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The true purpose of torture
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 9:37 pm    Post subject: The true purpose of torture Reply with quote

The true purpose of torture

Guantánamo is there to terrorise - both inmates and the wider world

Naomi Klein
Saturday May 14, 2005

Guardian


I recently caught a glimpse of the effects of torture in action at an event honouring Maher Arar. The Syrian-born Canadian is the world's most famous victim of "rendition", the process by which US officials outsource torture to foreign countries. Arar was switching planes in New York when US interrogators detained him and "rendered" him to Syria, where he was held for 10 months in a cell slightly larger than a grave and taken out periodically for beatings.

Arar was being honoured for his courage by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, a mainstream advocacy organisation. The audience gave him a heartfelt standing ovation, but there was fear mixed in with the celebration. Many of the prominent community leaders kept their distance from Arar, responding to him only tentatively. Some speakers were unable even to mention the honoured guest by name, as if he had something they could catch. And perhaps they were right: the tenuous "evidence" - later discredited - that landed Arar in a rat-infested cell was guilt by association. And if that could happen to Arar, a successful software engineer and family man, who is safe?

In a rare public speech, Arar addressed this fear directly. He told the audience that an independent commissioner has been trying to gather evidence of law-enforcement officials breaking the rules when investigating Muslim Canadians. The commissioner has heard dozens of stories of threats, harassment and inappropriate home visits. But, Arar said, "not a single person made a public complaint. Fear prevented them from doing so." Fear of being the next Maher Arar.

The fear is even thicker among Muslims in the United States, where the Patriot Act gives police the power to seize the records of any mosque, school, library or community group on mere suspicion of terrorist links. When this intense surveillance is paired with the ever-present threat of torture, the message is clear: you are being watched, your neighbour may be a spy, the government can find out anything about you. If you misstep, you could disappear on to a plane bound for Syria, or into "the deep dark hole that is Guantánamo Bay", to borrow a phrase from Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

But this fear has to be finely calibrated. The people being intimidated need to know enough to be afraid but not so much that they demand justice. This helps explain why the defence department will release certain kinds of seemingly incriminating information about Guantánamo - pictures of men in cages, for instance - at the same time that it acts to suppress photographs on a par with what escaped from Abu Ghraib. And it might also explain why the Pentagon approved a new book by a former military translator, including the passages about prisoners being sexually humiliated, but prevented him from writing about the widespread use of attack dogs. This strategic leaking of information, combined with official denials, induces a state of mind that Argentinians describe as "knowing/not knowing", a vestige of their "dirty war".

'Obviously, intelligence agents have an incentive to hide the use of unlawful methods," says Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "On the other hand, when they use rendition and torture as a threat, it's undeniable that they benefit, in some sense, from the fact that people know that intelligence agents are willing to act unlawfully. They benefit from the fact that people understand the threat and believe it to be credible."

And the threats have been received. In an affidavit filed with an ACLU court challenge to section 215 of the Patriot Act, Nazih Hassan, president of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor in Michigan, describes this new climate. Membership and attendance are down, donations are way down, board members have resigned - Hassan says his members avoid doing anything that could get their names on lists. One member testified anonymously that he has "stopped speaking out on political and social issues" because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself.

This is torture's true purpose: to terrorise - not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more importantly, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist - the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "Perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualisations obscure the purpose of torture ... The aim of torture is to dehumanise the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Yet despite this body of knowledge, torture continues to be debated in the United States as if it were merely a morally questionable way to extract information, not an instrument of state terror. But there's a problem: no one claims that torture is an effective interrogation tool -least of all the people who practise it. Torture "doesn't work. There are better ways to deal with captives," CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate intelligence committee on February 16. And a recently declassified memo written by an FBI official in Guantánamo states that extreme coercion produced "nothing more than what FBI got using simple investigative techniques". The army's own interrogation field manual states that force "can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear".

And yet the abuses keep on coming - Uzbekistan as the new hotspot for renditions; the "El Salvador model" imported to Iraq. And the only sensible explanation for torture's persistent popularity comes from a most unlikely source. Lynndie England, the fall girl for Abu Ghraib, was asked during her botched trial why she and her colleagues had forced naked prisoners into a human pyramid. "As a way to control them," she replied.

Exactly. As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture.


