A Bit of U.S.–Japan History on Water-Boarding

In the United States, “water-boarding,” an interrogation technique considered by many (including myself) to be torture, is back in the news. Vice President Dick Cheney either said it was fine, or journalists misinterpreted his statement—depending on who you ask. I don’t think it’s terribly important what Cheney thinks, but a week and a half before a key election, it’s turned into big news.

I’m allowing this election-season pettiness to creep into this site because I haven’t seen anyone in Japan mention the U.S.–Japan history on water-boarding. Namely, a Japanese was convicted of war crimes for water-boarding a U.S. citizen after World War II. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. From the Washington Post via my friends at Think Progress:

[I]n 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

“Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II,” he said.

IMG_0620This must be fuel for someone’s anti-Bush administration sentiment in Japan. Possibly these guys, from Sept. 11, 2004, on Omotesando:





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