Waterboarding Myths and Parroted Talking Points


“His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”

Lt. Grover Flint, Philippine-American War

This is going to be a bit of a long, uneven post.  It’s, in part, a series of cut-and-paste talking points I have compiled at the ready when wasting time, debating on comment threads over this topic with numerous torture alarmists.  So you may find areas where I repeat myself for which I am sorry for the slip-shod editing and messy organization.  This is a blogpost after all and not an article for Vanity Fair or the NYTimes.

I consider myself not a torture apologist so much as somewhere between a torture denier and torture skeptic.

As today with Gina Haspel and questions over the extent of her involvement with the CIA RDI program and whether or not she’d bring back CIA interrogations, back in 2007, President Bush’s nominee for Attorney General also raised questions and concerns over one issue:  Waterboarding.

Mukasey has called waterboarding personally “repugnant,” but said he did not know enough about how it has been used to define it as torture.

The Washington debate over the simulated-drowning technique may be new, but the practice is not. It predates the Inquisition and has been used, off and on, around the world ever since.

NPR then takes us on a little history ride:

Its use was first documented in the 14th century, according to Ed Peters, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania. It was known variously as “water torture,” the “water cure” or tormenta de toca — a phrase that refers to the thin piece of cloth placed over the victim’s mouth.

At the time, using water to induce confessions was “a normal incident of law,” Peters says, and people viewed it more or less as we view a cross-examination today. If anything, Peters says, the Inquisitors “were more careful about it” than others of their time.

“They were professionals,” Peters says, noting that a doctor’s presence was required during interrogations. Not that it made the experience any more pleasant for the victim, of course.

Leaves No Marks

“The patient strangled and gasped and suffocated and, at intervals, the toca was withdrawn and he was adjured to tell the truth. The severity of the infliction was measured by the number of jars [of water] consumed, sometimes reaching to six or eight,” writes Henry Charles Lea in A History of the Inquisition of Spain.

“The thing you could not do in torture was injure the body or cause death,” Peters says. That was — and still is — what makes waterboarding such an attractive interrogation technique, he says: It causes great physical and mental suffering, yet leaves no marks on the body.

Waterboarding actually refers to two different interrogation techniques. One involves pumping water directly into the stomach. “This creates intense pain. It feels like your organs are on fire,” says Darius Rejali, a professor at Reed College in Oregon and author of a new book, Torture and Democracy.

The other technique — the one more widely used today — involves choking the victim by filling their throat with a steady stream of water — a sort of “slow-motion drowning” that was perfected by Dutch traders in the 17th century. They used it against their British rivals in the East Indies.

There are a number of talking points that torture critics repeat like a mantra, over and over again, as if they’re telling you something fresh that you haven’t heard before.  Among the many, these are the top 5 that I wish to address here:

  1. “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” is merely a euphemism for torture
  2. Torture doesn’t work.  People will lie and tell you anything when tortured just to make the pain stop.
  3. Waterboarding is torture.
  4. John McCain says torture is not who we are.  It is immoral.  It is against American values.
  5. We convicted/hanged/executed WWII Japanese soldiers for waterboarding

“Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” is merely a euphemism for torture

DoJ approved 13 techniques for use by the CIA.  Military officials had also requested permission for EITs; and Rumsfeld specifically rejected waterboarding as being inappropriate for military use.  They were largely chosen not because they cause pain and suffering, but because of their psychological power in how they were to be applied.

Now some may think that some of the EITs as constituting torture and that could well be.  The mere act of detaining someone could cause “mental anguish and suffering” and arise to the definition of torture If one wishes to look at it like this.  People may not like where the line in the sand was drawn; but what Bush, Bush lawyers, DoJ lawyers, CIA lawyers, sought to do was figure out what they could legally and morally do in pushing the envelop so as to stop the next 9/11 scale attack and save American lives; this at a time when a great deal of intell buzz spoke of a second wave of attacks coming (KSM:  “Soon you will know”).   They in good faith sought to determine where that boundary line lay, so that they could walk to the edge of the precipice and not fall over- all to make sure another 9/11-scale attack never happens again on their watch.  Now some may not like where that boundary was pushed to; but it was there in concrete terms as bush and CIA interrogators didn’t actually want to torture anyone.  If you look at the details of the OLC memo, it’s best described as the “how not to torture” memo.

Torture doesn’t work.  People will lie and tell you anything when tortured just to make the pain stop.

EITs didn’t work like that.  They weren’t carried out and administered like torture techniques where you cause pain to beat information out of a detainee.

Most people will respond positively to standard methods; but you are always going to find those aberrations in society who don’t fit the norm.

I think fevered imaginations have watched one too many seasons of 24; Trump included.

Basically, Trump bought into the same distorted narrative as most Americans have: That the CIA tortured; and that the manner in which they administered EITs played out like a Hollywood movie.  A sizable chunk of American society believes the torture narrative; but like President Trump, they are okay with it.  The torture alarmists are not.  Neither are correct in their perception and assumptions about how the CIA RDI program actually operated.

