Soldier Waterboards Daughter Over ABCs

A British tabloid report of a soldier who waterboarded his 4-year-old daughter for failing to learn the alphabet is making the rounds.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry. As his daughter ‘squirmed’ to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline. Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

The practice of waterboarding was used by the CIA to break Al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees had water poured over their face until they feared they would drown. President Barack Obama has since outlawed the practice.

Tabor, a soldier at the Lewis-McChord base in Tacoma, Washington, was arrested after being seen walking around his neighbourhood wearing a Kevlar military helmet and threatening to break windows.

Police discovered the alleged waterboarding when they went to his home in the Tacoma suburb of Yelm and spoke to his girlfriend. She told them about the alleged torture and the terrified girl was found hiding in a closet, with bruising on her back and scratch marks on her neck and throat. Asked how she got the bruises, the girl is said to have replied: ‘Daddy did it.’

During a police interview Tabor allegedly admitted grabbing his daughter, placing her on the kitchen counter and submerging her face into a bowl of water.

Doubtless, this will be spun as a natural consequence of legitimating torture.  But it’s almost certainly just a sad case of mental illness.  For that matter, as Don Surber points out, what Tabor did to his daughter isn’t actually waterboarding.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    Doubtless, this will be spun as a natural consequence of legitimating torture. But it’s almost certainly just a sad case of mental illness.

    Indeed, for all the reason to be against legitimizing torture, this isn’t one of them. This guy is sick, and he’d have done something like this regardless. I can only hope for the sanity of the poor girl, and question what the hell the girlfriend was thinking by not stopping and/or reporting this.

  2. Wayne says:

    Sound like he may have gotten the technique from one of the Battlestar Galactica Episode.

  3. Franklin says:

    Agreed, agreed, and, well, I’ve never watched Battlestar Galactica so I don’t know.

  4. Wayne says:

    There was an episode where they shoved a human looking Cylon head into a bucket of water during a interrogation.

    It is not the only show\movie that has done it.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    As a parent I just want to say in the strongest possible terms that I condemn this. Children should not be waterboarded for failing to learn the alphabet. The practice should be reserved for situations involving failure to clean a bedroom or refusing to eat what’s on their plate.

  6. Jack Liberty says:

    James, thanks for the link. I just want it to be clear that I was being ironic when I said it was a normal consequence of using torture.


  7. Asif Arif says:

    WTF. Mental illness or not this guy is cruel and sick and legitimizing torture and making techniques like this mainstream mean he knew how to do it and that knowledge is a result of CIA actions.
    Until Iraq who had ever heard of it? I’m sure it was know to select security operatives but used so sparingly it was not common knowledge amongst soldiers or the public.

  8. Wayne says:

    Asif Arif
    You are joking right?

  9. Michael says:

    Asif, as has already been pointed out, what this guy did was nothing at all like what the CIA did. And using the threat of drowning as a means of torture has been around for a lot longer than Gitmo.