Just in case the revelation that American torturers took their cues from that model of moral clarity that was the Chinese Communist regime hasn’t fully convinced you that the practice is unquestionably, incontrovertibly evil, Christopher Hitchens’ column in the August 2008 Vanity Fair, “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” ought to drive the point home. That is, if the accompanying video, available online at Vanity Fair’s website, doesn’t do it first.
In the video, Christopher Hitchens is brought, hooded and bound, into an austere looking storage room, and placed on a board, slightly elevated at its foot. He is instructed by the similarly masked interrogators on how to call a halt to the procedure, either through a safe word – “red” – or by releasing the “dead man’s handle” – a metal object placed in each hand. A towel is placed over his face and one of the interrogators begins pouring water on Hitchens’ face from an ordinary-looking milk carton. The interrogators demonstrate no more aggression that one might when watering a houseplant. In fact, the process looks so unremarkable that you begin to wonder if they aren’t simply “warming Hitchens up” for something worse.
Seventeen seconds pass, and then Hitchens drops the dead man’s handle. When the hood is removed, it is jarring to see how panic-stricken Hitchens looks.