History of Waterboarding

Topics: Enhanced interrogation techniques, Waterboarding, George W. Bush Pages: 5 (2054 words) Published: August 16, 2010

Torture has long been used by law enforcement agencies and governments to questions criminals and terrorists. It is used to coax confessions or to find out any sort of information that may lead to the arrest or capture of other criminals. Although the torturing of prisoners in the United States is strictly prohibited by the constitution, the government started using the tactic waterboarding against terrorists. Although the government says waterboarding has led to prevention on mass terrorist attacks on U.S soil, it is not accepted by all of this country’s citizens. It is believed by certain people that waterboarding is torture and others do not believe it is. It is my goal to explore why the United States deemed this technique necessary and why people argue that it is unconstitutional.

Waterboarding is a process in which “The head is tilted back and water is poured into the upturned mouth or nose” (Bianchet). This causes the victim to have the sensation of drowning and leaves them gasping for air as their lungs fill up with water. This is done in small increments at time, usually over a two to four hour period. While this is the general idea of waterboarding, it is and can be conducted in many different manners. The most popular method involves strapping the prisoner to an inclined board while shackling his hands and feet down to the board. The prisoner’s feet are then inclined slightly above their head and cellophane or a cloth is put over the prisoners nose and mouth. If the cloth method is being used, water is slowly dripped on the cloth to soak it in water until both the mouth and nose are completely covered in water. If cellophane is being used, water is poured over the prisoners head. During this, “the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt” (Esposito, Ross, 2005). While this does not usually cause death, many of the side effects are “extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, and lasting psychological damage” (Waterboarding, 2009).

Waterboarding first became prominent in the fourteenth century during the Spanish Inquisition. The treatment was used some of time during the trial portion of the Inquisition. The first documented cases of the United States taking such measure were in the 1850’s in New York state prisons. The guards would use this to subdue an unruly prisoner. There is at least one documented death as a result of “showering” as it was called then. The U.S. army was accused of mistreating prisoners of war in the Philippines. The government maintained that the water treatment was fully legal under the terms of war. Theodore Roosevelt publicly stated that he would try to make sure nothing like that happened under his presidency again. Although when he sent a commission to the islands to investigate the accusations, the court martial decided that the treatment of prisoners was excessive. President Roosevelt had him dismissed from the army and nothing came of his report.

After World War II, during the war crime tribunals, Japanese officer Yukio Asano, was convicted of committing war crimes of waterboarding against U.S. soldiers. He was sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp. Perhaps in the most public display of waterboarding yet, U.S. soldiers were caught using a similar water treatment on a Vietnamese soldier in 1968. A photograph catching them was put on the cover of the Washington Post. The soldier was later court martial and convicted. In 1983, a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies were convicted of handcuffing prisoners to chairs and waterboarding them to goad confessions. They were each sentenced to four years in prison.

These examples show that waterboarding has not been accepted by the U.S. government in the past. Whether it was U.S....
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