Thursday, November 12, 2009

US Military use of torture and terror: 1900 - Present

[I apologize to my readers for the inclusion of such gruesome photos. But I am afraid that without this type of photographic evidence, the point is lost. Notice that the US government has kept hidden from the public any photos of waterboarding in the current "war on terror". And have no doubt that they do exist in the files of the CIA and the US military.]


  • Photographs of waterboarding
  • "Enhanced interrogation techniques"
  • ABC News: CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described
  • OLC Memos Define Official Waterboarding Procedure
  • The Water Cure: Debating torture and counterinsurgency—a century ago
  • The Philippine War of Independence
  • Mark Twain, New York Herald, Oct. 15, 1900
  • Conclusion
  • Related posts

Photographs of waterboarding

Water cure in Phillipines 1901

Waterboarding in Vietnam 1968

Demonstration of Waterboarding in "War on Terror" [1] [2]

"Enhanced interrogation techniques"
Enhanced interrogation techniques or alternative set of procedures were euphemisms adopted by the George W. Bush administration in the United States to describe torture and other interrogation methods used by US military intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to extract information from individuals captured in the "War on Terror" soon after the events of September 11, 2001.

Many of these techniques were regarded by critics, both internationally and within the United States of America, to constitute torture or cruel and unusual punishment. In December, 2005, the United States eliminated use of these techniques by passing the Detainee Treatment Act, and limiting interrogation methods to those explicitly authorized by the United States Army Field Manual.
ABC News: CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described
November 18 2005
The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: 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.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.
OLC Memos Define Official Waterboarding Procedure
OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) - By delegation from the Attorney General, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel provides authoritative legal advice to the President and all the Executive Branch agencies. The Office drafts legal opinions of the Attorney General and also provides its own written opinions and oral advice in response to requests from the Counsel to the President, the various agencies of the Executive Branch, and offices within the Department. Such requests typically deal with legal issues of particular complexity and importance or about which two or more agencies are in disagreement. The Office also is responsible for providing legal advice to the Executive Branch on all constitutional questions and reviewing pending legislation for constitutionality.
A recently declassified four memos has shed light on the recently banned practice of waterboarding. For the first time, the memos publicly describe the officially sanctioned waterboarding interrogation procedure:
Steven G Bradbury, May 10 2005, p.13:

13. The "waterboard". In this technique, the detainee is lying on a gurney that is inclined at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees to the horizontal, with the detainee on his back and his head toward the lower end of the gurney. A cloth is placed over the detainee's face and cold water is poured on the cloth from a height of approximately 6 to 8 inches. The wet cloth creates a barrier through which it is difficult - or in some cases not possible - to breathe. A single "application" of water may not last for more than 40 seconds, with the duration of an "application" measured from the moment when water - of whatever quantity - is first poured onto the cloth until the moment the cloth is removed from the subject's face. See August 19 Letter at 1. When the time limit is reached, the pouring of water is immediately discontinued and the cloth is removed. We understand that if the detainee makes an effort to defeat the technique (e.g. by twisting his head to the side and breathing out of the corner of his mouth), the interrogator may cup his hands around the detainee's nose and mouth to dam the runoff, in which case it would not be possible for a detainee to breathe during the application of the water. In addition, you have informed us that the technique may be applied in a manner to defeat efforts by the detainee to hold his breath by, for example, beginning an application of water as the detainee is exhaling. Either in the normal application, or where countermeasures are used, we understand that water may enter - and may accumulate in - the detainee's mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing. Either in the normal application, or where countermeasures are used, we understand that water may enter — and may accumulate in — the detainee’s mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing. In addition, you have indicated that the detainee as a countermeasure may swallow water, possibly in significant quantities. For that reason; based on advice of medical personnel, the C.I.A. requires that saline solution be used instead of plain water to reduce the possibility of hyponatremia (i.e., reduced concentration of sodium in the blood) if the detainee drinks the water.
NOTE: The use of torture by the US military is nothing new. Torture and terror were routinely used during the American imperialistic war against the Philippines in the early 1900's.

