Revolution #165, May 24, 2009

Revolution received the following letter from Li Onesto:

In an article titled, “In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Look at Past Use,” the New York Times recently repeated the lie that the U.S. got many of its torture techniques from looking at what the Chinese communists did to POWs during the Korean War. The article says: “In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.”

This “extraordinary consensus” was possible, the New York Times says, because no one knew the “gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.” The article then says: “According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.”

I wrote the following letter to the editor, refuting this lie. (The New York Times did not run it.)

“Adopting Harsh Tactics” (April 22, 2009) claims U.S. torture techniques are based on Chinese Communist treatment of U.S. Korean War POWs. But research shows that the overall approach of the Chinese communists to these POWs was one of leniency, providing basic necessities and “re-education.” In Mortal Combat: Korea 1950-1953, by Pulitzer Prize winner John Toland, recounts how POWs were given healthy meals along with “communal lectures.” Toland says, “Religion was denounced as a capitalist device for controlling people’s minds, yet prisoners were allowed to keep Bibles and religious articles, and were even permitted to hold religious discussions and readings.” The award-winning documentary, They Chose China (shown on HBO) includes interviews Mike Wallace did in 1957 with American POWs who said their Chinese captors provided them with food, clothing and recreational facilities. They recount being influenced by “political education” sessions that compared the U.S. to socialist China and how when the war ended they chose to live in China. Even Congressional hearings after the war conducted by the notorious Joseph McCarthy were unable to document Chinese Communist use of the kind of torture techniques the U.S. has employed. And at the turn of the 20th century—before any communist government existed—the U.S. used waterboarding in the Philippines.

To read about this, I encourage readers of Revolution to go to and check out the series I wrote on U.S. torture, which includes Part 3: “The Truth About How Chinese Communists Treated Korean War POWs.


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