This is why Haspel can say, “I don’t believe that torture works”; and then hesitate in how to answer in “yes” or “no” terms: “Do you think the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?”

This is why Mike Morell and Michael Hayden can defend many aspects of the CIA interrogation program while not voting for Trump; and criticizing Trump over his statements and views on waterboarding and bringing back “worse”. His perception of CIA interrogations is deeply flawed and offensive like the ones the critics have about it.

Now I don’t mind people who believe that a number of the EITs crossed the line and rise to the definition of “torture”. But there are gradations between “walling” (in which a towel is rolled up and placed around the neck of a detainee and then the detainee is shoved hard into a “fake”, flexible wall to produce a loud booming noise- walling wasn’t for the purpose of causing injury- it was psychological) and drilling holes into someone.

There is so much hysteria and hyperbole; half-truths, falsehoods, context confusion, lumping together of CIA and military (each agency operated different programs with their own set of rules and restrictions); and outright myths.

I don’t believe in torture. Nor did Bush. Nor did Rumsfeld (who specifically rejected waterboarding as an EIT, deeming it inappropriate for military usage). Nor the Justice Dept. legal opinions. Nor did the architects of the CIA RDI program who have stated that social influence techniques are appropriate 99% of the time. Why not 100%? Why were EIT’s called up at all by military and intelligence officials?

Because in the early days of the GWoT, we knew very little about al Qaeda. This at a time in the aftermath of 9/11 when there was so much intell buzz over a second wave of attacks coming (KSM: “Soon you will know”). A number of jihadis had received interrogation resistance training and knew how to defeat common interrogation methods; like the rapport-building techniques favored by the FBI- a law enforcement agency whose primary purpose is to seek out confessions for the sake of prosecuting criminal cases. CIA’s mission was to achieve actionable intell in a timely manner in order to prevent the next terror attack. The martyrdom mindset was also resistant to social influence techniques; and Zubaydah actually was insulted by Ali Soufan’s offer of what amounts to Mattis’ quip about “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers” (alcohol is forbidden in Islam, btw).

I have the highest regard for Ali Soufan, btw. A great patriot and expert interrogator; but he is not the end-all-be-all to successful interrogations. He has been a media darling for the last 15 years, responsible for so much of the distorted narrative. Yes, I’ve read his book, The Black Banners, seen and heard his numerous interviews and Congressional testimony. But you really need to cross-reference his account and timeline with that of guys like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell to get another perspective.

And yes, I’ve read the executive summary to the highly partisan, ideologically-agenda-driven 2014 SSCI study on the CIA RDI program. Do yourselves a favor and cross-reference that to the CIA Rebuttal, Minority Views Report, and chapters from Mike Morell’s book and Michael Hayden’s book, respectively.

EITs weren’t used to extract information, btw. So the cannard about “People will tell you anything when tortured” is just a misguided strawman talking point. EITs (in the manner in which they were used by CIA) didn’t work the same way and for the same purpose as torture techniques.

An interview by James Mitchell:

James Mitchell: “First and best option was always social influence techniques.”

Steve Hirsch: :What does that mean?”

Mitchell: “Social influence techniques are the kinds of things that anyone who was good at interacting with other people, like for example, a psychologist, might get a patient to tell them things they were uncomfortable talking about; to make it easy for them to do it by creating the right emotional tone; by shaping the person’s responsiveness during the session; by taking advantage of the emotions that the person is displaying; and couching what you’re asking them to do so that they get to act on those emotions by developing themes and contagious ideas that are based on their world views. And so EITs when they were used by me- by Dr. Jessen, were really used for only a brief period of time to get people engaged so that we could use these social influence techniques.

Hirsch: “You make that point in your book and it’s an important one. People don’t understand that, right?”

Mitchell: “People have the misunderstanding that EITs was supposed to work the same way that they imagine torture works; which is basically you hurt the person until they tell you what you want to know. And then you continue to hurt them to see if they change their story; and if they do, then they were lying to you. Because we knew that under certain circumstances, particularly if you’re asking lead in questions and the person is tired and you’re telegraphing the kind of answers that you’re looking for, people can and will make up stuff. And that’s of no value- no intelligence value at all. So what we needed was little bits of truth that could be fed into the larger matrix so that we can go out and capture people.

Hirsch: “To be clear, your view of the role of EITs- do you call them torture or not?”

Mitchell: “The EITs weren’t torture at the time; and I don’t believe they are torture now.”

Hirsch: “So to your mind, just to be clear, the role of EITs was as a prelude?”

Mitchell: “Well…’prelude’ is the wrong word. Here’s the problem you have with, um….uh…senior terrorists you don’t have with modern criminals: You know the chief priority of a western criminal is to stay out of jail. And once you catch them in the big lie and it’s obvious that they’re going to go to jail, their next chief priority is to negotiate the best sentence they can get; so that they’re not spending time in jail. Well, the chief priority of a senior terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed- the man behind 9/11- is to hold out long enough that the next attack can occur. And so he doesn’t even engage, for the most part; he’s really kind of snotty and confrontational. When they’re like that, they’re not even engaged in the questions- and so what we did with the EITs for him, specifically, was we used them and we used them in a very specific way; we did it in a way where we tried to end the session so that he was in a more positive mood than he was before. We always try and ask a bridging question between sessions. We always started a session with that bridging question. And we always ended a session with a bridging question. And then after the session was over we’d go back in and have a very non-confrontational conversation with the person regardless of how rough the session was.”

