If only the Japanese had called it "harsh interrogation", nobody would have been hanged

Cross-posted from ICT

On September 27th, 1943, Australian commandos paddled into Singapore harbor in the dead of night. With the greatest of skill, the men attached mines to the hulls of seven Japanese ships and then paddled back out to their boat, the Krait, a Japanese fishing vessel commandeered by the Allies in 1941. Shortly before dawn, the limpet mines detonated sending all seven ships to the bottom. The Allied force had traveled over 3,000 miles round trip from Western Australia, slipped into and out of Singapore harbor completely undetected by Japanese military forces and dealt a major blow to One Asia under Nippon¹.

Operation Jaywick was a roaring success.

On October 10th, in what was to become known after the war as The Double Tenth Incident, the Kempeitai, Japan's answer to the Gestapo, moved into action. Major Sumida Haruzo raided the Changi internment camp, long suspected of subversive activities, and rounded up 57 men and women, including an Anglican bishop, the Right Reverend John Leonard Wilson, Lord Archbishop of Singapore.

Major Haruzo set about getting what is now called "actionable intelligence" from the prisoners, so as to round up any other saboteurs and in order to prevent future attacks.

His methods were brutal, and direct, and in his mind, completely justified in the interest of "national security".

One of Haruzo's methods of torture was waterboarding, an interrogation technique dating from the enlightened days of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, waterboarding is touted by people who have never undergone the procedure as a "harsh" method of interrogation that is in no way torture, despite the extreme mental and physical pain it causes, and the risk of lung/brain damage, broken bones and death. Back in 1943, they didn't bother with word games. The security of Imperial Japan justified all.

In 1946 Lt. Col Haruzo and 20 others was tried by the Allies for war crimes. Among the crimes listed was waterboarding. In the course of the trial it was noted that a number of prisoners did, in fact, confess to involvement in the sabotage and implicated other people as accomplices. This, despite the fact that NO ONE picked up by the Kempeitai was involved in the attack, or even knew who had pulled it off.

Of the 57 men and women swept up in post 9/27 Singapore, 14 people would die, 12 from the torture and abuse they received at the hands of the Japanese, one from suicide and another by execution.

At the end of the trial, Sumida Haruzo and seven other members of his staff were sentenced to death by hanging, three were given life sentences, one 15 years and two eight year sentences.

And at the time, what lessons did the world take away from the Double Tenth Trial?

1) That the civilized nations of the world would not tolerate the barbaric torture of people in war time, even people suspected of what would today be called "terrorist acts".

2) That waterboarding was a war crime and warranted swift and severe punishment for those who used it.

3) That as a means of gathering "intelligence" to prevent future attacks and as a means of extracting confessions, torture was useless. None of the people tortured knew anything, but many told their interrogators what they wanted to hear in order to get the pain to stop. It wasn't until after the war that Haruzo learned that it was Australian commandos who destroyed the ships in Singapore harbor, not local partisans.

Despite these lessons, there are Americans today who believe that waterboarding is not torture, and even if it is, it is a perfectly useful tool in the "war on terror". Sadly, many of these Americans are in positions of leadership, up to and including the so-called president of the United States, who have debased our nation with this belief, and tainted the American soul with this belief.

The spirit of the Changi interment camp is alive and well today, and is called Guantanamo. In it, and in many other secret places, the heirs of Sumida Haruzo ply his trade in the name of "national security".

But, of course, what is happening now is completely different than what happened in Singapore. After all, we're the good guys!

But will history judge us any differently than it has the Spanish Inquisition and Imperial Japan?

¹ - Details from the book Trial of Sumida Haruzo and twenty others, Haruzo, S. (1951).

Comments

Ummmm Copypasta

hope you don't mind but I'm linking to this in my blog this evening!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

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