Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Deliberate Acts of Cruelty (4.18.09)

Why did they torture?

Torture is against the law.  It is always wrong.  It shocks the conscience.  It shames the nation.  It now turns out it was shaped by psychologists.  Even before it was "legally authorized."  Let's look at the facts.

Abu Zubaida was captured in March of 2002.  And for the first two weeks, during which time his wounds (from being captured) were treated, he was questioned in a non-threatening manner by the FBI.  He was cooperative and gave valuable information, the most important of which was the name of Kalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11.

Two weeks after the initial interrogations, the treatment was changed:
A C.I.A. interrogation team that arrived a week or two later, which included former military psychologists, did not change the approach to questioning, but began to keep him awake night and day with blasting rock music, have his clothes removed and keep his cell cold.
By the summer it was changed drastically:
When the CIA began what it called an "increased pressure phase" with captured terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida in the summer of 2002, its first step was to limit the detainee's human contact to just two people. One was the CIA interrogator, the other a psychologist.

During the extraordinary weeks that followed, it was the psychologist who apparently played the more critical role. According to newly released Justice Department documents, the psychologist provided ideas, practical advice and even legal justification for interrogation methods that would break Abu Zubaida, physically and mentally. Extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding, the use of insects to provoke fear -- all were deemed acceptable, in part because the psychologist said so.
Psychologists would have known about the experiments where volunteers were willing to follow orders given by a psychologist, to administer increasing levels of electric shocks to persons who failed to "learn" a task.  Who better, then, to utilize that information so as to enforce compliance with the torture program they designed?

Psychologists would have known that the first rule of our profession, as in medicine is:  Do no harm

So why did they torture?

Like everyone else in this despicable torture "program" the psychologists and physicians were carefully selected.  Nothing was left to chance.  Lawyers were willing participants, ready to bend the law to achieve the aims of extracting information via torture.  Psychologists were willing participants, ready to use their skills and knowledge against human persons to achieve the aims of personality breakdown as enablers of the interrogation process.

How was this accomplished?  Via psychological assessment.  Of both a prisoner and his torture designers and monitors:
The CIA dispatched personnel from its office of medical services to each secret prison and evaluated medical professionals involved in interrogations "to make sure they could stand up, psychologically handle it," according to a former CIA official.
The agency then used a psychological assessment of Abu Zubaida to find his vulnerable points.
If you were able to stomach the so-called DoJ "authorization" to torture Zubaida, you saw the description of his personality.  And rather than "weak points" they describe him as resilient, they seem to have built a case for why it is necessary to break down his personality:
He is confident, self- assured and possesses an air of authority.  ... He is intelligent and intellectually curious.  He displays "excellent self-discipline."  The assessment describes him as a perfectionist, persistent, private, and highly capable in his social interactions.  He is very guarded about opening up to others... tends not to trust others easily.  He is also "quick to recognize the moods and motivations of others."  Furthermore he is proud of his ability to lie and deceive others successfully.
So they built a "case" - using psychological assessment - of a person they describe as so strong and so resilient that nothing but torture will break him down.  So I am asking:
Where is that report?  Where is the raw data upon which that assessment was made?  Where are the tapes that would prove how uncooperative they say he was?  Where are the tapes that would prove how narcissistic and unbreakable he was deemed to be?  Does the psychological report really "fit" the raw data?  
Let's subject that report to the same careful scrutiny as these torture memos.

Because that report was used to "justify" stepping up the interrogation in ways that broke the law.

Mind you, all of this was done well before any secret legal memos purported to "legalize" torture!  And mind you, torture is always 100% wrong, unethical, illegal.

A detainee, held in secret, without recourse to the Red Cross, without recourse to any legal protection, was systematically probed by psychologists for his weak points, while described by these same psychologists as so strong and resilient that only torture would break him down.  The point of the torture was personality breakdown.  And its willing designers were psychologists.

Personality breakdown is not temporary.  Personality breakdown is, in effect, a state of permanent mental torture, where nightmares and flashbacks and every other sort of PTSD symptom becomes one's daily life.  All of that happening while the person remains jailed in secret, subjected to isolation, humiliation, degradation and deprivations of every sort.  Induced mental illness of the worst possible sort - and left to languish in solitary confinement with no legal recourse.

This is what we've done to a human person.  (Even animal research would never allow such treatment.)

We have legal memos supposedly justifying torture.  Where were the ethicists?

Personality breakdown of Abu Zubaida was the aim.  Some say he was crazy to start with.  Some claim he was mentally strong as a rock.  The latter claim was used to justify torture.   But either way, torture is wrong.

But there was another effect.  His captors were also traumatized by what they witnessed.  They were traumatized watching a man systematically degraded and dehumanized, stripped of clothing, deprived of sleep and adequate nutrition, forced to listen to deafening sounds, to endure cold, to endure painful forced positions, to endure physical abuse of the worst sort.  The captors had to watch this.  This too is a kind of torture.  Imagine yourself - forced to watch, day by day, as a human being is deliberately MADE to break down physically and mentally.  Even an animal would get better treatment than they gave this human person.  And others.

Permanent personality breakdown.  A lifetime of PTSD symptoms.  Of nightmares.  Flashbacks.  Depression.  Anxiety.  A living hell - deliberately induced - after they knew he really had nothing more to tell.

Where are these other poor souls that we now know are also suffering, likely from PTSD symptoms, simply from having been forced to witness someone break down right in front of their eyes?  We know the health care personnel were carefully selected (sadists?).  What about the regular CIA interrogators?  Where are they?  How many folks are now on disability?  With possibly a lifetime of PTSD symptoms - due to watching the dehumanization of a human person?  Oh, they're out there.  We now have proof:
 Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

Even for those who believed that brutal treatment could produce results, the official said, "seeing these depths of human misery and degradation has a traumatic effect."
I'm beginning to think that the reason why there will be no prosecutions of lower level folks is because the government knows they too have broken down mentally, they too are emotional wrecks, and if they were brought to trial, then we would have the public acknowledgment, based on psychological assessments - that torture destroys normal human personalities on both sides of the torture chamber.  Unless, of course, they have been carefully screened to make certain they won't break down.

What type of personality does not break down watching torture - day after day?  You be the judge.  Among them, likely, the health care professionals, carefully screened - to not break down.

How did they know to carefully screen them to not break down?



We, as a nation, were supposed to be better than this.
We, as a people, must be.
Amen, LisB. Amen.
You consider these actions to be torture?
After hearing everybody accuse Bush of being a "torturer" I was expecting to read about electrocution, decapitation, dismemberment, execution, etc.

