Via Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar
Tales From Torture's Dark World
Excerpted from an article originally published in the New York Times on March 14, 2009
The result is a document — labeled “confidential” and clearly intended only for the eyes of those senior American officials — that tells a story of what happened to each of the 14 detainees inside the black sites.
A short time ago, this document came into my hands and I have set out the stories it tells in a longer article in The New York Review of Books. Because these stories were taken down confidentially in patient interviews by professionals from the International Committee of the Red Cross, and not intended for public consumption, they have an unusual claim to authenticity.
Indeed, since the detainees were kept strictly apart and isolated, both at the black sites and at Guantánamo, the striking similarity in their stories would seem to make fabrication extremely unlikely. As its authors state in their introduction, “The I.C.R.C. wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the 14 adds particular weight to the information provided below.”
Beginning with the chapter headings on its contents page — “suffocation by water,” “prolonged stress standing,” “beatings by use of a collar,” “confinement in a box” — the document makes compelling and chilling reading. The stories recounted in its fewer than 50 pages lead inexorably to this unequivocal conclusion, which, given its source, has the power of a legal determination: “The allegations of ill treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill treatment to which they were subjected while held in the C.I.A. program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”•Perhaps one should start with the story of the first man to whom, according to news reports, the president’s “alternative set of procedures” were applied:
UPDATE Monday March 16, 2009
Via Scott Horton's blog No Comment on Harpers.org
Danner quotes the report’s conclusions:
The allegations of ill-treatment of the detainees indicate that, in many cases, the ill-treatment to which they were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture. In addition, many other elements of the ill-treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
And Danner offers a powerful conclusion of his own:
the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush Administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact. We can also say that the decision to torture, in a political war with militant Islam, harmed American interests by destroying the democratic and Constitutional reputation of the United States, undermining its liberal sympathizers in the Muslim world and helping materially in the recruitment of young Muslims to the extremist cause. By deciding to torture, we freely chose to embrace the caricature they had made of us. The consequences of this choice, legal, political and moral, now confront us. Time and elections are not enough to make them go away.
The Danner piece merits long and patient study. It contains some of the starkest evidence we have yet seen that the Bush Administration adopted torture as a conscious policy and then lied about it aggressively to Congress, the American people, and the world. Even so, the disclosures in the Red Cross report are but another drop in the bucket. Much remains shrouded in secrecy, and the calls to lay it bare grow steadily louder.
UPDATE II Tuesday March 17, 2009
Via Democracy Now!
Red Cross Report: US Committed Torture at CIA Black Sites
The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report two years ago that the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners “constituted torture” in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The findings were based on interviews with prisoners once held in the CIA’s secret black sites. The Red Cross said the fourteen prisoners held in the CIA prisons gave remarkably uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding. The author Mark Danner published parts of the secret Red Cross report in the New York Review of Books. Danner said the Red Cross’s use of the word "torture” has important legal implications. Danner said, “It could not be more important that the ICRC explicitly uses the words ‘torture’ and ‘cruel and degrading.’ The ICRC is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, and when it uses those words, they have the force of law.”
UPDATE III Wednesday March 18, 2009
AMY GOODMAN: The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded in a secret report two years ago that the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners “constituted torture” in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The findings were based on interviews with prisoners once held in the CIA’s secret black sites.
The revelation was made this weekend when the author and journalist Mark Danner published extensive excerpts of the Red Cross report in the New York Review of Books. In the article, Danner quotes from a speech President Bush delivered from the White House on September 6th, 2006. Danner writes the speech is “perhaps the only historic speech [Bush] ever gave.” In it, Bush admitted the US was using what he called “an alternative set of procedures” to interrogate terrorism suspects.
Yesterday I spoke with Mark Danner about the secret Red Cross report he obtained and what it reveals about the Bush administration"s treatment of prisoners. Danner is a contributor to The New York Review of Books and is a Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of “Torture and Truth.”
Mark Danner, contributor to the New York Review of Books. He is a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and a professor of human rights and journalism at Bard College. He is the author of Torture and Truth.
Danner assumes the war on terror is an effort "to persuade young Muslims" not to kill us. It's not: persuasion is for sissies, Cheney would say. We're men of action! We'll FORCE them to do as we say.
The cosmos is a machine; society is god's own perpetual motion justice-dispensing holy war cash machine. You want more money? Grab the key and wind 'er up.
Turns out, that key they were twisting? It's the head of the goose who lays the golden eggs. No amount of "shock treatments" or "jump starts" or other Frankensteinian metaphorical efforts will make that dead bird fly.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you get information about his whereabouts?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: Well, the things that we used in Iraq is we took the methods that had been used prior to our arrival, and we changed them. The methods that the Army was using were based on fear and control, and those techniques are not effective. They’re not the most effective way to get people to cooperate. My team was a little bit different, because we were made up of several criminal investigators who had experience doing criminal interrogations, in which we don’t use fear and control. We use techniques that are based on understanding, cultural understanding, sympathy, things like intellect, ingenuity, innovation. And we started to apply these types of techniques to the interrogations. And ultimately, we were able to put together a string of successes within the al-Qaeda organization that led to Zarqawi’s location.
AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean, sympathy, those kind of—using that approach?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: Let me just give you one example out of the book. There’s a—let’s go to the example where I convince one of Zarqawi’s associates to give up a path towards Zarqawi. This man was a highly religious man. He was deeply schooled in Islam. He had spent fourteen years studying Islam. And we had tried fear and control techniques on him for a period of about three weeks, and they didn’t work. He had maintained that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “fear and control”?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: By “fear and control,” I mean using tactics that are basically intended to intimidate a detainee. You’re not allowed, within the rules of interrogation, to threaten a detainee, but there’s ways to create fear without threatening a detainee. And those methods, although legal, are not most effective. The methods that—
AMY GOODMAN: What are they? How do you inspire fear?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: You can inspire fear by—you can state what are the consequences for someone’s actions.
AMY GOODMAN: You can say you’re going to kill them if they don’t talk?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: You can’t say that you’re going to kill somebody if they don’t talk. What you can say is you can state what are the punishments for a certain crime, and if that person’s been involved in that crime, then the point will get across. I think the JAGs, the military lawyers, the terms that they use is you can’t put the dagger on the table.
Now, if you look at the way we do criminal interrogations in the United States, you can certainly tell a criminal suspect what are the consequences for a crime that they’ve committed or that you suspect they’ve committed. So that, I think, is a permissible and ethical way to conduct an interrogation. However, it’s not the most effective. The most effective techniques are those that rely on rapport building and relationship building and then adapt that into the culture of the person that you’re interrogating.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk now, moving from fear to what you did with him.
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: What we did is we got to know our detainees, first of all. You can’t effectively build a relationship with somebody and convince him to cooperate unless you know them. You have to get to know what motivates them, why they’ve joined the insurgency, why they decided to pick up arms against you. And then, once you understand that, then you can appeal to them and offer them some type of negotiation or compromise or incentive. And, you know, the best incentives that we could apply were ones that were intangible, things like hope, things like friendship, like respect, like wasta, which in Arab culture is a term referring to status.
You know, ultimately, interrogation is just one tool we’re using in this war. And we have to conduct ourselves while we’re doing interrogations according to American principles. If we don’t, then we’re not living up to the ideals that we proclaim to have. And for me, this war, it’s more about preserving our American principles than it is about defeating al-Qaeda. We can’t become our enemies in trying to defeat them.
That's it right there! As much as I admire our brother's courage, conceiving the cosmos as a giant jungle-gym for wannabe war gods is the problem.. Since it's not really about the war per se, can't we conceive of a way of being in the world, other than perpetual holy war?