Tuesday, December 4, 2007

U.S. Officials and Waterboarding in U.S. history

(1600 words)

by William Loren Katz

High U.S. officials past and present (including Alberto Gonzales) claim not to know--and Judge Michael Mukasey, the President's new attorney general, prefers to equivocate on the issue--but water boarding has long been a form of torture that causes excruciating pain and can lead to death. It forces water into a prisoner's lungs, usually over and over again. Anyone who ever tried to breathe under water for even a few seconds knows this terrifying experience as torture.
The Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s used water torture to uncover and punish heretics, and then in the early 1500s Spain's clerics carried it overseas to root out heresy in the New World. It reappeared during colonial New England's witch hysteria. To determine if they were witches women accused of sorcery were “dunked” and held under water.
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.
Extensive documentation of its use by the United States Army forces can be found in the official records ...

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William Loren Katz is the author of 40 U.S. history books, has been affiliated with New York University since 1973, and his website is WILLIAMLKATZ.COM This essay is based on research for his latest book, "The Cruel Years: American Voices at the Dawn of the 20th Century" [Beacon Press, 2003] and also draws heavily on Stuart Creighton Miller, "Benevolent Assimilation" [Yale University Press, 1982].

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