The coming end of Methodism

I’ve just returned from three days of the Bishop’s Convocation of the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences of the United Methodist Church. The theme of the convocation was “Restoring Methodism.” I’ll not address the content of the convocation in this post except to note that the presenters, Professors James and Molly Scott, offered excellent ideas and processes for a potential restoration, if one is to be done. Their book and CD can be found here.

However, despite my enthusiasm for their ideas, I am pessimistic that anything can be done to reverse the decades-long downward trend in the number of people belonging to the UMC in the United States. (The UMC is a worldwide denomination and is growing outside the US.) In 1968 there were almost 13 million UMs; now there are about 8 million. Of these, we were told, the average age is 60. They didn’t say what the median age is, but I expect it’s higher. However, for this post I’ll assume that the median age and the average age are about the same. The median age for all Americans is 36.4 years (Census tables here).

What the convocation ignored was what the graying of the denomination portends. Once the mention was made of UMs’ ages, the subject was dropped and we moved on to discussing how to fix the machinery of the denomination as a whole.

But having written a lot on my previous blog about Europe’s demographic death spiral, I could not help but ponder whether United Methodism is in the same fix. The thrust of the convocation was that we UMs can reverse the decline if we return to Wesleyan basics. Now, I’m keen to return to Wesleyan basics and think we should do that anyway, but the idea that we can evangelize faster than the Grim Reaper reduces our numbers is a proposition that I find highly dubious.

Consider some actuarial facts. If indeed the median age is about the same as the average age, 60, that means that of the 8 million UMs living today, one-fourth, or 2 million, will be dead within 20 years, and another million dead about eight years later. So in less than 30 years, we will lose from death alone three-eighths of our present membership, leaving us at 5 million.

That decline does not include the hemorrhage of our youth who, when graduating from high school, graduate from the church as well (an issue affecting all denominations). I don’t have the demographic breakdown for that age group as a percentage of the UM total, but the church admits that, relative to the general population, people under 35 are underrepresented.

So the decline due to death of our numbers will be amplified by dropouts, mostly, though not exclusively the under-35 cohort. There is only a small chance, IMO, that the number of people electing to leaved the denomination can be matched by those joining. But the idea that new members can offset losses from both dropouts and death is simply not supportable. If we could do that (or were willing to do it), we would already be doing it. And the losses from death in the coming years will only accelerate.

It goes without saying that with an average age of 60, United Methodists are generally no longer bearing children. Of course there are families in our churches, but there is a very large number of UM churches that have no children. The fertility rate among European-descended, American women is lower than the 2.1 replacement rate. The overall American fertility rate of 2.08 is that high only because non-white women are having more than two children each (on average, of course). See, “The vanishing American family.”

This national trend is reflected in the UMC, so I think I stand on safe ground in saying that, on average, UM adults of childbearing age are not having enough children to replace themselves when they die, much less replace themselves and one or more older members.

But no one I know of in the Methodist church’s hierarchy or think tanks is addressing this part of the issue.

We might also consider that the median age of UM elders (who serve as senior pastors of churches) is 52, which is my own age. The average age is almost 51. Of the 17,000-plus elders in the denomination, only about 840 are 35 or younger. As a rule, older clergy will not attract younger members, especially families. Furthermore, with a mandatory retirement age of 70.5, half of all elders will retire within 20 years (most clergy elect to retire before 70). So in addition to a shrinking membership, the UMC will be faced with a steadily graying clergy and an accelerating shortage to boot.

Israel’s Security Wall – a view from Israel

By Daniel Jackson, blogging from Israel

How do Israelis feel about The Wall?

As opposed to what?

Susan and I have been looking at land in the community of Yonatan. It is a wonderful spot out in the Golan with light, wonderful air, excellent stars at night, and stalwart folks who work the land, albeit in the high tech mode of capitalist agriculture.

Moon Rise at Yonatan

The community is in the process of developing some prime view lots. Before they put in the power, water, and sewage, they put in the most important ingredient to Israeli life — the security fence.

