Monday, May 26, 2008


The photo above was originally published in the Omaha World-Herald in May, 1900 with a letter by a U.S. soldier, A.F. Miller, of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It told of how Miller's unit would subject captured Filipino insurgents to what the U.S. forces called the "water cure" in order to uncover information from their prisoners.

“Now, this is the way we give them the water cure,” Miller explained. “Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don’t give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I’ll tell you it is a terrible torture.”

During the first year of the Filipino-American war, eyewitness accounts of atrocities committed by U.S. forces — the senseless torching of villages, unmerciful killing of prisoners — began to appear in American newspapers. Although the U.S. military tried to censor outgoing cables quite successfully, stories crossed the Pacific through the mail, which wasn’t censored.

American soldiers, in their letters home, wrote about "extreme violence against Filipinos, alongside complaints about the weather, the food, and their officers." Some of these letters were published in home-town newspapers.

Many Americans were indeed puzzled by the news that U.S. soldiers were viciously torturing Filipinos with water, considering that the United States -- since emerging as a global superpower -- has always been a staunch proponent of liberation, rescue, and freedom.

More than a hundred years later, many Americans were just as puzzled by the news that U.S. soldiers were subjecting Iraqi insurgents and terror suspects to "borderline torture" tactics at Abu Ghraib prisons.

The "water cure," however, is no longer the preferred method. It has been replaced with snarling dogs, short shackles, and mocking of the Quran. Some were subjected to extreme humiliation by being forced to "perform dog tricks," "be nude in front of a female," wear "women's underwear on their heads," and kept awake for continuous 20-hour daily interrogations.

Interestingly, in both the Philippines and Iraq, the U.S. soldiers themselves -- with photos taken by their own cameras and letters sent home -- created the clearest evidence of atrocity against their captives.

* * * *

It should be noted that American and allied forces were also subjected to brutal tortures and extreme heinous conditions such as by their Japanese captors during the Second World War and by the Vietcong during the Vietnam conflict.

Related links:

Debating torture and counterinsurgency—a century ago by Paul Kramer - The New Yorker

Report: CIA Pushed Torture Envelope - CBS News

Featured Book: "Sitting In Darkness"

When Tears Fall

Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

* * *

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!



posted by Señor Enrique at 1:51 AM


Blogger Jessica Lace said...

Hey! I saw the same thing in my history class! It was totally gruesome. Can't believe people are really capable of this...but they are! And you're right, nothing has changed.

May 26, 2008 11:39 PM  

Blogger -= dave =- said...

Ah, such is the way of war. Better avoid it altogether.

If I'm not mistaken, the person in your pic who is pouring the water appears to be Filipino. There's your irony.

May 27, 2008 12:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog, but I resent the fact that you and so many others seem to forget that between WW2 amd Vietnam there was a little incident called the Korean Conflict. I was there so I know it happened! During the three bitter war years, 1950-1953, the US lost more men killed, wounded and captured than the entire 10 years of the Vietnam debacle. Our captured troops were treated just as brutally by the North Koreans and Chinese as anything done by the Japanese of Vietnamese. (Torture, despicable as it is, is a handmaiden to war.) Fighting alongside my unit, the 5th Regimental Combat Team were the Philippine Army's proud 19th Combat Infantry Battalion! I'm sure that they resent being forgotten too! -Rick Kaehele

May 27, 2008 1:17 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It proves that war can bring out the worst possible human trait, Jessica.

And the lesson that keeps repeating throughout the history of man is the need for judicious judgment when provoked into one. Yet, there among us in this world are ruthless bullies who oftentimes leave us with no other recourse than fight back.

Worse of all, despite the rules of engagement as set forth in the Geneva Convention, there are those who choose to practice brutal and gruesome acts against their fellowmen.

May 27, 2008 6:16 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I completely agree with you, Dave. But what to do with the bullies?

I was also taken aback upon realizing that it had to be a Filipino in that photo who was doing the pouring. Jeeeez! But then again, if you remember our history, the "makapili?" My father was pointed out by one of these hooded fellow countrymen in Subic during the Japanese occupation. Turned out it was his friend from elementary school days. Don't quite remember how he got out of that quagmire, though.

May 27, 2008 6:22 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Rick, you are right and I apologize.

It's just that the Second World War and the Vietnam War pop up automatically in my mind. It must've been that the Korean War was not much discussed in our home because the elders in the family were still healing from the trauma suffered during World War II.

Vietnam, on the other hand, remains vivid because of television -- it brought the front lines into everyone's living rooms.

Nonetheless, I should mention that I'm still waiting for my nephew to ship over from New York a book I had ask him to get for me -- David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.

First found out about it from an article in Vanity Fair. What caught my attention was how intelligence reports was completely distorted to serve someone's purpose.

As I had previously mentioned in the comment box of my entry, "Remembering the Battle for Manila":


The (Vanity Fair) article claims that Willoughby "cooked" the intelligence reports -- that there was only a "handful" of Chinese troop presence in North Korea when in fact they amounted to about 250,000.

MacArthur was reportedly hell-bent on chasing the retreating North Koreans to the Chinese border that nothing would stop him -- not orders from Washington, not intelligence reports that Mao's troops were building up in the area. And it was Willoughby who provided the bogus intelligence that supported MacArthur's intention.

In other words, it appeared that whatever MacArthur set his eye on, it was Willoughby who provided the supporting evidence -- however spurious and self-fabricated -- just to support MacArthur's intentions; despite the inevitable casualties and collateral damages that his intentions may incur.

Hence, as a result, this MacArthur-Willoughby tandem caused hundreds of Americans getting slaughtered at Unsan, one of the worst defeats of the Korean War. Immediately afterwards, Washington stripped MacArthur off of his command and ordered him to return to the States.

