Thursday, September 03, 2009

Torture in plain English

Defenders of torture have the bad habit of referring to it as anything but torture and cite evidence of its effectiveness that is not provable. In a recent post at Commentary, Max Boot refers to “the aggressive interrogation of captured terrorists” as “one of the most effective intelligence-gathering tactics in the war on terrorism.” Andrew Sullivan begs to differ:
"Aggressive interrogation of captured terrorists" needs translation into plain English. It means "the torture of captives suspected of being terrorists." "One of the most effective intelligence-gathering tactics in the war on terrorism" also needs translation, since there is no evidence, as Bush DHS official Frances Townsend and every neutral observer has noted, that the intelligence, if accurate, could not have been achieved by legal, American and ethical means. We also know for a fact that the majority of all those who have been abused and tortured by the US under Bush and Cheney were innocent of any terror offenses. (At Abu Ghraib, one of the test-sites for Cheney's methods, up to 90 percent were completely innocent, according to the Bush administration). We have no idea how many of those captured, abused and tortured at Bagram were and are innocent. And we know that the Red Cross has definitively ruled the Bush-Cheney treatment as torture and, at the very least, illegal "cruel and inhuman treatment" of prisoners.

"Aggressive interrogation" means, in plain English, stripping suspects, hooding them, beating them, putting a collar around their neck and launching their bodies against a plywood wall up to thirty times, subjecting them to sleep deprivation in one case as long as 960 hours over 54 days, shackling them in stress positions used by the Vietnamese against John McCain, denying medical care in some cases, sexually traumatizing them, using Islam as a weapon against them, putting them in upright coffins, threatening to kill their children and spouses, threatening to drill their skulls with power-drills, freezing them in iced water or freezing air-conditioning until near-death, subjecting them to extreme heat, and sensory deprivation in isolation for months until they become mental and physical shells. It means Abu Ghraib, the one place where we have been able to see what neoconservatism has come to stand for: the brutal torture and abuse of Arabs and Muslims. It means murdering over a hundred of such prisoners - merely because they are suspects and Arab Muslims. It means verschaerfte Vernehmung, in which neocons eagerly adopt the precise methods and even terminology of the Gestapo and brandish their cooptation of Nazi standards of prisoner treatment as an American value.
You can read Sullivan’s entire piece here.

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