Friday, August 17, 2007

The U.S. does torture

If you have not done so yet, I would recommend taking a look at Jane Mayer's article in the August 13th issue of the New Yorker, "The Black Sites." It's an account which fills in the information void as to what exactly has occurred at the secret CIA prisons that were in operation post 9/11 in Afghanistan and Poland, to name two sites. Mayer interviewed a host of sources from which she was able to piece together what can only be termed a horrifying report of torture and inhumanity. I found the cumulative effect of the article to be among the more disturbing things I've read in a long time. Here's an excerpt:
As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”
Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”
The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”
I don't think it's possible to read this article and look at the Bush administration in the same way again. It's a whole new depth of insight provided here. They're shown to have gone way beyond their incompetent, arrogant, lawless, bumbling and machiavellian ways. They're not just breaking laws for their own political interests, they're doing it as immoral torturers who have corrupted their nation's values and descended to the same level as the people they're pursuing. And they have the nerve to repeatedly, publicly and simplistically proclaim, "we don't torture." Read this New Yorker article and then find yourself recalling those unreal public pronouncements.