· A version of this article is published in The Nation
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Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee



Joined: 25 May 2003

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big Bird Is sleep depravation torture? What about keeping inmates in rooms w/ the air con at full blast? How about making them listen to Korean pop music?
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2005 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
Big Bird Is sleep depravation torture? What about keeping inmates in rooms w/ the air con at full blast? How about making them listen to Korean pop music?


It's really best to determine such questions through the scientific method, you know, empiricism, Joo. That's worth so much more than a lot of braindead, armchair speculation, don'tcha think?

Perhaps you can get some obliging folks to chain you naked to the floor for a few days (without letting you up to go to the toilet, of course) and try all those out on you for extended periods of time and then report back to us with your own highly qualified (after experiencing it) opinion, Joo. Then, you can give us an informed opinion for a change when we ask you, "Is it torture yet, Joo?"

We'll be looking forward to your first person account and then your opinion will actually be worth something for a change.

I'll fill in at your classes until you get back, if you like. Very Happy Laughing Wink
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Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee



Joined: 25 May 2003

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What you described would be unacceptable , what I describe would be _____? You tell us. Is sleep depravation , keeping the air conditioner very high, or forcing Al Qaida fighters to listen to Korea pop music torture or not.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
What you described would be unacceptable , what I describe would be _____? You tell us. Is sleep depravation , keeping the air conditioner very high, or forcing Al Qaida fighters to listen to Korea pop music torture or not.


What I described is verified forms of abuse that have been used by American guards and/or interrogators on their prisoners and reported by FBI agents who witnessed the abuse. Say it isn't so, Joo. So, why do you say it is unacceptable when it is some of the interrogation techniques that agents of your government are empowered to use? Surely, you don't object to anything your government does in the way of torture...er, I mean "abuse," do you, Joo?

If so, that would be a positive (and surprising) step toward having a recognizable conscience for you. How can you object to your government doing that to people who may or may not be guilty of anything, Joo? Don't you believe that torture can save lives? That's what's it's for, isn't it? It isn't just an instrument of terror, is it?

And why are you asking about the examples that you list? What do they have to do with anything? So, since what I described is more of an actual example of the extremes of abuse that US personnel actually use, perhaps you would be so kind as to tell why you want to know if BB thinks your more limited examples are torture, so we'll know what that keen mind of yours is up to?

Anyway, taking your more limited case, let's still do the experiment. Get some of the countless admirers of your keen and inquiring mind to volunteer to help you out with this experiment and have them do this for 4 or 5 days non-stop to you, Joo.

Sleep depravation , keeping the air conditioner very high, and forcing Joo to listen to Korean pop music.

After 4 or 5 days of that non-stop, come back to us, Joo, and we'll ask you, "Is it torture, yet?"


Last edited by R. S. Refugee on Sun May 15, 2005 11:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee



Joined: 25 May 2003

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well it is ok to do the more limited stuff because of the need to get information from terrorists.

Actually the terrorsts deserve far worse but I would not want my governtment to be the one that did it.
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schwa



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: sokcho

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
Well it is ok to do the more limited stuff because of the need to get information from terrorists.

Actually the terrorsts deserve far worse but I would not want my governtment to be the one that did it.

But its okay if your government smuggles people to torture enclaves elsewhere? Whether they are proven to have committed some crime or not? Nice principles.
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Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee



Joined: 25 May 2003

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not if they are innocent no.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
Well it is ok to do the more limited stuff because of the need to get information from terrorists.

Actually the terrorsts deserve far worse but I would not want my governtment to be the one that did it.


But it's OK with you if your government outsources the torture and sends people who may be innocent and just got picked up in a sweep or falsely turned in by their enemies for a reward to a country where they can be tortured to the full extent as long as you don't have to hear their screams and cries for mercy or for God to kill them because they can't endure it anymore, right Joo. As long as you don't have to see it or hear it or bear witness to such unpleasant horrors, right Joo. Who knows maybe they're even guilty.

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Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee



Joined: 25 May 2003

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But it's OK with you if your government outsources the torture and sends people who may be innocent and just got picked up in a sweep or falsely turned in by their enemies for a reward to a country where they can be tortured to the full extent as long as you don't have to hear their screams and cries for mercy or for God to kill them because they can't endure it anymore, right Joo. As long as you don't have to see it or hear it or bear witness to such unpleasant horrors, right Joo. Who knows maybe they're even guilty.



