In Another War Of Colonial Aggression, USA Water-tortured Filipinos

At first glance, you might think these troops are coming to the aid of the person on the ground, until you notice the troops holding down the victim, and the pleasure exhibited by the US soldier on the left. Calling water torture the "water cure" was a way of pointing out that the United States had a real Philippines problem (the Filipinos didn't want to be conquered and lorded over by Americans, either), which, among other horrors inflicted by US troops against countless victims, the "water cure" aided, by breaking the will of the Filipino insurgency.
It was over a century ago now, when the military forces of the United States of America engaged those of Spain, in a war for colonial possessions, that pretty much no American knows (much less recalls) happened.

But it was in that war that Cuba gained a kind of freedom—to be economically exploited and militarily bullied by the USA—until the Communist revolution would establish Casto’s rule. And it was in that war that Teddy Roosevelt obtained fame as a hero for a battle (San Juan Hill), mostly led by black troops he wasn’t commanding. The hero meme would help lift Roosevelt to the vice-presidency of the United States in 1900. The next year, after President Mckinley was assassinated, Roosevelt became President of the United States.

And—it was in that war that the USA took over the Philippines (named for King Phillip II of Spain). 

After America entered the war against Spain (in jingoistic thrall to the false notion Spain had blown up the US battleship The Maine) and in so doing became natural allies (of a sort) with the Cuban and Filipino revolutionaries, the USA made all kinds of promises or hints of them to all kinds of people America wished to temporarily use to win the war. 

That said, the USA had not exactly promised the Filipinos that once Spain was defeated, the Philippines would be set free from colonial exploitation. In fact, the American idea for post-war Philippines was not very different than George W. Bush’s idea for post-Saddam Iraq, a century later:
“[T]he mission of the United States [in the Philippines] is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”
In other words, the USA was offering or actually forcing a trade to the Filipino people, eliminating the evil Spanish arbitrary colonial exploitation for the good American “mildly swaying” colonial exploitation.

The only problem was that the Filipino people were not interested in American mildly-swaying colonialism. Or any colonialism. They wanted real freedom. So they sized up the Americans as being just as bad as the Spanish and declared war on the American colonial occupation. 

America responded by enforcing its agreement—with Spain!—to replace Spanish rule in the Philippines with American rule.

The Philippines War was relatively short (especially by Afghanistan War measures), and so extremely brutal that it deeply divided Americans, for the short time Americans paid attention to it, on the questions of America’s role and conduct in the world. It wasn’t just a question of whether or not the USA should even be a colonial power. That was happening, regardless of what the American people wanted, and they were fine with it so long as they believed the people they were colonizing were getting freedom!?—or anyway a better deal.

But, in addition, Americans wanted to believe that when their brand of colonial conquerers went forth to slaughter and lord it over the colonized, they would bring honor to the USA—unlike all those bad and inferior brands of European colonizers. 

Unfortunately, in the Philippines War, the natural beast of the American character was given full expression. In fact, so bad did things become in that war, that Americans took to regularly torturing and murdering any Filipinos who were or who just might be an insurgent.

Here is a description of American military behavior in the Philippines, from a letter published in The Philadelphia Ledger, on November 11, 1901:
 “The present war is no bloodless, fake, opera bouffe engagement. Our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, and children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people, from lads of ten up, an idea prevailing that the Filipino was little better than a dog, a noisome reptile in some instances, whose best disposition was the rubbish heap. Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men "to make them talk," have taken prisoners of people who had held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and, an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them up on a bridge, and shot them down one by one to drop into the water below and float down as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”
You may note in that the line about pumping salt water into men to obtain—well, whatever the torturers wanted really. In fact, the favorite form of torture employed by American troops was something sardonically referred to as “the water cure”. Here is a description of this practice, as detailed in testimony given before a 1901 Senate Committee investigating torture by US personnel in the Philippines:
“The presidente [‘native town officer’ captured by American troops] was tied and placed on his back under a water tank holding probably one hundred gallons. The faucet was opened and a stream of water was forced down or allowed to run down his throat. His throat was held so he could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach. He was directly under the faucet with his mouth held wide ope. When he was filled with water, it was forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with the hands. This continued from five to fifteen minutes.”
We are told “This unhappy man was taken down and asked more questions. He again refused to answer and then was treated again.”