The Water Cure: Debating torture and counterinsurgency—a century ago.
by Paul Kramer
February 25, 2008
A letter by A. F. Miller, of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment [stationed in the Philippines], published in the Omaha World-Herald in May, 1900, told of how Miller’s unit uncovered hidden weapons by subjecting a prisoner to what he and others called the “water cure.” “Now, this is the way we give them the water cure,” he explained. “Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don’t give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I’ll tell you it is a terrible torture.”
A letter from Riley had been published in the Northampton Daily Herald in March of the previous year, describing the water-cure torture of Tobeniano Ealdama, the presidente of the town of Igbaras, where Riley, then a sergeant in the 26th Volunteer Infantry, had been stationed. Herbert Welsh had learned of Riley, and enlisted him, among other soldiers, to testify before the committee. Amid the bullying questions of pro-war senators, Riley’s account of the events of November 27, 1900, unfolded, and it was startlingly at odds with most official accounts. Upon entering the town’s convent, which had been seized as a headquarters, Riley had witnessed Ealdama being bound and forced full of water, while supervised by a contract surgeon and Captain Edwin Glenn, a judge advocate. Ealdama’s throat had been “held so he could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach”; the water was then “forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with [the soldiers’] hands.” The ostensible goal of the water cure was to obtain intelligence: after a second round of torture, carried out in front of the convent by a “water detail” of five or six men, Ealdama confessed to serving as a captain in the insurgency. He then led U.S. forces into the bush in search of insurgents. After their return to Igbaras, that night, Glenn had ordered that the town, consisting of between four and five hundred houses, be burned to the ground, as Riley explained, “on account of the condition of affairs exposed by the treatment.”
The trial [of Glenn] lasted a week. When Ealdama testified about his experience—“My stomach and throat pained me, and also the nose where they passed the salt water through”—Glenn interrupted, trying to minimize the man’s suffering by claiming (incorrectly) that Ealdama had stated that he had experienced pain only “as [the water] passed through.” Glenn defended his innocence by defending the water cure itself. He maintained that the torture of Ealdama was “a legitimate exercise of force under the laws of war,” being “justified by military necessity.” In making this case, Glenn shifted the focus to the enemy’s tactics. He emphasized the treachery of Ealdama, who had been tried and convicted by a military commission a year earlier as a “war traitor,” for aiding the insurgency. Testimony was presented by U.S. military officers and Filipinos concerning the insurgency’s guerrilla tactics, which violated the norms of “civilized war.” Found guilty, Glenn was sentenced to a one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine. “The court is thus lenient,” the sentence read, “on account of the circumstances as shown in evidence.” (Glenn retired from the Army, in 1919, as a brigadier general.) Meanwhile, Ealdama, twice tortured by Glenn’s forces, was serving a sentence of ten years’ hard labor; he had been temporarily released to enable him to testify against his torturer.
Davis [one of the Judge advocates in the Glenn trial] conceded that, in a “rare or isolated case,” force might legitimately be used in “obtaining the unwilling service” of a guide, if justified as a “measure of emergency.” But a careful examination of the events preceding the tortures at Igbaras revealed that “no such case existed.” Furthermore, Glenn had described the water cure as “the habitual method of obtaining information from individual insurgents”—in other words, as “a method of conducting operations.” But the operational use of torture, Davis stressed, was strictly forbidden. Regarding a subsequent water-cure court-martial, he wrote, “No modern state, which is a party to international law, can sanction, either expressly or by a silence which imports consent, a resort to torture with a view to obtain confessions, as an incident to its military operations.” Otherwise, he inquired, “where is the line to be drawn?”
When, during the committee hearings, Senator Joseph Rawlins had asked General Robert Hughes whether the burning of Filipino homes by advancing U.S. troops was “within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare,” Hughes had replied succinctly, “These people are not civilized.” More generally, some people, while conceding that American soldiers had engaged in “cruelties,” insisted that the behavior reflected the barbaric sensibilities of the Filipinos. “I think I know why these things have happened,” Lodge [Senator Henry Cabot Lodge - Mass] offered in a Senate speech in May. They had “grown out of the conditions of warfare, of the war that was waged by the Filipinos themselves, a semicivilized people, with all the tendencies and characteristics of Asiatics, with the Asiatic indifference to life, with the Asiatic treachery and the Asiatic cruelty, all tinctured and increased by three hundred years of subjection to Spain.”
[President Theodore] Roosevelt was convinced that “nobody was seriously damaged,” whereas “the Filipinos had inflicted incredible tortures upon our own people.” Still, he wrote, “torture is not a thing that we can tolerate.”
There was, of course, an easier way than argument to end the debate. On July 4, 1902 (as if on cue from John Philip Sousa), Roosevelt declared victory in the Philippines. Remaining insurgents would be politically downgraded to “brigands.”
As early as April 16, 1902, the New York World described the “American Public” sitting down to eat its breakfast with a newspaper full of Philippine atrocities:

