Waterboarding – Worst Punishment in the History of Mankind
You've been dubbed an enemy of the state, arrested, and dragged to a dank Gestapo-like basement Men in sleek uniforms and jackboots read off a list of charges against you, and then begin grilling you with questions Who else is a dissident? What evil plot to overthrow the government were you involved in? What members of the military or the government do you know of who are traitors?
You bite your tongue, you'll give the bastards nothing The man in charge of your interrogation nods, then speaks up in an evil whisper “Oh, you'll speak, you'll tell us everything!” With a snap of his fingers the guards grab you, then drag you to a table with straps on it The table has one side lower than the other, and you are thrown on it with your head on
The low end, leaving your feet elevated above you The guards strap your arms in and an additional strap goes around your neck to keep you from squirming You're ready for this, you're a freedom fighter and you've been expecting the worst Burning, cutting, tearing, you're ready to sacrifice your flesh for the cause You'll say nothing
But to your surprise your torturers produce not a bag full of sharp knives and other wicked instruments, but a simple cloth towel and a gallon jug of water Smirking, the lead interrogator makes a motion as two burly men place the towel over your face Is this their plan? They're going to sprinkle water on you?
You do your best not to laugh Fifteen seconds later though, you're not laughing anymore In fact you're spilling your guts, giving up every secret you've ever had Welcome to the world of waterboarding, one of the most insidious forms of torture that's been in use since the medieval ages Back during the Spanish Inquisition the Catholic church had a problem- witches and warlocks
Were everywhere, masquerading around as perfectly decent Catholics For most of the population the answer was simple, string peasants up by their toes and put out their eyes with hot pokers until they gave up their fellow witches and warlocks However, with the wealthy merchants and nobility things weren't that easy, they tended to take serious offense to having their loved ones strapped to a chair and their toes crushed one by one
Also, a lot of the peasants were starting to get real 'revolty' about all this torture business The Inquisition needed an answer, a way to get information that wouldn't leave any obvious physical marks They got it in the form of water torture In the modern age waterboarding is meant to simulate drowning, but in the medieval ages
They did less simulating and more actual drowning People would have tubes stuck down their throats and water would be force-fed them until their stomachs distended Sometimes this lead to water accidentally flooding the lungs, which, well, led to drowning Eventually the technique was refined and limited to a cloth placed over the mouth, with part of the cloth in the mouth itself
Then water would be poured from a jug onto the victim's face, with the cloth absorbing the water and letting it into the mouth This gave the victim an impression of drowning despite being at little risk of actually doing so The technique would be repeated over and over again over the course of days, until finally satisfactory information was gathered
Because it didn't do any physical harm and left no marks, waterboarding- or toca as the Spanish called it- was used extensively during the actual trial process Sometimes though victims would need to be 'softened up', and the Spanish developed a technique that involved specifically beating the victim's body, legs, and arms, followed by 25 liters of water poured over the face with the cloth in the mouth Waterboarding soon became all the rage, and the technique was passed down from generation
To generation Agents of the Dutch East India Company used a technique where the victim had a cloth wrapped around their head and water was slowly poured over the scalp The water soaked the cloth all the way up to the nostrils, making the victim suck in water whenever they tried to breathe American law enforcement, as well as other police forces around the world, used waterboarding
As a method to extract confessions, or simply torture prisoners In New York's infamous Sing Sing prison inmates would be strapped to a wooden board with a barrel of water placed seven feet above them A steady stream of water was then allowed to hit the prisoner on the face, making it extremely difficult to breathe and inducing a state of panic Sadly many prisoners subjected to this torture would die from water inhalation leading to
Drowning In Mississippi, prisoners would have water poured using a dipper straight down their noses, the purpose of which was to incite pain and terror so as to force a confession Needless to say, many of these confessions were completely bogus, as when in a state of such blind panic a person is likely to say anything to stop the torture- something that even modern CIA accounts attest to
After the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Filipino people rose up against the United States when it was awarded possession of the Philippines from a defeated Spain Learning the technique from the Filipino people, who likely learned it from their Spanish occupiers, American soldiers began using what they called 'the water cure' on insurgents The American technique was more similar to its original form in that a funnel was forced into a victim's mouth, and water poured down it until the stomach became greatly distended
Then a man would jump on the victim's stomach until the victim vomited Initially believing that the practice was not 'real torture', President Teddy Roosevelt approved of it- until he was better informed on the exact process and the lasting psychological impact He called for the army to prevent the use of water torture in the future and personally ordered the court-martial of a General who had overseen many instances of the torture
Taking place and condoned its continued use The court-martial did not find the General guilty of any crimes, and in response President Roosevelt immediately withdrew his commission, discharging the General from the military Back home in the US, the government had cracked down on police brutality in an attempt to rein in the overabundant lawlessness present in US police forces Mostly successful, the technique nevertheless remained in use- albeit secretly this time-
