|Former United States Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld speaking at CPAC 2011
in Washington, DC. Rumsfeld has recently
denied knowledge of any waterboarding
by US military personnel taking place at
Guantanamo Bay. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
In the controversy over whether torture, especially waterboarding, was used to gather information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently that “no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo by the US military. In fact, no one was waterboarded at Guantanamo, period.”
In his memoir, “Known and Unknown,” Rumsfeld maintained, “To my knowledge, no US military personnel involved in interrogations waterboarded any detainees,not at Guantanamo or anywhere else in the world.” But as we shall see, Rumsfeld was either lying outright, or artfully twisting the truth.
Others have insisted as well that the military never waterboarded anyone. Law and national security writer Benjamin Wittes wrote in The New Republic last year that “the military, unlike the CIA, never waterboarded anybody.” Harper’s columnist Scott Horton also noted last year, “There is no documentation yet of waterboarding at Gitmo, but the case book is far from closed on that score, too.”
Yet, though not widely reported and scattered among various articles and reports on detainee treatment by the military, including first-person accounts, there are a number of stories of forced water choking or drowning, both at Guantanamo and other US military sites.
In little-known testimony in May 2008 before Congress, former Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz testified he endured a form of simulated drowning. In his testimony before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kurnaz said that under US military captivity at Khadahar, Afghanistan, prior to his transfer to Guantanamo, his head was “dunked under water to simulate drowning.”
Asked by Republican Congressman Rohrabacher if he hadn’t then been waterboarded, Kurnaz responded, “No, it’s not waterboarding. It’s called ‘water treatment.’ There was a bucket of water.”
ROHRABACHER: Was a cloth put over your face and you were put on a board?
KURNAZ: There was a bucket of water. And they stick my head in it and at the same time, punch me into my stomach.
Rohrabacher reportedly commented, “The CIA is claiming that only three people have been waterboarded. And this may be a loophole that they’re suggesting that’s not ‘waterboarding.’”