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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Early Modern Waterboarding

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?"

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president for torture." -- Dick Cheney, responding to an interviewer's question.
Here's an image of an early modern form of waterboarding. It's a no-brainer, clearly:

This is the frontispiece of A memento for Holland or A true and exact history of the most villainous and barbarous cruelties used on the English merchants residing at Amboyna in the East-Indies ... Wherein is shewed what tortures were used to make them confess a conspiracy they were never guilty of; by putting them on the rack, and by a water torture, to suffocate them; and by burning them under their arm pits, and soals of their feet, till their fat by dropping extinguished the candles (1652).

In the text, we learn that water-boarding has long been considered a severe form of torture, regardless of whatever Bush, Cheney, and the Office of Legal Counsel might claim:
Next was [John] Beomont called in [by the Dutch], and being examined of many things which he denyed by deep Oaths and protestations, he must taste of the same sauce his Countrimen had and be made to suffer those extreme torments: which was, to have a cloth tyed about his neck, and two men ready with Jarrs of water to pour on his head (pp 9-10).

Robert Brown, Taylor, was first called in; and being tortured with water he confessed all was asked him (p 10).

They made [another merchant's] hands and feet fast to the Wrack, and bound a cloth about his throat, ready to put to the torture of water. Thus this poor man being prepared for the torture, he required respite, and he would confess ... yet said, that because he knew that they would by torture make him confess any thing, though never so false, they should do him a great favour to tell him what he should say, and he would speak it, to avoid the torture (p 15).
The frontispiece illustration seems to refer to the following incident, which is the most gruesome one:
Now comes John Clerk ... First, they twined him up by the hands with a cord on a large door, where they made him fast to two staples of iron, fixt on both sides on the top of the door-posts, stretching his hands asunder as wide as they could: and being thus made fast, his feet hung about two foot from the ground, which also they extended as far as they could, and so made them fast unto the bottom of the door. They bound a cloth about his neck and face, so close, that little or no water could go by. When they had done this, they poured the water softly upon his head, until the cloth was full up to his mouth and nostrils, so that he could not draw breath, but he must suck in water; which being still continued to be poured in softly, forced his intrails to come out at his eyes, ears, and nose, almost to strangling. Never were there such horrid cruelties exercised among the Turks and Barbarians, as among those that pretend Christianity. They were so cruel to him, that they tormented him until his breath was gone, so that he fainted: then they took him quickly down, and made him vomit up the water; and being a little recovered, they pull'd him up again, and charged him with the water again, till they had stifled him as before: and this was exercised on this poor wretch three or four several times, till his body was swoln twice as big as ordinary, his cheeks puft up like a pair of bladders, and his eyes starting and strutting out beyond his forehead (pp 17-18).
I think Bush & Co. might still have a few tricks to learn--this kind of water torture seems far more effective than our government's version: can we make people's bodies swell to twice their ordinary size? Maybe we should send our president a printout of this pamphlet? Or maybe we should send it to the Vice President for Torture, since I'm not sure Bush would be able to read it, what with all those confusing s/f problems.

(I should add, so that our Dutch readers don't get too upset, that of course there's a great deal of controversy about exactly what happened at Amboyna, and that this is obviously a propaganda pamphlet, published many years after Amboyna, but once again timely because of the Anglo-Dutch Wars. So it's difficult to know how trustworthy this account is, although it does seem clear some torture and other "cruelties" occured. Sadly, the accounts of Khalid el-Masri and Maher Arar are less open to question.)

  • At 10/29/2006 07:13:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Nice post.

    A "dunk in water," or what might be called "baptizing terrorists in freedom." Whose body wouldn't swell up in pride at such a thought?

    I'm in a dark, dark mood right now.


  • At 11/04/2006 05:11:00 PM, Blogger The Marquis of Montferrat wrote…

    The very post, H-mo, much like last summer's about the precedents supporting Habeas the Framers had in mind while writing the Constitution.

    As we discussed last fall before seeing "Shandy," apparently there's no such thing as progress. . .


  • At 11/04/2006 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I like "H-mo"; it's like Satchmo. But with an H.


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