Conservative Radio Host Admits He Was Wrong About Waterboarding

Last month Sean Hannity agreed to guest Charles Grodin’s challenge to subject himself to waterboarding for charity “for the troops’ families.” The next day, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann took him up on his offer and pledged $1,000 to charity for every second Hannity withstood waterboarding. Hannity never took him up on his offer but another conservative radio show host who also thought waterboarding wasn’t torture did:

“[Waterboarding] is way worse than I though it would be… It’s absolutely torture… If I knew it was gonna be this bad, I would not have done it.” – Erich “Mancow” Muller

On Friday, Olbermann announced that he was rescinding the offer to Hannity, and instead giving $10,000 to Veterans of Valorfollowing radio host Erich “Mancow” Muller’s waterboarding attempt. Olbermann promised to donate to the charity Veterans of Valor, founded by Sgt. Klay South, who administered the waterboarding to Muller.

22 Responses to Conservative Radio Host Admits He Was Wrong About Waterboarding

  1. Christopher Lee May 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    Holy crap, I’d pay $1000 to watch Olby get waterboarded. That’d be some good tv.

  2. Silke May 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    Why would Olbermann do it? He’s already convinced it feels like drowning. I’d rather see those who claim it doesn’t, like Hannity – especially when it would have raised money for the “troops’ families,” like he promised.

  3. Christopher Lee May 23, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    So, you think it’s wrong and shouldn’t be used on people who plot the death of almost 3000 innocent men, women and children or those captured on the battlefield killing American troops but you’d like to see it done to a television/radio host under guise of raising money for troops families to teach him a lesson? Hmmm….

    I’d just like to see Olbermann get waterboarded for being a douche bag.

  4. Silke May 24, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    It’s not the same thing, Chris. Those who do it voluntarily (for whatever reason) can stop the process at any time. Those who are waterboarded for the purposes of extracting information don’t have that choice. It only stops when the government decides to stop it. Erich “Mancow” Muller couldn’t last seven seconds. Our government did it hundreds of times to at least three individuals that we know of.

    Personally, I think the douche bags are the ones who claim it’s just water in the face and no big deal – but then won’t experience it for themselves to see what it’s really like. At least people like Muller and Christopher Hitchens had the guts to try it firsthand:

    You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered….Believe me, it’s torture.

  5. Christopher Lee May 24, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    So you’re saying that if we support waterboarding we should have it done to us so that we know what it’s like?

  6. Silke May 24, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    No. But I do believe those who do not think waterboarding is torture would change their mind if it happened to them. Hannity volunteered for it and then chickened out.

  7. Christopher Lee May 24, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    You do know that this is a dead subject, right? Three evil people were waterboarded six years ago and that’s it. No more since. Obama has since risen to power and stopped it, even though it had already been stopped. It can never be used again. It’s done. Over with. Gone for good. So I’m not sure what the argument is anymore.

  8. Reasic May 24, 2009 at 2:24 pm #


    This is in no way a dead subject. There are still people out there, yourself included, who don’t think waterboarding is torture, and who mistakenly believe that it is actually a useful intelligence gathering technique. Dick Cheney has been making his rounds, claiming that we’re safer because of the torture that he approved, despite all evidence to the contrary, and all the rightwing talking heads are 100% behind him. We already received useful information from these subjects via conventional techniques, but Bush and Cheney wanted a link to Saddam (which didn’t exist), so they approved “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

    It’s great that we have a President who would like to take the moral high road, but that doesn’t mean this is a “dead subject”. I think it’s very important that we all understand the truth surrounding the approval of these enhanced interrogation techniques and their effectiveness (or lack thereof).

    “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
    – George Santayana

  9. Silke May 24, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

    Chris said: You do know that this is a dead subject, right?

    Chris, I’m glad you think it’s “gone for good.” I hope it is. But unfortunately it’s not a dead subject. Dick Cheney continues to assert publicly that waterboarding is not torture and is in fact essential to our national security. It’s so sad that the GOP has become synonymous with torture.,0,1847797.story

  10. Christopher Lee May 24, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

    Doesn’t matter what anyone says or believes. It’ll never be used again, so it is a dead subject. And I’m glad Cheney stands by his convictions and isn’t caving in. We need less windsocks in Washington. And the GOP hasn’t become synonymous with torture, you just think it has.

  11. William Teach May 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    “You do know that this is a dead subject, right? Three evil people were waterboarded six years ago and that’s it.”

    Chris, they just can’t MoveOn. Treating terrorists, one of whom was a mastermind of the attack that killed 2,996 of our people, meanly is just not acceptable in Liberal World.

    They also can’t possibly remember what the country was going through in the wake of 9/11, a day they would like to pretend didn’t exist, and the need to make sure there was not another catastrophic attack. They prefer, as John Kerry put it, a kindler, gentler war on terrorism. Excuse me, it’s now Operation Overseas Contingency and man caused disasters.

