Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bringing the debate on coercive techniques to the court of public opinion

Kaj Larsen, a journalist for Current TV, a former military officer, and a student of public policy was dismayed that the use of torture could be decided in government without every being debated in a broader public sphere. So, he volunteered himself to be waterboarded again, this time on national TV. He previously underwent waterboarding in his SERE training (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) when he was a Special Forces operative.

Kaj explains the catalyst for this decision

Then, in mid March I traveled to Cambodia for Spring Break. While there I visited the Tuol Sleng (also known as S-21) prison in Phnom Penh. The Tuol Sleng prison had been converted to a museum and memorial for the victims of the Cambodian Genocide under the Pol Pot regime. As I walked through the museum and saw the photographs of the victims of the genocide, I was shocked to see a picture of the Khmer Rouge Water-boarding a Cambodian villager. At that moment I saw a throughline between the debate we were having domestically and the picture I was standing in front of. I was spurred into action, and upon my return to the United States, I decided to have myself water-boarded, this time on national TV, as a public service, so that this controversial technique could be judged in the court of public opinion.

This is a great example of how democracy should work, in terms of the involvement and awareness of citizens and their opinions being included in the debate

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