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Gloats / December 17, 2011
By John Dolan


In memory of our favorite dead warmongering neocon, Christopher Hitchens, The eXiled is reposting Dr. Dolan’s classic review of Hitchens’ fake waterboarding stunt in 2008.

Hitchens Gets Waterboarded, Withdraws from Iraq in 11 Seconds

by John Dolan

Stop the presses! Christopher Hitchens just noticed that waterboarding is torture!

Hitchens announced the news like he’d brought it down from Mount Sinai, in a Vanity Fair article. “Believe me,” he told a waiting nation, “it’s torture.” Well, yeah. It usually is, when it happens to you. When it happens to somebody else, it’s “extreme interrogation.” I thought everybody over the age of 5 knew that, but as usual, I misoverestimated the media. Hitchens’ tame little torture session is the biggest S&M video on the web since “9½ Weeks.”

Hitchens’ video is totally fake — there’s even soft-rock background music playing on the video, better music than you usually get at the dentist’s office, and his “interrogators” treat him more like a client getting a mud pack at a spa than a real suspect in Iraq. That makes it even more disgusting that Hitch caved in after only 11 seconds of having water poured over a towel on his face. Eleven seconds! Think about the timeline here: For five long years he supported this stuff when it was happening to other people. Once it happened to him, he needed exactly 11 seconds to see the light.

Of course if Hitchens had been a real Iraqi suspect, they’d never have had to waterboard him at all. They do that to tough suspects, not wimps like him. In a real torture cell, everything would be a lot tougher from the start. For example, Chris wouldn’t be in the nice dress shirt and slacks he’s wearing on the video. He’d be naked — a gross image, what a lifetime of booze and lying does to the body, but we have to be hard-nosed here — because keeping the prisoner naked is basic interrogation strategy, especially with a culture as horrified of gettin’ nekkid as Arabs are. You’ll recall that in those Abu Ghraib pictures, the prisoners were naked.

So that’s fake already, and the video gets faker as it goes. The guys “interrogating” him are fat, middle-aged, mild-mannered dudes. They don’t even yell at him. A real suspect in Iraq would be snatched off the street, smacked around until he passes out, stripped and dumped into a cell with a hood over his head. He wouldn’t be able to sleep off his misery, either, because sleep deprivation is one of the oldest, most effective tortures. The interrogators would maintain this schedule for hours, days, weeks, depending on how well and how soon the victim breaks down. When they think he’s ready — like, they notice with satisfaction that he screams like a steam whistle every time he hears footsteps in the corridor — they drag him out of his cell and strap him onto that waterboarding table.

Well, Chris is a busy man and didn’t have time for all that background research, so what you see in this video is a guy who hasn’t been so much as slapped or yelled at. Who probably just finished a 10-martini lunch at some upscale restaurant. That’s ridiculous enough, but the interrogators make it even more ridiculous with their little introduction to the torture session. One guy says, “All right, listen up, I’m going to give you some instructions …” Then he tells the fat man on the table, “We’re going to place metal objects in each of your hands,” and if he feels “unbearable stress” at any time, all he has to do is drop the objects and they’ll stop.

I’ve had dentists who did root canals on me without being that nice; they stuck to “this is going to hurt.” More to the point here, putting the victim in “unbearable stress” is, uh, the whole point of torture, or “extreme interrogation,” or whatever you want to call it. The last thing you’d ever do is give the victim a sense of power, like he can stop the process by dropping a “metal object” on the floor.

That kind of etiquette is what you get from those expensive dominatrixes English dudes like to get whipped by, or those nerf BDSM sites that talk about “consensual power exchanges.” What reminded me most of those BDSM sites is the “code word” they tell Hitchens he can use to stop the waterboarding: “That word is red, R-E-D.” They ask him if he understands and he says, “Yes, sir.” That “sir” only added to the ridiculous porn feel here, like Hitchens was paying a hundred pounds an hour to have Baron Whipsong or Lady Cruella, whichever way he likes it, wear out their riding crop on his eager little bum.

The real thing isn’t nearly so nice. After you’ve been beaten on bruises (which hurt more each time) for a few days, they slam the cell door open, screaming abuse at you, kick you to your feet and take you down the corridor, slamming your head into the walls as often as they feel like it, and strap you down. And all the time they’re screaming: “OK, you worthless (Arabic obscenity here) — We’re through with you! We don’t even want you any more! Ever drown before, (obscenity)? Ever go swimming head-first, (obscenity)?”

If you remember “The Big Lebowski,” you can get a better idea of what waterboarding is like by remembering the scene where the Dude walks into his bungalow, where Jackie Treehorn’s yuppie thugs are waiting for him. The blond one grabs the Dude’s hair and runs him headfirst into the toilet, screaming, “Where’s the money, Lebowski? Where’s the money, shithead?” See, the point is to show overwhelming, terrifying power over the suspect, not give him little safety words.

