The Garret Tree
The Japanese waterboarding debate widens
The debate over Japanese waterboarding is growing.
Paul Begla, in the Huffington Post, writes Yes National Review, We did execute the Japanese for waterboarding.
Begala is responding to an assertion by Mark Hemingway of National Review Online that U.S. did not execute the Japanese.
The problem with that debate is that it is apparently based on only one case, that of Yukio Asano, and that debate is based only on the online summary of the trial. Apparently it's too much in this internet age to have a debate on the substance of a matter of national and international importance based on the facts or substantive research, just what you pick up on the web. (And these are older adults, so why are we boomers complaining about kids basing their school work on Wikipedia? We have here role models for Wiki-searching from both sides of the polarized American political spectrum.)
There is the usual American parochialism, that it only counts, apparently, if an American was waterboarded or if the Americans executed war criminals for waterboarding. To many Americans, and almost all American conservatives, not only on the Huffington Post or the National Review Online, but on other blogs, that the British tried the Japanese for waterboarding is of little or no importance.
That's why it's called International Humanitarian Law (A lot of the evidence against the Japanese for torture in the Double Tenth case, which was a British military tribunal, came from American war crimes investigators.)
Finally there's a double anonymous comment on the Huffington Post in response to Begala. From an anonymous poster calling himself The Golden Master, quoting an equally anonymous so-called close assosicate who apparently says:
In the first place, I had studied, written, and; 'published' on the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, but I've never come across information that the Japanese waterboarded their captives, even less that Japanese war criminals were executed for waterboarding. So, Paul Begala has no credibility unless he produces his source(s) for that assertion.
Obviously whomever this person is has never actually checked the index to the published edition of the transcript of the hearing of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Far East, for the "water treatment" is easy to find.
I quoted from the trial in my original post
This form of torture was not limited to Singapore. The judgment of the Tokyo war crimes trial said “the water treatment was commonly applied…there is evidence that this torture was used in the following places: (spelling in the original)
China, at Shanghai, Peiping and Nanking
French IndoChina, at Hanoi and Saigon
Malaya, a Singapore
Burma, at Kyaikto
Thailand, at Chumporn
Andaman Islands, at Port Blair
Borneo, at Jesselton
Sumatra, at Madan, Tadjong Keareng and Palembang
Java, at Batavia, Badung, Soerabaja and Buitonzorg
Celebes, at Makeskar
Portuguese Timor, at Orzu and Dilli
Philippines, at Manila, Nichols Field, Palo Beach and Dumquete
Formosa, at Camp Haito
Japan, at Tokyo"
The online debate was triggered by this "discussion" on CNN's Anderson Cooper.
There is also Andrew Sullivan's response to Hemingway here and to Begala here.
There's a good summary (and much more intelligent debate) on Mahalo Answers.
writing, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, torture,F Force, Prisoner of War,military tribunal, waterboarding, law, book, CNN, Huffington Post, National Review
Labels: A River Kwai Story, Andrew Sullivan, CNN, F Force, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo, Huffington Post, human rights, Japan, National Review, Singapore, Tokyo trial, torture, waterboarding, World War II
Times of London blogs A River Kwai Story
The Times of London, Times Online Archive blog features A River Kwai Story on April 21, 2009.
Titled Waterboarding was a war crime in WW2. What's changed? it builds on former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's contention that waterboarding was an effective way of getting information.
It links to my 2005 blog, Waterboarding is a war crime as well as stories in the Times about POW Eric Lomax and a letter to the Times from General Sir Arthur Percival marking the death in a plane crash of Cyril Wild. (Note to read letter you must accept popups from Times Online)
See also a second link from the Times on "humane" torture by the French in Algeria.
writing, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, water boarding,F Force, Prisoner of War,
military tribunal, torture, Times, book
A River Kwai Story, France, Double Tenth, Japan
Labels: A River Kwai Story, archives, Bridge on the River Kwai, Burma Thailand Railway, F Force, Guantanamo, Times, torture, water torture, waterboarding, World War II
A River Kwai Story published, available online
A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal was officially published on April 4, 2008 by Allan and Uwin in Australia. The publisher is distributing the book in Australia, New Zealand and parts of the western Pacific. Allan and Unwin also has non-exclusive rights to distribute the book in Asia.
So far I haven't been able to sell rights in North America, the United Kingdom and Europe.
No matter, in the age of the Internet, the book is available online almost everywhere! (See below)
A River Kwai Story is a project that has taken almost eight years, but I was planning it for almost a decade, if not more, before that.
My father was a prisoner on the railway of death and so I heard his stories at the breakfast table. He also bought any book he could on the railway, most of the POW memoirs that were published following the success of David Lean's movie The Bridge on the River Kwai.
I really began work in the summer of 2000, when I was admitted to the interdisciplinary masters program at York University in Toronto.