The Security Fence at Yonatan

Looking around the lots, taking in the beauty of the evening, I commented to Efrat, the young woman showing us around, “It’s a pity about that fence.” “I agree,” she said, “but, our neighbors, the Syrians, have other ideas about us. What you call ‘crime’ in the States, our neighbors call ‘acts of resistance’.”

In Yonatan, it is the Syrians. In Ephrat in the Gush and Jerusalem, it is the Palestinians. In the Galil, it is Arab Israelis. Only the very largest cities and areas go without some sort of fence. Arab Israeli towns are built on the sides of very steep hills; utilizing the architectural style of feudal peasant towns clearly defensible from a frontal assault by marauding warlords and other terrorists. Jewish Israeli towns, however, are platted like suburbia throughout the US and Europe but with a controlled access gate across all entrances and a substantial fence (sometimes with a moat).

Front Gate

Although the actual number of times is small where a team of freedom fighters entered a Jewish Israeli settlement, murdered women and children in their homes before fleeing, most Jewish Israelis are not willing to take such chances.

Now in the States, the idea of “gated communities” is against the law—perhaps, when the US finally takes control of Israel, the rule of US Civil Rights will prevail. In Israel, it is important to remember what the enemies of the freedom fighters really look like.

Enemies of the Liberation Army

Back in the days of the Second Intifada (was there ever an end to it?), Jerusalem was the center of the War. There were regular bombings. School kids, shoppers, bus riders, and those who went out for pizza or drinks were targets. After the bombing of S’Barros in downtown Jerusalem …

S’barros, Jerusalem

and the regular bombings at Ben Yehuda Street …

Ben Yehuda Street

… I began to go downtown to the scene of the liberation act as an act of solidarity to the true soldiers in the Second Intifada War—pedestrians, shop owners, police men and women, and all of those children who rode public transportation to and from school. The huge open air market …

Night Market

… Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem was regularly hit by homicidal maniacs — within hours the place was cleaned up and back in business.

Dried Fruit

If they were willing to sell, then the least I could do was go right down there and buy.

Salted Fish

God Bless them all. These are the true heroes of that war.

So, what stopped the carnage? The Wall. Israelis will tell you that anyone who says differently is lying. Since the advent of The Wall, there have been no bombings. All of the increased intelligence and firepower of the IDF was empty until there was a place to stop those who enter Jerusalem at a Gate; and a gate is useless if there is no wall. The tourists have come back; retro hippies and the India world travelers hang out in Ben Yehuda at night where before only zealots like me walked as an act of defiance. Now, the normal defiance of youth against authority and parents flourishes in public spaces and town squares. They may complain about the Man, man, but The Wall has made it happen.

So how do Israelis think about The Wall? They don’t. It’s a non issue. It is part of the normal order of life—another manifestation of their daily routine all over the country. Now, Jerusalem is truly the capital of the country—it has a wall and a gate, just like the folks at home. Tel Aviv is the temple to the Old World; but Jerusalem is the model of the future.

The perpetual sucker game?

Caroline Glick:

AND THEN of course there are the Palestinians. Here American policy has been a double failure. First of all, it has destroyed American deterrence toward the Arab world.

To divert American attention away from their support for jihadist terrorism, the leaders of the Arab world sought to convince the Americans that the only way to end their support for terror and jihad was by resolving the Palestinian conflict with Israel.

Rather than stop to question the validity of the Arabs’ strange assertion, the Americans believed them. …

Aside from that, it bears noting that it is largely because of the strengthening of jihadist forces in the Arab world that there is no possibility of achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Rather than understand this, the Americans have allowed the Arabs to send them on a wild goose chase that will never end.

The very fact that this week US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thought that it was more important to come to Israel for the ninth time this year than to deal with the crisis in Pakistan shows clearly just how deeply the Americans have internalized this Arab fiction.

