15 March, 2009

But Of Course We Don't Torture

For years, as reports of horrible abuses came first trickling, then pouring out of places like Gitmo and Abu Gharib, pious liars in the Bush administration told us, "We don't torture." We merely use "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Yes, we did - and possibly still do. We have, in fact, so enhanced those techniques that they end up being torture in fact if not name:

Mark Danner has acquired a copy of the ICRC's interviews with the fourteen "high-value" detainees who were transferred from CIA black sites to Guantanamo, and he has written about it in the NYT and (a longer version; unless noted, quotes are from this piece) in the New York Review of Books. It's horrifying. Danner quotes George W. Bush saying: "The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it -- and I will not authorize it."

And yet, somehow, he did. From a man who had lost a leg, and who was forced to stand for two weeks, "apart [from] two or three times when I was allowed to lie down":

"After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position...."

But, of course, forcing a one-legged man to stand cuffed with his arms above his head to stand for two weeks, deliberately removing his prosthetic limb to cause more pain, wasn't considered "torture" by the last administration.

A number of detainees report some variant on this:

"Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements."


"I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room."

I can hear them now: "What's wrong with that? You see it in movies all the time! Jack Bauer does it! We have this memo from John Yoo saying it's legal!"

"Stress positions" don't sound like torture until you realize just what they are and what they're meant to do: break the mind by putting unendurable stress on the body. Sleep deprivation, assault with loud sounds and floodlights, lowering the temperature until the detainee's practically freezing to death, sexual abuse and humiliation, threats, beatings, waterboarding... I'm sure I'm leaving plenty off the list. But you know what? We have enough.

These things are torture.

The Bush administration authorized and encouraged them.

Our CIA and military engaged in them.

The United States tortured people.

Fuck reconciliation. I want to see prosecutions. We'll get all the truth and reconciliation we need from seeing Bush el al thrown in prison for what they've done.

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