They have succeeded in dragging us down to their level of barbarity and inhumanity.

--Joe Galloway, "We've Sunk to Osama's Level," at

The piece, alas, was written before the compromise was reached, and was thus naively optimistic about what the three holdouts were accomplishing.

...General H. Norman Schwarzkopf has called Galloway "The finest combat correspondent of our generation -- a soldier's reporter and a soldier's friend."

He is the coauthor of We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young.

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