Sunday, November 04, 2007

Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime

Evan Wallach, a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, teaches the law of war as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.

Judge Wallach, writing in the WaPo looks at the US history of prosecuting waterboarding as a war crime. Apparently, we were against it before we were for it,
After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: "I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure." He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. "Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning," he replied, "just gasping between life and death."

Nielsen's experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. 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.
For the Bush apologist who might suggest the Japanese behavior was different, Judge Wallach quotes from the record of those prosecutions,
A towel was fixed under the chin and down over the face. Then many buckets of water were poured into the towel so that the water gradually reached the mouth and rising further eventually also the nostrils, which resulted in his becoming unconscious and collapsing like a person drowned. This procedure was sometimes repeated 5-6 times in succession.
Sound familiar?

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