Overboard on Waterboarding: The Spanish Inquisition?

It was waterboard Wednesday in the Times, as Philip Shenon and Scott Shane filed separate articles on the issue of waterboarding and "torture" in general.

Shenon's article on the new positive outlook for Michael Mukasey's attorney general nomination tsk-tsked:

"Even some of Mr. Mukasey's supporters said at the hearing to vote on the nomination that they were troubled by the way Mr. Mukasey handled questions about waterboarding, which the United States has fiercely condemned when carried out by other nations and had prosecuted as a war crime after World War II."

Shenon doesn't give any further context, but the most famous example of a World War II waterboarding prosecution was introduced in hearings last year by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Japanese soldier Yukio Asano was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding a U.S. civilian - a civilian, not a soldier, and certainly not a terrorist - as just one of a litany of offenses, including burning him with cigarettes and beating him with a club.

Reporter Scott Shane came up with "A Firsthand Experience Before Decision on Torture" and brought in the Spanish Inquisition.

"But three years ago, Daniel Levin, then the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, decided to bring reality to bear on his deliberations on the torture question. He went to a military base and asked to undergo waterboarding."


"Waterboarding has been used in interrogations at least since the Spanish Inquisition and was used by the Central Intelligence Agency on three high-level terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003, according to officials familiar with the agency's secret detention program. It involves strapping a suspect to a board with feet elevated, covering his face with a cloth and pouring water on it to produce a feeling of suffocation.'"

Question: If waterboarding is obviously torture, as the Times implies, why do so many people, including journalists and protestors, volunteer to demonstrate it? And if only three high-level Al Qaeda figures have actually been waterboarded, doesn't that make the current spate of self-administered waterboarding by protestors and other curiosity seekers (and the resulting news coverage) rather pointless?