It is a no-brainer moral issue.
You do not torture. Torture is terrorism. Torture is unstrategic and counter to democratic and constitutional principles. You don’t combat evil with evil. You do not hire people to attorney general or to grocery clerk who believe in torture. Unless you are Darth Vader. This is basic morality. This is basic Christianity.
I do think that the new attorney general or the president or the congress or the supreme court should state the obvious.
In the media, waterboarding is called “simulated drowning,” but that’s a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia – meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.
The lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threatened with its use again and again. Call it “Chinese water torture,” “the barrel,” or “the waterfall.” It is all the same.