Sunday, November 04, 2007

A History of Waterboarding

In today's WaPo, a law teacher & former National Guard JAG officer, Evan Wallach, provided an article on waterboarding. Wallach lets America's history with the technique answer the question of torture / not torture. And while our soon to be Attorney General responded in writing to the Senate that he found the technique "over the line and, on a personal basis, repugnant," but wouldn't say that he found it illegal, history has not been as reluctant to make the call.

Wallach seems to have access to better information than Mukasey. In his op-ed piece, Wallach notes that "after World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. . . . Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding."

Even by WWII waterboarding wasn't new, according to Wallach. During the US occupation of the Philippines after 1898, US soldiers were court-martialed for using the technique, called then the "water cure" while questioning Filipino guerrillas.

And let's not leave out Bush's beloved state of Texas - where in 1983. That's right, 1983!, federal prosecutors charged a sheriff & three deputies with violating prisoners' civil rights by forcing confessions by subjecting prisoners "to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning." Sound familiar? The sheriff in this case was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Did you ever think we would turn to the state of Texas for an example of how Bush & Co. should behave?

You can stroll through National Public Radio's history of waterboarding here. The piece looks at the use of this torture during the Inquisition and after, along with descriptions of what it feels like. NPR notes of a Vietnam War example, "On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced 'a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk.' The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier."

So while Bush, Cheney, Mukasey and the neo-con fan club continue to hedge on the issue, the rest of us continue to shake our heads and wonder just well denial works for them.


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

How about we require that all Congresspeople undergo a waterboarding before they vote on Mukasey?

8:48 PM  
Blogger Dusty said...

Oh snap buckarooskidoo! Good one.

Its torture. You can say it a million times and BushCo and the Rethugs will have some inane comeback which attempts to make it acceptable.

The media doesn't help this one iota either. Those fuckwits all need to be waterboarded as well.

Thanks for stopping by my blog Lapopessa :)

10:08 AM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, LP, but doesn't waterboarding go back to the Spanish Inquisition? It seems Texas Torquemada got his inspiration from the original.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that's covered in part of the NPR story, which is definitely worth reading, although very depressing.

5:31 PM  
Blogger David Stefanini said...

Hi, I love how you are running this blog. I just started a blog of my own and I was wondering if you would like to do a link exchange with my site. My site can be found at:

If you want to do this, just leave a comment on my site, on any post, and I’ll link you later that night.


9:39 PM  
Anonymous Doug Robertson said...

Thank you for making those historical points! I tried to do the same, but found myself becoming so outraged I would just babble on and couldn't reign it in. Brava.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Carol Gee said...

Lapopessa, great post. Sometimes I have to shake my head to remind myself I am actually awake and witnessing this/these bizarre episodes in American history. Future historians will have to scramble to find ways to adequately describe this era, some won't believe it happened. I can hardly believe it; it is more like a nightmare.

5:13 AM  

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