I would say that any serious student of Palestinian politics can take only with much reservation the recent comments by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the upcoming Annapolis peace conference can lead to Palestinian state being achieved before the end of the Bush administration. There are two questions that no one is confident of answering in advance: Does Mahmoud Abbas himself genuinely want to accept a two-state solution? An d if he does, is he actually capable of making it work with his own people?

Even Israelis who think the answer to the former question is affirmative are highly dubious about the latter. Abbas is seen as very weak both personally and politically. When I visited Israel’s foreign ministry on Oct. 21 as part of a small study group, we spoke privately, though on the record, with Mr. Igal Pallmor, who is the director of the North Africa, Syria and Lebanon departments. His boss is the foreign minister. Mr. Pallmor said that the question of whether Abbas can pull it off is at best “open.” But he also said that regardless of Abbas’ will and ability, the response of other Arab countries will be crucial. More on the view from the ministry later.

“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – a hymn for Veterans Day

In the century and a half since, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” was composed, it has come into widespread use by both Britain’s Royal Navy and the US Navy, becoming known as the Royal Navy Hymn in the former and the Navy Hymn in the latter. William Whiting of England, composed the poem in 1860 for a student of his who was soon to sail for America. The music was composed by another Englishman, Rev. John Bacchus Dykes, an Episcopalian clergyman. The music was published in 1861, but I don’t know how the lyrics and the music came to be put together.

The hymn was sung at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s funeral, as well as the funerals of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. And as the 1999 movie, Titanic shows, it was sung during services aboard the doomed vessel the Sunday before she sank. (However, the version sung in the movie was not arranged until 1940.)

Since the hymn was penned, a number of other verses have been composed by various persons over the years. Some of these have been adopted by the Armed Forces Chaplain’s Board for inclusion in worship services conducted by military chaplains. These additional verses, prayers for the Marines, aviators, astronauts, the wounded, families at home and others, are included as an addendum on the US Navy’s web page devoted to the hymn.

Verses for the hymn are easy to write. The rhyming is simply, aabbcc, with each line consisting of eight syllables in iambic tetrameter (which, definitionally, is eight syllables anyway).

The original hymn itself, of course, long ago passed into the public domain, so anyone may use the music or compose a verse thereto. In my church service today, we will sing the hymn in five verses honoring all who serve at sea, on the land or in the air, finished by a verse of prayer for our country, thus:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Lord of hosts, to you we turn
To give us grace we cannot earn.
Our soldiers guard our way of life;
Be with them all in times of strife.
Let courage flow from your command;
We pray for those who fight on land.

Eternal Father, grant, we pray,
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps

Lord, guard and guide all those who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

Almighty God, whose arm is strong,
protect us e’er from doing wrong.
We pray to always do what’s right,
for justice only be our fight.
Let peace now reign across our land,
brought to us by your gracious hand.

Of the verses above, authorship is as follows:

Verse 1 – William Whiting, the original first verse.
Verse 2 – me, composed for this day as a prayer for the Army
Verse 3 – J. E. Seim, 1966
Verse 4 – Mary C. D. Hamilton, 1915
Verse 5 – me again

You can hear the US Navy Sea Chanters, the service’s chorus, sing the first verse by clicking here.

Sunnis to US: Stay away, we’ll kill al Qaeda on our own

Not content with losing the logistics war, now al Qaeda is just plain losing the war. And this is a new wrinkle:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Former Sunni insurgents asked the U.S. to stay away, then ambushed members of al-Qaida in Iraq, killing 18 in a battle that raged for hours north of Baghdad, an ex-insurgent leader and Iraqi police said Saturday.

The Islamic Army in Iraq sent advance word to Iraqi police requesting that U.S. helicopters keep out of the area since its fighters had no uniforms and were indistinguishable from al-Qaida, according to the police and a top Islamic Army leader known as Abu Ibrahim.

Abu Ibrahim told The Associated Press that his fighters killed 18 al-Qaida militants and captured 16 in the fight southeast of Samarra, a mostly Sunni city about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

“We found out that al-Qaida intended to attack us, so we ambushed them at 3 p.m. on Friday,” Abu Ibrahim said. He would not say whether any Islamic Army members were killed.