Although my father was part of the group known as "H Force," when I was reading the memoirs my father had bought, I had a gut feeling that "F Force," the events at Sonkrai, was the key to understanding what happened on the Railway of Death. My gut feeling was confirmed when, as part of the interdisciplinary program, I began studying international humanitarian law and found out that the story of F Force not only had some of the most fascinating characters of the Second World War, but was also a little known but key case in the concept of command responsiblity for war crimes.
As I entered the second year of the part time program in September 2001 (I worked for CBC throughout the process and I am still working for CBC News) the attacks on September 11, and the subsequent events in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq made the story all the more relevant. While the Bush administration was denying that there was a strong legal definition of what constituted "inhuman treatment" of detainees, it was clear that every post-war case in the Far East, including the cases tried by the United States, clearly defined "inhuman treatment."
After I graduated from the MA program in the fall of 2003, I turned turning the academic thesis into a book. I thought it would take a year. It took four. There were delays in getting additional material to flesh out the academic thesis, to write the book as world events kept me busy at my job and then there were some delays in the production process at the Australian publisher.
Now it's available for you to read:
International orders for A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal
Updated August 2008
Outside of Australia and New Zealand, the best way to order this book is through a book store that resells through Amazon.com.
A River Kwai Story page on Amazon.com.
(Note this link does not operate from either Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk, if you want to order you must go through Amazon.com.)
writing, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, Iraq,F Force, Prisoner of War,
military tribunal, law, book
Labels: A River Kwai Story, Burma Thailand Railway, F Force, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo, Singapore, war crime, World War II, writing
John McCain on Japanese waterboarding
Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate for president of the United States surprised me again tonight when he appeared on 60 Minutes and mentioned to interviewer Scott Pelley about how the Japanese used waterboarding during the Second World War.
In one way, I am not surprised, as the son of Second World War POW, abuse like that is of great interest to all who have that legacy and so it is no surprise that the Senator, who was, of course, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, would have a strong interest in the subject.
But is, as far as I know, the firs time since the Second World War, that an American politician of McCain's stature has brought up the subject of Japanese waterboarding. It is certainly the first time that a presidential candidate has discussed Japanese waterboarding on a major network news show like 60 Minutes.
Here is the key quote:
Pelley asked him about American interrogation methods today. Asked if water boarding is torture, McCain said, "Sure. Yes. Without a doubt."
"So the United States has been torturing POWs?" Pelley asked.
"Yes. Scott, we prosecuted Japanese war criminals after World War II.
And one of the charges brought against them, for which they were convicted, was that they water-boarded Americans," McCain said.
You can read the complete 60 Minutes interview here
Here is my account of the infamous Double Tenth waterboarding case in Singapore in 1943.
I first blogged about Waterboarding is a War Crime in November 2005.
Despite the claims of U.S. officials, waterboarding is not an effective interrogation technique.
You can read the entire blog entry but here is the bottom line summary. British and Australian commandos raided Singapore harbour and successfully blew up ships. The Japanese secret police believed it was civilian internees who committed the sabotage.
So the Japanese tortured their suspects, who under water boarding, and other tortures confessed to taking part in a commando raid they knew nothing about.
Related link: An account of the waterboarding of American POWs by the Japanese during the Second World can be found here from Georgtown University.
Watch the 60 Minutes interview with Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain:
Now that Senator McCain has raised the issue, and raised it as part of the campaign, I hope that more people will take a closer look at how the Japanese decided to ignore the Geneva Convention and how the Far East war crimes trials dealt with the issue.
For me this is probably the most interesting U.S. presidential campaign in my lifetime. All three candidates have admirable qualities. (John McCain has also got good poilcies on climate change)
writing, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, John McCain,F Force, Prisoner of War,military tribunal, torture, law, book, waterboarding, water torture, 60 Minutes, CBS,POW
Labels: A River Kwai Story, Burma Thailand Railway, CBS, climate change, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo, Japan, John McCain, Singapore, torture, war crime, water torture, waterboarding, World War II
A River Kwai Story progress report
A brief pre-Christmas progress report on A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal.
I spent the first couple of weeks of December going through what were once called (and perhaps still are in some ways) "the galleys." In the old days the galleys were the proofs were the long sheets of paper taken off long rows of metal ("hot") type. Later the galleys were the proofs that came out of some sort of electronic typesetting system.
These days it is Adobe's Acrobat system that is the standard, the complete book (all 6.5 megabytes) came to me by e-mail as a pdf attachment for that final check.
So it is now off to the printers (although the book won't be officially out until April, this was a good time to fit into the production schedule.
There is growing pre-publication interest in the book, with my agent looking at an offer for Asian English language rights and United Kingdom rights. Now perhaps an North American publisher will be interested as well.