Sorry to hear your conscience is not shocked...
Which acts do you consider to be torture?
All of them

Bill, two--possibly three or all--of the four acts you mention are not torture. Decapitation and execution are like the opposite of torture. People being tortured--living a nightmare--would pray for execution. Bill, think this through.
I did think it through. I guess I shouldn't have brought up those other acts. My point is that the stuff described in those memos doesn't seem like torture to me
Bill, think of it like this. Torture is not about inflicting the greatest amount of pain. Torture is about inflicting the greatest amount of fear.
If torture's aim was to inflict the greatest amount of pain, then yes you would be correct. Things like knives under fingernails and gasoline in open wounds would be torture. But if torture is about inflicting the greatest amount of fear, then putting people in certain situations or making them believe certain things would be the worst kind of torture.
Because, Bill, ultimately fear is about belief/anticipation. You're afraid if you believe/anticipate something really awful is about to happen--whether it's that you're going to drown, or that the object of your greatest fear is going to present itself to you.
I understand your confusion. I think you're just mistaking the objective of torture.
I wonder if the "greatest amount of fear" is existential disintegration/existential horror - as a person faces the abyss that they are trapped in horror, face to face with a total absence of human compassion - whatever that word would be. That endless hell of "another" who acts contrary to everything we think of as humane - that the prisoner is face to face with something unthinkable, another "person" out to destroy their own humanity, out to do everything to eradicate their worth and dignity. (I can't even put it into words - but it is the horror of seeing pure evil in the face and actions of another.)
Yes. I think of it theatrically--since words just won't do.
Torture is an actor turning a character into a prop.
To be a character and experience an actor turning you into a prop is to experience what Marlin Brando described as "the horror... the horror."
And you're so right: it's existential horror and existential disintegration. This does not necessarily entail physical pain. It doesn't have to. To lose your personhood is the greatest pain of all.
Not just a prop. A prop to be tinkered with. Exploited. Experimented with. Smashed. Thrown. Treated as garbage. An actor treated as garbage.
You're so right. Because it's an "interaction" where one party alone determines the next cruelty.
Great call. I was thinking of it in 3D, you're thinking of it in 4D. It's not just to be a prop. It's to be at the whim of the actor. Once the process is "successful," it's to be totally under control. Unless you count volition over your bodily functions (stages 1 and 2). As if that holds any meaning when you're turned into a toilet.
Thus the "terrible intimacy" aspect of torture.
I think torture is different from fear. If I can get one of the prisoners to think that they're going to die because of something I might do to them in the future, and that causes them to give me valuable information, then I don't think that necessarily tortured them. Someone thinking they are going to die is not necessarily severe mental pain or suffering.
Except that threats of death are specifically outlawed under Geneva and the torture conventions. A threat of death is considered an act of torture.
Did the US make death threats at the prisoners?
No. You mentioned it above and said you did not think it was torture! But even the torture memos agree that it would be!!!! Sad that.
I don't think I said anything about death threats being made at the prisoners.
Yes, you did Bill. Up above. I'm quoting you:
I think torture is different from fear. If I can get one of the prisoners to think that they're going to die because of something I might do to them in the future, and that causes them to give me valuable information, then I don't think that necessarily tortured them. Someone thinking they are going to die is not necessarily severe mental pain or suffering.
I didn't say that the prisoners were receiving death threats. I said that they thought they would die. I think there's a difference.
Bill, the kind of fear that I'm talking about is not fear of death. It's worse than that. Again, you would pray for death over certain kinds of mental anguish. The breakdown of your personality--the splintering of your ego--is mental crucifixion. At some point in the crucifixion process, say several days in, don't you think death would be a HOPE--not a fear.
Let's distinguish between two different kinds of fear. There's fear of death and then there's fear of life--life as nightmare. The ultimate aim of torture is fear of life. Bill, think that through.
Indeed, many of these folks try to kill themselves. They want to die!
I've thought it through. And it doesn't seem as bad as everyone makes it ought to be.
So you wouldn't mind it, huh? Personally - done to you...
I definitely would not enjoy it if done to me. It's probably why I haven't committed any terrorist acts against our country.
But just because I wouldn't want it done to me does not mean that it's torture.
Bill, you might want to think about what you're saying.
"I definitely would not enjoy it if done to me. It's probably why I haven't committed any terrorist acts against our country."
Any other reason why you haven't committed terrorist acts? Other than what would happen if you got caught? Anything about the act itself being wrong? Just wondering...
Sure there are other reasons. Like the one you mentioned that it would be wrong. But being locked up is also certainly a deterrant
Are you suggesting that the "life as nightmare" phenomena does not exist, or that personality breakdown could not cause "life as nightmare," or that these techniques in the memos could not cause personality breakdown?
You say, "it's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be." What's not? The techniques? You think that the human psyche is impenetrable? You think that you're so strong that your personality would never break? You think that you have not a single weakness?
Bill, if you value anything in this world, anything at all, then "torture" (properly understood as the induction of fear of life) means that whatever you value would be stolen from you and destroyed in front of your eyes. Your reality, your beliefs, your worth, your relationships, and most importantly you yourself... gone. Not so bad??? How are you going to make that judgment??? What would be left to say, "this isn't that bad." You're not there anymore "Bill"

I would like to add that torture involves both physical and mental/emotional pain or the fear of future pain/loss. The memo I saw mentioning waterboarding made it quite clear that the effect is subconscious or unconscious -- they told the detainee what they were going to do, and the detainee experiences a physiological as well as psychological reaction. Bill is just ignoring the basic evidence in the memos.
Bill is also mistaken about death threats. People who do not fear death will not be moved by death threats, so there again the fear is the factor in the torture. I didn't see you or TheraP mention this aspect.
Bill is simply looking to minimize, but he's doing so quite illogically and probably irrationally. It's hard to believe he's sincere (not a polite troll). It could be he represents a kind of '24' viewer extremist mentality which does factor in as a political force to be dealt with even if marginal. And not just '24', but other fiction which depicts torture in ways which might become archetypical and thus focal points for attention which distract from the realities of torture.
Bill, Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil while discussing the crimes in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, I suggest you find a copy and read it - and think about it.
Well, if it wasn't torture, then they just weren't doing everything they could to protect us from the evil-doers! And we're America,dammit, when we torture, we go for the gold.
I was once told that the Shah of Iran (installed after the CIA-led coup against their modern, moderate and democratically elected president) used to cut a small slit in a prisoner's scrotum and pour in hot lead. Would that satisfy your definition?
You see, that sounds like a very painful thing and that kind of torture is all about the severest physical pain. But, regardless of denials, our enhanced torture also used pain but in combination with scientifically researched psychological torment such as constant psychological harassment, degradation, deprivations and convincing threats of death.
That the pain was targeted, controlled(only 20 minutes of waterboarding at a time), prolonged, and combined physical and psychological methods for effect does equate to severe torture.
In this excellent article on our torture lite (as much as was known in 2003) Mark Bowden gives a rundown of CIA history of experimentation. They found that sensory and sleep deprivation were more effective than the other methods they were trying like LSD. Anyway, even if it was only "torture lite," it was still illegal torture and done in our name.
...the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
I'll go with that definition.
I know what the UN definition is. But that doesn't answer the question of whether or not the actions described in the memo meet this definition or not. In my opinion they don't fit under the definition of severe pain or suffering.
I guess you're only going to agree if you've "been there/done that" and of course we're not going to put you through it. For years unending.
I would agree if I thought those acts violated the UN's definition of torture. But I don't think they did.
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood."
You conveniently did not read the next 4 words "whether physical or mental."
I read the whole thing. And I just don't think that the acts done were done to inflict severe pain or suffering, physical or mental.
Ah, sounds like you're willing to excuse the behavior because they had purity of intention in your view. By that definitely, they should be able to pull out toenails and so on. As long as their intentions are pure.
I understand you want to believe these are people with the purest of intentions. And you're trying to convince the majority of people here that a "pure end" justifies any means.
I hope it never happens to you.
I never used the word "purity". But the actions are only considered torture if the intention is severe pain or suffering. I don't consider what they did to be severe pain or suffering, physical or mental.
And I also never said that "any means" is justified. There are plenty of acts that I would consider torture and I would not approve of them
You are one sick puppy.... get help!
Why, because I'm part of the one-third of Americans that don't think any investigation is needed for these "torture" claims? (At least that was the latest poll numbers I saw)
Bill, I hear they're looking for a tour guide at the Bush Legacy Library. You may be just the man for the job.
You can think I'm crazy. But based on some recent polls, only two-thirds of the country feels there should be investigations of this "torture". I'm assuming that if you are in favor of an investigation then you think torture took place.
So that means that only one-third of the country agrees with me. Maybe if the minority was closer to single-digits then you'd have some ground to stand on when you put me in the lunatic fringe.
Bill, I don't think you're crazy. I just think you're only perceiving one level of the issue--and you're convincing yourself that this one level is the only level to the issue.
In reality, torture is a very complex thing. It's painful to even think about some of it. If this isn't painful for you to think about, then you're probably blocking an empathic level. I don't know why, maybe something traumatic has happened in your past, you haven't dealt with it, and so to activate your empathic level means that past pain floods your whole system. So instead, you would rather ignore it.
I don't think that makes you crazy. I just think that's a poor strategy for living. And every day is another day to change strategies.
Bill correctly questions the standard for "severe" but we have a preliminary answer in the text which Bill also conveniently ignores:
"It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."
The only pain and suffering explicitly ruled out as NOT torture is specifically that. So any added pain or suffering *inflicted* on a detainee etc. is a reasonable grounds for a claim that torture occurred. That is, absent further definition of "severe" we have a working definition.
That Bill ignores such obvious factors is simply dishonesty on his part. But you probably knew that...
Bill, this is from the diagnostic criteria for anti social personality disorder.
Three or more of the following are required:[1]
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

