Category Archives: Torture

At the Sharp End: The Highest Officials Authorize Torture of a Clerk

Los Angeles Times, Abu Zubaydah's suffering:

He was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. Because the Bush administration believed him to be a senior Al Qaeda operative his detention and interrogation produced a fistful of firsts. As far as we can tell he is the only prisoner in U.S. history whose interrogation was the subject of debate and direct authorization within the White House and the first to disappear into a secret CIA “black site.”

He was the first prisoner in the “war on terror” to experience the full gamut of ancient techniques adapted by the communists in Korea and 50 years later approved by the Justice Department in Washington. He was the first prisoner to have his interrogations captured on videotape — a practice the CIA ended in late 2002. Two years later the agency destroyed 90 videotapes of Abu Zubaydah s interrogations which resulted in a criminal investigation of government officials connected with the program.

Many questions about his interrogation remain unanswered but two legs of the three-legged stool are firmly in place.

First they beat him. As authorized by the Justice Department and confirmed by the Red Cross they wrapped a collar around his neck and smashed him over and over against a wall. They forced his body into a tiny pitch-dark box and left him for hours. They stripped him naked and suspended him from hooks in the ceiling. They kept him awake for days.

And they strapped him to an inverted board and poured water over his covered nose and mouth to “produce the sensation of suffocation and incipient panic.” Eighty-three times. I leave it to others to debate whether we should call this torture. I am content with the self-evident truth that it was wrong.

Second his treatment was motivated by the bane of our post-9/11 world: rotten intel. The beat him because they believed he was evil. Not long after his arrest President Bush described him as “one of the top three leaders” in Al Qaeda and “Al Qaeda s chief of operations.” In fact the CIA brass at Langley Va. ordered his interrogators to keep at it long after the latter warned that he had been wrung dry.

In fact, he was “a personnel clerk.”

And there's more. It's all horrible.

We must investigate and prosecute those responsible for this atrocity.

The point is not that justice demands that those responsible at the highest levels be held accountable, although justice demands it — and more. The point is not that the victims of torture — some evil, some banal, some perhaps innocent — deserve recompense — although they might. The point is that we in whose name these barbarities were practiced, we who did not take up pitchforks and at least stand by the gates in protest, we owe it to ourselves to confront the truth then dishonor and punish those most responsible. We must make clear that we do not tacitly condone torture, or else we own it.

History teaches that even a firm housecleaning after the fact is at best a temporary vaccination against relapses of the hysteria, idiocy, and moral indifference that inspired this illegality. But it also teaches that lack of accountability ensures a rapid recidivism.

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Rice: Just Following Orders

It takes a special person to invoke both the failed Nuremberg defense (“just following orders”) and the failed Richard Nixon defense (“when the President does it, it's not illegal”) in one brief Q&A session, but it seems that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is that special person when it comes to explaining why she signed off on waterboarding.

See Think Progress » Rice Channels Nixon: Since The President Authorized Torture, That Makes It Legal, and play the excruciating video.

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Don’t Do Nothing

A long, hard, sad read from Group News Blog, but worth it: Habiiti Dawo Ga'an, Habi'do'atiil (I Didn't Choose These Ghosts, They Chose Me). Here's a taste of the start:

One of the strange things about haunting is that one doesn't get to choose the shit that sticks.

I am nobody's hero, I'm flawed grievously. There were a few times when I performed well and was noticed. There were many other times when I fell very short of any mark or goal. Probably those times of shortfall were the bulk of experience.

The main reason I am so worked up over the failure to take a firm, and legal stand against torture is that I know very well the price to be exacted from doing nothing.

While I was in Vietnam, and later Africa, I saw instances of atrocity, murder, torture, and rape. I either did nothing at all, or when I was told it wasn't my business, I shut up, rucked up, and moved on.

I'm told that the author of this piece is a member of the Apache Nation, did three tours in Vietnam with Seal Team Two and was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

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The Art of Torture

YouTube – Torture Memos: Waterboarding

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Valuable Resource: A Torture Timeline

From Daily Kos: What We Know So Far: A Torture Timeline (Updated).

Useful.

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Robert Cover on Torture

Torture being muchly in the news, I offer this quote from Robert Cover, Violence and the Word, 95 Yale L.J. 1601, 1603 (1986):

The deliberate infliction of pain in order to destroy the victim's normative world and capacity to create shared realities we call torture. The interrogation that is part of torture, Scarry points out, is rarely designed to elicit information. More commonly, the torturer's interrogation is designed to demonstrate the end of the normative world of the victim-the end of what the victim values, the end of the bonds that constitute the community in which the values are grounded. Scarry thus concludes that “in compelling confession, the torturers compel the prisoner to record and objectify the fact that intense pain is world-destroying.”· That is why torturers almost always require betrayal-a demonstration that the victim's intangible normative world has been crushed by the material reality of pain and its extension, fear. IS The torturer and victim do end up creating their own terrible “world,” but this world derives its meaning from being imposed upon the ashes of another.6 The logic of that world is complete domination, though the objective may never be realized.

The citations are to ELAINE SCARRY, THE BODY IN PAIN (1985).

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Kevin Jon Heller: Legal Background for Torture Lawyer Prosecutions

Opinio Juris Want to Prosecute the Lawyers? Cite Ministries — Not the Justice Case.

Not an area of law that I have studied, but Heller is an expert.

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