I appeared live on BBC Radio Five this week (live from a CBC studio in Toronto) at 10:30 pm Toronto time, 3:30 am in the UK, for a 20-odd minute interview with Up All Night's host Rhod Sharp where we explored both the historic aspects of A River Kwai Story and the modern implications.
There is, unfortunately, no podcast of the show, and the onsite "aircheck" expired on Dec. 26.
writing, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, Iraq,F Force, Prisoner of War,
military tribunal, law, book
Labels: A River Kwai Story, BBC, Burma Thailand Railway, CBC, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo, Japan, Singapore, war crime, World War II, writing
How Alberto Gonzales failed in history
This just posted on CBC.ca/news
Alberto Gonzales and the Geneva Convention.
Did the president's lawyer misread the Geneva Convention?
Did Alberto Gonzales, the embattled attorney general of the United States, turn a blind eye to legal history when he wrote a memo to President George W. Bush back in 2002 suggesting ways to avoid the Geneva Convention?
Although my book, A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal is largely about the Second World War, it is also about the Geneva Convention and the inhuman treatment of prisoners of war.
So when I was doing my research for the book and I read a key phrase in a memo written January 25, 2002, from Gonzales to President George Bush (and leaked when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke) that said.
. . . some of the language of the GPW [Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War] is undefined (it prohibits, for example, ‘outrages against personal dignity’ and ‘inhuman treatment’) . . .
I was, to say the least, surprised, since almost all the Far East war crimes trials for the abuse of prisoner of war, charged or contained the phrase "inhuman treatment."
How could the counsel to the president of the United States ignore the suffering of several hundred thousand Allied prisoners of war, including thousands of American POWs?"
It may take many years of history to answer that question.
The CBC news story outlines what Gonzales should have known when he wrote that memo.
The book, of course, will tell the reader, the exact details of the "inhuman treatment" carried out by the Japanese against the men of F Force.
CBC, journalism, Burma Thailand Railway, World War II, Australia,F Force, Prisoner of War,
military tribunal, Alberto Gonzales, POW, Geneva Convention
Labels: A River Kwai Story, Alberto Gonzales, Burma Thailand Railway, CBC, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo, human rights, Singapore, United States, war crime, World War II
Final edits under way
I have received the first edited chapters back from Allan & Unwin, so the book is on track for the planned publication in July 2007.
The title is now
A River Kwai Story
F Force and the Sonkrai Tribunal
Labels: Burma Thailand Railway, Guantanamo, human rights, Japan, publishing, Singapore, World War II, writing
Retribution or responsiblity?
Update: January 17.
Charles Stimson apologized for last week's remarks about lawyers defending terror suspects.
Reuters report here.
"Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not," Stimson wrote in response to the furor over his remarks.
"I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs," he wrote.
So why did Stimson make the remarks in the first place?
Harvard Law professor Charles Fried zeroed in on Charles Stimson in an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, now reprinted on the Harvard site.
Fried was Ronald Reagan's Solicitor General and is considered a leading U.S. conservative lawyer:
In his article, Fried says:
How unfortunate that in this country we have plaintiffs' lawyers and defendants' lawyers, lawyers who represent only unions and others who represent only management. One looks with nostalgia at the British bar, where barristers will prosecute one day and defend the next.
That's what my original post was all about.
Original post begins-and stands.
There is a little known fact in the history of war crimes.
The first British war crimes trial in the Far East after the Second World War was for Japanese crimes against Muslim prisoners of war.
Muslim prisoners of war liberated by the United States Marine Corps.
A war crimes case that was first investigated by the Marines, before it was handed on to the British.
The British made sure that the Japanese accused got a vigorous defence.
How times have changed.
Last week, the New York Times and other American media reported the shocking story of how far some in the Bush administration are willing to go in dismantling centuries of Western democratic and legal tradition.
On January 13, 2007, the Times reported that Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs had told a Washington radio station that serves employees of the American government that he "was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties."
The Wall Street Journal made the same point in an editorial which the Times says "quoted an unnamed 'senior U.S. official' as saying, 'Corporate C.E.O.’s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists."
Here is the summary of the story from Editor & Publisher.
Here is the UPI version of the story as it appeared in the conservative Washington Times.
More on Stimson later in this post. But perhaps Stimson and the conservative radio talk show host who made a Freedom of Information request for the list of law firms should learn something from history, which brings me back to Japanese war crimes.
The Muslim prisoners were among members of the British Indian Army, from the Frontier Force Regiment and the Hyberabad Infantry,who refused to join the pro-Japanese Indian National Army after the surrender of Singapore. They were put on board a "hell ship" and sent to the island of Babelthuap in the Palau Islands where they spent three years as slave labour for the Japanese.
When it came to the trial, the British made no secret of the political reasons that the case was the first to be tried. It was aimed at the population of India, which was soon to be independent.
