Recently released documents show the United States viewed waterboarding as torture when prosecuting Japanese military officials and prison guards for war crimes against U.S. soldiers in World War II.
The WWII torture indictments were released from the archives of the United Nations War Crimes Commission, which was created in 1943 to report on suspected war crimes and relay the findings to members of the United Nations. Governments could then convene tribunals that would prosecute war criminals.
The United States charged Japanese military officials for numerous war crimes based on the UNWCC’s findings.
Waterboarding was among the war crimes labeled as torture, reports Mother Jones.
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"These actions were clearly labeled by the Washington War Crimes office as 'ill-treatment' and 'torture,'" Shanti Sattler, assistant director at the War Crimes Project at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, said.
The release of the UNWCC's documents comes shortly after the release of the CIA torture report, that outlines various means of torture used against detainees, including, but not limited to, forced nudity, isolation in coffin boxes, and waterboarding.
The UNWCC documents show multiple examples of the United States charging Japanese soldiers and prison guards with war crimes for waterboarding prisoners, a practice also referred to as “water cure” or “the water treatment.”
"What the U.S. was calling torture, what it was prosecuting as war crimes [during World War II] were not even close to what has come out in the torture report," said Sattler.
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Former vice president Richard B. Cheney has spoken out and claims waterboarding is not torture, even when questioned by Chuck Todd on NBCs "Meet The Press" on the Japanese documents highlighting the opposite.
“When you say waterboarding is not torture then why did we prosecute Japanese soldiers?” Chuck Todd asked.
“Not for waterboarding," Cheney responded. "They did an awful lot of other stuff. To draw some kind of moral equivalent between waterboarding judged by our Justice Department not to be torture and what the Japanese did with the Bataan Death March, with slaughter of thousands of Americans, with the rape of Nanking and all of the other crimes they committed, that’s an outrage. It’s a really cheap shot, Chuck, to even try to draw a parallel between the Japanese who were prosecuted for war crimes after World War II and what we did with waterboarding three individuals — all of whom are guilty and participated in the 9/11 attacks."
There are other instances where punishment was handed down for waterboarding, long before the events of 9/11, reports The Washington Post.
During the Vietnam War, an American soldier was court-martialed for “waterboarding” a North Vietnamese soldier after a picture of the act appeared on the front-page of The Washington Post on Jan. 21, 1968.
In the photo, the American soldier is seen pinning a captured North Vietnamese soldier to the ground while two other Vietnamese soldiers pour water in his nose, his face covered in a towel.
The caption for the picture read, “a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk.”
Cheney may not view waterboarding as torture, but in light of the UNWCC’s released WWII documents on the Japanese war crime cases, and given the outcome for the American soldier who participated in waterboarding during the Vietnam War, the United States government has viewed the act as torture, and punishable as such.