Much of the Islamic Army in Iraq, a major Sunni Arab insurgent group that includes former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, has joined the U.S.-led fight against al-Qaida in Iraq along with Sunni tribesmen and other former insurgents repelled by the terror group’s brutality and extremism.

Those who’ve cared to know learned months ago that the vast majority of Sunnis in Iraq have turned against al Qaeda, though Sunni Baathist “dead enders” and anti-Shia insurgents had mostly allied themselves with al Qaeda to fight US forces not long after the Coalition’s invasion in the spring of 2003. Before the middle of 2005, the first cracks in the Sunni’s affiliation, and sometime alliance, with al Qaeda had started to appear. Not many months after that, there was occasional combat between some AQI formations and Sunni militias.

Understand that the Islamic Army in Iraq is not pro-American. It was the largest Sunni anti-coalition insurgent group in Iraq after Saddam’s fall, and was devoted mainly to regaining power for the Baathists. Despite its name, the IAI is not especially hardline Muslim in character and would be mischaracterized as Islamist, though it did openly ally itself with al Qaeda in Iraq for a long time. But AQI’s harsh brutality in taking over Sunni towns, executing townspeople (and even beheading children) who wouldn’t toe the hardcore Islamist line, finally turned IAI against AQI early this year, and it began fighting AQI. However, AQI and IAI soon came to a ceasefire agreement under the proposition that they each alike were bound first to fight the Americans. Even so, IAI never signed on to AQI’s version of Islam and never agreed to help al Qaeda’a in it goal of instituting the Islamic State of Iraq.

Evidently, the ceasefire has broken down. At this stage of the war, for al Qaeda to lose 18 fighters to death with almost as many captured is a serious loss for them.

The Islamic Army in Iraq cannot be counted as friendly to the US or to Iraq’s central government. However, it now appears that they are no longer enemies, either.

There’s bad news for AQI elsewhere, too.

Meanwhile, farther east, in Diyala province, members of another former insurgent group, the 1920s Revolution Brigades, launched a military-style operation Saturday against al-Qaida in Iraq there, the Iraqi Army said.

About 60 militants were captured and handed over to Iraqi soldiers, an Army officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to media.

Afterward, hundreds of people paraded through the streets of Buhriz, about 35 miles north of Baghdad, witnesses said. Many danced and fired their guns into the air, shouting “Down with al-Qaida!” and “Diyala is for all Iraqis!”

Well, when it rains, it pours.

Al Qaeda losing the log war in Iraq

When you’ve lost the logistics war, you’ve simply lost the war.

November 9, 2007: The various terrorist groups in Iraq, especially the Sunni Arabs and al Qaeda, appear to be having supply problems. In a word, the enemy is running out of ammunition. Their logistical “tail” is being chopped to bits. Captured documents and prisoner interrogations mention these shortages. There are other signs as well. Many of the bomb factories, or bomb storage sites, are full of homemade explosives. Apparently most of the Saddam era, ready-made stuff, is gone. Most of the pre-2003 military explosives have been found and destroyed by American combat engineers over the last four years.

In every operations planning meeting I attended or presented, discussion of logistics occupied easily two-thirds of the time, and usually about three-fourths. Correct tactics, after all, is simply using firepower and maneuver in order to achieve an advantage that is logistically supportable.

The more desperate al Qaeda in Iraq becomes to sustain itself, the more visible it will become. And the more visible it becomes, the more of them Iraqi and American forces will kill or capture.

Palestinians flocking to Israel

Ynet news reports, “Thousands of Palestinians apply for Israeli citizenship.” Subtitle: “Intensive talks over division of Jerusalem has prompted its Palestinian residents to make a move once considered the ultimate treason.”