The case was named for the senior Japanese officer in the case Gozawa Sadaichi and nine others.
(with Gozawa, the last name first in Japanese style). You can find a summary of the case on the University of California at Berkeley war crimes site.
A young British lawyer named Colin Sleeman was one of two named to defend the 10 Japanese and two years later published an account of the trial. For this post what he says about defence in such a trial is worth remembering
To be charged with the responsibility of conducting the defence, upon capital charges, of ten nationals of a State so lately our bitterest enemy and who were facing accusations of brutality and murder against members of the British armed force was as indeed as curious a position as that in which any two British officers could find themselves placed....
How a man can defend a prisoner whom he knows or feels, to be guilty? The answer generally is (and certainly was in the Gozawa case) that he does not know. As Dr. Johnson said: "A lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause he undertakes, unless his client asks his opinion and then he is bound to give it honestly. The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the Judge..."
In a criminal case then, the duty of an advocate for the accused is, regardless of his personal feelings, "to protect his client as much as possible from being convicted, except by competent tribunal and upon legal evidence sufficient to support a conviction with which he is charged."
Sleeman reported that the his clients were "extremely favourably impressed by the kind of trial which they were getting. Gozawa Sadiachi freely admitted this himself and frankly agreed that had the position been reversed, the captives would have been shot out of hand just as their Japanese captors thought fit."
Sleeman concluded his introduction to the trial with these words:
It is, I think, fairly clear that the average citizen of this country wants to see the Japanese War Criminals disposed of summarily without too much delay or fuss, but I am not sure what his attitude would be if it were fairly put to him that by doing so he would be in grave danger of doing himself one of the chief things he fought against, namely killing innocent men in the general massacre. In any case it would certainly have harmful consequences in the future. It is hoped that when the future comes, the ordinary man will be glad that he did not allow his natural feelings of indignation and horror to override his principles; for emotions are a bad guide to conduct when long-standing principles are in question.
In a second case, one I have written and blogged about before, where the Japanese waterboarded innocent British, Eurasian and Chinese civilians, Sleeman was the prosecutor; a man named Samuel Silkin defended.
The two together wrote an account of that trial and they concluded:
To many the most important question which arises out of cases such as this: What is the purpose of trying and executing those involved and what benefit is likely to be secured? That the desire for retribution is an element in the answer to this question can hardly be denied. But that is not the most important factor. Wars in themselves are inhuman, but it is possible to temper their inhumanity with the rules, which are observed by participating nations. If the Double Tenth case served no other purpose it served this, that is had been clearly placed on record that no soldier or civilian of a belligerent power can excuse his individual conduct, howsoever offensive and repugnant to civilized morality it may be, by the plead he was forced to commit it in difference to the commands of his superiors. In wartime it is easy to lose sight of the principles of individual responsibility: it is the purpose of such trials to ensure that this responsibility is fostered and remembered.
(My emphasis in both quotes)
Colin Sleeman went on to become a distinguished British judge who died in the summer of 2006. (Obituary from The Times here and The Telegraph here.)
Samuel Silkin became the Attorney General of the United Kingdom in the Labour governments from 1974-1979 and later a member of the House of Lords.
Some in the Bush administration would argue that eight centuries of legal tradition matters not because the accused are not from a belligerent power, a "participating nation."
That is wrong.
Whether or not they are uniformed members of a regular army or ununiformed guerrillas, insurgents and terrorists, the purpose of the trial, as Silkin and Sleeman pointed out, is that the law finds individual responsibility and holds those individuals to account.
And one, sadly, has to wonder if the law will ever hold to account those who are now authorizing and carrying out waterboarding in the name of freedom.
And certainly, since many prisoners at Guantanamo have been released, a good many still there could be innocent.
Sleeman was right in his stand that it is a fair trial, with a vigorous defence, that distinguishes our society from the others.
Back to Stimson.
After the Times articles, the Pentagon quickly disassociated itself from its deputy assistant secretary, as reported by an Associated Press report on the CNN website.
Blogger Andrew Sullivan has twice called for Stimson to be fired, here and here.
He should be fired, if the deep damage that this administration has already done to the rule of law in America is not to be compounded.
That sounds familiar to me.
Here is what the late Lord Louis Mountbatten, then the Supreme Allied Commander in Southeast Asia, wrote in his introduction to Colin Sleeman's book on the Gozawa trial.
I considered that nothing would diminish our prestige more than if we appeared to be instigating vindictive trials against individuals of a beaten enemy nation, on charges which even our own courts found themselves unable to substantiate.
Labels: Andrew Sullivan, Charles Stimson, Guantanamo, human rights, Japan, Singapore, slavery. slave, torture, United States, war crime, water torture, waterboarding, World War II
I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.
- Name: Robin Rowland
- Location: Toronto, Canada
I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal.
The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months)
My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often)
The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)
View my complete profile
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