I am reading another biography of Theodore Roosevelt. It is 1902, and the American people are outraged over secret reports of atrocities committed by American soldiers against the insurrectos in the Philippines (under American control since the Spanish-American war). Particularly revolting is the use of the so-called “water cure,” which inflicts a suffering which “must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.” Furious, President Roosevelt orders Secretary of War Elihu Root to send a cable to the Commander of the Philippines Army:
THE PRESIDENT DESIRES TO KNOW IN THE FULLEST AND MOST CIRCUMSTANTIAL MANNER ALL THE FACTS… FOR THE VERY REASON THAT THE PRESIDENT INTENDS TO BACK UP THE ARMY IN THE HEARTIEST FASHION IN EVERY LAWFUL AND LEGITIMATE METHOD OF DOING ITS WORK, HE ALSO INTENDS TO SEE THAT THE MOST VIGOROUS CARE IS EXERCISED TO DETECT AND PREVENT ANY CRUELTY OR BRUTALITY, AND THAT MEN WHO ARE GUILTY THEREOF ARE PUNISHED. GREAT AS THE PROVOCATION HAS BEEN IN DEALING WITH FOES WHO HABITUALLY RESORT TO TREACHERY MURDER AND TORTURE AGAINST OUR MEN, NOTHING CAN JUSTIFY OR WILL BE HELD TO JUSTIFY THE USE OF TORTURE OR INHUMAN CONDUCT OF ANY KIND ON THE PART OF THE AMERICAN ARMY.
The book was written in 2001, years before the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” would enter the public conscience. Fast forward to 2009. Former Vice President Dick Cheney explains American policy on FOX News Sunday:
I knew about the waterboarding. Not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved… It was a good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.
What a difference 107 years makes.