    Image embed probably won’t work

  12. Lord Bitememan May 25, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    Chris is right, it won’t be used again. The track record on western countries that employ these methods is that once they become public, they never again allow officially sanctioned torture methods to be used on detainees. The Brits dropped it during their fight against the IRA and haven’t officially brought it back. The Germans used it in their fight against Red Army Faction, and have not restored its use. So, evidence suggests the US will not use it again in an official capacity. Of course, what happens off the books happens off the books, and there’s a lot of that which you will never hear about.

  13. Reasic May 27, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    And I’m glad Cheney stands by his convictions and isn’t caving in.

    Chris, since when does CYA = standing by your convictions? We were already receiving actionable intelligence via conventional methods prior to this decision to allow torture. What I find most ironic is that the justification for using these “enhanced interrogation techniques” was that we use them against our own soldiers in SERE training. However, SERE training was developed to teach our soldiers to resist techniques that were used by Communists to obtain false confessions for propaganda.

    So, rewind back to the lead up to the Iraq War, and you have an administration that was making public claims based on very questionable intelligence, and was looking for better evidence for these claims, such as a link between Osama and Saddam. We were receiving intelligence about Al Qaeda operations from the prisoners, but no evidence of a link. Therefore, a desperate administration approved “enhanced” techniques.

    The only ticking time bomb was the one about to blow up in Iraq. This was not an effort to keep us safe, as Cheney claims. It was an effort to justify preemtive war in Iraq.

  14. Lord Bitememan May 27, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    If you think misleading confessions were the impetous for the invasion of Iraq you paid more attention to liberal propagandists than thought trends in international relations in the 5 years leading up to the war. Of course, the “spin for the liberal object of ire” approach cares little about this. When the object of opposition was just Bush in general, it became “no blood for oil.” Now that the object is torture policy, it’s “torture got us into Iraq.” I’m sure if Obama decides to cut military funding substantially it will be “Iraq was invaded to justify the military industrial complex.” I’m going to level with you, the decision to invade Iraq was cemented among conservative circles in 1998 when Saddam kicked out weapons inspectors and the French refused to back resolutions forcing them back. That’s when the policy known as “containment” was demonstrated to be in full failure. It had been undermined in any practical terms by smugglers, and with the ensuing collapse in international support for continued sanctions and weapons inspections had been undermined multilaterally as well. Conservative thinkers and policy wonks, many of whom would later go on to influential positions in the Bush administration, had made up their minds in the aftermath of that crisis that regime change would have to replace containment as the policy paradigm in Iraq. Inside sources weren’t lying when they said plans were already being made as soon as Bush entered the White House to invade Iraq. That’s because a cadre of influential people within the administration had come in with their minds already made up and were just looking for an excuse. Instead of Saddam providing one, bin Laden did, and the desperate attempts to link the two were so contrived that the debate over whether or not to sanction the US war in Iraq hinged less on the strength of the US case than on how “with” the US you were when the chips were down. So please, let’s no rewrite history for the cause du jure.

  15. William Teach May 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    I was starting to believe in you, Lord, before you went with the “they were planning this before even taking office” conspiracy. And give the conspiracy about them trying to create a link thing a rest.

    Look, taking down Saddam had been the official policy of the USA since 1997.

    See my earlier link for the photo

  16. Silke May 27, 2009 at 9:26 pm #

    LB said: If you think misleading confessions were the impetous for the invasion of Iraq …

    That’s not what Reasic said. He said it was “an effort to justify preemptive war in Iraq”…not to themselves (as you point out the administration didn’t need to be convinced) but to Congress and the American public. Personally, I don’t think the President lied to the American people but I do think he and some in his Administration saw what they wanted to see in the intelligence and they used that to make their case to others:

    Cheney said, according to Armey, that Iraq’s “ability to miniaturize weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear,” had been “substantially refined since the first Gulf War,” and would soon result in “packages that could be moved even by ground personnel.” Cheney linked that threat to Saddam’s alleged personal ties to al Qaeda, Armey said, explaining that “we now know they have the ability to develop these weapons in a very portable fashion, and they have a delivery system in their relationship with organizations such as al Qaeda.”

    “Did Dick Cheney … purposely tell me things he knew to be untrue?” Armey said. “I seriously feel that may be the case…Had I known or believed then what I believe now, I would have publicly opposed [the war] resolution right to the bitter end, and I believe I might have stopped it from happening.”

  17. Lord Bitememan May 28, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Teach: “Look, taking down Saddam had been the official policy of the USA since 1997.”

    “I was starting to believe in you, Lord, before you went with the “they were planning this before even taking office” conspiracy. ”

    So, you think I’m nuts for believing official doctrine of the US government since 1997 was high on the minds of incoming officials and that a firmly grounded, and openly stated policy shift is some kind of conspiracy? Your own consternation is contradicting itself here Teach. If regime change was US policy since 1997, then yes, officials came in with a regime change policy in mind. Because they wanted to be more effective at implementing foreign policy than Clinton was, they were drawing up more forceful and active plans to bring it about. It’s not a conspiracy, most of the execution of the war in the early stages refflects pre-9-11 paradigms about foreign adventures, much of it campaign mode Bush. Bush campaigned against nation-building. After 9-11 everyone conceded that nation-building was going to have to be part of US policy, and for the most part we made a good attempt in Afghanistan. Why then was the post-war plan in Iraq so absent any nation-building plan? Mainly because campaign mode Bush wanted to go in, boot Saddam, and get out quickly with the idea that the Iraqis could quickly take over and do their own nation-building. That’s why in Afghanistan we hunkered down and accepted a long road ahead, and in Iraq we landed planes on carriers with “Mission Accomplished” signs on board.