I'll tell ya what torture is; it's listening to these BushCo apologists define what "is" is.
"The ceaseless indignation and outrage is cruel, but...spare me the Torture."
We must know the enemy, however harrowing the crimes and we must be on first hand terms with the appalling abuses of power to immunize ourselves from evil.
New York Times, Lead Sunday Editorial is The Torturer's Manifesto:
To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity. Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect — all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.
These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.
Until Americans and their leaders fully understand the rules the Bush administration concocted to justify such abuses — and who set the rules and who approved them — there is no hope of fixing a profoundly broken system of justice and ensuring that that these acts are never repeated.
And more... here:

Thank you for this post, TheraP. As a psychologist, I was dumbfounded with the APA's position on this. (Thankfully modified).
I was once a faculty member in a clinical graduate program. I'm not a clinician, but as you probably know, "non-clinicians" (as we were referred to, hilariously, I thought) taught the clinical graduate students. One person continues to haunt me whenever I think about the role psychologists played in our government's policy of torture. He was an undisciplined individual who wasn't interested very much in learning about his field--he was mostly interested in getting his degree and getting out. And the quality of his work reflected that.
Once he was out, after his internship, he started working for the government, and served as a consultant on the issue of treatment of prisoners.
You're right: they were chosen carefully.
Some of the most compassionate members of the psych dept in my grad program were not clinical psychologists....
This is so agonizing. But it had to be written by a psychologist. It sickens me.
TheraP, as a clinical social worker, I am aghast at what kind of convoluted process must have rounded up the willing helpers from our (yours and mine and CT Voter's and no doubt others here) professions.
The project evolved via a reverse engineering of the SERE program, used to teach our own military how to withstand torture. And they used the Learned Helplessness principles developed by Martin E.P. Seligman, a trail blazer psychologist. What a twisted thing to do. I have the clear sense, by the way, that he was "used" early on without knowingly participating as it evolved. I hope that is the case.
Thanks for this post. It draws a brilliant bright line just where it's needed.
It is early on with this and we're impatient. But we must be, huh?
It's early in the Obama administration, but 6 years, for me, since I was concerned about this. Yes, it is hard to be patient. But we're after Justice. And Justice is a very slow process.
I agree that for any of us in the helping professions this is a very dark time. Very dark!
Carrol, I don't think Seligman was innocent in this at all. From Counterpunch:
These techniques apparently drew heavily on the theory of "learned helplessness" developed by former American Psychological Association President Martin Seligman. (Seligman’s work involved tormenting dogs with electrical shocks until they became totally unable or unwilling to extract themselves from the painful situation. Hence the phrase “learned helplessness.”),/i>
First do no harm, indeed. What kind of trail blazing was Seligman doing? He went on to lecture at the CIA (and Drs. Jessen and Mitchell who were most responsible for the reverse SERE program also followed him). The APA, despite loud protest from its members, basically endorsed the program and agreeing with Seligman (who was not opposed to torture).
As Mary2002 points out below Jane Mayer has been out front on this all along: But at the Nuremberg trials, after the Second World War, revulsion at Nazi atrocities led to the establishment of rules barring medical mistreatment, even for reasons of national security. A section of the 1950 Geneva Convention, for example, states that “no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned.” In 1962, the U.S. passed the first law requiring doctors to obtain “informed consent” from patients. And in 1975 the World Medical Association, or W.M.A., issued the Declaration of Tokyo, which barred medical personnel from participation in either torture or abuse, even as monitors. The American Medical Association is a member of the W.M.A., which means that U.S. doctors must follow its ethical standards.
The methods they developed were meant as a scheme or combination of torture practices, not any single application of some “technique” like stress positions. The objective is, as TherP says, a psychological breakdown and many were permanently damaged; many committed suicide. I don’t know much about this but it seems like sensory deprivation or a week without sleep would probably do it alone, but as the guards at Abu Ghraib were told, the detainees have to be “softened up first”.
What fails to get much attention in all this is that many, probably a majority, of these "terrorist enemy combatants," with no rights as human beings, who were physically and psychologically tortured were and are-
It is so horrifying to me, Don, to consider that psychologists used so much research "backwards" - to implement the opposite of "do no harm" - the utter opposite of what our profession "should" stand for. Oh, the horror! But I buy what you're saying - hard as it is to swallow.
Don, I very much appreciate your clarification. I had not been following the Psychological Assn. aspect of the torture history. What you report does not sound like Seligman was used, much as I hate to know it.
I know they say that evil dwells where good men do nothing but I’ve no doubt that most medical practitioners (as well as soldiers, military lawyers, etc.) were vehemently opposed to this, just as in wars past where retired generals were the first to speak up against wrongheaded misadventures.
But the clamdown was on. I think there were many individuals trying to stop this stuff but were dismissed by the powerful establishment including the media. Reporters exposing and condemning this as early as 2002 went mostly unheard by the broader public and warnings unheeded. It seems like a failure of institutions all around. The whole system was poisoned from the top down. It was not only SERE that was reverse engineered but much of the Constitution.
An imbalance has been instated and power needs to be restored to the people not the elite. Reformers need to take back the implements of power both in government and the institutions that colluded with them (one reason I was vehemently opposed to telecom immunity). Did those that were in power believe they were doing the right thing? It don’t know if it really matters.
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.-Hannah Arendt
Prior to the Bush Administration, it would have been ridiculous to even ask the question "How much torture is too much torture?" Now, we split hairs trying to justify embracing terrorism in this effort to supposedly fight terrorism.
"Let us take a trip to hell - and call it necessary."
That's what they've done!
Alas, SleepinJesus, I wish you were right. We all need to stand up to this crappola. When I was a young man, in the mid 1960s, I was trained as a counterintelligence agent at the U.S. Army Intelligence School, then located at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. We had an instructor tell us that, "The United States of America does not torture people." He then spent a week giving us, in obscene detail, the manner in which the Germans, the Russians, the Japanese, and others tortured people in various wars in order to get them to talk. At the end of that time, he said simply, "We do what we have to do." End of those classes. Officially, we did not torture. The memory of what he taught us lingers with me. Disgusting!
How did they know to carefully screen them to not break down?
Indeed. What manner of people would know that, and are they people that should be leading this Nation, ever?
That, to me, dear bwak, is the most chilling thought here! They knew. They knew this was going to be "so terrible" that normal humans would break down just watching it!
Now.... what does that tell us about Condi Rice and her little team of torture-watchers?
Sadly, Thera, it tells us what I've been saying about it all along. These people are doing it because they get off on human suffering. It is as food and drink to them. Something about meting out carefully measured (and gradually increasing) doses of misery excites them in ways I'd really rather not consider too long or too thoroughly.
And they seek out the minions who are both sadistic enough in their own right and pliable enough with regard to "authority" to carry that infliction of misery out, as they are then able to stand at a distance, disclaim their own involvement in the name of "bad apples", and keep their own hands (relatively) clean.
No doubt this makes me sound a real misanthrope. Well, to a certain extent I am. We as a species have a very dark and dangerous side.
You don't sound like a misanthrope to me!
You sound eminently realistic!
There's a difference?
Yes, there is. A true misanthrope, is pessimistic and does not really care about the human condition. (At least that's my read.)
I don't think there is any more disquieting, disgusting element to this entire issue than the fact doctors - physicians - were present at the torture sessions. First, do no harm. What happened to that oath? Where did they file away their consciences? Under what bushel did they hide their humanity?
Great post, TheraP.
Thank you, SF Curt. Yes, it's a disgusting thing! Deeply shameful - especially given how psychologists designed this!
They were deliberately picked for this. I am sure of it!
They must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
This is just another scary example of how we're following in the footsteps of our 20th century German friends.
It doesn't surprise me at bit that we can elect people who do the wrong thing. What terrifies me is that the opposition party enables them to do it again by refusing to hold them accountable.
You're right. There is no one looking very good in this.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'
It's time to take responsibility, and demand responsibility.