Well, yeah. I refer you to my post of the evening I spent with Mr. Bassem Eid, the only Palestinian documenting the human-rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

In 2000, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to Yasser Arafat to hand over to the Palestinian Authority about three-quarters of Jerusalem – every historic quarter except, of course, the Jewish Quarter. The three quarters concerned were, and are, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Arafat simply said no.

During my visit to Israel last month, our study group spent an afternoon conferring with an Israeli-citizen Arab, whose safety was so precarious that he asked his photo not be taken, saying, “I don’t want my picture to wind up on someone’s blog so that certain people will know what I look like.” (Hint: it was not Jews he was afriad of, nor Israeli Christians.) Though his name is well known, since he writes for the Jerusalem Post, I’ll refer to him only by his first name, Khaled.

Khaled was very candid about the difference of the lives of Palestinians living under the PA (to say nothing of those living under Hamas in Gaza) and the lives of Israeli Arabs. He did point out that Arabs are a minority in Israel, and they know it. Israel is a Jewish state, and all its Arab citiziens, whether the 70 percent who are Muslim or the 30 percent who are Christian, are not merely ethnic minorities, but religious minorities.

But Khaled also pointed out that despite the mild oppression that Israeli Arabs generally feel, they know they are the freest Arabs anywhere in the Middle East. That’s why the reverse of yNet’s headline is never printed: Israeli Arabs are neither crazy nor stupid enought to migrate into the West Bank or Gaza, where they would live under the mere facsimile of democracy in the former and outright tyranny in the latter.

yNet explains:

In the months leading up to the upcoming Annapolis peace conference talk of a future division of the city has prompted a staggering increase in nationalization requests by Palestinians seeking to escape life under the Palestinian Authority.

Some 250,000 Palestinians currently reside in Jerusalem. Only 12,000 of them have sought to obtain an Israeli citizenship since 1967, an average of about 300 new citizens a year.

But over the past four months the Interior Ministry has registered an unprecedented 3,000 applications, primarily residents of the Arab neighborhoods unlikely to remain under Israeli sovereignty according to the political initiative currently on the agenda.

But the blunt fact is that Israel is not about to receive these vast numbers of Palestinians. Several officials we spoke to, including very senior persons at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, indicated clearly that they are well aware of the demographics between Jews and Arabs in and around Israel. Almost one-fourth of Israelis are Muslims. One official said clearly that because Israel is a democracy, it simply was unthinkable that its government would allow massive numbers of Palestinian Muslims to take up citizenship and ultimately vote the Jewish state out of existence.

Regardless, the fact is that people vote with their feet when there is no other effective recourse. As the Annapolis Conference, now scheduled for next month, draws nearer, expect increasing number of requests by Palestinians for Israeli citizenship, or at least asylum.

Instant replay review for MLB? Nope.

That’s my summary assessment of the new proposal to allow “limited” use of video instant replay to review calls by umpires in Major League Ball games. The proposal has been floated by the league’s general managers by a 25-5 vote. The commissioner will decide how (and whether) to move the proposal forward.

Unlike the NFL, which has a wide range of calls that may be reviewed via video at the behest of a coach (except in the last two minutes of each half), the general managers’ proposal calls for replay to be used “only to determine the validity — or lack thereof — of a home run.” Further, like the NHL, there would be only one replay-reviewing location, for MLB likely at the commissioner’s office area.

Even if instant replay is approved by whatever procedure the commissioner sets up, it would still have to be approved by both the players’ association and the umpires association before being used.

I don’t think that will happen.

More at the MLB site.

The great biofuel hoax – and the evil resulting

Until biofuels can be manufactured economically and in quantity from plant waste byproducts, they should, I think, be resisted by any person who claims to have a moral sense.

As everyone knows, biofuels have been touted with great vigor by the Bush administration, as well as practically every other Western government, as the answer to over-reliance on petroleum fuels. The reason is not that the world is running out of oil – on the contrary, the globe is practically floating in it (though the wrong places have most of the reserves). The reason for the shift to biofuels is to stop global warming.