If they are innocent no, if they Khalid Shiek Mohammad then I don't care about them. Al Qaida they are not just prisoners they are criminals.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
Not if they are innocent no.


OK. I'm going to cut it out and stop being mean to you now, Joo. (Not necessarily forever though.) I know this is upsetting you. Think how upsetting it would be if you were mistaken for a miscreant who "needed" to be tortured by the government for one reason or another.

The point is, we aren't God. We can't be sure that we aren't torturing an innocent human being. And when I say we, I mean our people or the people of any government that we outsource torture to. There IS NO DIFFERENCE, morally speaking.

And people who are professionals in the interrogation field will tell you that torture doesn't work for eliciting information. That a person being tortured will tell you anything that you want to hear. That they can be at least as successful at getting vital info without torture.

So, why do it, then? That was the whole point of the OP if you bothered to read it. Torture is practiced to terrorize people, to be sure they don't get out of line and resist government injustice too much -- both the people who are being tortured and ones who hear about it and wonder if it could happen to them if they get out of line and protest too much against government injustice.

In a democracy, torture should not exist at least for that reason. We should never torture anyone. Torture is a terrorist act. I thought we were against terrorism.

Sorry to be so rough on you, Joo. But you seem to have a very abstract relationship with this brutal concept called torture. And there's nothing abstract about torture. It is being in hell, while still being alive. And the people who practice it become the DEVIL incarnate.

Relax Joo. Nobody wants to hurt you.

Goodnight.
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Pyongshin Sangja



Joined: 20 Apr 2003
Location: I love baby!

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Al Qaida they are not just prisoners they are criminals.


Umm, they are your prisoners. They may be criminals but we will never know. What you are saying is that they should be executed? Judged in secret and executed. Harsh terms.
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Big_Bird



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: Sometimes here sometimes there...

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joo Rip Gwa Rhhee wrote:
Big Bird Is sleep depravation torture? What about keeping inmates in rooms w/ the air con at full blast? How about making them listen to Korean pop music?


What's your experience of sleep deprivation? Perhaps you went a couple of days without sleep. That's not too difficult. I remember travelling in Mongolia, I went about 60 hours once with no sleep. I travelled on a train and had about 4-5 hours sleep and arrived at my destination in the wee hours of the morning. Then I had to find the 'bus station.' I found I minibus, but I had to wait all day while the driver found enough people to make his trip worthwhile. I sat in that bloody minibus most of the day, trying to make sure I had a seat and not knowing when we would leave. It had seating for 12 people. In the end, there were me, a couple of other foreigners, and more than 20 Mongolians all squashed up there.

We set off in the night. No chance of sleeping! And there were no roads where we were going, it was all roungh terrain, which meant that we were constantly tossed about all over the place. At one point we got stuck in a small river and the bus was almost upturned. It was tilted precariously on one side and we had to climb out very carefully, and then the men all pitched in getting the bus out of the river. So then we were travelling with wet legs and trousers. In the morning we had a chance to change our clothes. Luckily, I'd packed my other trousers in a watertight bag. We travelled all through the day marvelling at the Tolkienesque landscape, but squashed up close barely able to move as there were too many of us piled into one small minibus. We travelled through the night in the same fashion.

We eventually reached a town near my destination and I disembarked and with a couple of Israelis, looked for a horse and a guide. Then we travelled a few more hours on horseback. I finally negotiated a bed for the night and slept for the first time in about 60 hours. Getting into that bed was like going to heaven. Wonderful! But the preceeding 60 hours were amazing and adrenalin filled too. Not at all torture. So if you've gone for two or three days without sleeping, you're probably thinking...well that's not so hard.

But I had another experience recently of sleep deprivation and it was hell. Continuous sleep deprivation. A short time after I had my baby he was readmitted to hospital with a dangerously high bilirubin toxicity. The doctors were concerned, as this can sometimes lead to brain damage in babies. Most parents were only allowed to visit their babies twice a day, but the nurses were given instructions to allow me in anytime, as my baby was being breastfed. This meant I was jumping into cabs and running to the hospital every few hours.

