Drop by Drop

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
–Aeschylus
I wish to Hell I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I do. We all do. Or if you don’t know yet, you will. And how the Hell did he find a way to say it? That must have cost him something too.
I read this in Newseek! Bobby Kennedy cited it, calling Aeschylus his “favorite poet,” the night he had to tell a crowd of people, few of whom had yet heard, that Rev. Martin Luther King had been shot and killed that day.
So, without knowing it, he was also speaking to the people who would watch him die a few weeks later. He was, like King, an avatar of the hard truth in America, a country with politics so shallow you really can kill an idea with a bullet. One more for Wallace, with his divisive vote on the Right, and you’ve got Nixon, and you can forget about the truth.
I don’t think either Nixon or the Bushes ever needed to be warned to stay away from Aeschylus if they didn’t want to feel their lies sucking out their breath and cutting their own throats.

Buried Alive in Water: Leave No Marks; Suffer No Penalties

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

This article in today’s Washington Post distills into one and half pages a straight-to-the-point legal history of Waterboarding, and plainspoken descriptions of the actual physical experience. It is worth more than all the other obtuse, vacillating, shallowly researched, tongue-tied, contortedly circumspect coverage I have seen, all of it, combined.
The author, Evan Wallach, is a Federal judge of obviously unshakable courage and integrity, committed to the rule of law down to the bottom of his boots. He serves at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York.
He is also my beloved cousin.
Here’s the WP article:
Waterboarding Used to Be a Crime
By Evan Wallach
Sunday, November 4, 2007; B01
As a JAG in the Nevada National Guard, I used to lecture the soldiers of the 72nd Military Police Company every year about their legal obligations when they guarded prisoners. I’d always conclude by saying, “I know you won’t remember everything I told you today, but just remember what your mom told you: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” That’s a pretty good standard for life and for the law, and even though I left the unit in 1995, I like to think that some of my teaching had carried over when the 72nd refused to participate in misconduct at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Sometimes, though, the questions we face about detainees and interrogation get more specific. One such set of questions relates to “waterboarding.”
That term is used to describe several interrogation techniques. The victim may be immersed in water, have water forced into the nose and mouth, or have water poured onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed. The media usually characterize the practice as “simulated drowning.” That’s incorrect. To be effective, waterboarding is usually real drowning that simulates death. That is, the victim experiences the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut. The main difference is that the drowning process is halted. According to those who have studied waterboarding’s effects, it can cause severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks, for years.
The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government — whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community — has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.
After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”
Nielsen’s experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan’s military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding.
In this case from the tribunal’s records, the victim was a prisoner in the Japanese-occupied Dutch East Indies:
A towel was fixed under the chin and down over the face. Then many buckets of water were poured into the towel so that the water gradually reached the mouth and rising further eventually also the nostrils, which resulted in his becoming unconscious and collapsing like a person drowned. This procedure was sometimes repeated 5-6 times in succession.
The United States (like Britain, Australia and other Allies) pursued lower-ranking Japanese war criminals in trials before their own tribunals. As a general rule, the testimony was similar to Nielsen’s. Consider this account from a Filipino waterboarding victim:
Q: Was it painful?
A: Not so painful, but one becomes unconscious. Like drowning in the water.
Q: Like you were drowning?
A: Drowning — you could hardly breathe.
Here’s the testimony of two Americans imprisoned by the Japanese:
They would lash me to a stretcher then prop me up against a table with my head down. They would then pour about two gallons of water from a pitcher into my nose and mouth until I lost consciousness.
And from the second prisoner: They laid me out on a stretcher and strapped me on. The stretcher was then stood on end with my head almost touching the floor and my feet in the air. . . . They then began pouring water over my face and at times it was almost impossible for me to breathe without sucking in water.
As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the “water cure” to question Filipino guerrillas.
More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that “the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee’s mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation.”
In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners’ civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to “subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning.”
The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
We know that U.S. military tribunals and U.S. judges have examined certain types of water-based interrogation and found that they constituted torture. That’s a lesson worth learning. The study of law is, after all, largely the study of history. The law of war is no different. This history should be of value to those who seek to understand what the law is — as well as what it ought to be.
Evan Wallach, a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, teaches the law
of war as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.

DKo: Judge Wallach also has a quite fascinating Website.http://lawofwar.org/ Well worth a visit.
–David

All Time’s the Wrong Time

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

[My boldface]
Vetoing health care for children. President Bush explained:
“[W]ith federal revenues at an all-time high and the deficit declining, now is not the time to raise taxes.”
It goes without saying that when federal revenues are low and the deficit rising, that is also not the time.
So it’s a lot like Iraq and Vietnam.
–When you are losing, that is the worst time to leave.
–When you are winning, that is also the worst time.
–A third worst time is when it’s just middling–because you really ought to do a six month assessment.
It will always be the wrong time to provide health insurance to children. If that’s the case, let’s do it now.

The eerily missing word

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

Even if you slept through most of Social Studies in high school, the word “Extraterritoriality” was almost impossible to avoid. It was going to be on the test. Yet, in the weeks since the mass slaughter by Blackwater in Baghdad, it has been absolutely eerie in its total absence from the news.
It referred to the unilateral impunity of the citizens of the ruling powers within the territory of their humiliated subordinates. It was virtually synonymous with Colonialism, which every reporter is required to know does not exist.
Therefore, even the Quiz Question answer sheets of high school history have become Too Liberal to Mention in the American press. So here’s a quick refresher course for American journalists of what they should have learned just to get out of 11th grade:
“In the 19th cent. Western powers, often through coercion, secured unilateral extraterritorial rights for their citizens in China, Egypt, Japan, Morocco, Persia, Siam, and Turkey in the belief that these ‘uncivilized’ states were incapable of establishing justice….
“Extraterritoriality of this type was strongly resented as an infringement of sovereignty and was abolished in Japan in 1899, in Turkey in 1923, and in Egypt in 1949….
“In 1924 the USSR voluntarily abandoned its privileges in China, as did the United States and Great Britain in 1943. Italy and Japan lost their special status during World War II because they were enemies of China. In 1946, when France abandoned its privileges, nondiplomatic extraterritoriality in China came to an end.”
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia Copyright © 2004
So it was expelled from China in 1946, but it is alive and well, and living in Iraq.