Author Topic: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal  (Read 2306 times)

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Lanya

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An Essay For The Winter of 2005/2006

Is Waterboarding Torture: Ask Our World War Two Vets

In a recent investigative report, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito of ABC News described the CIA’s use of an interrogation technique called "waterboarding."

The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

In an editorial dated November 12, 2005 the Wall Street Journal denied that waterboarding was "...anything close to torture."

No one has yet come up with any evidence that anyone in the U.S. military or government has officially sanctioned anything close to "torture." The "stress positions" that have been allowed (such as wearing a hood, exposure to heat and cold, and the rarely authorized "waterboarding," which induces a feeling of suffocation) are all psychological techniques designed to break a detainee.

So, who’s right? Is waterboarding torture, or is it merely a stressful psychological technique?

Interestingly, the United States has long since answered that question. Following the end of the Second World War we prosecuted a number of Japanese military and civilian officials for war crimes. including the torture of captured Allied personnel. At one of those trials, United States v. Sawada, here’s how Captain Chase Nielsen, a crew member in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan, described his treatment, when he was captured, (and later tried for alleged war crimes by a Japanese military commission):

Q: What other physical treatment was administered to you at that time?

A: Well, I was given what they call the water cure.

Q: Explain to the Commission what that was.

A: Well, I was put on my back on the floor with my arms and legs stretched out, one guard holding each limb. The towel was wrapped around my face and put across my face and water was poured on. They poured water on this towel until I was almost unconscious from strangulation, then they would let me up until I'd get my breath, then they'd start over again.

Q: When you regained consciousness would they keep asking you questions?

A: Yes sir they did.

Q: How long did this treatment continue?

A: About twenty minutes.

Q: What was your sensation when they were pouring water on the towel, what did you physically feel?

A: Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death.

The prosecutor in that case was vehement in arguing that the captured Doolittle fliers had been wrongfully convicted by the Japanese tribunal, in part because they were convicted based on evidence obtained through torture. "The untrustworthiness of any admissions or confessions made under torture," he said, "would clearly vitiate a conviction based thereon."

At the end of the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of which the United States was a leading member (the Tribunal was established by Douglas MacArthur) convicted former Japanese Prime Minister Tojo and numerous other generals and admirals of a panoply of war crimes. Among them was torture:

The practice of torturing prisoners of war and civilian internees prevailed at practically all places occupied by Japanese troops, both in the occupied territories and in Japan. The Japanese indulged in this practice during the entire period of the Pacific War. Methods of torture were employed in all areas so uniformly as to indicate policy both in training and execution. Among these tortures were the water treatment...

The so-called "water treatment" was commonly applied. The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach until he lost consciousness. Pressure was then applied, sometimes by jumping upon his abdomen to force the water out. The usual practice was to revive the victim and successively repeat the process.

 

So, is waterboarding torture? Do we have to wait to find out until an enemy again does it to captives from our armed forces? What was the Wall Street Journal thinking?

© 2005 Evan Wallach
http://www.lawofwar.org/what%27s_new.htm
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kimba1

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Re: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2006, 07:02:08 PM »
so as long nothing physical happens all bets are off.
would a induced temporary coma work?

Michael Tee

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Re: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2006, 08:21:27 PM »
It isn't torture till it's applied to Americans.

Excellent article, Lanya, and thank you for finding it.

I have been looking for a long time for an account of a Japanese war-crimes trial that I read about a long time ago in TIME magazine.  The general was sentenced to death by an American court and executed by hanging for crimes that he claimed to have known nothing about.  I can't recall if he actually gave orders forbidding the crimes (which I now believe to have been torture, murder and cannibalism) but the court based his responsibility on the wide powers he exercised over his troops in wartime.  The crimes were committed on an island and the general was the supreme commander of all Jap troops on the island.

The reasoning of the court was essentially as follows: in wartime, a lot of very base passions are unleashed and a lot of uneducated, underprivileged and very young men are given deadly weapons and exposed to a lot of violence as actors and as victims.  These are circumstances in which passions can very easily be ignited that can spill over into violence in many ways, one such way being prisoner abuse.  Every general must recognize the danger and take every step possible against it.  These steps would include repeated indoctrination, rigorous supervision and monitoring and inflexible deadly punishment of every infraction no matter how minor.  These precautions have to be instituted and maintained from the top down.  This is the general's personal responsibility.  To insist on any lesser standard would give to the one person who has the greatest chance of repressing prisoner abuse - - the supreme commander - - a ready-made loophole to escape any real responsibility ("I had no idea!"  "I strictly forbade it!")  It would make a mockery out of the laws of war.  Generals must know that if prisoners are abused, it is their ass that is on the line.  If this knowledge is certain, they will make it their business to see that such abuse never occurs, even if it means executing a few weak links in the chain.  When soldiers, no matter how ignorant and uneducated, get the idea that they can be sent to a penal battalion for spitting into a prisoner's soup and executed for striking one without just cause, the likelihood of serious prisoner abuse would (according to the American court's reasoning) practically reach the vanishing point.

Lanya

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Re: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2006, 11:47:14 PM »


I have been looking for a long time for an account of a Japanese war-crimes trial that I read about a long time ago in TIME magazine.  The general was sentenced to death by an American court and executed by hanging for crimes that he claimed to have known nothing about.  I can't recall if he actually gave orders forbidding the crimes (which I now believe to have been torture, murder and cannibalism) but the court based his responsibility on the wide powers he exercised over his troops in wartime.  The crimes were committed on an island and the general was the supreme commander of all Jap troops on the island.

********
This rings a bell, I think I saw something about it years ago on PBS....   
Is this it?
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8734
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Michael Tee

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Re: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2006, 07:49:31 PM »
<<This rings a bell, I think I saw something about it years ago on PBS....   
Is this it?
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8734>>

That's the guy.  General Tomoyuki Yamashita.  His name came up during the Viet Nam war.  It was interesting that when soldiers under his command but without his knowledge bayonetted hospital patients, he had the officer responsible executed.  Contrast the behaviour of that Japanese "war criminal" with the current military and political leadership in the US.  Sickening.

There was a lot of stuff on him in Wikipedia including references to the U.S. Supreme Court appeal judgment.  I am going to read it when I've got more time.

Thanks, Lanya.

Lanya

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Re: Waterboarding one of the tortures cited in Japanese war crimes tribunal
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2006, 12:29:22 AM »
You're welcome.  This is going to be something to refer back to, I have a feeling...

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/justice/world_issues_yam.html

[...........]"The modern legal standard governing the doctrine of command responsibility in the United States rests upon the precedent established by the United States Supreme Court in the case of General Tomoyuki Yamashita. The Court's holding has become known as the "Yamashita Standard." "[..........]
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