Sign the petition - asking Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor:
Signed and contributed. Thanks for the link, Thera.
Good for you!!!! Would you ever have thought we'd need to do this? (rhetorical question)
Yez, signed. Any way of making noise is good. Petitions, letter, emails, phone calls, blogs. Just keep making noise.

You rawk!
I have not given up yet. I maintain a firm conviction that investigations and prosecutions must take place. And it would terrify me too if it did not!
The repubs are itching to get their power back. But let us call for more and more to come out. Let us keep asking for more info. We must do this. I simply can't throw in the towel here - or we are done for as a nation!
So far, APA and AMA have not responded to my requests for a statement about the ICRC report. Nor has the White House, or any of my elected representatives. I assume that they are busy shredding stuff. Remember the fire in Cheney office? Government by the money and for the money.
It took until last Fall to get the APA (for psychologists) to take a stand against torture (and even that is tepid, in my view). The AMA's stand is, and has been, very stringent: You can't watch it; you must report it.
I well recall the fire in cheney's office. I also recall the reports of huge paper-shredding trucks outside the VP's residence for at least a month several years back.
My hope is whistle-blowers. Maybe these same folks who are traumatized by having watched torture. We may yet see these tapes surface - or maybe they have already surfaced but that info is right now classified. I have no doubt more info will come to light. It is inevitable!
Keep pressing for that info on the ICRC report! Good going!!!

Unfortunately, whistleblowing is more often than not a certain means of derailing your life - I speak from experience.
So what do we do? Send lots of e-mails, question our elected officials (I hesitate to say leaders). Or take a page from the French and protest in the streets, call general strikes. After all a lot of people will be at loose ends due to the economy. No justice, no peace perhaps?
Mr. TheraP and I know that from personal experience as well.
But here's the thing: If some of these people who were closely involved in the torture are now disabled and thus no longer able to work, they know a lot. And they have nothing to lose now! Indeed, it may be healing to them if they come forward and tell what they know.
We cannot expect that everyone will come forward. All it takes is a few.
And kudos to you for your whistle-blowing stand - whatever it was for.

I didn’t really know what torture meant until I saw the photos of Abu Ghraib. It was no longer abstract. We all know now so how can we let the government get away with it? As a nation we witnessed it and therefore are victims too. We became the terrorists. Surely we have it in us to find a way back to compassion and sanity – I hope.
Torture destroys human beings. The only way for reconciliation to occur is for us as a society to go through the long process of truth, and justice. Torture carries pain to the infinite. There is no way to dismiss torture as if it were ever justified because some AG or lawyers thought so. I cannot accept the President’s statement – I signed the petition (above). For national healing to ever proceed we must continue to resist this false absolution. Forgiveness is way down the road…
Excellent post. Thank you TheraP.

Bless you, stratofrog, for a beautiful comment and for your commitment that we face the truth and heal as a nation.
I wonder where the pressure for this came from. I suspect, ad hoc, Cheney. He pressured the CIA for info suitable to justify an attack on Iraq. Why should we think he didn't pressure them to do this too?
If the pressure didn't from the top down, then it came from some middle source(s). But would that be a kind of mid-level cabal or just overeager managers NOT subject to pressure from their bosses?
We know that a group, including Condi Rice and cheney and others, watched torture sessions. They were literally "signing off" on such behavior. I'll see if I can get a link for you.
There are many speculations about how this occurred, eds. One is that they wanted excuses to prolong the wars. Another, that they were trying to find excuses for having taken so many nobodies into custody. Sadism? Could be that too.
I think your fingering of cheney is likely correct. As he had his own chain of command and was obsessed with intelligence gathering - to fit his preordained view of the world.
Thanks for your questions.

This is as close as I can get at the moment:
That article contradicts the story going around that nothing much was learned after torture:
TheraP: "he was questioned in a non-threatening manner by the FBI. He was cooperative and gave valuable information, the most important of which was the name of Kalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11."
ABC: "After he was waterboarded, officials say Zubaydah gave up valuable information that led to the capture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad and fellow 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh. "
The article also suggests that valuable info was given by Mohammad after waterboarding.
So, who is lying?
I'm not justifying the methods here, btw.
On the larger topic of the thread -- cruelty is a pretty broad notion as indicated by this entry for 'cruel':
1. willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others. 2. enjoying the pain or distress of others: the cruel spectators of the gladiatorial contests. 3. causing or marked by great pain or distress: a cruel remark; a cruel affliction. 4. rigid; stern; strict; unrelentingly severe.
2 = sadism
3 requires "great pain or distress"
I don't see anyone that we know of in the USA's chain of torture fitting 2. 4 seems unremarkable. 1 is pretty vague. So, are you talking about 3? That requires a standard of pain or distress in order to establish "great" as something like "8 or more on a scale of 10". I think the psychologists and lawyers etc. were there not to torture but to maintain an orderly and controlled environment in which conduct approaching or perhaps exceeding definitions of torture would occur.
"first do no harm" applies to medicine (and I suppose to psychology outside of strict medicine), in a diagnostic, therapeutic or research setting.
Bush's statement that "we don't torture" could be true, ignorant, or a lie. Waterboarding as described in the memos as creating physiological and psychologically based perceptual equivalents to drowning surely amounts to imposition of "great distress".

