It has been reported that waterboarding was the object of jokes at a recent roast of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Poor taste aside, waterboarding is no joke.
Waterboarding is a method of torture that goes beyond the fear of suffocation. Waterboarding is a form of slow, controlled drowning tantamount to a mock execution that can result in the victim suffering psychological trauma for years.
That is no laughing matter.
Among the torture survivors the Center for Victims of Torture has treated are individuals who once endured this abuse at the hands of repressive regimes.
Survivors say mock executions left them feeling as if they were already dead. Many relive these near-death experiences in their nightmares or flashbacks. When prisoners are waterboarded, they are strapped down and immobilized and water is poured over their faces causing asphyxiation.
Survivors have told us they pleaded with their torturers to kill them, preferring real death over the constant threat and intolerable pain caused by mock executions.
The use of waterboarding and other forms of torture and cruel treatment authorized by the previous Administration and championed by Mr. Cheney as legitimate U.S. counterterrorism measures are not only illegal and immoral, but also endanger Americans, especially our men and women in uniform.
Military experts agree that torture places service members at great risk of being subjected to similar treatment at the hands of our enemies if they are captured. The United States must never again resort to methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans.
We need to ensure that we never return to official policies of torture and cruel treatment.
To start, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's 6,000 plus page report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) past detention and interrogation program following September 11, 2001, must be released with as few redactions as possible.
The American people are entitled to a complete reporting of the facts. Only then can we understand what went wrong and prevent such abuses from happening again in the future.
It's only until the brutal truth, and the corresponding costs and consequences of engaging in waterboarding and other forms of torture, is fully revealed that it will no longer be a laughing matter.