Hirsch: “You were pretty horrified by abu Ghraib when you saw the photos, right?”

Mitchell: “Dr. Jessen and I were both mortified because that’s the kind of crap that can shuts programs down.”

Groundpounder commented:

I’ve known Stu Herrington for 35 years and he’s an honorable man who’s well-intentioned. However, the interrogation methods that Stu espouses will only work on ninety percent of all POWs and enemy combatants. There’s a ten percent element of hardcore recalcitrant fanatics who will interpret humane treatment as a sign of weakness, and dig in their heels and play hardball and never divulge any useful information. The only thing that these “ten per centers” understand is violence! And in life and death circumstances, seasoned professional interrogators must have the option of using varying degrees of violence to extract information from captured enemies known to possess valuable information that can save the lives of American citizens.

I think I remember reading in a book called “Yankee Samurai” how the easiest way to get a Japanese POW to talk was to give him a cigarette and show some kindness. Like Abu Jandal, who Soufan interrogated with brilliance, Japanese soldiers were told to expect torture and harsh treatment if captured by Americans. So he was surprised when instead Soufan brought him sugarless cookies (after learning Jandal was diabetic) and a book in Arabic of George Washington, after learning Jandal liked reading about revolutionaries. Jandal was an al-Qaeda tough who ended up cooperating after Soufan won him over through humane, smart, psychology.

Of course, it should also be noted that in Thiessen’s book, I don’t know what page at the moment, but one terrorist basically said, “You’re CIA aren’t you? I’ll tell you everything!” after being picked up, because of the mystique and mystery over CIA interrogation and reputation (however exaggerated or not) for “harsh, scary treatment” under captivity.

To recap: 33-38 out of 119 HVD were in the CIA program who received 1 or more EITs. For the other 2/3rds, SITs were sufficient. Out of this, only 3 were waterboarded, with the last one being KSM back in March or April of 2003. No one has been waterboarded in 15 years!!! It began and ended on Bush’s watch. Not Obama’s. It was effectively off the menu in 2006 (Hayden took it off, seeing no need for it; plus there were changing legislations making things problematic- the 2005 DTA, 2006 MCA, Rumsfeld v. Hamdan; and now in 2015/16, Congress passed the NDAA that restricts all government agencies to the techniques outlined in the current Army FM- with 10 techniques that are now “secret”, when before the previous Army FM was freely available on the internet). This is also in part why Haspel is fine with never bringing back a CIA detention and interrogation program. We are simply in a different place than we were in 2001-4.

Torture may sometimes work; but can be unreliable.  It’s certainly unsavory and repulsive to civilized society.  And guess who would agree?  President Bush.  Donald Rumsfeld.  Even Dick Cheney.  The architect of the CIA interrogation program, James Mitchell.  Gina Haspel said she doesn’t believe torture works during her confirmation hearing.  And I don’t believe in torture.  But I do believe under circumstances, EITs may be appropriate.  Which is the greater immorality:  Allowing thousands of innocent lives to perish a painful death because smug moral posturing tells you making terrorists uncomfortable is wrong; or give a few terrorists CIA swim lessons so as to save thousands of innocent lives?

Waterboarding is torture.  End of story.

Back to NPR:

The interrogation method was used by the Japanese in World War II, by U.S. troops in the Philippines and by the French in Algeria. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rogue used waterboarding against its own people. The British used it against both Arabs and Jews in occupied Palestine in the 1930s. In the 1970s, it was widely used in Latin America, particularly under the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina (where it was known as “Asian torture.”)

Details are hard to come by, since no government will openly acknowledge using the interrogation method. Over the years, the technique has been modified slightly. The Japanese, for instance, used teapots to hold the water, and cellophane is sometimes used instead of a cloth. But waterboarding has changed very little in the past 500 years. It still relies on the innate fear of drowning and suffocating to coerce confessions.

Waterboarding reached the U.S. via a circuitous route. The Spanish exported the practice to the Philippines, which they colonized for centuries. It was then adapted by U.S. forces there at the start of the 20th century and, eventually, adopted by some police forces in the U.S.

During the Spanish-American War, a U.S. soldier, Major Edwin Glenn, was suspended from command for one month and fined $50 for using “the water cure.” In his review, the Army judge advocate said the charges constituted “resort to torture with a view to extort a confession.” He recommended disapproval because “the United States cannot afford to sanction the addition of torture.”

Yet President Theodore Roosevelt defended the practice. “The enlisted men began to use the old Filipino method: the water cure,” he wrote in a 1902 letter. “Nobody was seriously damaged.”

Apparently Whoopi Goldberg stated that she’d like Donald Trump to be waterboarded.  Because of course you’re allowed to claim it is torture when you haven’t experienced it yourself.  And apparently you aren’t allowed to support it unless you experience it, even when you do agree with the critics that it’s torture, and ethusiastically support it anyway (like Trump).