We have the OLC memos. Are there any memos which presented an alternative or contrary view (eg, that some or all of the techniques were torture or violations of treaties or US law), and did anyone on the Principals Committee consider them seriously? Do the OLC memos in a close reading overtly approve torture or are they parsed to only suggest that?

Boy, you rolled a lot into one comment!
Cruel - as you say:
willfully or knowingly causing pain or distress to others
Yes, they willfully did it! It was cruel. They were out to cause personality breakdowns. That is cruel. It was deliberate. And it was designed by psychologists - who would have known the results.
First do no harm is exactly what the psychologists and medical personnel are ethically bound to carry out.
Problem with the OLC memos is that they carefully screened for the lawyers who would do their bidding. And there is no evidence, according to the legal folks, that they looked at the law in any way except to try and circumvent it. Many legal experts view these torture memos as very poorly reasoned from a legal point of view.
As for the link above, it was the best I could do, but it's not the best link. You can search for a better one if you have the time.

The title of this post is a "counterpoint" to this other post:
And you could also consider this post to be the flip side of the post related to Erikson's Stage 8:
"Boy, you rolled a lot into one comment!"
Yes, there were 4 simple points.
We don't agree about cruelty. I accept #3, you base your argument on #1. But not all knowingly inflicted pain or distress is properly called cruelty in general. We don't live in "nice-nice" world, and from kids to adults, sometimes what other people knowingly do causes us pain or distress. Thus I require additional criteria, whether as to quantity or quality (thus a scale of 0-10 as a start).
We can hope that more info about the workings of the Committee come out.
And I'm not defending an assault on a personality...
If you think all interrogations are cruel to the point of torture, that's a defensible but radical and anti-pragmatic position. If you accept some interrogations, then where is the line drawn between the acceptable and the unacceptable? Whatever your point in this blog, I think this is the large-view question for politics and conscience.

Peace be with you.
Daniel Coleman on the record and others in many articles and in Suskind's and Mayer's and Grey's books offer some insight into your question on info derived after he was waterboarded. As they point out, there are other known sources for the info on KSM's location and Ramzi bin al-Shibh's location. So they are pretty adamant that this is just tack on from the CIA. The Karachi safehouse location came from an al-Jazeera reporter per most sources.
So, who is lying? Well, go read Suskind's and Mayer's books, get all the info on the disclosed sources of that info, read up on Daniel Coleman then ask yourself, who has the reason to lie? Coleman et al (who can point to the alternative sourcing as well, and who were integrally tied to and vested in tracknig down al-Qaeda and who wanted info themselves pretty desparately) or CIA torturers?
Re: not seeing anything that brings sadism to mind, again, it depends on what all you have looked at. From Mayer's reports and book we find out that the same female CIA officer who caused the CIA to keep Khalid el-Masri for months even after they figured out the had the wrong guy (and despite a cadre of non-CIA guys in Macedonia knowing about the snatch) and who arranged for el-Masri to be dumped in a woods in a foreign country (while they all grinned over how no one would believe his story) - that same woman pined to see waterboarding done, to the point where she booked a trip and imposed herself into a waterboarding just so she could watch. According to Mayer she was given a censure and advised that the waterboarding wasn't being done just for her pleasure - and then when things got hot, CIA gave her a covert assignment so that her name couldn't be given in the investigations.
We also know that there is an IG report the size of two Manhatten phone books replete with issues and that several sources have mentioned a CIA agent the report has indicated became shockingly dehumanized. We also know that Jack Cloonan mentioned that the CIA sendoff for al-Libbi invovled some detailed discussion of how his mother was going to be picked up and raped and we know that there were multiple instances of threats of rape to family members - something not listed in the "memos" as approved and also something that is done in particular in Egypt which was at the heart of many of the threats.
We know that KSM's two young children (6 and 8 or 7 and 9, depending on who you read) were also picked up by a joint US/Pakistani force and have stayed disappeared- something that not much other than sadism would seem to explain. Moreover, we multiple reports of things that were being suggested and started for Zubaydah getting so far out of hand - to the point of actual plans to bury him alive and pursue other options as well - that an FBI agent was threatening to arrest the interrogators over what they were doing. Those things sound to me like there was quite a bit more sadism involved than you mention. Add in the modus operandi of stripping, hooding and then anally assualting with suppositories (rather than given a tranq via other methods) and that seems pretty calculatingly sadistic. Add in Bush telling Tenet that they had to make sure he (Bush) did not lose face as the justification for the torture and once again, the huge IG report that has never been made public and I think it's hard to get around almost any definition of cruelty you wish to use from your list.
Bush's statement that "we don't torture" could be true, ignorant, or a lie.
It had to be a lie, even using their own definitions. According to both Dana Priest and Jane Mayer's reporting, in Nov of 2002, we froze to death a "young detainee" in Afghanistan. Jamadi, the "ice man" from Abu Ghraib was killed during his interrogation with a CIA agent. Dilawar, a cab driver, had his legs pulpified while he was tied in a position so that he could only breath if he stood on them - and he died. The interrogation treatments sent Qhatanis heartbeat to almost non-existant land. Did I mention that we've never heard what happened to KSM's children?
In addition, the memos very deliberately stayed away from the issues of forced drugging (which has been repeated reported); simulated sodomy (also repeatedly reported) actual application of waterboarding in a manner that went beyond simulating drowning and included actual drowning and revivals; isolation for years; threats (which may well have become much more than threats) to family members; threatened and actual shipment to other foreign countries for more torture; etc.
Are there any memos which presented an alternative or contrary view (eg, that some or all of the techniques were torture or violations of treaties or US law)
Well, we have actual cases, like the prosecutions for waterboarding (none of which are mentioned in the OLC memos) and cases like Hilaos v. Marcos, where the combination of isolation, waterboarding and sleep deprivation is absolutely treated by the court as torture. As to any memos, I'm not sure I know what you mean but early on there were some memos from Taft, as Powell's General Counsel, STRONGLY advising that Geneva Conventions do and should apply to all detainees (the Sup Ct later agreeed with his position) and then we have that huge IG report as well, which the Principals would have had by the 2005 memos, advising that things were going well beyond what the memos mention repeatedly, that people were lying, that people had died, etc.
all fwiw

"As to any memos"
The context was meant to be the Principals Committee or other relevant body(ies) dealing with oversight of detainee/subject interrogations and other management. The OLC memos tell a story, but hardly the whole story.
Thanks for all the other leads.
Mary, bless you for this long comment and all the details. I know you have read them and posted on this many, many times over at emptywheel.
Very helpful for the questions asked by eds.
ABC: "After he was waterboarded, officials say Zubaydah gave up valuable information that led to the capture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad and fellow 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh. "
So, who is lying?