Not only was I doing this, but I was teaching classes, and trying to meet a deadline for handing in my students grades. So I was racing to teach classes and then racing from there to the hospital to feed my beloved baby, then racing home to eat, mark paper, then racing back to the hospital to feed baby, then racing to more classes, or back home to grade papers. I'd visit my baby at 1 or 2 am in the morning. Baby was small and we were both unpractised at breastfeeding, so feeding would sometimes take 1.5 - 2 hours.

Then I'd race home, sleep for 2 or 3 hours if I could, before the hospital staff would telephone me "Baby very hungry" and I could hear the sound of my poor boy screaming with hunger. I'd drag myself out of bed, throw on my clothes, and race out onto the street to flag down a taxi. Then I'd race home or race to classes and so on and so on. I had no time to even comb my hair! For 2 weeks, I didn't comb my long thick knotted hair, and hid it instead under a big scarf. I simply had no time.

Then my boy came home about a week later. I no longer had to race to the hospital, but I still had to feed him. It took about 8 - 10 hours every day to feed him as he was too small and inexperienced to drink quickly. And he kept coming off and would start screaming with hunger and we'd fumble about for ages before we could get it right again (breastfeeding is not a walk in the park - let me tell you). And I raced against the calendar to finish my grading. I asked the college if they could give me some leeway. Apparently they couldn't.

I was in a terrible state. I could barely think. I could barely talk. My legs ached and swelled. My husband and even my mother (who had been impressing the importance of breastfeeding all through my pregnancy) were really worried about my health and suggested I gave up the breastfeeding, and then my husband could take over the feeding using formula, so I my time would be freed up. I refused. I was determined that my son would not be disadvantaged.

I got to the point where I could barely talk. I'd be nodding off as I looked at my students work and one time I even fall asleep for a fraction of a second as I walked. Waking up those last couple of days (after giving myself 1 hour of sleep 2 nights in a row) was physically painful. It was like a knife slowly sawing through my brain. My body was screaming to let it sleep. I felt like I was snapping. I felt half crazy. It was painful to think! Sometimes I didn't understand simple things my husband said to me. Sometimes I mumbled incoherently. It took extraordinary willpower (I didn't know I had) to focus on the simplest tasks.

I finally got my grades in (though not in time). I got the last set finished about 3 hours before the students complaint deadline was over. That was cutting it really fine, and the college had been calling me up all day panicking about it.

Then I slept and slept, waking up every 3-4 hours to feed my little boy. It took me a week to get over it. It was hell, let me tell you. I understand why it's a favourite choice of torturers. Sleep deprivation doesn't sound so bad, but it is intolerable.
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Naomi Klein wrote:
As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture.


Perhaps. But torture also happens on a local level when not approved by the government. It's important to identify the rather slick thing Naomi is doing here. She is making us associate all torture to the national level by describing just how clever and 'effective' it is. However, this overlooks the simple fact that people take pleasure from torture. People on the ground like Lynndie England and other anonymous prison guards. I am not arguing Naomi is necessarily wrong, she could be right about the intentions of some of the administration lawyers who favor more leeway in terms of interrogation techniques than others. But she would certainly not be right to suggest that instances of torture that strike fear into the hearts of Muslims in America are necessarily administration perogatives because they might be effective. There is still the option that they are administration perogatives for idealistic reasons (such as believing that more leeway allowed would be effective for intelligence gathering purposes), or the option that they are not so much administration perogatives so much as realities on the ground created by mid-level commanders (colonels, higher ranking CIA agents, etc).

Naomi Klein wrote:
Yet despite this body of knowledge, torture continues to be debated in the United States as if it were merely a morally questionable way to extract information, not an instrument of state terror. But there's a problem: no one claims that torture is an effective interrogation tool -least of all the people who practise it. Torture "doesn't work. There are better ways to deal with captives," CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate intelligence committee on February 16.


Porter Goss is surely an important man in the CIA, but he does not oversee every interrogation. To claim that he is 'the people who practise it' is a bit misleading. Especially since Goss is new to the CIA, and was not head of the CIA during 2002 and 2003. Therefore, it's very possible that people do believe that torture is an effective interrogation tool, especially the people who actually practise it!
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Pyongshin Sangja



Joined: 20 Apr 2003
Location: I love baby!

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allright, Big Bird! That is an incredible story.
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