James Mitchell- who administered all 3 HVD with the treatment- responds to the value-signalling:

He’s absolutely right that fussing over waterboarding at this stage is a complete waste of time (2015 NDAA restricts all government agencies to operate under the current Army FM).  No one has been waterboarded since March or April of 2003; and it wasn’t even on the CIA menu by the end of 2006.

I remember back when a lefty reader GaffaUK brought up how Christopher Hitchens had volunteered to waterboard himself to prove it wasn’t torture:

Howabouts this for putting your money where your mouth is…

“Hitchens initially rejected the notion that waterboarding constitutes torture. Subsequently, he was asked by Vanity Fair to experience it for himself. In May 2008, Hitchens voluntarily experienced waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that has been used on prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. After the experience he fully changed his opinion. He concluded “if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

Well, first off: No one at Gitmo had been waterboarded. Ever. Only 3 HVD total had that experience.

As I wrote in 2009:

I’ve known about Christopher Hitchens’ Vanity Fair article where he changed his tune regarding whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture; but I hadn’t realized there’s also a video that shows the session he had.


He lasts for only about 5 or 6 applications.

wouldn’t be so quick to pass judgment on Hitchens as a wimp, either; not unless you’ve personally experienced the same, yourself (I know some of our readers have).

Regardless of whether it’s applied to our own soldiers in SERE training to develop coping mechanisms to resist, or whether it’s being inflicted on enemy combatants to go beyond their breaking points….can we or should we concede that waterboarding does in fact fit into the categorical definition of “torture”?

Hitchen’s takeaway from his experience was that  “if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

So then there is Mancow Muller previously of Chicago’s Big 89, WLS-AM Mancow & Cassidy show:

At one time, it became a bit popular for journalists to get waterboarded to prove that it is torture.  As Marc Thiessen points out in his book, “Courting Disaster”, if it were real torture- no one would be volunteering for it!  Does anyone volunteer to have their fingernails ripped out to prove it’s torture to any deniers out there?  Or take a power drill to themselves?  Or spoon out an eyeball?

In December of 2016, Steve Crowder allowed himself to be waterboarded by Green Beret and UFC fighter Tim Kennedy:

Last Friday, Tim Kennedy live-streamed his front yard waterboarding party, to prove it doesn’t arise to the definition of “torture”:

Between sessions, Kennedy argued that being waterboarded wasn’t torture and was simply uncomfortable.

“If I can change one person’s mind about what torture is and what I would do to protect American freedom, I will do this for years,” Kennedy said about waterboarding.

Kennedy also tweeted earlier this week, “Waterboarding is not torture.”

Kennedy criticized recent reports that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who has been charged with orchestrating the 9/11 attacks, recently requested permission to share information pertaining to Haspel’s nomination. He was reportedly waterboarded 183 times over 15 sessions while in U.S. custody.

“The terrorist is supposed to tell us who should run the CIA, that is an endorsement in my book,” Kennedy said.

While Kennedy said he weathered the repeated waterboarding without many issues, many people who have been waterboarded describe it as a terrifying experience that simulates the sensation of drowning.

“It felt like you were choking to death on water and couldn’t stop it from being that way,” Chris Jaco, a former military pilot, told HuffPost. Jaco was waterboarded in 1970 during Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training at the Air Force Academy.

Of course, this only made the torture alarmists sullen with anger at him.

On Kennedy’s FB livestream, there are numerous comments from the torture alarmists dismissing his example as unrealistic because

  1.  He’s in great shape as a Green Beret and UFC fighter
  2. That he’s been trained to hold his breath for over 2 minutes
  3. His hands weren’t tied down and strapped to the board
  4. He hadn’t been stripped nude, sexually humiliated, slapped around, etc.- basically abused by real interrogators and not joking around with friends.
  5. He only went for 41 minutes with short spells of water pours and not subjected like this for hours and days.

Yet these same critics with their fevered imaginations certainly weren’t calling Christopher Hitchen’s 5 sec session unrealistic or anyone else’s video that validates their belief that CIA waterboarding is torture.  It doesn’t matter if he can hold his breath for a long time, as water filled up Kennedy’s sinuses and throat and gave him the sensation of drowning.  As it was supposed to.  Of course a real interrogation session doesn’t have friends joking around with the person being waterboarded; but neither do all those other YouTube videos out there of people being waterboarded.  In terms of physicality, I doubt it was carried out differently in any significant sense; but what’s different, as critics are kind of pointing out, is the “realism” in terms of fear, panic, seriousness, etc. are absent.  The emotional realism.  In other words:  The psychological aspect, which is what made the EIT so effective.

John McCain says torture is not who we are.  It is immoral.  It is against American values.

My stock answer to the John McCain chickenhawk aegis that torture alarmists hide behind (chickenhawk arguments are merely designed to shutdown debate):

John McCain is intimately familiar with torture, having endured it at the hands of his Vietnamese captors during his years as a POW.