The Bushies are lying. And it turns out Zubaida was never even a 'high value' target.
Abu Zubaida (alternate spelling) was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after Sept. 11 -- and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan. [p.1]
Zubaida gave up KSM before the waterboarding.
The only 'lead' the interrogators got that didn't blow up in immediate smoke after the use of torture, was the name of Jose Padilla, who spent 3.5 years in a navy prison without ever being charged.
Turns out none of the EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) were valuable for stopping plots.
Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said. [p.4]
Yes, I agree. It was before the waterboarding. Before the torture. Thanks for that helpful comment, seashell.
So you're saying the ABC report is lying?
You need to read the two stories carefully. If he gave up the name right away but not the whole story until later, then waterboarding did get more info. I'm not up to wading through all the sources, I'm simply pointing out obvious issues.
Propaganda is often swallowed by the MSM - you must know that by now!
Maybe. Maybe I know it, maybe it happens.
You're not doing anything to clarify or refute here. Are you feeling complacent or merely overloaded today?
It could that both stories are true, but that people take false implications from one or both of them, as if the illusion were the reality or the deeper truth of the matter. But since we cannot seem to agree on even the operant definition of 'cruelty' there doesn't seem to be any point in trying to get at finer distinctions here.

I am not sure how, but hadn't heard about that level of micromanagement. (probably because I am subconsciously trying to avoid the nauseating details). I just assumed they signed something and didn't dirty their hands. Thanks for that link, it is very depressing.
These people are sick.
I can see international warrants being posted but have a very hard time seeing our courts take up the challenge. At the very least I would like to see a Truth and Reconciliation type investigation with all the DOJ lawyers disbarred.
Call me nuts, but I will continue to work for investigations and prosecutions. It may take a very long time. But it's necessary. And it's the law!
No you are not nuts. Keep up the fight. I strongly agree with you.
I shake your hand across the miles.... :-)
I agree, eds. I am sure it came from Cheney. He is a creep.
Somehow I was ignorant of the Principals Committee, until I read TheraP's linked article.
But that doesn't get Cheney off the hook. The Committee might have effectively rubber-stamped the initiatives of one or more of its members, and clearly Cheney was "a force to be reckoned with", so to speak.
You are correct that the Principals's Committee doesn't get anybody off the hook. It actually places them securely ON the hook! All of them!
Perhaps, but I'm talking about tracing the dynamics of the leadership, not pointing out guilty collaborators. It's one thing to go along with a bad idea, it's another to push and sell the bad idea in the first place. This isn't about blame as you'd seem to have it, it's about understanding the flow of power in high places. And yes, I'm quite aware of Einstein's remark about what makes the world a dangerous place (not the evil in it, but the complacency about said evils).
Setting out to psychologically destroy a person, this needs to be proven clearly (if alleged seriously). Silently allowing that to happen as a side-effect is also a problem but a different problem. Complaining about the side-effect up the chain of command is something else. Quitting your job ... Blowing the whistle ... It sounds like lots of reports and instructions flowed both ways from the general political vicinity of the White House to the "torture chambers".
In any event, I'm not arguing against investigations or rational prosecutions.
Peace be with you.
And yes, I'm quite aware of Einstein's remark about what makes the world a dangerous place (not the evil in it, but the complacency about said evils).
Sometimes, I dunno what to do with you.
It is all about Einstein's remark eds. I trust you will not be complacent?
You consider my contributions at TPM a hint of complacency??
Thanks for being a force for good.
Been wondering where you've been so it's good to see this post in more ways than one!
The entire post is excellent, but all that really needs saying is in the begining:
"Torture is against the law. It is always wrong. It shocks the conscience. It shames the nation."
All of the methods described in the torture memos released this week that our country has been using to torture captives and which the President refuses to either investigate or prosecute are exactly, let me repeat exactly, the methods used by the Nazi's during their reign of terror as well as those used by the NKVD in Stalin's Soviet Union against prisoners both foreign and domestic. Torture generally and the methods in question particularly are nothing but uncivilized brutality and the tools of tyrants, dictators and despots throughout history. We prosecuted more than a few Japanese and Germans for using these mothods on human beings and would not have entertained the idea of failing to do so. I would add that Nazi, Soviet, and Japanese torturers all committed their crimes under color of law and lawful orders. That is why international conventions explicitly rule out the use of any legal mechanisms as cover for this behavior or as an admissable defense for these crimes.
If we allow these crimes to go unpunished then our nation descends to the level of the worst totalitarian thugs in world history. I simply do not see how we can allow this to be.
I needed a break. I still need more rest. Partly it's the elderly parents (92 and 87). Partly the holidays. Partly just worn out from the Cafe wars.
But this aspect of the torture was not being adequately covered - as I've tried to do it above. And I simply felt duty calling this morning - though my preference and need was to rest.
Thank you for adding the excellent background information, oleeb. And your stirring words. You are correct that all we should need to write is what I started out with. A few short sentences. And it is a tragic and reprehensible place we've come to - where all of this needs to be discussed and parsed and castigated. I am sickened by all of this.
Like you, I am certain we must face it all. Sign the petition for a special prosecutor:

You're lucky to have parents still with you!
I understand needing a break so get your rest but don't be away too long!
Aye! Aye! I'll do my best.
In a strange case of coincidence, Haaretz just published a long interview with a pyschologist/novelist, Dr Zvi Sela, who uses writing fiction to exorcise his own demons.
He was involved in intelligence for years and for 3 of them, he served as an interrogator in an Israeli prison holding it's most prized enemies, including the later assassinated founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. (Despite the conditions he endured for five years, the paralyzed Yassin did not break).
Germaine to this discussion is the following:
"A well-known psychologist among personnel in the Mossad, the Shin Bet security service and the army, Sela says that he, too, is waging a constant struggle with old memories that haunt him.
"The everyday activity in these professions generates anxieties and intense fears," he admits. "You are always in an unclear world and involved in existential situations. I remember one case I experienced when I was chief of detectives and intelligence in the Sharon District in the 1980s. Benny, a good friend of mine, was a Shin Bet regional commander at the time. At 2 A.M. we received a phone call that a terrorist had been caught after being seriously wounded in a city in the center of the country. He was taken to Meir Hospital [in Kfar Sava]. At 2:45, Benny and I and another Shin Bet interrogator were there. He was about to undergo surgery and was going to be anesthetized in five minutes, so we could not question him. But he was the only source who could tell us whether he had planted bombs in the city, or whether there was a terrorist squad waiting in some school."
They decided to go ahead with the interrogation, Sela recalls: "We kicked out the doctors, and the Shin Bet interrogator and I started to question the terrorist, even though we knew he might die because of it. He gave us the locations of all the bombs he had planted in the city. You carry a pain like that with you all your life. Questions of morality and legality don't make much difference. Those are the kinds of materials that security personnel bring to sessions with me. People live in that nightmarish world."
Asked if this is why he feels a need to fix or heal himself now, Sela says: "I do not consider myself a writer. Dostoyevsky I will never be. I see myself as someone who tries to be a better person from year to year, but finds that it becomes more difficult from year to year."
Thank you, lally. I will follow up on this. We need to get the word out of how torture harms all involved - on both sides - forever, so long as they have a conscience.
Blessings upon you.
writing fiction to exorcise his own demons.
This man has a conscience. And it has been shocked!
This post makes me sad on so many levels.
I am sad for the tortured. I am sad for the torturers. I am sad for the people who convinced others that the torturing was necessary. I am sad for the people who were convinced. I am sad for the families of all of these people who have been irreversibly harmed by whatever their involvement was.
I know there are many in this country who believe with all their beings that this is necessary for our country's safety, given the fact that radical Islam has no regard for the lives of the people they are killing.
Even if I could be convinced that this is true (and I am not) the fact that many who are tortured are absolutely innocent, yet their lives are destroyed anyway, tells me this is the wrong path to go down. For a country whose core belief is that many guilty should go free rather than see one innocent man punished for something he didn't do, I have a hard time seeing how we can tolerate this.
Torture is against the law. It is always wrong. It shocks the conscience. It shames the nation.
Great words, Thera...they should be our country's mantra.
Awesome comment, Still.
I'd like to use this in my letter to my reps. If that is OK.

