Monday, March 16, 2009

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites.

I'd love if some of the stupid right wingers - who used to come here and insist that George Bush did not order torture - could read the ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

It makes these words ring particularly hollow:

Q : Mr. President,...this is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

President George W. Bush : Look, I'm going to say it one more time.... Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at these laws, and that might provide comfort for you.

— Sea Island, Georgia, June 10, 2004
Of course, once Bush brought fourteen prisoners, who he had kept in black sites, to Guantanamo Bay they had access to the Red Cross and the chance to say what had happened to them with no US guards present.

What's most compelling about what they have to say is that, all of them - despite being held in solitary confinement for months and, in some cases, years - tell essentially the same story of the same techniques being used on them. I said a few years ago that it was the consistency of the claims - from places as far afield as Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba - which convinced me that they were telling the truth. They never spoke of fingernails being removed or anything which most of us think of when we talk of torture, they all spoke of forced nudity, stress positions, being kept in the cold and sleep deprivation.

All of which could seem innocuous, but when one reads the Red Cross report it is very hard not to want to throw the people who authorised this behind bars. Here is the reality behind those bland terms; sleep deprivation, stress positions, forced nudity as they were applied to Abu Zubaydah:
I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can't remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by [the] hands and feet for what I think was the next 2 to 3 weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket. Water for cleaning myself was provided in a plastic bottle.
I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure [a nutrient supplement] and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time.
The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every fifteen minutes twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.
The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks.
During this first two to three week period I was questioned for about one to two hours each day. American interrogators would come to the room and speak to me through the bars of the cell. During the questioning the music was switched off, but was then put back on again afterwards. I could not sleep at all for the first two to three weeks. If I started to fall asleep one of the guards would come and spray water in my face.
When people talk of stress positions, I'm sure it never occurred to any of us that such a procedure would be carried out by chaining someone to a chair for two or three weeks.

And, of course, it escalated from there:
Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.
The Red Cross could not be clearer in their findings:
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.
Is there anyone who could bear to read the whole thing and disagree with that conclusion?

This was sanctioned at the very top of the Bush administration. This is the behaviour that some right wingers are claiming it would be "partisan" to attempt to prosecute.

If this isn't torture, then torture doesn't exist.


From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers:

What I find striking is the clinical, dispassionate approach to the administration of torture. The fantasized, intense, urgent torture interrogations of Jack Bauer seemed so focused on obtaining information in comparison. But these accounts paint an entirely different picture. The focus seemed to be not on information, but inflicting as much pain as possible without causing death. The detainees were treated like test subjects.

I am sure this is because the orders handed down focused on the torture, not the practical aspects of interrogation. I imagine the interrogators were flooded with memos authorizing certain techniques – how to apply these techniques – what the limits were – how to break down a subject mentally without killing them – and so forth. What was absent, I imagine, is the memo specifying what information is useful to the global war on terror. The result: a one-legged man standing for days with a doctor to make sure his stump doesn’t swell too much. All pain, no gain. No information. No attack thwarted. No purpose but torture itself.

He really hits the nail on the head.

Click title for full article.

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