But all that niceness doesn’t matter once the torturer’s helper takes a plastic milk container full of water and pours it, bit by bit, over a towel covering Hitch’s face. The “metal object,” whatever it is, drops after 11 seconds. And of course these fake interrogators are all over Hitch, making sure he’s OK. That’s also totally fake, but why bother listing any more fake features of this nonsense? The truth is that anybody who’s been through as much dentistry as I have knows that nobody holds out under torture. It’s not just the pain, it’s the fear of the pain. I used to try to be a hero like the ones in my war books every time I went to have a root canal from the mean old Armenian who did our dental work. He scrimped on the Novocain, so I had plenty of scope to practice. And I learned the same thing any sane person knows by the time they grow up: Nobody can resist torture. Just like anybody knows what having water poured over a towel on your face is like: It’s like drowning. Duh. Anybody who wanted to know that already knew it.

So why does Hitchens make such a big show of just realizing it now, after five years of supporting it? To me, the answer’s easy: He’s withdrawing from Iraq, making a big Jesus-on-the-cross demonstration, like a public punishment, for supporting the war all this time. By getting himself tortured in this half-assed way, he gives himself a reason to see the light, desert from the Neocon forces before it’s too late. Karl Rove won’t be happy, though, because the last thing the GOP wants is for people to start realizing what we’re actually doing in Iraq. Reminds me of the debate about abolishing flogging with the cat-o’-nine-tails in the British Navy. The first time the bill was introduced, everybody laughed at how ridiculous a notion that was. Then somebody thought of having a real cat-o’-nine-tails introduced to the House of Commons, a bloody old Exhibit A. Nobody said a thing; they just voted unanimously to forbid it.

That’s all it takes to change anybody’s mind about torture, getting one little 11-second whiff of it, even if it’s nowhere close to the real thing. The interesting thing is not that Hitchens changed his mind; it’s the strategic thinking that made him decide to do it now. The timing of this little martyr is the key here, and what it tells you is that Hitchens is declaring martyrdom and getting out. He just unilaterally withdrew from Iraq, and in only 11 seconds.

This article first appeared on Alternet on July 2, 2008.

Read more:, John Dolan, Gloats

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Add your own

  • 1. John Drinkwater  |  December 17th, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    One of Dolan’s greatest takedowns. And the idiots in the mainstream press actually thought this stunt was “brave” – well, in comparison to them, Hitchens probably was.

  • 2. Mason C  |  December 17th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Islamofascists 1, Great White God 0: The rash of remorse about Hitchens’ passing reminds me of the same with Tim Russert; it’s a fine barometer for cluelessness, the ‘Helluva nice guy’ of the politically head-injured.

    That said, my favorite memories are of the mid/late 90’s, when Alex Cockburn’s columns regularly cross-checked Hitchens (deeper) into the gutter. There are still few things more entertaining than two over-educated Brits having at it.

  • 3. BlottoBonVismarck  |  December 17th, 2011 at 11:08 pm


    “Alright, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my closeup” – Hitch the B_tch of Cell Block B – Nuremberg Mk II.

    Hitchens was a Neo-Con Nazi Whore who worked to enable the genocide of 1.7m Iraqis – 1.4m ‘excess deaths’ – ORB study + several years more of US death squads + deliberate US low-balling of the count.

    Hitch the B_tch, along with Rarl Kove, naturally. Rarl Kove – Stephen Colbert’s White House Correspondents’s Dinner speech –


    Poor US Neo-Cons / ‘Our Tony’ — Terrified of their date with destiny — A long drop on a short rope. – Nuremberg Mk II. –

    Mk I for comparison – Nuremberg Executions of Nazi Leaders for ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ and ‘Crimes Against the Laws of War.’ – Original –


    Just say “Up yours” to USUK Empire fascist insanity! – C_NTS ALL !

    – USUK Empire fascism made mainstream by ‘Biggus Dickus,’ (of Wome on the Potomac) — Big Oil tool and US Torture promoter – brought to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Aden, Syria, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Poland, Lithuania and many, many more —

    – “You lucky bastard” – Monty Python – Life of Brian –

  • 4. CensusLouie  |  December 18th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Eh, if this stunt caused even one FOX News viewer to have second thoughts, it was a net gain.

    I mean, OF COURSE I’d rather see the public strapped down to gurneys with their eyelids propped open as they watched the real raw thing, but you take what you can get.

  • 5. CRABS  |  December 18th, 2011 at 1:14 am

    As a paid apologist for this dead fat hunk of malevolent blubber, I will write here something completely disingenuous. Are you ready? Here it is:

    I always found this to be a bit of a misguided “takedown”. I thought that regardless of someone’s pre-determined opinions, being prepared to admit your error and change your point of view was commendable. It spoke for Hitchens in the sense that he wasn’t so arrogant as to try and maintain his position after the fact.