Anytime, chicken...I would be honored.
My honor
I concur with bwak. Tremendous comment, stilli!
I feel pretty sad myself... a bit sick to my stomach which all seems appropriate under the circumstances. Thanks for sharing your words.
You can see my larger comment to TheraP below.
I haven't commented on TPM in a while but this was too compelling not to.
Well I'm honored you commented here, Synchronicity. I am truly honored. Thank you.
Now that was well said also, stilli. Along with TheraPs original post, I mean. Both are extremely well said.
Yez. And also.
It is unfortunate that Obama has tarred himself with this issue. I think that he would have been much better off, morally and politically, if he had simply taken a stand and put into motion the processes necessary to identify, try and convict the guilty. By taking the road he has, he has shown that he will compromise on any issue, no matter how important. The UN thinks so, and many here do. Has he by this one act destroyed his presidency and any chance we as a people may have had to disavow the crimes of Bush? I am glad that he at least had the courage to release the information he has, but justice delayed is justice denied.
Obama is the executive. It's not his job to prosecute. He should have stayed out of that in my view. And he should back off and let investigations go forward - through the effective channels the Constitution provides, law enforcement and the Judiciary, as well as Congress. Those are the organs of oversight and Justice.
Yes, he had the courage to release info. And I'm sure he knew it would result in calls for investigations. I doubt he has ruined his presidency. There is yet time for many more things to come out and for investigations to go forward.
I think we need to take the focus off of Obama. And put the focus on calling for Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor. On contacting our elected reps. A focus on Obama here, in my view, is a distraction from calling for the appropriate authorities to take action.

Obama represents the Executive Branch. Holder is not likely to do anything significant unless Obama personally says "go ahead".
Saying "Obama has tarred himself with this issue" goes overboard, imho. It's a subjective statement without good evidentiary basis in fact (that I've seen). But that doesn't mean Obama himself should get a free pass at this point.

From the news about recent statements by the UN special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak:
The United Nation’s top torture investigator has suggested it is illegal under International law for President Barack Obama to announce that the United States government has no intention of prosecuting low-level CIA officers who carried out torture sanctioned by the Bush Administration.
“President Obama deserves credit for rejecting arguments that official disclosure of these ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques would set a dangerous precedent,” opined the LA Times on Saturday. “But he continues to hedge about whether the CIA might once again be freed from the standards of conduct imposed on interrogators for the military. Indignation over these shameful documents should convince the president that a double standard for interrogation is intolerable.”
I think that, having elicited this type of comment from a professional whose business is the investigation of torture that 'tarred' is a relatively mild word to use.
You quote the LA Times opinion.
What did the "expert" actually say?
He "suggested" -- that's kind of weak. And here's more:
"Nowak did not think Obama would go as far as to seek an amnesty law for affected CIA personnel and therefore U.S. courts could still try torture suspects"
So it's pretty clear that your expert witness doesn't agree about "tarred" here unless "tarred" means "Obama raised a legitimate issue in a nuanced fashion. Extremists jumped on him for it and labeled him a criminal."
Thus it's subjective at best.

My cite was from Reuters, btw.
Die USA verletzen die UN-Konvention gegen Folter, wenn sie CIA-Mitarbeitern Straffreiheit zusichern, sagt der UN-Sonderberichterstatter für Folter, Manfred Nowak im STANDARD-Interview
STANDARD: CIA-Folterer sollen laut US-Präsident Obama strafrechtlich nicht belangt werden. Ist das vertretbar?
Nowak: Ganz sicher nicht. Die USA haben sich - wie alle anderen Vertragsstaaten der UN-Konvention gegen die Folter - verpflichtet, Folterungen strafrechtlich zu untersuchen und alle Personen vor Gericht zu stellen, bei denen sich die Beweise als stichhaltig erweisen. Das wäre dasselbe in Österreich: Wir könnten nicht einfach ohne Verletzung dieser Konvention sagen, "aber für bestimmte Folterungen wollen wir eine Ausnahme machen, da gibt es keine strafrechtliche Verfolgung".
Or with Google translation:
"Violation of international law"
17. 17. April 2009, 19:03 April 2009, 19:03
Manfred Nowak calls for an independent investigation of the torture methods Expräsident Bush.
The U.S. violates the UN Convention against Torture when CIA employees assure impunity, says the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak in an interview STANDARD

STANDARD: CIA torturers, according to U.S. President Obama is not criminally prosecuted. Is this acceptable?
Nowak: Absolutely not. The USA has - like all other States Parties to the UN Convention against torture - committed criminal acts of torture be investigated and all persons to court, where the evidence as proving unfounded. That would be the same in Austria, we simply could not without violating this convention to say, "but for certain acts of torture, we want to make an exception, since there is no criminal prosecution."
STANDARD: In other words: With this announcement Obama runs against international law?
Nowak: Right. Against binding international treaty law in the case, because this is an international convention - and since it is quite clear that the states not only to commit torture a criminal offense to make, but also the torturer to prosecute.
I'm glad you supplied the German as well. Thanks!
The more I think about it, the more I'm glad to see these published comments from abroad indicating the seriousness of the war crimes offenses and the imperative that they be prosecuted. The more this happens, the more the US will be faced with international demands for Justice to be served.
It could happen that on every trip abroad Obama is faced with leaders needing to bring these issues up. International shaming.
I appreciate the drumbeats for Justice. Let them come from all quarters. At home. And abroad.

