The Corner

Just In Case You Were Wondering, Paul Begala Is Still Wrong

A reader from Toronto directs me to this line from recent column by Eric Margolis in the Toronto Sun:

In 1945, the U.S. hanged Japanese officers for war crimes for inflicting “water-boarding” (near drowning) on U.S. prisoners — exactly what the CIA inflicted on its Muslim captives.

Again, someone really needs to provide some factual verification of this statement. Paul Begala and Media Matters have engaged in a great deal of sophistry to try and prove this point — and I far as I can tell, failed miserably. In addition to what I’ve written about this matter, Tom Maguire has done some diligent work:

Politfact [cited by Begala and Media Matters] cites this article by jurist Evan Wallach, which reviews the history of waterboarding in US law, including the war crimes trials following WWII.  There is also a WaPo version and this summary.  Let me just present the start of the summary for a flavor of Begala’s problem:

Wallach has found a number of instances in American legal history which document the consistent classification of waterboarding as a technique of torture — which is clearly an unconstitutional practice. Among Wallach’s examples are:

* The prosecution of members of the Japanese military for their treatment of Americans during World War II. Seitara Hata was just one Japanese soldier charged with a war crime for waterboarding; Hatara was sentenced to 25 years hard labor.

“Hard labor”?  Hit me with your best shot, pal!  Did Wallach find anyone that was executed whose main crime was waterboarding? I welcome assistance, but I found no such example in the Wallach paper or the NY Times archives (Trust but verify – I was exhausted but I cannot claim my search was exhaustive). 

At first, I was willing to not make too much out of the motivations for Begala’s statement we executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding. I figured he was just in a heated argument on TV and maybe not as clear on the facts as he should be. But since he doubled down with the Huffington Post article, Tom Maguire thinks he needs to come clean:

You know we worry when our friends on the left send a meme out into the world alone and with no visible means of support.  Well – Begala made a positive claim; he ought to be able to provide a name.  Who did we execute whose primary offense was waterboarding in WWII?

If people are going to continue to echo this talking point of Begala’s, I agree with Maguire. He ought to either provide some proof or cede the argument before it continues to be repeated. Same with Media Matters who were pretty direct in their challenge to me: “So NRO, tell us again how ‘Begala certainly doesn’t know what he’s talking about.’” After sorting out Begala’s argument a bit, I think I’ve done that pretty convincingly. If I’m wrong, I’ll graciously admit it — but to make that determination, we’re going to have to see some entirely new evidence then what Begala and Media Matters have put out there so far, and I’m not sure it exists. The ball is in their court.

Most Popular

Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More
Books

Three Cheers for the Quiet Ones

People often dismiss shy, quiet characters in literature. Readers prefer to identify with Jo March, Elizabeth Bennett, or Anne Shirley -- those delightful, bold, and charming characters who made a deep impression on us when we first encountered them. While there’s nothing wrong with emulating or admiring these ... Read More