  • 6. GaryDee  |  December 18th, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Are you trolls fucking kidding yourselves? Christopher Hitchens was one of the most overrated minds this planet has produced and all trolls like me can focus on is trying to pretend that his torture stunt didn’t matter? This is the least respectable trolling I have ever trolled, and that’s saying a lot, because I troll with the best of ’em. We should be ashamed–but shame was never something Hitchens ever felt.

  • 7. Zhu Bajie  |  December 19th, 2011 at 1:08 am

    I always thought it a pity that his “captors” didn’t do it to him again and again for an hour or two, till he shat his pants with fear. That would’ve been closer to the real experience. That would’ve expected to get off easy would have made it all the more terrifying.

  • 8. Ben Harding  |  December 20th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    to be fair on hitchens he was a chain smoker borderline alcoholic not to mention over weight journalist, in his late fiftys when he was waterborded not some 23 year old, hardened guerilla fighter. and at least he had the honesty to admit he was wrong.

  • 9. sHx  |  December 21st, 2011 at 4:01 pm


    I have a lot of pent up love anger against you man.

    Tell me, does this happen often?

    Should I jerk off to you sometimes?

  • 10. CRABS  |  December 31st, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Kind of interesting that people would front a site as a credible news source and then improve the user comments for the sake of said users, and the general welfare of the United States. We bottom trolls always argue under a fake name of our own, and require constant improvement.

    But still, I do not think that the AEC is even really accountable since it’s just a username, and nobody would really know which particular staff member/contributor was spouting reactionary shite – nothing to be fearful of! But whatevz, if you’ve not the conviction in your views to stand by them publicly that’s totes kwl as well.

    This comment is paid for by the by the “Bottom Troll Association for Comment Transparency and Accountability.”

  • 11. 4905842  |  November 18th, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I’d like to get a few things straight.
    Firstly, the reason why Hitchens was saying it was torture is because many congressman were saying it wasn’t, and he is saying that it shouldn’t be used (at least if you watch his news night interview). He was also challenging the congressman who said that it stimulated drowning, when in actual fact “you are being drowned slowly”.
    Secondly, I think it highly debatable whether he was a neo-con, giving his criticism of materialism, religion (w and even describing himself as a marxist and attacking people such as the Royal Family.
    Thirdly the so called music is actually to disorientate the prisoners.
    Finally, of course this wasn’t exactly the same as when terrorists are Waterboarded!!! It was just to give him an idea in a controlled environment of what it was like, I think he even said that this obviously wasn’t exactly like the real thing in the environmental factors, but the basic torture was the same.
    I can’t believe such a fatuous website like this exists, inhabited by some of the most odious, pernicious, opportunistic reptiles, nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth,and who have no idea what they are talking about, and who are complete trolls.

  • 12. Bryan  |  January 2nd, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    For someone who parades under the pretense of possessing knowledge of the opinions and activities of the late Mr. Hitchens, this author sure does a shit job of showing it. A neocon? Truly? He was anti-totalitarian and I believe he popularized the term anti-theist. He had a very dim opinion of the suppression of sciencific advancement and philosophic thought. If this author believes such characteristics are befitting of the label “neocon,” then he needs to take an introduction course of political science. I don’t care to address the rest of the lunacy that litters this article, as I believe I have wasted enough of my time already. Christopher Hitchens died before I was old enough to be exposed to and truly appreciate his brilliance and oratory wit. But I will not allow such an ingratiating moron to insult his memory in such a fashion. Neocon… I should Hitchslap you, you damned fool.

  • 13. dumbcrack  |  February 3rd, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    fuck you sensor my posts you are dumb as fuck bro bro bro bro bro bro

  • 14. Kevin  |  June 25th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    This could perhaps be the most awful piece of comment trolling I have ever written. Not only am I, the commenter, lacking a basic understanding of the political spectrum, but I also seem to know very little about the person I’m trying to criticize. Most of what I said was either misconstrued or inaccurate, but notice my big fancy words, pretty smart eh? I can’t believe I wasted my time to write this complete garbage, but then again I do this a lot because I am a comment troll and that’s what we comment trolls do, we troll comments, and then pretend we wasted our time doing it. myah

  • 15. Kevin  |  June 25th, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Not to mention, I often masturbate while waterboarding myself, it’s called enhanced auto-erotic coercive dumbfuckery

  • 16. Anonymous  |  November 22nd, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Hitchens did not fake a torture session. Go read his essay “Believe Me, It’s Torture.” He explains that he signed up for it, knowing that water-boarding can cause brain damage. But I imagine Hitchens asked for the gentler version. Btw, he was in North Carolina, not Iraq.

    I’m not saying his argument was compelling, but he is brave for going through the ordeal — even if it was gentler — to see what it felt like. And if even consensual torture made him uncomfortable, then how should it feel to be forced into it?

  • 17. Will  |  February 16th, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Even without the legitimate fear that a US torture victim would have, Hitchens surrendered almost immediately. I think he genuinely believed that the act of waterboarding was relatively innocuous and morally defensible. It took 10 seconds to convince him otherwise.

    I’m a sycophant and my comment is ridiculous

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