Waterboarding “Torture” Used On U.S. Military People at Survival Training

On his first day in office, President Obama kept his most important campaign promise and began the process of closing Guantanamo. But this eliminates only the most visible part of the U.S. torture bureaucracy. In order to ensure that the atrocities of Guantanamo aren’t visited upon the world by future administrations, Obama must also eviscerate the structures that enabled and supported torture. At the top of a long list is the U.S. military’s secretive torture school, known as SERE, which stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.

By David J. Morris

Founded in the aftermath of the Korean War to train U.S. servicemen to withstand enemy interrogation, the school was central to the development of the notorious “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo. It was the SERE program that sent instructors and staff psychologists to Guantanamo shortly after 9/11 and provided the technical expertise on tactics like water-boarding. As Jane Mayer put it in her study of U.S. torture policy, The Dark Side, “SERE is a repository of the world’s knowledge about torture, the military equivalent, in a sense, of the lethal specimens of obsolete plagues kept in the deep-freeze laboratories of the Centers for Disease Control.”

I served in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, and I attended SERE as a young lieutenant in November 1995. I have since been to Iraq three times (as a reporter), and I can attest that the school isn’t relevant to the threats American soldiers face abroad. It resembles more of an elaborate hazing ritual than actual training.

Read the rest from Slate in January 2009:


Several people have told us, and Oliver North has said on air, that it is true that waterboarding has been used in the SERE survival training.  Other have also told us that the practice was used for decades as a “hazing” technique at schools such as military academies but this was some time ago…


McClacthy reporter Jonathan S. Landay wrote:

The JPRA is the Pentagon agency that oversees the now famous Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training, which teaches U.S. military personnel to withstand “physical and psychological pressures” using methods that, according to one JPRA instructor, is “based on illegal exploitation (under the rules listed in the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War) of prisoners over the past 50 years.”

The techniques used in SERE school, based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean war to elicit false confessions, including stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, disrupting their sleep, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. It can also include face and body slaps and until recently, for some who attended the Navy’s SERE school, it included waterboarding.


One Response to “Waterboarding “Torture” Used On U.S. Military People at Survival Training”

  1. arthur king Says:

    i served in the navy as a sere ins. for three years at warner springs ca. 1976/1979 i was involved in thousands of waterboardings,and slaps, punches, and all other types of interegations. very few saliors were hurt none on the waterboard.you call it hazing, we called it training the best training you could get at the time. i was twenty and a boy when i got there and the other instructors taught me how to accept what i was about to do to our own troops. what we did was torture our own men .i have seen men cry, bleed and break,shit and piss themselfs vomit in fear of whats next .the fear of the unknown is the worst . what i did in the navy haunts me to this day. i also was waterboarded twice, beaten had a broken nose and i survived just like all the others that attend sere school. i came as a boy, three years later i left man.

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