It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”
NOTE: What the CIA has done through waterboarding is to make this method more "efficient". Because in the old method too many prisoners died and could therefore not be further tortured. The salt was originally added because it was an irritant, but now the salt is added to keep the victim from dying from water poisoning. It is not more humane, in fact it is more sadistic.

The Philippine War of Independence
The shift to guerrilla warfare [by the Philippine army], however, only angered the Americans into acting more ruthlessly than before. They began taking no prisoners, burning whole villages, and routinely shooting surrendering Filipino soldiers. Civilians were forced into concentration camps, after being suspected of being guerrilla sympathizers. Thousands of civilians died in these camps. The camps and slaughter of civilians was excused by the fact that the media told the American population that the savages were little children needing America's help and cleansing. The guerilla warfare helped this case by giving a moral right to what the American's were doing since the "savages" were cowardly uncivilized enemies.
In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger reported:"The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog...."
Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment resisted such pressure. He insisted that Colonel Funston had ordered that all prisoners be shot and that Major Metcalf and Captain Bishop enforced these orders. Otis was obliged to order the Northern Luzon sector commander, General MacArthur, to look into the charge. Brenner confronted MacArthur’s aide with a corroborating witness, Private Putman, who confessed to shooting two prisoners after Bishop or Metcalf ordered, “Kill them! Damn it, Kill them!” MacArthur sent his aide’s report on to Otis with no comment. Otis ordered Brenner court-martialed “for writing and conniving at the publication of an article which... contains willful falsehoods concerning himself and a false charge against Captain Bishop.” The judge advocate in Manila convinced Otis that such a trial could open a Pandora’s box because “facts would develop implicating many others.”

General Otis sent the Brenner case to Washington writing: “After mature deliberation, I doubt the wisdom of court-martial in this case, as it would give the insurgent authorities a knowledge of what was taking place and they would assert positively that our troops had practiced inhumanities, whether the charge should be proven or not, as they would use it as an excuse to defend their own barbarities; and it is not thought that his charge is very grievous under the circumstances then existing, as it was very early in the war, and the patience of our men was under great strain.
The most conclusive evidence that the enemy wounded were being killed, came from the official reports of Otis and his successor, General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., which claimed fifteen Filipinos killed for every one wounded. In the American Civil War, the ratio had been five wounded for every soldier killed, which is close to historical norm. Otis attempted to explain this anomaly by the superior marksmanship of rural southerners and westerners in the U.S. military, who had hunted all their lives. MacArthur added a racial twist, asserting that Anglo-Saxons do not succumb to wounds as easily as do men of “inferior races.”
Mark Twain, New York Herald, Oct. 15, 1900
I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem. It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

The parallels between the conduct of the US military in the Philippines War in 1900 and the current "war on terror" should be obvious. The lesson that has been learned by the military is not to declare an official war in the first place. This way the enemy need not be treated as an army and therefore the rules of conduct for war do not apply. This is what the US military did in the Philippines in 1902 by declaring victory and from thereon treating the Philippine army as "brigands" - the equivalent of today's "enemy combatants".

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