On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Dick Cheney denied to host Chuck Todd that Japanese soidiers had been prosecuted for waterboarding after World War II. As the Washington Post shows, Cheney got it wrong.
Chuck Todd: “When you say waterboarding is not torture then why did we prosecute Japanese soldiers?”
Former vice president Richard B. Cheney: “Not for waterboarding. They did an awful lot of other stuff. To draw some kind of moral equivalent between waterboarding judged by our Justice Department not to be torture and what the Japanese did with the Bataan Death March, with slaughter of thousands of Americans, with the rape of Nanking and all of the other crimes they committed, that’s an outrage. It’s a really cheap shot, Chuck, to even try to draw a parallel between the Japanese who were prosecuted for war crimes after World War II and what we did with waterboarding three individuals — all of whom are guilty and participated in the 9/11 attacks.
Cheney dismissed the question as “a cheap shot” and not worthy of comparison.
What did the Washington Post find? According to the Washington Post:
At the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), which lasted from April 29, 1946 to Nov. 12, 1948, there were indeed Japanese war criminals who were tried and ultimately executed for some of the events mentioned by Cheney.
The Post continues:
“The judgment of the IMTFE included a description of the type of torture known as ‘the water treatment,’ in which ‘the victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach until he lost consciousness,’ according to ‘Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts,’ a 2007 article in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, by Judge Evan Wallach. (The article is generally behind a paywall, but a plain type version can be found on the Internet.)”
“…as Wallach makes clear, Japanese soldiers other than the Class A war criminals were also prosecuted for mistreatment of American prisoners—and water torture ‘loomed large in the evidence presented against them.’
“For instance, at the Yokohama Class B and C War Crimes Trials in 1947,Yukio Asano, an interpreter, faced a charge of violating ‘the laws and customs of war…” through various acts of water torture.
Asanao was sentenced to 15 years confinement at hard labor.
First Lt. Seitara Hata, Sgt. Major Takeo Kita and Sgt. Hideji Nakamura faced similar charges.
One American victim, Cpt. William Arno Bluehe, described what happened to him:
“After beating me for a while 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. When I revived they would repeat the beatings and ‘water cure’ . . . . The tortures and beatings continued for about six hours.”
Another soldier, Thomas B. Armitage, provided this testimony about his experience:
“[We] were strapped to stretchers and warm water poured down our nostrils until we were about ready to pass out. [The Japanese] strapped him to a stretcher and elevated his feet and then poured on his face so that it was almost impossible for him to get his breath. [The victim] was then taken into the corridor, strapped to a stretcher, which was tilted so that his head was toward the floor and feet resting on a nearby sink.Water was then poured down his nose and mouth for about twenty minutes. Then I was taken into the hallway of the barracks. Both of the Japanese still insisting I was guilty and urging me to confess.”
Hata received 25 years of hard labor, Nakamura 20 years and Kita 15 years. (More information on waterboarding charges in these trials can be found in an academic article by Wolfgang Form of the University of Marburg.)
Remember, host Chuck Todd asked Cheney, “…why did we prosecute Japanese soldiers?”
Cheney answered: “Not for waterboarding,” which was clearly untrue.