The Return of Torture?

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The Economist has an interesting and disturbing piece about U.S. complicity of torturing suspects in the war on terrorism:

If, in their efforts to defeat al-Qaeda, American officials are moving towards a policy of using torture on a systematic basis, or conspiring with other countries to do so by handing over suspects to them for interrogation in the full knowledge that torture will be used, this would be a remarkable and ominous reversal of policy.

That's still a big "if," but the story provides some very troubling details.

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  1. Why not torture ’em? It aint as if them thar Ay-rabs have rights like us here ‘Mericans! Only one them thar pinko-commie dope-smokin’ ACLU types wouldn’t want the government to beat a confession outta some moos-lim terrorist scum!

  2. Well, Nick, the specifics in that article (with on exception) have been echoed in other, similarly vague, articles.

    The specifics include sleep deprivation, “awkward” positions, and “hooding”. I don’t recall if denying painkillers has been reported before.

    Beatings were claimed, in this article. No proof or reliable source was provided. The writer attributed the remark ?If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.? to an anonymous source.

    This is not much to go on. It is, in essence, rumor.

    Not one person has yet provided a single bit of reliable evidence of torture.

    Of course if one broadens the defition of that word to include things like sleep deprivation, just about anything can be claimed. (“they killed Kenny!” er… “they kept Kenny awake all night! yew BASTARDS!!”)

    For a good (but short) article on modern interrogation, I strongly recommend one by Jim Dunnigan (http://www.strategypage.com/search.asp?target=d:inetpubstrategypagerootdlsdocs20020408.htm&search=torture). Sorry about the length of the link. In fact Dunnigan’s site is an excellent source for all sorts of information about modern warfare and intelligence gathering.

    To sum up: several articles have repeated claims about US forces torturing prisoners.

    Any sources cited are anyonmous.

    The only reliable claims I’ve seen are the more plausible ones such as sleep deprivation, “hooding” (or other forms of keeping a prisoner bound), “awkward” positions, and turning prisoners over to other states that have been accused of torturing prisoners in the past.

    This is not much of a list. The Economist claims “There seems little reason to doubt the veracity of the [Washington] Post article.”, but does not explain why. If any of those officials are concerned, why doesn’t at least one go public?

  3. Doesn’t anyone remember the Golden Rule anymore? The simplest test of all: “Would I want that particular thing to happen to my son or daughter?” If not, you have failed the grounds of moral consistency. Empires always first prefer close allies do the dirty torture work so they do not damage the morale of their own elite forces. Bahrain’s Secret Intelligence, for example, is said by Human Rights Watch to have tortured suspected Iranian-linked Shi’ites on behalf of US forces in the Gulf for the past twenty years. After the old King died recently, the terrorists fled Bahrain. Now they are back with the US ally’s promise of an amnesty.

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