Last Saturday, President Bush vetoed H.R. 2082, a bill that would have outlawed the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques by the CIA. Amnesty International condemned the veto and called for Congress to push for investigation and accountability.
Is waterboarding torture? Eric Lomax, a British World War II veteran who was waterboarded while a Japanese POW has no doubts what he experienced was torture, as he describes his ordeal in a London Times article:
One morning I was led out to the back of the Kempeitai building, where the simple apparatus for the historic water torture was laid out. From its availability I wondered if they used it quite often. I was laid on my back on a bench; my arms, still broken and almost useless, were placed across my chest, my face was covered by a cloth and a tap feeding a hose-pipe was turned on. It was all so simple. To encourage me to say something the senior Japanese man beat me from time to time with the branch of a tree. This did not do my arms any good at all. The interpreter, who did not seem sympathetic to the whole procedure, held my left hand. I suspected that he wanted to make sure that I remained alive.
The whole operation was a long and agonising sequence of near-drowning, choking, vomiting and muscular struggling with the water flowing with ever-changing force. To put it mildly, it was ghastly, quite the worst experience of my life. There were occasional intervals for interrogation. How long the torture lasted, I do not know. It covered a period of some days, with periods of unconsciousness and semi-consciousness. Eventually I was dumped in my cell, which was so small it offered little scope for movement. At about this time two of my colleagues were beaten to death. Their bodies were dumped in a latrine where they may well remain to this day.
Was what his Japanese captors did to Mr. Lomax torture? Does anyone really doubt that? Why is it being justified when America does it? How did torture become an American value?
The physical damage suffered by victims of torture can usually be repaired. But the psychological damage can never be repaired. It accompanies victims of torture throughout the rest of their lives.
Is this what we want to stand for?
In case anyone is still in doubt whether the water torture is, or is not, torture I shall refer to a Japanese Army document, which is authoritative. I have an extract from the Japanese Secret War Service Guide, headed ‘”Fundamental Rules for Interrogating War Prisoners”. This was probably issued in the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in 1938. In the list of “official” tortures item No 3 reads: “Putting the person interrogated on his back (it is advisable to raise the feet a little) and dripping water into the nose and mouth simultaneously.” A later section draws attention to the importance of minimising the disturbance caused by victims’ screams.
Is this the America you believe in?