Lego waterboarding


Legofesto says:

For a few years now I've been recreating actual events from the War on Terror in LEGO. The notorious Abu Ghraib torture photographs, Guantanamo Bay, Israeli war crimes and the rape in Mahmudiya by US troops have all been recreated.

One of the images is the recreation of Waterboarding, a particularly medieval form of torture. With release of the torture memo this week, check out the sculpture via the link.

Waterboarding recreated in LEGO


  1. On the wall, it should have a list of things the guy confessed to doing, murder, mahem, some basic stuff like that, and then get into specific stuff such as:

    hijacker one of the 9/11 aircraft,
    suicide bomber in Iraq,
    Kamikazi pilot during WW2,

    stuff like that.

    cause you’ll confess ot anything if you’re waterboarded enough.

  2. I would like to comment on the depth of the art here, but it really ends up coming out a bit contrived. Was it strictly necessary to recreate a rape (three of which including an actual “rape” scene) in not one, but six pictures?

    I can just imagine the author in the background going, “Oh yeah. That’s terrible.” And stifling a giggle.

  3. @2 “you’ll confess to anything”

    I don’t want to come off as defending the techniques used, but there is an important point that needs to be made: no one was being asked to confess anything.

    The detainees were assumed to be likely guilty and were tortured for intelligence on other potential attacks.

    This was an illegal intelligence gathering operation, not an attempt to bring justice by showing anyone’s guilt.

    It’s more like torturing someone for their ATM PIN (and checking to see if they are lying) than demanding that they confess under duress.

  4. Taku, First thing that came to my mind too.

    I’ll be brave, after all, it was an art piece meant to send a message via juxtaposition. If BB’ers can’t be counted on for enlightened debate on art, who can?
    Plus, it was done by a Polish artist whose roots can be traced back to the victims of the horror in question, not just “a guy” and one piece was bought by the Jewish Museum in NYC:

    Zbigniew Libera – Lego Concentration Camp

  5. markfrei: It’s more like torturing someone for their ATM PIN

    Uh, what the hell version of history do you live in?

    In 2002, the US tortured Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who then gave us the “intelligence” that al Quaeda had sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemcial and biological weapons and training, that this “intelligence” was the entire basis for how Bush justified linking Iraq to 9/11.

    I don’t know if you’re one of the morons in this country who still think that Iraq had somethign to do with 9/11 or not. If you are, then stop wasting my time. If you are not, then you should know that it was TORTURE that cause al-Libi to CONFESS to something that WAS NOT TRUE, and that this FALSE CONFESSION becamse the BASIS FOR US INTELLIGENCE that attempted to justify INVADING IRAQ.

    yeah. Great job there, right?

    Don’t be so fracking gullible. If I torture you, you will confess to whatever I want you to say. John McCain confessed to being a “sky pirate” to the North Vietnamese.

  6. How is waterboarding torture? It doesn’t do any permanent damage to you, does it? It might scare the bejeesus out of you but then so did the Exorcist the first time I saw it.

    1. stan,

      I really can’t view that comment as anything other than deliberate trolling. Why don’t you take the afternoon off and have a nice slice of pie.

  7. It doesn’t do any permanent damage to you, does it?

    Simulated executions don’t do any permanent damage either. March you out to a field. Tie you to a post. line up a bunch of guys with guns. Aim at you. SHoot into the air. No permanent damage.

    Totally illegal.

    I guess after 8 years of Bush/Cheney ignoring centuries of law, I shouldn’t be too surprised that people think it is normal to completely disregard a century of the Geneva Convention.

  8. Avram,
    I know as a moderator its your job to keep discussions here civil, but if there is anything that justifies anger it is knowing that agents of one’s government have committed war crimes. Greg is is right to be angry or anything else but calm.

    If waterboarding worked as an interrogation technique it wouldn’t need to be used 183 times on one man – if it worked, one, two, or ten times would be enough to break someone.

    Waterboarding was torture when the khmer rouge did it, its sure as hell torture when the US does it.

