Saturday, May 15, 2004


In an article in The Boston Globe, reporter Alfred W. McCoy has discovered that the means of torture, recently exposed at Abu Ghraib prison, can be traced to specialized procedures developed by the CIA.

"From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak"..."The CIA's discovery of psychological torture was a counterintuitive breakthrough"..

"The old physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA's new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential techniques to achieve their goals.

In the first stage, interrogators employ the simple, nonviolent techniques of hooding or sleep deprivation to disorient the subject: some times sexual intimidation is used as well."

Once the subject is disoriented, interrogators move to a second stage with simple, self-inflicted discomfort such as standing for hours with arms extended. In this phase, the idea is to make victims feel responsible for their own pain and thus induce them to alleviate it by capitulating to the interrogator's power."

"Although seemingly less brutal, no-touch torture leaves deep psychological scars. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to cruelty and lasting emotional problems."

"Following the CIA's two-part technique, last September General Miller instructed US military police at Abu Ghraib to soften up high priority detainees in the initial phase for later "successful interrogation and exploitation" by CIA and military intelligence. As often happens in no-touch torture sessions, this process soon moved beyond sleep and sensory deprivation to sexual humiliation. The question in the second, still unexamined phase, is whether US Army intelligence and CIA operatives administered the prescribed mix of interrogation and self-inflicted pain. If so, the soldiers now facing courts-martial would have been following standard interrogation procedure." [my emphasis]

"For more than 50 years, the CIA's no-touch methods have become so widely accepted that US interrogators seem unaware that they are, in fact, engaged in systematic torture."

Americans can only feel shame when they comtemplate the torture, and the arrogance and cruelty that set it in motion. But Vietnam and the Contra War came before this. McCoy gives us a sense that these mechanisms have been in place for a while. The lawlessness of the Bush Administration makes it even worse; and this is combined with Bush's lack of clemency, and his obsession with political outcomes, at the expense of democracy.

General Miller is sent from the compact gulag at Guantanamo, to see to it that Iraqi prisoners are properly softened up at Abu Ghraib. But what is going on at Guantanamo Bay? What happens to the dehumanized and invisible who are out reach of the US Constitution and the Geneva Convention? George W. Bush has brought America low in these three-and-a-half years; and he has shamed us by fraudulent, self-serving leadership and sheer callousness. The people themselves, with their legitimate exercise of democracy, can reverse this degradation at home and bring a merciful and just end to the Occupation. Some reparation is owed to the Iraqis. After tribulations like these and all their losses, they deserve their sovereignty. Iraqis may even raze Abu Ghraib prison to the ground; they've earned that right.

The Boston Globe website does not support bookmarking to its archive; but if readers click on the link and type torture cia in the archive box, the May 14, 2004 article, titled TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB FOLLOWED CIA'S MANUAL, by Alfred McCoy, can be retrieved.
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Thanks to Ben Holland for forwarding McCoy's story to the staff here.


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