John McCain is intimately familiar with torture, having endured it at the hands of his Vietnamese captors during his years as a POW.

But he was never waterboarded. Not by the Spanish Inquisition. Not by the Japanese military. Not by the restrictive nature of the program as run by our CIA. And to be clear, he was tortured not to extract information that might save lives; he was tortured out of cruelty for torture’s sake; and he was tortured to elicit a false confession for propaganda purposes. EITs are not used to obtain either confessions or information.

Nor was McCain ever an interrogator. Not in the FBI. Not in the CIA. Not in the military.

Yet McCain, like “Matthew Alexander” (i.e, Anthony Camarino), commands “authority” and respect on the topic matter because of their respective experiences.

Well, what happened to John McCain wasn’t the same thing that happened to 119 HVD in the CIA program (of which only 33-38 had received one or more EITs at any point in their detention and interrogation).

EITs weren’t meant to work in the same manner as “torture”. It wasn’t the same purpose as torture techniques. Questions weren’t asked during EIT sessions that the interrogator didn’t already know the answers to. Their purpose was to induce a state of hopelessness and cooperation so that information-gathering could occur during debriefing.

No question that some of the EITs were harsh. Why were they called up at all? Because for a third of these HVD, SITs were insufficient. Some of these jihadis had received interrogation resistance training and knew how to defeat common methods, like the rapport-building techniques favored by Ali Soufan and the FBI to achieve confessions for the sake of criminal prosecutions- not for the purpose of timely, actionable intell-gathering. So at a time when there was a great deal of intell buzz regarding a second wave of attacks (KSM: “Soon you will know”), EITs were called up by the CIA (others were approved of for military usage; but waterboarding wasn’t one of them). James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen favor social influence techniques in 99% of cases. Mitchell believes some techniques used by others (by military interrogators and some CIA interrogators who were actually not a part of the RDI program setup by Mitchell and Jessen) were never approved; and were wrongfully applied to mid-level and low-level terrorists/detainees.

Btw, for those who like to cite McCain as the moral authority on torture because he experienced REAL torture: McCain was never waterboarded by the CIA. CIA waterboarding sessions (only 3 HVD were ever waterboarded, with KSM being the last one in March or April of 2003), in purpose and in execution, were vastly different than the water torture often alluded to by those Japanese officers who were prosecuted in WWII for a host of crimes.

I believe the fact that McCain was brutally tortured has distorted his ability to objectively and rationally see the CIA program for what it is and not for how it’s imagined to be- which was not a rogue, out-of-control operation that wantonly “tortured”. McCain is seeing it with his emotions; not his head, imo. BECAUSE of his nightmarish experience at the hands of his Viet Cong captors. The fact that he suffered REAL, bone-shattering types of torture for more than 5 years as a POW may be a detriment and not an asset in his subjective opinion on CIA EITs. Certainly his opinion carries with it great weight, as it should; but it could also be clouding his ability to see the program for what it actually was and not for the hysteria and hyperbole and false narrative and distortions that it became.

Someone who doesn’t share his opinion on CIA waterboarding but whom you will not find cited by the critics is Leo Thorsness, who recently passed.

George Everett Day, Leo Thorsness, Jeremiah Denton are highly decorated war veterans and former POWs who experienced REAL torture at the hands of their Viet Cong captors. They scoff at the notion that what the CIA subjected 33-38 HVD to amounts to the definition of “torture”.

There is some honest arguments on whether or not EITs arise to a definition of “torture”. However, it’s a far cry from “real” torture like pulling off fingernails, beating, breaking bones, drilling holes, etc. And if one is going to cite McCain as backup to the torture narrative, then it’s only fair to mention POWs like him who disagree with him.

We convicted/hanged/executed WWII Japanese soldiers for waterboarding


In the war crimes tribunals that followed Japan’s defeat in World War II, the issue of waterboarding was sometimes raised. In 1947, the U.S. charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for waterboarding a U.S. civilian. Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Apparently Yukio Asano was convicted of torturing Fliipinos by tying them to stretchers and drowning them, as well as burning them with cigarettes. He was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor, and this sentence was hardly for waterboarding; or waterboarding alone.

Evan Wallach, are three specifics of the war crimes case against Asano:

“Charge: That between 1 April, 1943 and 31 August, 1944, , at Fukoka Prisoner of War Branch Camp Number 3, Kyushu, Japan, the accused Yukio Asana, then a civilian serving as an interpreter with the Armed Forces of Japan, a nation then at war with the United States of America and its Allies, did violate the Laws and Customs of War.

Specification 1: That in or about July or August, 1943, the accused Yukio Asano, did willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture Morris O. Killough, an American Prisoner of War, by beating and kicking him; by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils.

Specification 2: That on or about 15 May, 1944, at Fukoka Prisoner of War Branch Camp Number 3, Kyushu, Japan, the accused Yukio Asano, did, willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture Thomas B. Armitage, William O. Cash, and Munroe Dave Woodall, American Prisoners of War by beating and kicking them, by forcing water into their mouths and noses; and by pressing lighted cigarettes against their bodies.

