Christopher Hitchens, no shrinking violet when it comes to forcefully addressing the threats posed by Islamism in the modern age, describes “waterboarding” today in Vanity Fair as a brand "of barbarism that [one] might expect to meet at the hands of a lawless foe who disregarded the Geneva Conventions."

After subjecting himself to the terrifying ordeal of "controlled simulated drowning" at the hands of some patriotic Americans skilled in the procedure, Hitchens notes that reasonable and honorable people disagree over whether the extreme intelligence tool is efficient and/or moral.

For his part, however, Hitchens provides a gripping account of his own experience and a compelling argument against "waterboarding," which he sees unequivocally as torture. It is worth the read--as Hitchens makes cogent arguments well worth considering:

--is the "ticking time bomb" model a slippery slope to worse brands of torture?

--does all this secrecy really serve American interest? Doesn't anybody with an internet connection know all the top secret details there are to know anyway? Couldn't the American government do better honestly confronting these accusations and wild rumors?

Read it.

Two quick notes:

--Hitch (whom, for the record, I like very much; in fact, he may be my all-time favorite atheist communist) brings up the old saw that confessions yielded from "waterboarding" may contain inaccuracies. Hitch notes that the information extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did not prove to be "wholly reliable."

The bottom line: the information from KSM produced from his interrogation proved invaluable--no one contests that point. Was it all invaluable? Maybe not. But doesn't that miss the bigger point. When a terrorists starts spewing information--are we not much happier with the leads that turn out accurate than we are disappointed with the ones that do not pan out?

--Hitch also notes:

“'waterboarding'” [is] something that Americans [have been doing] to other Americans [for many years]. It was inflicted, and endured, by those members of the Special Forces who underwent the advanced form of training known as sere (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape). In these harsh exercises, brave men and women were introduced to [this brand of torture as a method of preparing for captivity among our worst enemies]."

My cousin, a retired Marine Corps sergeant and currently a young executive (he sometimes comments as "a Farmer's cousin"), reminded me recently that he endured this preparation exercise (SERE training). Needless to say, he did not enjoy it. However, the point is that he survived it, as thousands of American military men have.

"Waterboarding" is undoubtedly horrible (just ask Hitchens, or a farmer's cousin, or KSM), but there is a palpable distinction that the mainstream media perpetually (willfully?) miss: Americans undergo "waterboarding" on a regular basis as part of their training. No one would ever suggest that we stick bamboo under the fingernails of American servicemen--but for years we have "waterboarded" them.