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The Lineage of Bush-Cheney Torture

Chris Floyd | October 2 2006

Below, Joseph Margulies delivers a devastating look at the direct lineage of the Bush-Cheney torture program from the dungeons of North Korea. What he describes of the Korean torture methods is a precise parallel to what Bush and Cheney are practicing today. It should be emphasized, however, that there is nothing new in the "enhanced interrogation techniques" now being employed by Bush's KGB, the CIA; the Agency has studied and refined these exquisite "no-touch" tortures for more than 50 years (and taught them to the "security organs" of many of our "allies.") What is new is their mass application in a worldwide gulag holding thousands of prisoners – and their open exaltation by the White House, and by Congress, which has just enshrined them officially as the law of the land.

It is obvious too from the facts related by Margulies that what the CIA was interested in – and is still interested in – was not techniques for eliciting accurate information but methods for producing confessions that would conform to whatever horrific fantasy scenario that the regime deemed politically expedient. This of course has a direct application to our political reality today. The Bush Regime relies on the manufacture and manipulation of fear in order to retain power and push its unconstitutional – and unpopular – agenda of presidental dictatorship, military aggression, war profiteering, and oligarchic plunder. Horrific scenarios are devised to foment the required level of fear and bloodlust – the "imminent threat" of Saddam Hussein's WMD and his "connections" to al Qaeda, etc. – and then "justified" by false confessions coerced by CIA captives. This pattern has been repeated over and over.

These are rank and filthy times, and the United States of America is being led by rank and filthy people.

'The More Subtle Kind of Torment' (Washington Post)


Excerpts: In these uncertain times, it's worth recalling that the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in the hands of madmen is not new. Nearly 50 years before Sept. 11, 2001, the American public learned that a group of prisoners in military custody confessed to being part of an elaborate conspiracy to bomb civilian targets with bacteriological weapons...

But it was all a lie. Thirty-six American airmen, shot from the sky during the Korean War, falsely confessed to a vast plot to bomb civilian targets. How did this happen? With Congress having approved a "compromise" that gives the president authority to determine the meaning of the Geneva Conventions and redefines the War Crimes Act to protect CIA interrogators, we should revisit this all-but-forgotten moment in U.S. history…

The airmen were subjected to something new: touchless torture. They were kept isolated from all human contact, apart from their interrogators. One prisoner spent 10 months in solitary confinement, another 13. Schwable did not learn of the armistice until after he confessed.

They were made to stand or sit in awkward and painful positions for hours at a time. One prisoner had to sit at attention on the edge of a stool for 15 hours per day for 33 days. Another time he had to stand for 30 consecutive hours, until he collapsed. Schwable was required to sit at attention every day for almost 10 weeks.

They were demeaned, taunted and treated like animals. Schwable said the guards "growled" or "barked" at him, slopped food at him, and made him defecate in public. "Every effort was made to degrade and humiliate me," he said.

And of course they were interrogated. Grueling interrogations that lasted hours and hours, repeating the same material they had gone over the day before, and the day before that, until the past became a confusing whirl of fact and fantasy suggested to them by their relentless interlocutors. At last, exhausted and demoralized, their resistance overcome, they confessed. They all confessed in the end. And they all lied…

After the war North Korean atrocities were roundly condemned by the United States, which complained to the United Nations that the Koreans had not complied with the Geneva Conventions. One institution, however, was not repelled but intrigued. The experience led the CIA to accelerate its research into the theory and science of coercive interrogation.


(More after the jump)

Between 1950 and 1962, the CIA poured millions of dollars into studies that tested different interrogation techniques, hoping to learn from and refine the lessons of Korea. The research culminated in the top-secret KUBARK manual, a 1963 primer on how to conduct coercive counterintelligence interrogations. The manual was finally disclosed in 1997 and is now available online.

Interrogators must create a menacing and ominous environment that destroys the prisoner's capacity to function as a "civilized man." Prisoners should be kept disoriented because "the capacity for resistance is diminished by disorientation."

The prisoner's environment must be manipulated to produce a "regression of the personality to whatever earlier and weaker level is required for the dissolution of resistance." This usually doesn't take much. "Relatively small degrees of homeostatic derangement, fatigue, pain, sleep loss, or anxiety" are generally sufficient….

Will mild "homeostatic derangement" be deemed acceptable under the legislation just passed by Congress -- a little sleep deprivation here, some extended standing there, perhaps a few more hours in the cold room, a wee drop of solitary confinement now and again, extended isolation from the outside world? Nothing like "real" torture, since everyone knows that's unreliable.

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