When Americans Punished Americans For Waterboarding
Over the last several days the topic of American torture policy has heated up once again. On Sunday, the Republican presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, said he would “absolutely bring back” torture while Ben Carson said the only reason we aren’t currently waterboarding is because of “political correctness.”
The torture argument has always been missing a certain perspective. I have seen opponents of American torture policy bring up that Americans have prosecuted foreign fighters for waterboarding and torture in the past, but my question was, how have Americans handled Americans who have been caught waterboarding their enemies, even if it took place on the battlefield?
Americans have punished and court martialed Americans for waterboarding and torture on numerous occasions in the past.
For instance, Vietnam (Photo above):
On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced “a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk.” The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier.
And the Philippines (emphasis added):
The trial lasted a week. When Ealdama testified about his experience—“My stomach and throat pained me, and also the nose where they passed the salt water through”—Glenn interrupted, trying to minimize the man’s suffering by claiming (incorrectly) that Ealdama had stated that he had experienced pain only “as [the water] passed through.” Glenn defended his innocence by defending the water cure itself. He maintained that the torture of Ealdama was “a legitimate exercise of force under the laws of war,” being “justified by military necessity.”
Found guilty, Glenn was sentenced to a one-month suspension and a fifty-dollar fine. “The court is thus lenient,” the sentence read, “on account of the circumstances as shown in evidence.” (Glenn retired from the Army, in 1919, as a brigadier general.)
Precedent was set long ago on this issue — America does not torture and we will punish those who do — even if they are Americans and even if they are in danger. When republican candidates for the office of President attempt to justify their desire to torture prisoners because of imminent danger, remember that soldier in Vietnam – on the battlefield, and facing imminent danger – who was court martialed for waterboarding. There was no excuse good enough to justify his actions. It was torture and America does not torture.