    – Drew
    Tell us to be civil, tell us not to troll or make personal attacks – don’t you dare tell us to be calm.

    1. Anonymous,

      Of course people are going to be angry about this subject. It would be creepy if they weren’t. Calling other commenters morons doesn’t really advance the discussion. And there’s a thin line between impassioned argument which makes people think and ranting which just makes their eyes glaze over.

  9. #12 posted by GregLondon

    and you are readily ignoring countless millenia’s of tradition, i hate to break it to you kiddo but being mean to people whom you don’t like is the de facto number 1 hobby on this planet. get with the program and stop whining.

  10. Stanfrombrooklyn@10:

    On waterboarding: “There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD.” — Statement by Allen S. Keller, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, Director, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, Member, Advisory Council, Physicians for Human Rights

  11. I was talking with my landlady this morning, who did some volunteer counselling work with newly landed refugees in Vancouver who had been victims of torture in their home countries (and, although provided with basic necessities, were left with zero psychological support from the government).

    It was tangential to the discussion, but the point is that torture is massively psychologically damaging.

    And it occurred to me, that the reason for this is that it is very much like rape. In rape, it is not the act of sex itself that does the main damage (people who are comfortable with their own sexuality are just as damaged as people who are very repressed). The damage, and the appeal to the rapist, comes from the loss of control by the victim over their own body. And that is exactly what happens in torture.

    Journalists can volunteer to be waterboarded as often as they like, and experience the immediate pain/trauma of that, but they will never know what it is like to be locked in a cell, subjected to extremes of heat and cold, to have their schedule disrupted by blaring music at unpredictable and uncontrollable intervals, to know that they have no choice about being strapped to board and drowned again and again and again.

    To have control over their own bodies forcibly removed.

  12. I think we can shortcut the whole question of how dangerous/wrong/pleasant/whatever waterboarding is or isn’t.

    As a large democracy with troops all over the world, we know that we do not want our military personnel to be subjected to torture. We want the Geneva convention upheld, not just out of benevolence, but out of a self serving desire to keep our troops safe when they are captured.

    Ignoring the very laws that we expect hostile nations to follow does not serve this end. And when they torture our troops they may do far worse than waterboarding them.

  13. Of more immediate concern to me was the quoted text:

    “For a few years now I’ve been recreating actual events from the War on Terror in LEGO.”

    That admission is officially creepier than anything related to the actual torture.

  14. I await your LEGO interpretations of the beheading of Daniel Pearl or Ken Bigley…because THAT was a particularly medieval form of torture, don’t you think?

    Or perhaps we’ll see your stunning LEGO recreation of the the murder of 3000 Americans on 9/11…or the London bombings on 7/7.

    How about a LEGO version of Al Qaida in Iraq strapping up a kids and the mentally retarded with Semtex and detonating them in a marketplace?

    After that, you could go for a LEGO diorama of the Taliban execution of women in the Kabul soccer stadium. That time they killed Zarmina…boy THAT would be a great LEGO setup.

    Yeah…I thought not.

  15. Hw bt th mssng CL lwyr?

    h, ‘m srry, ‘m sr ll f y lbrls hv ngh scrty clrnc t KNW wht rslts w hv btnd thrgh trtr.

    p.s. Nw tht th bmssh hs PC’d trms lk trrrst ttck (mn csd dsstrs) nd Wr n Trrr (vrss Cntngncy prtns), shldn’t w b chngng th trm “wtrbrdng”?

    My sggstn: nvlntrly fld swmmng lssns?

  16. @ TheMage #26:

    I guess it’s official, you now have to be liberal to be against torture.

    Family values, everybody!

  17. Sure we don’t Mage, why don’t you share that info? No? Perhaps we should torture it out of you?

  18. @#25: Spookyinteraction: You’re trying to hold the United States (ostensibly “champions of democracy and human rights”) to the same standards as Islamist terrorists.

    Are you sure that’s a path you want to go down?

