Revolution#109, November 18, 2007

Demonstration in Front of Justice Dept. Shows:

Waterboarding IS Torture!

At 10th & Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of the Justice Department on the day before Senate Democrats Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein sealed the nomination of Judge Mukasey who would not say that water boarding is torture, activists from the World Can’t Wait, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Catholic Worker, Code Pink, Montgomery Peace Action, and the Democracy Cell Project gathered to dramatically demonstrate that in fact it is.

Clark Kissinger introduced the scene for the gathered media by pointing out that those publications that describe waterboarding as “simulated drowning” are practicing “simulated journalism.” Waterboarding IS drowning. Water is forced up the nose and mouth of the blindfolded victim in a controlled manner. Any attempt to breathe only leads to inhaling more water. The sensation of asphyxiation induces excruciating pain and terror.

Waterboarding is, of course, part of an arsenal of U.S. torture methods euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation.” To provide “plausible deniability” for the military, the U.S. government regularly employs “private contractors” or CIA personnel to torture. The government also employs “special rendition,” where individuals are shipped to other countries to be tortured in secret at the request of the Bush regime.


The anti-torture activists, dressed as “civilian contractors,” drag the victim forward. Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, a 26-year-old Iranian-American actor, had bravely agreed to be the victim. He is dressed in an orange jump suit, his hands tightly bound with duct tape.

“Give us the names!” screams Marietta, a local university drama teacher.

“I don’t have any names. I was in Syria at a conference,” Maboud pleads.

“We can do this the easy way; we can do it the hard way.”

Maboud is grabbed from where he is sitting and forced onto an inclined board, head down, with the towel thrown over his face. “Give us the names!” the interrogator screams as water is poured onto the towel. Although Maboud is protected from the full force of the water by the piece of plastic behind the towel, some water still gets past and runs up his nose. It begins getting very real.

After the first gallon, Maboud is pulled up. “You like that? You like that? That was the hard way. You want to breathe? Give us the names!” the interrogator again demands. Maboud can only cough and gasp for air. He is pushed back down on the board and given another gallon of water in the face.

At the end of the demonstration, Maboud is coughing and shaken. “It’s only the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had,” Maboud tells reporters. “Although it was a ‘controlled environment,’ when water goes into your lungs, you want to scream and you can’t because you know as soon as you do you’re going to choke. It’s forced drowning. That’s what it is.”


Waterboarding is illegal under both international and domestic law. The U.S. is a signatory of the International Convention Against Torture, and there is a domestic anti-torture law. Schumer and Feinstein excuse the line they have just crossed over to once again sanction and legitimize war crimes by saying that Judge Mukasey has assured them he will uphold a law prohibiting torture if Congress would pass one. Aside from the fact that the Bush regime would most surely abrogate this with a signing statement or a veto—this is also like saying, if Congress will only pass a new law, then I will deign to enforce the existing laws.

The demonstration of waterboarding was covered by the Associated Press which put out a story with video, and on web pages from the Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times, as well as by daily papers. A few nights later it was shown on the PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer. For just a few minutes Maboud shared the experience of people who are still being tortured in U.S. military prisons and black sites around the world. It was both terrifying and emotional—a reminder that allowing this to go on in our names makes us culpable and that it’s high time we acted to stop this by actually driving the war criminals running this country from power through massive political repudiation and resistance to their whole reactionary program. TORTURE ALONE IS REASON ENOUGH!

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond