13 September 2010

Waterboarding in the 16th century

"... the victim was secured with metal bars to a hollowed-out bench, his feet higher than his head... Besides this, the torturer throws over his mouth and nostrils a thin cloth, so that he is scarce able to breathe through them, and in the meanwhile a small stream of water like a thread, not drop by drop, falls from on high upon the mouth of the person lying in this miserable condition and so easily sinks down the thin cloth to the bottom of his throat so that there is no possibility of breathing, his mouth being stopped with water, and his nostrils with cloth, so that the poor wretch is in the same agony as persons ready to die, and breathing their last.  When this cloth is drawn out of his throat, as it often is, that he may answer to the questions, it is all wet with water and blood, and is like pulling his bowels through this mouth."  After enduring this torture, what victim, no matter how innocent, would not willingly confess to spare himself more agony?  (Chapter 5)
An excerpt from Laurence Bergreen's account of Magellan's circumnavigation of the world - or, more precisely the circumnavigation by one of his five ships (Magellan himself being skewered by the natives of Cebu in the Phillipines).  This is a very interesting, scholarly, comprehensive book.  I would have appreciated a few more maps, but all in all it's a worthwhile read and a recommended book. 

1 comment:

  1. Yep. That's what was done to my father during his training in the military, to determine which guys could handle the pressure of being a POW and tortured. He has said that anyone who doesn't think that waterboarding is torture has never been waterboarded. Being claustrophobic, he was most afraid of being locked in the box during the testing (the testing lasted days and simulated the treatment a POW in Nam would receive), and had my mother help him prepare for it by spending weeks before having her wrap him tightly in the bed sheets. But, as it turned out, it was the waterboarding that nearly did him in. He says he lay there wondering, "Do they know that they aren't allowed to kill me?" He felt like he was dying.


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