    Silke, nobody cared about the confessions as used in the runup to the war. That’s because everybody was already convinced Saddam had the weapons or the capability to build them. That’s what 10+ years of containment policy sanctions had been predicated upon. We prevented the Iraqis from buying bleach because we feared Saddam would use common household bleach to fill canisters with both chlorine gas and chloramine. We launched a bombing campaign in 1998 because he barred inspectors from sites, and then ejected them from his country, rather than open up to full verfiability in WMD removal compliance. It was assumed on the part of the US from that moment on that he DID have a covert weapons program. Nobody within American policy circles was prepared to argue that Saddam didn’t have a WMD program because they all had memories stretching back to before Bush took office.

    So yes, it’s just another liberal talking point. It’s Godwin’s Law substituting Iraq War for Hitler. And it’s bullshit.

  18. Silke May 28, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    LB said: Silke, nobody cared about the confessions as used in the runup to the war. That’s because everybody was already convinced Saddam had the weapons or the capability to build them.

    But the issue was whether preemptive war was necessary right now – as apposed to regime change some time in the future. The administration relied on bad intelligence (such as ties to al Qaeda) to make that case to Congress and the American public.

  19. Lord Bitememan May 29, 2009 at 6:39 am #

    For which the sentimentality of the public focused on the preconceived notion that Saddam had the weapons, and the current fight with Al Qeada rendered it necessary to eliminate rogue dictators with such weapons in these new and dangerous times. Again, bin Laden provided all the excuse Bush needed as far as the public was concerned for purposes of going to war. Virtually nobody in the public at the time could have cited, if asked, any confessions used by interrogated terrorists. Everyone, though, remembers that we passed out chemical warfare suits to our troops in the field in 1991. 9-11 served as a sufficient catalyst to expedite the timetable of an already settled upon policy paradigm. That’s why the garnish on the case presented before the UN was an attempt to tie Saddam in with 9-11 and significant portions of the American public polled at the time believed Saddam was involved to some degree with that attack.

  20. Reasic May 29, 2009 at 8:24 am #


    So please, let’s no rewrite history for the cause du jure.

    As Silke pointed out, this was not my argument. I was only debunking the argument that Cheney was making, which is that torture has kept us safe. These “enhanced interrogation techniques” were approved in an effort to help justify the war that we were getting into. Any useful intelligence that could’ve been used to keep us safe from further terrorist attacks was already gained through conventional means.

    Silke, nobody cared about the confessions as used in the runup to the war. That’s because everybody was already convinced Saddam had the weapons or the capability to build them.

    I don’t know who this “everybody” is that you’re referring to, but you don’t invade another country because “everybody” knows they have weapons that they shouldn’t have. This was not a military police action or a simple bombing raid — it was an invasion. This was an action that required the consent of Congress, and Congress was not going to vote to go to war based on what “everybody” knows. To gain approval from Congress for a pre-emptive war, there must be substantial evidence, detailing not only the weapons that Saddam has, but also the likelihood of an impending attack if we don’t act now.

    So, the administration, through the work of the White House Iraq Group and the Office of Special Plans, searched through tons of raw intel info to create a report to present to Congress and the UN. The smoking guns in the report, used to support the case that there was an immediate threat, were that Saddam received aluminum tubes for centrifuges and attempted to purchase yellowcake from Niger. These and other claims were since proven false. This was not based on future information, either. It was proven that these claims could have and should have been known to be false, based on the information available at the time.

    You can talk about how “Al Qaeda rendered it necessary to eliminate rogue dictators” until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t change the fact that Congressional approval is required to take such action, and that this approval would not have been given without a strong case that a threat exists. This approval was based on false information, cooked up by elements within the Bush administration. The bottom line is that Congress would not have approved the option for action without this false information.

  21. Reasic May 29, 2009 at 11:48 am #

    Oh yeah, and on top of that, you had senior Bush administration officials (Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld included) making definitive statements about the link between Saddam and Osama and Iraq’s supposed WMDs, and talking about “mushroom clouds”. Hmmm… I wonder why “significant portions of the American public polled at the time believed Saddam was involved to some degree with that attack”, or at least that he was a serious and imminent threat.

    The way I see it, there are two options. Either these administration officials knew this was a farce, and were lying to us to get a war, or they really believed the information they were promoting. The worst case is that they are criminals who put our soldiers in harm’s way unnecessarily. The best case is that they fooled themselves, and were therefore, completely inept and incompetent, blundering idiots.

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