Torture, real and imagined

Paul Begala wrote an article at HuffPo contending that, following WWII, Americans executed Japanese as war criminals for water-boarding. While I’m certainly willing to concede that water-based tortures numbered amongst the myriad tortures the Japanese used against POWs, it is absolutely ridiculous to believe that these Japanese soldiers were executed because of the water tortures. In the grand scheme of things, that was nothing.

One of the Anchoress‘ readers forwarded to her a letter someone wrote (maybe as a comment to Begala’s own article) pointing out that actual historical documents put the lie to Begala’s claims:

Good Afternoon,

I have spent the better part of the morning reviewing the International Military Tribunal for the Far East’s indictment, trial, some testimony, the sentences and the execution of sentences, e.g.; the Tokyo Trials.

What inspired me to get into looking at the charges and subsequent trial and eventual execution, was former Clinton hack and current Obama insider who manipulates information on CNN, Paul Begalia’s recent claim that we executed individuals for waterboarding in 1948. Here is Begalia’s recent column, note that he does not name who it is that we purportedly executed for this “crime”:

Yes, National Review, We Did Execute Japanese for Waterboardin

Instead of a mainstream publication, Mr. Begalia chose to go to a far left extremist publication, the Huffingtion Post, which shows the level of their journalistic skills, and what their reputation should be….I mean, if I can find this information in a few hours, so should any journalist be able to uncover Mr. Begalia’s lies, but I digress.

Begalia on CNN the other evening while discussing the alleged “atrocities” by the Bush Administration with former White House Spokesman Ari Fleicsher, stated that we had executed members of the Imperial Japanese Army for waterboarding, or water torture. Fleischer called him on it, stating that he believed that Begalia has his “history mangled” and later, the National Review called him to task, believing that Begalia was referencing Yukio Asano, who was convicted of torturing Fliipinos by tying them to stretchers and drowning them, as well as burning them with cigarettes. Mr. Asano was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor, and this sentence was hardly for waterboarding.

Begalia then goes into some song and dance, naming individuals who I have personally never heard of, that claims we did in fact execute indivuals for waterboarding.

Thankfully, Yale University has an excellent web site called the Avalon Project, which lists all of the documents, transcripts and pleadings from both the Nuremberg Trials and the Tokyo Trials.

Here is the actual Indictment:

There were seven individuals who were executed for war crimes stemming from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East:

General Doihara Kenji, spy (later Air Force commander) Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36, and 54

Baron Hirota Koki, foreign minister Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55,

General Itagaki Seishiro, war minister , Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 35, 36 and 54

General Kimura Heitaro, commander, Burma Expeditionary Force Convicted on Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55

General Matsui Iwane, commander, Shanghai Expeditionary Force found guilty of class B and C war crimes; e.g.; for his participation in the atrocities committed at Nanking.

General Muto Akira, commander, Philippines Expeditionary Force Convicted of Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55.

General Tojo Hideki, commander, Kwantung Army (later prime minister) Convicted of Counts 1, 27, 29, 31, 32, 54 and 55

http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/International_Military_Tribunal_for_the_Far_East_-_Sentences/id/1508175

http://www.trial-ch.org/en/trial-watch/profile/db/facts/akira_muto_82.html

None of these individuals were convicted for “waterboarding”!! Although some of the Defendants were convicted of Count 55, which was failing to observe and protect prisoners of war from the Allied forces as per the laws and customs of war, it is a far far, downright impossible stretch to conclude that any of the Generals who were convicted and hung were convicted and executed because of their involvement in anything that remotely resembles modern day waterboarding!

Do you think Mr. Begalia will offer an apology for his lie? Do you think anyone from mainstream media will call Mr. Begalia to task for his lie?

I think not.

Shame on you Paul Begala!!

Keith In Tampa

In other words, while water-boarding might have been in these individuals’ repertoire, it was not the sum total of their acts.

As for me, I have my own reasons for doubting Begala’s history. My Mom was a 17 year old Dutch citizen living in Indonesia when Pearl Harbor took place. What a lot of people forget is that, after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese didn’t just take the Philippines, they also swept over Malaysia and Indonesia. My Mom ended up being interned for the duration of the war. She was shipped from camp to camp.

For reasons I don’t understand, the conditions the Dutch experienced were much worse than those that the American civilians experienced in the Philippines. The camp leaders treated these civilians with unimaginable brutality. This was separate from the “ordinary” horrors of disease and starvation.

The routine torture (that is, one that happened on more than one occasion) that lingers with my Mom, the one that still gives her nightmares so many years after the war, is when the prisoners were collectively punished by being made to stand for 24 hours in the tropical sun, without food, without water, without bathroom breaks — indeed, without any breaks at all. The weak, the sick and the elderly died where they stood. The survivors carried the memories. Her best friend’s father, imprisoned in a men’s camp, was beheaded for some infraction. This was routine.

There was one commandant who was worse than the rest. According to my mother, he had “moon madness,” and every month he went crazy and embarked on his own round of random torture directed against the women and children under his command. My Mom won’t even talk about what he did.

I mention all this to make a point: Of all these Japanese prison commanders who routinely inflicted the most horrible tortures on the Dutch civilians in their charge, the guy with the moon madness was the only one executed after the war. Just knowing that fact makes Paul Begala’s assertions absolutely ridiculous on their face.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in an incredible novel about the civilian experience under the Japanese during WWII, I highly recommend Neville Shute’s A Town Like Alice. Although it’s ostensibly about an English woman in Malaya, it’s actually based upon the true story of a Dutch woman in Indonesia.

All of this brings me to one more point about whether something is “torture” or not. In a psychiatric, self-actualized, self-realized, navel gazing world, torture can be anything that makes you unhappy.

Many years ago, Wendy Kaminer wrote a wonderful book called I’m Dysfunctional, You’re Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help, in which she pointed out that psychiatry, especially pop psychiatry, needs psychic pain in order to exist. Without in any way denigrating psychiatry’s usefulness, Kaminer points out that its spread through popular culture in the 1970s resulted in a leveling, with all pains being equal. She noted that women who had escaped Cambodia’s killing fields and women dealing with suburban angst were treated as sufferers of exactly the same magnitude in pop culture parlance. Both felt pain, therefore both were victims and both deserved precisely the same amount of sympathy.

With this kind of leveling (a leveling, that incidentally takes place at the opposite end of the spectrum, where an athlete or actor is accorded “hero,” rather than merely “star,” status), how in the world can our culture reasonably differentiate between true torture, which is the infliction of immense physical or emotional pain, and mere high stress infliction, against self-styled warriors who have taken upon themselves the task of killing our own citizens in the hundreds, thousands or even millions? If someone is made unhappy, it must be torture, right?

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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