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Thursday, March 27, 2014

american alchemy: how torture becomes just another naughty thing

I love American alchemy. As we all know, when the evil elements in rogue nations drown prisoners or drive them crazy through sleep deprivation and humiliation, those evil elements are engaged in torture. But lo, when the evil elements are transmorgified into glorious freedom fighting Americans, there is a corresponding glorious change, as per this NYT description today: "According to several people who have read the committee’s report, it concludes that the agency gained little valuable intelligence from its brutal questioning of Qaeda detainees..." Brutal questioning! This of course makes it seem like the CIA asked impolite questions, such as how much do you make a year, and, let me ask you frankly about your sexual relations with your wife. Brutal stuff there indeed. The of course the al qaeda people went off to their cells for the steak dinners.http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/us/politics/reid-orders-computer-review-to-defend-senate-in-rift-with-cia.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&region=Footer&module=Recommendation&src=recg&pgtype=article
Of course, even without the Panetta report, we actually know that this "brutal questioning" was, o, a tad more than that. This is from Mark Danner's article in the nyrb from two months ago:

"We know a lot now about what went on in those rooms. We have, among many other documents, the minute-by-minute interrogation logs for Mohammed al-Qahtani, the supposed “twentieth hijacker” who was turned back at Orlando airport in August and later captured in Pakistan. It was Qahtani for whom Rumsfeld’s eighteen “counter-resistance techniques” were specially devised, and during his fifty-four days of interrogation he was subjected to nearly all of them: prolonged sleep deprivation—he endured forty-eight twenty-hour interrogations—forced nudity; prolonged stress positions; unremitting, almost unbearable noise; and humiliations of various kinds, sexual and otherwise. He was forced to wear woman’s underwear, and to appear nude in front of female interrogators. He was made to wear a leash and bark and perform “dog tricks,” and forced to endure enemas and intravenous drips. The log, scrupulously compiled by the military interrogators, charts Qahtani’s reactions in mind-numbing and often revolting detail.7 Here are some of Qahtani’s responses:

Detainee began to cry… Visibly anxious… Very emotional… Detainee cried… Disturbed… De- tainee began to cry… Butted SGT R in the eye… Bit the IV tube completely in two… Started moaning… Uncomfortable…Moaning… Began crying hard spontaneously… Crying and praying… Began to cry… Claimed to have been pressured into making a confession… Falling asleep… Very uncomfortable… On the verge of breaking… Angry… Detainee struggled… Detainee asked for prayer… Very agitated… Yelled… Tired… Agitated… Yelled for Allah… Started making odd faces … Near crying… Irritated… Annoyed…Detainee attempted to injure two guards… Became very violent and irate… Attempted to liberate himself… Struggled…Made several attempts to stand up… Screamed.8 "

Since this is what NYT calls brutal questioning, I am a bit curious what other phrases they use to mean a bit more than appears on the surface. For instance, what the Manson family did to Sharon Tate - would the Times call that "brutal harrassment:? Would they call the hijackers that rammed the planes into the WTC men engaged in "brutal urban renewal?" How far does the euphemism go?
I imagine it bores its way, acidically, into the very dark, slimy, stinky heart of the American elite, that abattoir where criminals and their abettors who run us have perfect immunity.

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