Specification 5: That between 1 April, 1943 and 31 December, 1943, the accused Yukio Asano, did, willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture John Henry Burton, an American Prisoner of War, by beating him; and by fastening him head downward on a stretcher and forcing water into his nose.”

This was researched by The Anchoress, I believe, from here and here:

There were seven individuals who were executed for war crimes stemming from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East:

General Doihara Kenji, spy (later Air Force commander) Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, and 54

Baron Hirota Koki, foreign minister Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55,

General Itagaki Seishiro, war minister , Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36 and 54

General Kimura Heitaro, commander, Burma Expeditionary Force Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55

General Matsui Iwane, commander, Shanghai Expeditionary Force found guilty of class B and C war crimes; e.g.; for his participation in the atrocities committed at Nanking.

General Muto Akira, commander, Philippines Expeditionary Force Convicted of Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55.

General Tojo Hideki, commander, Kwantung Army (later prime minister) Convicted of Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55

None of these individuals were convicted for “waterboarding”. Although some of the Defendants were convicted of Count 55 (which was failing to observe and protect prisoners of war from the Allied forces as per the laws and customs of war) it is a stretch to conclude that any of the Generals who were convicted and hanged were convicted and executed because of their involvement in anything that remotely resembles waterboarding as described in the Justice Dept OLC memo.

Most of what you see is that “water torture” was included as part of a broad range of abuses- and when you read the description of how it was executed, it was clearly torture and meant to inflict pain and suffering:

(2) … Water torture. There were 2 forms of water torture. In the first the victim was tied or held down on his back and a cloth placed over his nose and mouth. Water was then poured on the cloth. Interrogation proceeded and the victim was beated if he did not reply. As he opened his mouth to breathe or to answer questions, water went down his throat until he could not hold anymore. Sometimes he was then beaten over his distended stomach , sometimes a Jap. jumped on his stomach or sometimes pressed on it with his foot. In the 2nd, the victim was tied lengthways on a ladder face upwards with a rung of the ladder across his throat and his head below the ladder. In his position he was slid head first into a tub of water and kept there until almost drowned. After being revived interrogation continued and he would be re-immersed.

That ain’t the CIA version of waterboarding.  The intent to cause pain, suffering, and mental anguish wasn’t there.

And then compare that description in the OLC Memo, outlining the restriction and restraints placed upon the CIA in how waterboarding as an EIT could be carried out without crossing the line:

Memo by DOJ Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, August 1, 2002:

“In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth. This causes an increase in carbon dioxide level in the individual’s blood. This increase in the carbon dioxide level stimulates increased effort to breathe. This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning.

“…In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture.”

I posted the above in a comment section on a Facebook post.  And a reader challenged me by linking me to Politifact.  Here’s my rebuttal to Politifact’s research:

Haha- How does Rep Bobby Scott trump what I researched? Or his spokesman Dave Dailey and John McCain? Seriously?

Politifact: “The Senate report detailed many instances when the U.S. waterboarded suspected terrorists,”

Uh…no. I purchased a copy of the 2014 SSCI study on the CIA RDI program executive summary. It confirms that there were only 3 HVD waterboarded. Zubaydah, al-Nashiri, and KSM (March or April of 2003- get that? No one has been waterboarded in 15 years for all this obsession over it). If there had been more than 3, you can bet your cakehole Feinstein’s committee research staff would have been all over it because the Report was highly partisan, ideologically-agenda-driven where the outcome was predetermined with selective, cherry-picked data, distortions, half-truths, and misleading out of context mentions.

Politfact: “The claims harken back to the mid to late 1940s when officials of the Axis powers were tried and convicted, and some executed,FOR A WIDE RANGE OF WAR CRIMES.” 

I ALL CAPSed the significant section of that sentence so you can read it better. Now go back and re-read my earlier comment more carefully.

I read the essay by Evan Wallach years ago. What he describes the Japanese doing WAS real torture. It’s not the same as described in the OLC “how not to torture” memo that details the restraints and restrictions CIA had to operate under so as to not cross the line into what they deemed would constitute water torture.

Furthermore, the U.S. soldiers should have had POW status protection; at the time, Japan was not a signatory of the GC. Neither are terrorists.

Everyone should be protected and treated humanely according to the provisions in the GC. Incidentally, broader GC protections were meant to apply only to signatory nations.

The Bush Administration believed that in denying captured terrorists the rights and privileges that are afforded lawful enemy combatants, they were actually supporting the spirit of the GC. How so? Because by giving equal cover to terrorists and lawful, uniformed soldiers, it removes the incentive for enemy combatants not to cloak themselves amongst a civilian populace. One of the purposes of the GCs is to protect innocent civilian lives.

The 2006 SC decision (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), btw, is flawed in that the GC‘s Common Article III protections were intended to cover civil wars and not international terrorist attacks.

The GCs give maximum protection to non-combatants- innocent civilians. The next level of protection is afforded to fighters who obey the laws of war. The least amount of protection is given to those fighters who do not obey the rules. The GCs operates on an incentive system. Granting terrorists the same privileges as that of POWs undermines part of the purpose of the GCs and puts civilians into greater risk of harm.


Politifact: “We contacted three other war crimes analysts who echoed Wallach’s finding that the U.S. prosecuted Japanese soldiers for offenses that INCLUDED waterboarding.”

Again, these soldiers weren’t prosecuted for water torture alone. It was a host of crimes.

Politifact: “David J. Cohen, the founder of the War Crimes Studies Center at the University of California at Berkeley, said the U.S. military convicted Japanese POW camp officials for A WIDE RANGE OF OFFENSES from severe beatings, to exposing prisoners to extreme temperatures.

“There were death sentences for torture, and that torture typically consisted of multiple forms of mistreatment, of which water torture was considered one of the most severe,”

Yes! Read how water torture was carried out by the Japanese. Then go through the SSCI Study and read the account of Zubaydah vomiting. And read the OLC memo description of how CIA were required to waterboard. Read the accounts by Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell on how resilient KSM was (like Tim Kennedy I suppose) and how he knew the time restriction and would count down the seconds on his fingers to mock the interrogators.

There is a difference between what the Japanese did and what the CIA did and for what purpose (EITs weren’t administered as torture techniques; that’s not how they functioned in the CIA program as set up by Mitchell and Jessen).

Polifact: “Wallach, in his essay, wrote that six Japanese generals who ordered and permitted water torture were sentenced to death. He ADDED, however, that those generals were also CONVICTED OF MANY OTHER WAR CRIMES — including conspiracy, aggression and crimes against the peace.”

Again, not water torture alone brought about any convictions.

Yuma Totani, if you read carefully, basically says since water torture was commonplace, he assumes it was used and “one could argue that these accused were convicted of a charge that included waterboarding”

And it concludes: “Scott qualified his statement to make clear he was referring to executed Japanese military members who faced a variety of war crime charges, including waterboarding, not that they were sentenced to death solely for that offense.”

Ah, ok. So Rep Scott basically conceded in the end and agreed with me.

Thanks for this.

Also, rediscovered this link (from MataHarley) to a post by Lorie Byrd:

A former Wizbang blogger passed along some research he did regarding Paul Begala’s recent claim that the U.S. executed Japanese prisoners after WWII for waterboarding. The first thing he learned in his research is that the people in question where not — as Begala and some lefty bloggers claim — executed for waterboarding. (National Reviewhad a good post addressing that this weekend citing the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, a.k.a. Tokyo Trials, in which “only seven Japanese war criminals were executed. Every one of them was convicted of either being complicit in or directly committing atrocities and murder on a grand scale.”)

In his research he found that not only was no one executed for waterboarding, but no one was prosecuted for waterboarding either:

There were 5 cases where Japanese citizens (one was a Japanese civilian) were prosecuted for torture that INCLUDED as part of the torture charges “water torture.” The first problem is they were also charged with much worse things along with “water torture.” The second is that the “water torture” that took place then is not the same as CIA “waterboarding.”

http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~warcrime/Japan/Yokohama/Reviews/Yokohama_Review_Sawamura.htmSpecifications: beating using among others hands, sword scabbard, saber belt, belt buckle, bamboo sticks, rifle butts; kicking; subjecting PWs to ju-jitsu; forcing PW to stand at attention for a long period of time, sometimes in cold weather without sufficient clothing and on one occasion, in the nude; throwing a bucket of ice cold water over PW in cold weather;water treatment which entailed forcing water down PWs throat and nostrils using among others a hose, tubes; picking up and throwing PW to the ground; banging head against a wall; raising and lowering a sword on a PWs neck in an effort to make him give information.

Specifications: beating, kicking, water torture, burning using wood, lighted cigarettes and burning pokers, forcing to stand/kneel in snow w/out adequate protection

Specifications: beating using hands, fists, stick, rifle; water torture; burning using cigarettes

Specifications: beating using among other things belts, fists, bamboo sticks, rifle butts; kicking; water torture; burning using cigarettes; forcing sick PWs to work, refusing to properly treat PWs.

The 5th case he cites is the one Ted Kennedy mentioned in 2006 — the case of Yukio Asano who got 15 years for torturing prisoners.

From an October 2006 Washington Post report:

Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II,” he said.

Well, if anyone in the Senate knows about drownings simulated or otherwise, it’s Ted Kennedy.

But there are two holes in Kennedy’s statement… The first is the charges list many activites, including water torture:

http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~warcrime/Japan/Yokohama/Reviews/Yokohama_Review_Asano.htmSpecifications:beating using hands, fists, club; kicking; water torture; burning using cigarettes; strapping on a stretcher head downward

The second problem with Kennedy’s statement is that the “water torture” wasn’t the same as CIA waterboarding…. Here are the actual charges….

Specification 1: That in or about July or August, 1943, the accused Yukio Asano, did willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture Morris O. Killough, an American Prisoner of War, by beating and kicking him; by fastening him on a stretcher and pouring water up his nostrils.Specification 2: That on or about 15 May, 1944, at Fukoka Prisoner of War Branch Camp Number 3, Kyushu, Japan, the accused Yukio Asano, did, willfully and unlawfully, brutally mistreat and torture Thomas B. Armitage, William O Cash and Munroe Dave Woodall, American Prisoners of War by beating and kicking them, by forcing water into their mouths and noses; and by pressing lighted cigarettes against their bodies.

