Today's publication of former President George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" has put one of the more controversial issues of his presidency – his authorization of waterboarding – back in the public debate.
Most of the controversy stems from whether waterboarding is considered torture, which is banned under the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration has called it an “enhanced interrogation technique.”
In this technique, a person is strapped to a board on his back. Water is poured over the person's face so that it runs into breathing passages, which is meant to simulate drowning.
While lawyers and statesmen have debated the issue abstractly, Christopher Hitchens, a formerly firm member of the political left who departed from the camp with his support of the Iraq war, decided the best way to form an opinion was by getting waterboarded himself.
The practice, he decided after the experience, is indeed torture.
He detailed the experience in a column for Vanity Fair, writing: "You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning – or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. ... If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”