Thursday, December 11, 2014


It's not well known but the United States has a history of pursuing and securing convictions against military and law enforcement personnel for water boarding prisoners. In 1947, two years after World War II ended, the United States convicted Japanese soldiers for what they did to captured U.S. soldiers, which included water boarding. 
A blindfolded Doolittle Raider is taken by his Japanese captors, 1942.
In fact, Japanese camp doctor Seitara Hata was charged (along with 3 others) and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor for his role in water boarding U.S. prisoners of war. 
U.S. military personnel water boarding a captured soldier in Vietnam.

Former C.I.A. analyst Larry Johnson reminds us that during the Vietnam War the U.S. Military looked for, found, and court martialed the military personnel who water boarded the individual in the picture above after the photo was published by the Washington Post in 1968.

In 1983 a county sheriff and three deputies in San Jacinto, Texas were charged and convicted for water boarding a suspect until a confession was given. U.S. District Judge James DeAnda told the sheriff at sentencing, "The operation down there would embarrass the dictator of a country."

The point here is to help us understand that the recently released U.S. Senate Committee Report on the C.I.A.'s use of torture should not be about how scary the bad guys are, as many conservative commentators (and especially Dick Cheney) are telling us. It's about the standards we no longer embrace as a nation. 

But there's more to think about than our declining national standards.

Drawing on information provided by the C.I.A., the U.S. Senate Committee Report also tells us that the C.I.A. greatly exaggerated their claims about the role torture played in securing "actionable" intelligence. More specifically, the C.I.A. lied. The torture techniques employed by the C.I.A. did not lead us to Osama bin Laden, did not thwart the "dirty bomb" or help us capture Jose Padilla, did not prevent attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, and generally contributed little if any good leads in the 20 high profile cases that the U.S. Senate Committee reviewed for their report. 

Then we have the following technicalities of the law. 

In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court held in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that detainees captured in the war on terror are protected by Art. 3 of the Geneva Conventions. In effect the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that water boarding falls under the torture descriptions outlined in the 1987 “Convention Against Torture.” 

At the end of the day, I agree with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on this: When it comes to torture it's “not about who they are. It’s about who we are.” 

What the U.S. Senate Committee Report tells us is that we're not the people we think we are. There's more - much more - but I think I'll leave it at that, for now.

- Mark 

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