Matthew Yglesias has a post up over at Think Progress once again raising the canard that there is even a remote comparison between the CIA’s lawful interrogation techniques and the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition.
Apparently, Yglesias has not bothered to read Courting Disaster. If he had, he would know better than to make this ridiculous argument. Even a basic review of the facts makes clear Yglesias is completely uninformed.
Take this description, which I quote in the book, from Henry Charles Lea’s 1906 volume, A History of the Inquisition in Spain:
The patient was placed on . . . a kind of trestle with sharp-edged rungs across it like a ladder. It slanted so that the head was lower than the feet and, at the lower end was a depression in which the head sank, while an iron band around the forehead or throat made it immovable. Sharp cords, called cordeles, which cut into the flesh, attached the arms and legs to the side of the trestle and others, known as garrotes, from sticks thrust in them and twisted around like a tourniquet till the cords cut more or less deeply into the flesh, were twined around the upper and lower arms, the thighs and the calves. . . .
The cords on the rack, Lea writes,
were carried to a maestro garrote by which the executioner could control all at once. These worked not only by compression, but by traveling around the limbs, carrying away skin and flesh. Each half round was reckoned a vuelta or turn, six or seven of which was the maximum, but it was usual not to exceed five. Formerly the same was done with the cord around the forehead, but this was abandoned as it was apt to start the eyes from their sockets.
Once the “patient” was secured to the rack, Lea explains,
An iron prong, distended the mouth, a toca, or strip of linen was thrust down the throat to conduct water trickling slowly from a jarra or jar, holding usually a little more than a quart. The patient strangled and gasped and suffocated and, at intervals, the toca was withdrawn and he was adjured to tell the truth. The severity of the infliction was measured by the number of jarras consumed, sometimes reaching six or eight.
Needless to say, none of this even remotely resembles what was done by the CIA. No sharp cords cutting into the flesh; no iron prong distending the mouth; no strip of linen thrust down the throat to carry the water into the internal organs. No comparison whatsoever. But folks like Yglesias continue to make the specious comparison. And so each time I feel obligated to respond, to defend the honor of the courageous men and women of the CIA who kept us safe and who cannot defend themselves.
They deserve better. But at least they can take some satisfaction in knowing that when folks like Yglesias open their mouths on this topic, they demonstrate once again that they are speaking from a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance.