The Water Cure

Kramer, Paul
Date Written:  2008-02-25
Publisher:  The New Yorker
Year Published:  2008
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22647

A look back at the use of the torture method known as the 'water cure', which was employed by the United States on citizens of the Philippines during its occupation at the turn of the century. The article specifically examines the subsequent investigation, trial and testimonies, as well as the moral and political implications during this period.



Within the first year of the war, news of atrocities by U.S. forces - the torching of villages, the killing of prisoners - began to appear in American newspapers. Although the U.S. military censored outgoing cables, stories crossed the Pacific through the mail, which wasn't censored. Soldiers, in their letters home, wrote about extreme violence against Filipinos, alongside complaints about the weather, the food, and their officers; and some of these letters were published in home-town newspapers. A letter by A. F. Miller, of the 32nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment, published in the Omaha World-Herald in May, 1900, told of how Miller's unit uncovered hidden weapons by subjecting a prisoner to what he and others called the "water cure."

"Now, this is the way we give them the water cure," he 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."

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