Jim Lippard puts his finger on the problem with the rash of pseudo-waterboarding demonstrations that have cropped up here, here, and here. No demonstration under controlled circumstances can induce the agony and terror a man feels as his lungs fill with water and he wonders how far his interrogators really will go toward killing him. In the video touted by Joan Walsh of Salon, the "victim" actually gets up after his "waterboarding," giggles, and says "That really sucked." Unintentionally, such enactments strengthen the argument that waterboarding really isn't all that bad. As Lippard puts it,
Most of the media discussions of waterboarding have completely omitted the part about the subject's lungs filling with water and made it sound like it's no more than having your head dunked under water, like bobbing for apples at Halloween.
A better desciption goes like this:
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.
So, memo to anti-torture demonstrators: you do our cause no good at all by controlled namby-pamby simulations of waterboarding. You can't approach the pain and horror of the real thing, so what you wind up communicating is that it isn't all that bad. Cut it out.