Well into the 1940s For decades the best way to extract a confession was to submit the suspect to 'the third degree', which would include beatings and other forms of moderate torture Waterboarding was naturally a favorite tactic though, as it left no bruises or other marks on the victim's body During World War II, the Japanese and Germans picked up the American habit of waterboarding
And used it to great extent across their respective realms The Japanese were especially fond of the technique, and would force the victim to take in water until the stomach was distended, after which they would beat the victim in the stomach until they vomited One American airman who partook in the Doolittle raid shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was subjected to this torture for weeks
After the war, he testified during a war crimes trial concerning his former captors, stating that they would submit him to waterboarding torture and beat him if he didn't answer their questions- despite the fact that he physically couldn't answer with water being poured over his nose and mouth The French would take up the practice during the Algerian War, and even submitted a French journalist to the torture technique
He would go on to discuss his experiences in a book he wrote which the French government banned until after the war, writing the following about his waterboarding torture: “The rag was soaked rapidly Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist
Suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me In spite of myself, all the muscles of my body struggled uselessly to save me from suffocation In spite of myself, the fingers of both my hands shook uncontrollably
"That's it! He's going to talk", said a voice The water stopped running and they took away the rag I was able to breathe In the gloom, I saw the lieutenants and the captain, who, with a cigarette between his lips, was hitting my stomach with his fist to make me throw out the water I had swallowed”
During the Vietnam War, waterboarding was made illegal by American generals, but American troops were still discovered using the technique- or at least observing its use As was so often the case, the responsibility was handed off to South Vietnamese soldiers, as their government had no prohibition on waterboarding enemy POWs In 1968, the Washington Post published a front-page photograph showing two US soldiers participating in the waterboarding of a North Vietnamese POW alongside a South Vietnamese soldier
Outrage over the publication led to the court martial of one of the soldiers in the photo, and the technique was largely curtailed by American forces Throughout the second half of the 20th century, waterboarding remained fairly popular amongst military and police forces around the world, with the technique in use everywhere from South Africa to Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia Largely forgotten, or at least ignored, the CIA would bring waterboarding back into the
Spotlight at the dawn of the 21st century After the September 11th attacks of 2001, the CIA took point on the locating, apprehension, or elimination of terrorists and terrorist allies linked to the terror attacks against the US However, the agency soon found itself with many detainees, and few of them were willing to give any vital intelligence up
Prohibited from actual torture, the CIA pushed the White House and the Justice Department to secretly issue opinions that waterboarding did not constitute real torture, and thus the agency had the green light to use it as frequently as it saw fit on captured terrorists After the use of waterboarding was leaked to the public in 2005, Americans were outraged and the White House, under President George W Bush, was forced to publicly condone the practice, stating that it was legal, did not constitute torture, and had resulted in large
Amounts of vital intelligence regarding Al Qaeda's operations Several inquests however revealed that the information that waterboarded terrorists had offered had already been discovered through other means, and that other information gained with the practice was extremely unreliable Inquests on the CIA's use of waterboarding discovered that waterboarding, much like any other form of torture, had in fact produced little if any actionable intelligence, as
Victims were likely to say anything they thought their torturers wanted to hear in order for the torture to stop Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama immediately banned the technique along with other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' widely in use by the CIA and other agencies Wishing to restore the US's credibility as a defender of human rights, President Obama condemned the technique and ordered interrogators to stick to methods approved and outlined
Within the Army Field Manual During the 2016 presidential election, numerous Republican candidates all stated their willingness to reinstate the technique, with then candidate Donald Trump stating that he believed it was effective and not “real torture', despite numerous studies all showing that torture in any form rarely if ever produced good intelligence, and any intelligence gathered under torture was extremely unreliable and could actually place US forces and agents at risk
Many top CIA and FBI officials have come out over the years disputing false claims that waterboarding had ever helped stop even a single terrorist attack against US forces or civilians By simulating a feeling of drowning, waterboarding can be extremely effective with the added perk of leaving no physical marks The psychological impact however can be very long lasting, and in 2007 the United States
Military was forced to end waterboarding as part of its Survival Evasion and Resistance education for special forces and government agents Its use was discovered to have little value in training, and in fact severely hurt morale of personnel undergoing SERE training Wanna learn more about the worst punishments in the history of mankind? Check out The Brazen Bull!
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