I can only surmise that perhaps, this magnificent duo "might" have unnecessarily caused the systematic destruction of Manila.


I do appreciate your reminding us about the Koren Conflict, Rick. Rest assured, once I receive the book from New York and read it, I will post an article about it on my blog.

Again, thank you.

May 27, 2008 6:41 AM  

Blogger Peregrino said...

Happy Memorial Day, anyway!

May 27, 2008 8:17 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Likewise, Diablo. Thank you!

Memorial Day in New York marks the day when it's acceptable to start wearing white shoes :)

May 27, 2008 8:49 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

We all read about war atrocities did to this and that. The US remembers its dead soldiers during Memorial Day. They should also remember the dead of the "enemy". And recall not to be so bloody obedient to the policies of the White House and Pentagon.

May 27, 2008 8:57 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm truly concerned about those war-mongers with ulterior motives, Bernadette. They are those who wouldn't blink an eye when sending many young people to perilous assignments.

Memorial Day should be a day of remembrance for all casualties of war, as well as a reminder to all of the adverse effects of war to a nation's soul and spirit.

May 27, 2008 9:26 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In relation to the topic Senor, this is what i found:-

Philippine-American War

Cartoon on the May 22, 1902 cover of Life magazine depicting American application of the water cure while Europeans watch. The caption reads: "Chorus in background: 'Those pious Yankees can't throw stones at us anymore.'"Water cure was among the forms of torture used by American soldiers on Filipinos during the Philippine-American War.[13][14][15]President Theodore Roosevelt privately assured a friend that the water cure was "an old Filipino method of mild torture. Nobody was seriously damaged whereas the Filipinos had inflicted incredible tortures on our people." [16] However, a report at the time noted its lethality; "a soldier who was with General Funston had stated that he helped to administer the water cure to one hundred and sixty natives, all but twenty-six of whom died".[17] See the Lodge Committee for detailed testimony of the use of the water cure.

Lieutenant Grover Flint during the Philippine-American War:

"A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin, -- that is, with an inch circumference, -- is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out, -- I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown. ..."[18]

In his book The Forging of the American Empire Sidney Lens recounted:

A reporter for the New York Evening Post (April 8, 1902) gave some harrowing details. The native, he said, is thrown on the ground, his arms and legs pinned down, and head partially raised "so as to make pouring in the water an easier matter". If the prisoner tries to keep his mouth closed, his nose is pinched to cut off the air and force him to open his mouth, or a bamboo stick is put in the opening. In this way water is steadily poured in, one, two, three, four, five gallons, until the body becomes "an object frighful to contemplate". In this condition, of course, speech is impossibly, so the water is squeezed out of the victim, sometimes naturally, and sometimes - as a young soldier with a smile told the correspondent - "we jump on them to get it out quick." One or two such treatments and the prisoner either talks or dies.[2]

When I went to Guam last March, I tried to locate the shrine of Apolinario Mabini, the historical marker states:-

"On this site (Asan Point) lived Apolinario Mabini, immortalized in Philippine History as the sublime paralytic, the brain of Philippine Revolution, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the first Philipppine Republic under General Emilio Aguinaldo togeterh with 51 other Philippine heroes among them Generals Artemio Recarte, Pio Del Pilar, Mariano Llanera, Col. Maximo Hizon, Pablo Ocampo, Leon Flores, Pancrapio Palting and Maximo Tolentino. They were exiled to Guam in 1901 by the American military authorities and where quartered in what was formerly a leper hospital util 1903 when all of them took the oath of alliange to the United States except General Ricarte."

I supposed there were tortured here in Guam.

May 27, 2008 8:17 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you for sharing these finds, Mandaragat. One can only imagine the sufferings of those who refused to serve yet another foreign authority when caught and forced to betray his comrades.

With such atrocities committed by the American forces, it's understandable how the US government did not allow the Filipino-American War to be taught in schools. Except those from intellectual families, many of my friends in New York were actually ignorant of which.

But it should be noted that it was the outrage of the American public that forced the US government to start negotiating with the Filipino resistance forces and end the war.

May 28, 2008 4:55 AM  

Blogger DatuPanot said...

wm. mckinley's "benevolent assimilation"... of "our little brown brothers".

May 28, 2008 1:17 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Incredible, wasn't it, DatuPanot?

And technically, no battle ever occured between the Spanish and American navy; everything was staged to help Spain save face, so to speak.

May 28, 2008 9:05 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny but,according to Dean Bocobo,we were the first Iraq.I just thought hey,the americans did then called the filipinos fighting them as insurgents as well.Nothing personal against the americans but they were the aggressors during that forgotten time.They even haven't returned the balangiga bell yet.

May 30, 2008 5:01 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And from what I undertand, IndioBravo, hundreds of crates of valuable Philippine historical items and archives deemed spoils of war are still being held in some storage cellars somewhere in Washington. I think they should be returned to the Philippine people.

May 30, 2008 7:40 AM  

Blogger reyd said...

No one really knows what a POW will face on the hands of his enemies.
I believe that during the American wars with the Spanish and Filipinos, a different military code of conduct was being practice or none at all.
The Japanese military code Senjinkun specifically forbade retreat or surrender and the most often violated part of that code was to “show mercy to those who surrender".
When the US military code of conduct was first published after the Korean War (amended afterwards), US soldiers seems to abide by that although we would still hear about the massacres and atrocities until the present, we could never clean up or control all individuals in the military.
Trust me, it is really hard to control your emotions when you found out that one of your fellow soldiers become a prisoner by the enemies.

June 02, 2008 12:58 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Very true, Reyd. And this is why we should employ diplomacy in as much as possible resolving international dilemmas, and not rush into war as what happened to Iraq.

June 02, 2008 1:39 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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