  19. #9 posted by gtron

    “Playboy Journo Bets He Can Endure 15 Seconds Of Waterboarding”

    15 seconds? Pfft, piece of cake, seriously.

    That being said, it’s still torture.

  20. 1. Don’t you think recreating horrific scenes/events with children’s toys trivializes those events and the suffering of their victims? Would you have glued macaroni shells together if Legos had been unavailable?

    2. What kind of person has a “hobby” like this?

    3. Your choices of subjects implies highly selective outrage.

    1. Don’t you think recreating horrific scenes/events with children’s toys trivializes those events and the suffering of their victims?

      Making art, even with Legoes, is a bog standard therapeutic tool for dealing with traumatic events.

  21. a study from 2006 administered by a group of scientists and retired intelligence officers found, surprise, torture doesn’t work.

    Torture is about one thing: domination.

    The US was attacked. Americans felt vulnerable. The enemy was hidden among us. All the terrorists who committed the act were dead. We couldn’t do anything to hold them accountable. We didn’t know how else might be planning similar attacks. The United States, world superpower, had been brought to its knees by less than two dozen men willing to die.

    Torture isn’t committed to extract information. It’s committed to assert dominance. It’s committed out of vengeance. It’s committed out of anger. Out of retribution. It’s committed out of a feeling of powerlessness that there is nothing else to do. There’s nothing we can do to stop this shadowy organization, and so we go on a witchhunt, lock up a couple thousand people, most of them innocent, hold them without due process, torture the hell out of them, kill a bunch of them, and that makes certain Rambo-types feel tough again.

    THere isn’t a single person here who can point to some concrete intelligence that says torturing two-thousand people, most of them innocent, was worth it. Anyone trying to defend torture is simply trying to defend their own personal worldview that might makes right, that strength equals respect. You’re a bunch of chest thumping idiots who’ve for whatever reason decided to insert yourself into the hierarchy of power that was the Bush presidency in the US. ANd no matter what position you were in within that hierarchy, anyone who comes along and questions teh validity of the whole approach is questioning the validity of the thing you got your self identity from.

    Anyone who attacks the hierarchy is attacking you, so you attack them. Question the validity of torture questions the validity of your own worth, so you attack anyone who calls torture for what it is, useless chest thumping, and you defend torture for the fiction you’ve created in your mind to justify your Hobbsian nature, the fairy tale that there is some magical intelligence that torture produced that justified the imprisonment of, literally, thousands of people, most of whom turned out to be innocent, most of whom were tortured continuously for years, many of whom ended up dying in US custody.

    Congratulations, you’re the flag waving, chest thumping, unquestioning fascist followers that any militant dictator dreams about. Good job. The only thing that’s kept you from being an Al Queda terrorist or Iraqi suicide bomber or some foot soldier in shitistan is that you just happened to have lucked out and been born in a country where at least part of the population is still trying to keep fascists like you from seizing complete power.

  22. Politics aside (and in my opinion), this “art project” is lame. Neither great photography, creative use of Lego, insight, or commentary. Try again, and maybe without the help of the most provocative subject matter of our times.

  23. I’m just disappointed that you can’t see the little Lego smiles on the administrators faces. Sorry, had to say it.

    And listening to NPR the other day (forgive me if I’m glib or naive) someone had a good point: When other countries do it, it’s “torture.” When we do it, it’s “interrogation.”

  24. And didn’t we reach ad-hitlerum on this lego-excuse with Lego Auschwitz? Next device-for-expressing-the-absurdly-horrific-in-palatable-aesthetic please.

  25. Or perhaps we’ll see your stunning LEGO recreation of the the murder of 3000 Americans on 9/11

    I’m afraid that you’ll have to make do with 9/11 plushies, a project which by the way, caused quite a few commenters to shit hedgehogs, leading me to the conclusion that someone will complain bitterly no matter what gets posted here.

