New Documents Show the US Called Waterboarding Torture During World War II
We also prosecuted Japanese Military officials for war crimes for waterboarding, which was known as “The Water Cure” during that period.
Decades before it started waterboarding terrorism suspects, the US government had dramatically different standards for what it considered torture, particularly when it was being done to our soldiers in World War II. Recently released documents detail how the the United States charged hundreds of Japanese military officials and prison guards with war crimes for abuses against American prisoners of war, including waterboarding.
“What the US 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,” says Shanti Sattler, assistant director at the War Crimes Project at the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, who fought to have the trove of documents made public.
The torture indictments are documented in the archives of the United Nations War Crimes Commission, which was created in 1943 to classify and identify Axis war crimes and to assist in the prosecution of war criminals. Unlike the Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals, which prosecuted major figures from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan after the war, the UNWCC was set up to help investigate “minor criminals,” and did not have prosecutorial powers. In all, the UNWCC investigated more than 30,000 cases that lead to more than 2,000 criminal trials brought by its member states, including the United States. (The Nuremburg and Tokyo Tribunals collectively held 49 trials.)