There are excellent reasons to move our energy reliance away from oil, but shifting to biofuels to stop global warming isn’t one of them. I won’t even address here the issue of whether (a) the world really is warming, or (b) whether petroleum use is a the principal cause. Both these matters are still unsettled by scientists (though not by politicians). My point here is that what we are doing is growing food crops to convert to ehtanol, and this fact has two very deleterious effects: (a) it produces more, not less, gases presently described as “greenhouse” gases, said to cause global warming, and (b) makes all foods more expensive.

The Guardian newspaper has an article today focusing on the latter aspect, but does touch on the former.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas – nitrous oxide – that is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of more than 80% of the world’s biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel. This is before you account for the changes in land use.

A paper published in the journal Science three months ago suggests that protecting uncultivated land saves, over 30 years, between two and nine times the carbon emissions you might avoid by ploughing it and planting biofuels. Last year the research group LMC International estimated that if the British and European target of a 5% contribution from biofuels were to be adopted by the rest of the world, the global acreage of cultivated land would expand by 15%. That means the end of most tropical forests. It might also cause runaway climate change.

That’s what happens when activists and politicians focus on only one thing, carbon dioxide, the the big meanie of global warming. Yet methane and nitrous oxide are said by climatologists to be far more powerful in inducing global warming than CO2. Why focus on CO2? Michael Crichton pointed out in his book, State of Fear, that if the atmosphere was a football field, the amount of CO2 would be one inch of the field. Nonetheless, gobal warming alarmists say that a minute increase of that one inch places the entire earth in jeopardy.

Yet, according to the Guardian, the most damaging fact about biofuels is not they that will make global warming worse, but that

… using food to produce biofuels “might further strain already tight supplies of arable land and water all over the world, thereby pushing food prices up even further”. This week, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls “a very serious crisis”. Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%. Biofuels aren’t entirely to blame – by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand – but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.

Get the irony? Global petroleum reserves are at an all-time high, while global food reserves are at one of their lowest levels in the modern era, yet we’re reducing the amount of food we grow in order to use less oil. Already in the US, more than half of corn production is devoted not to the table, but to the tank. The effect on the prices of other foods has been felt hard, especially animal foods, such as chickens, for which corn is a major foodstuff. Feed corn for livestock has risen sharply in price.

The Guardian concludes, perhaps somewhat hyperbolically, “If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies … [m]illions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry.” Couldn’t happen, you say? Well, consider that the banning of DDT in 1972 has resulted in the deaths of more people than died around the world in World War II (see this piece in 21st Century Science and and Technlogy magazine). Never underestimate the power of governments to destroy, and be especially wary when they claim the best of intentions in order to do so.

Waterboarding is torture

At Small Wars Journal, former SERE instructor Malcom Nance argues that waterboarding is toture, period, and can’t be rationally argued otherwise.

… As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. …

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

One problem with public understanding of what waterboarding entails is that there is apparently more than one way to inflict it. The Nazis used to waterboard by strapping the victim face down on a board, the top edge of the board ending below the chin. They’d then dunk the victim’s head under the water and bring him (or her – they were equal-opportunity torturers) back up at the incipience of terror as the victims they couldn’t hold their breath any longer.

As I understand how “the American model” is done, which Chief Nance is talking about, the victim is strapped face up on the board (one presumes it could just as well be a long table), then plastic qrap, like Saran wrap, is place over the victims face, cutting off breathing through both mouth and nose. Then a small hole, about the size you could make with a writing pen, is punched through the wrap in the middle of the mouth.

Understand, the victim must breathe – you can’t stop your self from breathing except for a few tens of seconds. So once he starts to suck air through the little hole in the wrap, the torturers start pouring water through the hole. That’s how, as Chief Nance points out, the victim’s lungs start to fill with water. He literally inhales it because the torturers make sure they pour water into his mouth when he breathes in.

Anyone think that is not one of the most terrifying things a human being could experience?

Chief Nance concludes,

It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Quite so. Read the whole article. (HT: Winds of Change)


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