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readers forwarded to her a letter someone wrote (maybe as a comment to Begala’s own article) pointing out that actual historical documents put the lie to Begala’s claims: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

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 Right Wing News

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    A Town like Alice…

    I had seen the Masterpiece Theater version about 25 years ago. It was so excruciating painful to watch. This was an epic as it went on for several months as I recall. The brutality of the Japanese lingers with me to this day. It may be the very reason that I never desired to travel to Japan.

    I can well understand why your mother does not and cannot talk about it.

  • Ruth H

    I read this book when I was in high school, not that long after WWII. It was originally called “The Legacy” here in the US. It is, and always will be, one of my favorite novel. Nevil Shute wrote some wonderful novels but I was never a fan of “On the Beach.”

  • excathedra

    “In a psychiatric, self-actualized, self-realized, navel gazing world, torture can be anything that makes you unhappy.”
    Very true. “Abuse” is whatever my ego resents.

    Our post-60’s liberal culture has evolved so far beyond the natural limits of human nature that aside from the ritualized or theatrical violence of movies or sports, we have come to believe that any use of aggression, even verbal, is criminal.

    My strange reason for supporting the death penalty, corporal punishment for children, gun ownership, hunting, etc. is that when these historically normal forms of aggression become unthinkable, then the very notion of self-defense also becomes unthinkable and we lose any accurate notion of what kind of a dangerous world we live in. In that world, the state restrains the civilized and thugs come to rule, because they know exactly where they are. Not Utopia, Planet Earth.

    Pacifism is one of the toxic Seven Pillars of Liberalism designed for our cultural suicide by the self-loathing left. Multiculturalism, feminism, redistributionism, pacifism, secularism, transnationalism and environmentalism: highminded half-truths and illusions, all of them, which drain the vitality out of a culture. And there are plenty of rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem.

  • David Foster

    When the Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American forces, some of the troops were so incensed by what they had seen that they shot a number of the guards. Had the likes of Begala been around at the time, they would have been far more incensed by these killings than by what had been going on at Dachau, and would have used the event as a springboard for a broad attack on American society and culture.

  • Mike Devx

    excathedra #5:
    >> Pacifism is one of the toxic Seven Pillars of Liberalism designed for our cultural suicide by the self-loathing left. Multiculturalism, feminism, redistributionism, pacifism, secularism, transnationalism and environmentalism: highminded half-truths and illusions, all of them, which drain the vitality out of a culture. And there are plenty of rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem.

    That is one scary list. And I completely agree.

    (Not only do they drain the vitality out of a culture… given enough time and damage, they ensure the civilization’s collapse.)

  • excathedra

    Re the Seven Pillars, I hope Book won’t mind me linking to a post on my own blog.

    To me, these Seven items explain and predict the behavior of liberals. And you are right, Mike, they are a recipe for civilizational collapse.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Another way to put it, MikeD and Excathedra: they erode society’s natural immune system, leaving it open to infection.

  • David Foster

    Danny…Shannon Love observes that political immune system deficincies cause piracy.

  • Mike Devx

    Breaking news just in!

    A cargo ship under the Australian flag has repelled an attack by Somalian pirates in a fishing vessel. The crew of the cargo ship became suspicious when they saw that the name of the fishing vessel was the HSS Jihad.

    In a short but intense battle, the cargo ship’s crew were able to repel the invaders, accomplishing that using three Soak-N-Squirt guns and a 5″x 8″ photograph of Janeane Garafolo.

  • excathedra

    I’m surprised they needed the squirt guns…a pic of Garofalo should have been scary enough.

  • Mike Devx

    I think the Janeane Garofolo pic was the main frontal assault. The squirt guns were for flanking maneuvers.

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  • Ymarsakar

    The Left is conflating forcing fluids down a person’s throat and then rupturing their organs by jumping on the distended stomach as the same thing as the humane interrogation Americans inflict and undergo in the course of interrogations.

    As always, the Left were always fine with torture and the direct infliction of pain on their enemies. They just don’t like it when their allies are the ones suffering and when they lose political power because of it.

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