He was pouring water DIRECTLY into their nose and mouth… When the CIA waterboards people, a rag is placed over the face to PREVENT water from entering the nose and mouth. This is a much harser and dangerous act. — In some of the other Japanese cases, the “water torture” included strapping people to ladders and dunking them face down into swimming pools until they passed out. This is not the same as waterboarding.

CIA waterboarded only 3 HVD. KSM was the last one in March or April of 2003. No one has been waterboarded since. The WaPo article in 2005 revealing the EIT and CIA blacksites effectively neutered waterboarding as an EIT since part of its power and mystique was in the “not knowing” of whether you were really being drowned (much of the purpose for EITs was psychological, in nature).

In wake of the 2005 DTA and 2006 MCA, the CIA temporarily suspended its interrogation program (I believe it self-suspended a couple of times). They wanted reassurance that what they were engaged in was still legal amidst the public outcry (and hysteria and hyperbole) and changing legislation.

When Michael Hayden came aboard as director, he spent the summer of 2006 reading up on the RDI program and deemed the program was actually effective and achieving results; that it was too important to simply just dismantle. So the program was restarted, but with the removal of about 3 of the original 13 EITs, including waterboarding.

Matt Lauer asks President Bush toward the end in this clip if a foreign government captured an American, basically if he’d be fine with it.  It’s one of the arguments that critics often put forth:  If we do it to their people, doesn’t it give others the right to do it to ours?  Isn’t it just as fair?

I believe this is the wrong way of looking at it.  Fearing what others may do in kind should not govern policy.  Why not?  Because that sort of extrinsic motivation of “let’s not do it to others lest it be done unto us” is the same kind of flawed reasoning that

If the waterboarding was conducted in the manner as described in the OLC “how not to torture” memo, with all its restraints and restrictions so as to not cross the line into torture of the kind experienced by POWs and civilians at the hands of Japanese soldiers in WWII, and if it was done to American terrorists who attacked, as non-uniformed, unlawful enemy combatants, innocent civilians, then yeah, I’d be fine with it.

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All of those waterboarded are quite alive and unharmed. The 3000 Americans killed on 9-11 are not, let alone all that have died from consequent illnesses.

The left can spare us the immorality crap.

Lots of moral superiority from a lot of people who are neither moral or superior. I wonder if they also consider a raucous, loud, undisciplined gang of screaming people on the yard of someone that is being protested, where that person’s family, including small children are trapped inside, not knowing if their home was going to be stormed or not, as “torture”? My assumption is, no, they don’t consider that torture, or anything else they do, because when THEY do it for THEIR reasons and causes, it is righteous and proper.

Merely yet another example of where liberals prove they have no principles, just issues they use for political leverage.

Perhaps they just dont have the intestinal fortitude to be leaders. To do what it takes to protect the citizens from having to leap from high rises to avoid death by burning jet fuel, being sprayed by bullets in a night club, at a christmas party, or spayed by shrapnel at a marathon. Language in our training of agents must be sensitive to their feelings. https://www.conservativereview.com/articles/inside-muellers-pc-purge-of-counter-terror-material-at-the-fbi/
But a bunch of ranchers tortured by a government agency for decades, dangerous, just trap them and shoot them in the back.

@Deplorable Me:
Deplorable Me,

“Lots of moral superiority from a lot of people who are neither moral or superior, . . . . when THEY do it for THEIR reasons and causes, it is righteous and proper,”

This is reminiscent of the Comité de Sûreté Générale (Committee of Public Safety) instituted by fanatics during the French revolution, and its related Comité des Recherches (‘Search Committee’). They raided homes, and rounded up people on whims, including jealousies and other absurd ego-centric pretexts.

These committees made decisions behind closed doors, without witnesses, and were used to execute tens of thousands of innocents on the guillotines, at will and for insane reasons, . . . all in the name of “righteousness” and “la Nation”. The Committees led France’s very rapid descent into authoritarianism.

They were so out-of-control that they turned on themselves, first, executing Danton, their original leader of the revolution, and then Robespierre, the fanatic leader of the ensuing slaughter.

Today’s mass hysteria on the left is on its way to repeating a history that doesn’t end well.

James Mitchell’s book is excellent and one needs to read it to understand the limits imposed by the DOJ when waterboarding was used. too bad the loud mouth ignorant, idiot woppie will never read the book but shoots her mouth off. Her and maxime waters look a lot of like in physical and mentally impaired reasoning.
Three thousand died on 9/11. woppie where were you when the first plane struck the tower?? I know where I was and God will hold those 3000 in his hand until we meet.
the view is a bunch of dried up hags. but wait, Chen’s husband is president of cbs.
waterboarding worked for us in Vietnam.
need to read James Mitchell’s book. He had a three day meeting and came home 7 months later. demorats and idiots can not read but the book outlines waterboarding according to DOJ guidelines.