  26. You know, there are times when I find things of interest in the comments on BoingBoing. There are times when I find grand discussions. There are also times when a few comments just totally make my mind try to dribble out my ear because I cannot comprehend the blindness of some commenters. I won’t even say who, so that way everyone is free to play victim or fascist to their hearts content. *Checks on setting Stylish to block the comments section*

  27. Ah, hahahaha. I can simply turn off display of comments. Then I am free to blindly comment myself on the post itself and have no knowledge of what other commenters might think. Much love to you all!

  28. ntns:

    Cmps myslf? wht dd d t gt dsmvwld? (bsds ffr nn-lbrl pnn). S s tht t? Lstn t ny lbrl scrmng rnt nd f n ppsng vw cms p, plg yr rs nd g “l l l l cnt hr y l l l…”

    S mch fr frdm f spch.

  29. mage

    “I’m sure all of you liberals have security clearances to know what has been obtained through torture”

    Argument from ignorance. You don’t know, so you’re inventing the possibility that torture stopped three nuclear weapon attacks. The reality is we KNOW that torture gave us faulty intelligence that was used to push for an invasion of Iraq.

    Hard evidence beats your “we don’t know” every time.

    Plus invoking the neocon boogeyman terms of “liberals” and “political correctness” means you’re not really thinking too much for yourself as you are parroting whatever Rush Limbaugh and company says.

  30. Grg,

    nd y t rg frm gnrnc. Y dnt knw wht ntlgnc hs bn. f t hs trly bn nffctv, thn w wld nt hv bn wstng tm nd ffrt.

    Rgrdlss f wht yr nlbrl frnds t th DlyKs r mvn.rg r hffngtnpst t l hv rgd.

    Try lgc.

    1. Mage,

      If you regain the power of civil speech, let me know so that I can reinstate your account.

  31. You dont know what intelegence has been.

    OK, it’s official. You’re an idiot who can’t read and you’re just babbling your nonsense regardless of the facts.

    See my post at #8 where I specifically list FALSE CONFESSIONS extracted from torture that was used to justify invading Iraq.

    What are you a paid shill or something?

  32. • FACT: Prefacing a statement with the word “Fact” does not transform it into an unassailable truth.

  33. FACT: mxallen is a bit sloppy with facts:

    “There were 2,974 fatalities, excluding the 19 hijackers: 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,603 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon.[37][38] An additional 24 people remain listed as missing.[30] All of the fatalities in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.[39] More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.[40] In 2007, the New York City medical examiner’s office added Felicia Dunn-Jones to the official death toll from the September 11 attacks. Dunn-Jones died five months after 9/11 from a lung condition which was linked to exposure to dust during the collapse of the World Trade Center.[41]

    do note the “more than 90 countries”. Oddly enough, I don’t seem to hear cheerleading from torture constantly coming from 90 different voices.

  34. Mage: if it has truly been ineffective, then we would not have been wasting time and effort.



    The US Government doesn’t do anything that is ineffective? If the government does it, it must be effective? Really and for true?

    How about invading Iraq? Invading Afghanistan? Black Hawk Down in Somalia? Bush telling the intelligence poeple “OK, you’ve covered your ass”?

    Lemme explain something to you and all the commenters on this thread. You only invoke that line of reasoning as long as it is some government program that you support. If you don’t support the program, you would immediately refuse to accept the exact same argument. It’s called hypocracy.

    Just to try it on for size, here are a few government programs that are currently being done. I’m going to guess that you think the programs are innefective. BUt the government is doing them, so they can’t be ineffective, cause if they were ineffective, we would not be wasting our time and effort on them. So here goes:


    Food stamps.

    Stimulous package.

    Bank Bailouts.

    Auto Bailouts.

    Since the government is doing them, and since they wouldn’t waste their time doing something ineffective, I’ll assume that you agree that all of these programs are effective at their stated goals.

    If not, then what exactly are you arguing other than nonsense?

  35. I printed out this pic and posted it for my colleagues just to see how they reacted. Personally, I thought the medium was cross-cutting and allowed a way for conversation about the issue of waterboarding. Sadly my coworkers just saw it at it’s base level – offensive. Sad. The image is thought provoking.

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