Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The "water cure": on the history of water boarding

From William Loren Katz at History News Network:
Some high U.S. officials claim not be aware of it, and Judge Michael Mukasey, the President's choice for attorney general, prefers to equivocate, but water boarding has long been a form of torture that causes excruciating pain and can lead to death. It forces water into prisoner's lungs, usually over and over again. The Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s used this torture to uncover and punish heretics, and then in the early 1500s Spain's inquisitors carried it overseas to root out heresy in the New World. It reappeared during the witch hysteria. Women accused of sorcery were “dunked” and held under water to see if they were witches.

In World War II Japan and Germany routinely used water boarding on prisoners. In Viet Nam U.S. forces held bound Viet Cong captives and “sympathizers” upside down in barrels of water. Water boarding also has been associated with the Khmer Rouge.

An extensive record of its use by the United States land forces exists in the records of the invasion and occupation of the Philippines that began in 1898. As the U.S. encountered armed resistance by the liberation army of Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo, and sank into a 12-year quagmire on the archipelago, U.S. officers routinely resorted to what they called “the water cure.” Professor Miller's study of the Philippine war reveals this sordid story through Congressional testimony, letters from soldiers, court martial hearings, words of critics and defenders, and newspaper accounts. The pro-imperialist media of the day justified the “water cure” as necessary to gain information; the anti-imperialist media denounced its use by the U.S or any other civilized nation.

Continue reading here. Update: IntLawGrrls has a roundup of waterboarding-related links.

1 comment:

Shag from Brookline said...

In the 1840s and beyond to the end of the century, some US physicians specialized in "water cures" that purportedly improved patients' conditions. Medical "water cures" of course differed from waterboarding. Orwell provides the answer as to why waterboarding might be referred to as a "water cure" by those resorting to this form of torture.