After 15 minutes of that kind of torture, the “unhappy man” had nothing to say? Or knew nothing to say?

The description continues:
“One of the men of Eighteenth Infantry went to his saddle and took a syringe [not with a needle, but a tube] from the saddle bag, and another man was sent for a can of water holding about five gallons. Then a syringe was inserted one end in the water and the other end in his mouth. This time he was not bound but he was held by four or five men and the water was forced into his mouth from the can, through the syringe. The syringe did not seem to have the desired effect and the doctor ordered a second one. The man got a second syringe and that was inserted in his nose. Then the doctor ordered some salt and a handful of salt was procured and thrown into the water. Two syringes were then in operation. The interpreter stood over him in the meantime asking for this second information that was desired. Finally he gave in and gave the information.”
Then we are told: “On the strength of this confession a town of 12,000 inhabitants was burned down.”

Note above there is mention of “the doctor”. Yes, a Dr. Lyon, a contract doctor working for the United States Army was conducting the torture, just like these guys, contract psychologists working for the US military, were the architects and operators of the USA’s global torture regime during Bush’s war on Muslims.

As you can see, the Philippines War “water cure” sounds like a form of waterboarding. 

In fact, one of the CIA apologist talking points this week, has been to denounce the “moral equivalency” of claiming that waterboarding is anything like the water torture used, for example, by the Japanese Empire in WWII against American troops.

Here is Dick Cheney employing that talking point this Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press:
“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 were guilty and participated in the 9/11 attacks.”
Just a note on that before we continue, but the United States employed waterboarding torture on an unknown number of torture victims. While the CIA claims only three hi-value detainees were waterboarded, CIA’s credibility on many questions is pretty much non-existent. Note the “value” of the detainees, as alleged by CIA, was not even credible.

Further, as this article explains:
“One question raised related to waterboarding, and how many detainees were subjected to it. Although the CIA has said technique was only used on three detainees, the committee found a photograph during their investigation that showed a waterboard and buckets of water at a detention site where the CIA claims it never used the technique.”
Again, in terms of the moral equivalence talking point (i.e. the one regarding comparing modern CIA torture with Japanese WWII torture), this idea is filled out in more detail in a book published in 2010, by Marc Thiessen, whose title tells you a lot: Courting Disaster, How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack.

Thiessen argues that it is a “dishonest comparison” to view Imperial Japanese water torture as equivalent to American waterboarding:
“A careful examination of Japanese interrogation practices shows that the Japanese practiced a form of water torture called “pumping” in which they filled the victim’s stomach with water until his intestines and internal organs expanded painfully. Once the victim passed out from the pain, [the Japanese torturers] would press on the stomach to make him vomit up the water, reviving him—and then start the process all over again.”
A little later Thiessen tells us what another book on tortures, Torture and Democracy, has to say about “even more gruesome details of water torture as practiced by the Japanese”:
“Interrogators used hoses and teakettles to funnel water down the throat.”
You may recall above, American torturers in the Philippines War did exactly the same thing—using two separate “syringes” or hoses to funnel water down the throat, one hose through the mouth and one hose through the nose, of their victim.

As you can see, the description of the allegedly much worse Japanese Imperial water torture and the American “water cure” torture of Filipinos, which occurred 40 years earlier, are pretty much identical.

Now, you may say—well, waterboarding isn't like that—they aren't pouring water down people's throats. But the point is they don't have to. The purpose of all water tortures, including waterboarding, is to torture with great pain and great dread of death, chiefly from drowning. Waterboarding has often been called "simulated drowning", but of course that isn't really the case, as it is instead slow drowning.

In 1901, talking about American water tortures of the Filipinos, this description of the intended effect on victims sounds pretty familiar:
"The suffering was...that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown."
Of course, that isn't quite true—people certainly did drown, or were driven so close to it they died from the accumulated abuse of the torture inflicted.

The people who would parse the pain or the definition of torture, in order to excuse the CIA from its gross criminality in the Terror Wars, are overlooking—for many because they do not know it—the grand tradition of American water torture of helpless, and in many cases entirely innocent, human beings.