We shall see....
Not sure where you got that I said "Obama has tarred himself." Those are not my words.
It appears in this sub-thread. I did not intend to put those words in your mouth, only to use them from this thread to reflect to you something relevant to the thread (IMO).
My comment was directed to his CIA letter, I hold him responsible for attempting to pervert justice. As has been said in many other places, everyone knows what torture is. It is impossible to believe that a professional law enforcement official is ignorant of the distinction. Obama has covered for them. It is a crime in Germany and Austria to deny the holocaust, and it is a crime to provide justification and support for torturers. Obama was the personification of 'Hope' for many who voted for him. He has unfortunately been false to that trust and expectation by publicly stating that the torturers are off the hook. Yes it may be part of a more subtle plan, but it stinks to me.
I hear where you're coming from. We'd all like an idealized leader. We ourselves idealized him. We have to own our idealizations.
At the same time, we have to work to hold him to a higher standard. He's a man who responds to what voters want. Thus our task is clear!
I don't think that it is irrational or idealistic to expect Obama to behave in a fully lawful manner. He took an oath, twice, to uphold the law and protect the Constitution. He did it on Lincolns bible. Justice does not admit to interpretation as a relative. An act is either just, or it is not.
Yes, he must uphold the law. Still, we're waiting to see what happens here. It's too early to tell for sure.
Simple but true, It's who they are...
Im my eyes ... It's cut and dried . . .
VIENNA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA interrogators who used waterboarding on terrorism suspects amounts to a breach of international law, the U.N. rapporteur on torture said. "The United States, like all other states that are part of the U.N. convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court," U.N. special rapporteur Manfred Nowak told the Austrian daily Der Standard.
Obama and his administration in conjunction with congress better sh*t or get off the pot.
No ifs ands or buts . . .
The more pressure from the more places, that benefits the cause!
Thanks, OGD!
This is quite topical . . .
The meat of the discussion begins at 16:30 . . .
Conversations With History UC Berkeley
"The Rumsfeld Memo and the Betrayal of American Values"
Philippe Sands
Professor of International Law
University College London
Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes international lawyer Philippe Sands for a discussion of Bush administration policies regarding international law. Sands analyzes the evolution of international law from the Atlantic Charter to the present. Drawing on research in his two books, "Lawless World," and "Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values," Sands discusses the neo-conservative ideology and practice toward international law. He details the role of a cadre of senior lawyers in the Bush administration who disregarded international law and facilitated the implementation of a torture regime at Guantanamo. In tracing the path of the notorious Rumsfeld memo which approved 18 methods of interrogation of detainees, Sands offers a chilling indictment of the practices and processes of the Bush Administration as it waged its war on terror. He concludes that war crimes may have been committed after 911 and that key players in the administration were guilty of violating the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Treaty and are subject to charges not only in the court of world opinion but also in tribunals invoking universal jurisdiction.
(My bold)
Backgrounder on Harry Kreisler and Conversations
Excellent addition to this discussion. Thanks, OGD!
Thanks for this Therapy. I think much of the country is in shock and I am very concerned that all of this information has been released for the very purpose of making this public record and making us 'all' complicit as in... 'well what did you do about it when you became aware' and letting it become part of the 'wallpaper' of our history, quietly becoming part of the backdrop/scenery. This is all incredibly disturbing.
The movie 'A Few Good Men' addresses the issue of following orders as an excuse for 'doing what is ethically, legally, and morally wrong'. Accountability is about our choices including a choice that we know is wrong and violates the law. In the movie two soldiers are dishonorably discharged for 'following an order' to do something that they knew to be a violation of military code. I am beyond outrage at the notion that the current administration has offered immunity and absolution when whatever the resulting consequences...every person should be held accountable.
We must include demanding accountability from ourselves all the way to those who did the actual criminal acts supposedly on 'our' behalf. Bottom line in my perception, these crimes occurred due to ignorance. In particular, ignorant (ie ill-educated, ill-informed) persons in positions of leadership. We knew they were ignorant and suspected they were capable of such abhorent acts.
On a personal level I must look at whatever I did and did not do to contribute to these wrongful acts and not doing more to put them to an end sooner. I can own my tendency to give up too much power to leaders who are clearly too ignorant to be allowed to operate ethically without a high degree of oversight. Public participation is a form of 'oversight' on our leadership. I knew these leaders to be incredibly ignorant as demonstrated by a multitude of actions including the behavior at Abu Gharaib. I failed to seek out others who were speaking out to give more volume to their voices.
What I feel now, is that I must demand accountability and encourage others to do so all the way up and down the chain in every way that I can in order to make amends and regain my integrity. I feel that this is reprentative of our culture and our country.
We must own the shame of what has been done in the name of our 'safety and security' and learn from this so that it will not be repeated. Otherwise it surely will, even the Obamas must understand this. To regain our integrity there must be accountability.
I encourage all to take a degree of personal responsibility and whatever actions seem appropriate to make amends and regain integrity. It is easy to say 'he' or 'they' did this... we did not do these acts... but in whatever way we 'neglect' to act we contribute to and are complicit in all of the abuses our leaders engage albeit military, political, or financial etc.
Thanks again Therapy for your loud voice of disdain at these outrageous acts.

Such a moving comment, Synchronicity! If I had to sum it up, this line of yours might do:
To regain our integrity there must be accountability.
On a personal level. On a collective level. You've laid it out so well.
Bless you for your candid comments and your commitment to this goal.
Another great movie is 'Judgment at Nuremberg'. Most appropriate for the times.
Good post Thera. You've approached the issue from a different angle than I've seen heretofore. I suppose it should seem obvious in retrospect that taking an oath to 'do no harm' doesn't mean much if it is a sociopath taking the oath in the first place. p.s. signed the petition.

That's literally why I had to do the post. Because I could see an angle that I hadn't seen anywhere.
Thank you, amigo! :-)
This is a really good piece - thank you TheraP.
Even more than watching through the torture sessions with the function of ok-ing the continuation or restart of torture, the pre-torture issues were so repellant.
Who sits there and smiles and asks questions and establishes rapport with a patient when they know they are only doing it to "approve" them for torture. That's just - well, repellant is all I can think of - finding the places that hurt, the fears, etc. and noting them for use in torture and giving the checkmarks on which the authorization to torture will be based - it is really awful to think about.
Thanks, Mary! Your approval here means a lot. And in my view this fits your theory that if we pull all the threads for how the memos got written, we will lay out a case, which will lead us bit by bit to inevitable investigations etc.
A good post TheraP... very good...
Thank you, Jade. Glad you found it helpful.
The word "torture" is a horror in itself, enough to make us shudder at the sound. But there isn't a one of us who can say we haven't known that Americans have, in fact, tortured, long before the Bush administration.
"CIA" suggests black deeds best left unknown. We've never wanted to know the details, lest they were even more horrible than we could have imagined. We put the nastiness out of our heads and went on seeing ourselves as pure and above such things. We believed in the Geneva Convention, and assumed our government believed in it, too. The CIA was a shadow force--a necessary evil used only, we thought, when all else had failed. Then the shock of it: Word came that the Geneva Convention did not apply in these cases. We learned that prisoners were being held without due process, sometimes for years on end. We heard that they were allowed no rights, no communication with their families, no communication with courts of law. That is when most of us knew our government had gone rogue.
Proof positive came with the snapshots from Abu Ghraib. "Interrogation methods" took on a ghastly new meaning. And most of us were rightfully horrified. We couldn't get over it then; we can't get over it now.
We know that something must be done. As TheraP and others in the psych professions have so articulately defined, we can't as individuals or as a nation condone the inhumanity of torture. Not just because it's a terrible act, which it is, but because we can't live with ourselves if we do.
Someone said it saddened them to read this post. I feel the same way. When I think of how far we've fallen I have to wonder if we can ever hold our heads up again. I'm 71 years old and I'm tired. The last eight years have worn me out. I want the government I fought for. I want to see some understanding of our need to see justice served. I don't believe we can come to terms with our own humanity if we let this go.
At the same time, I understand the complex problems facing the White House. At every turn there are crises that need immediate attention. The enormity of the potential prosecution of a past president, vice president and cabinet members for what amounts to war crimes requires such exquisite preparation and care the process can't be rushed, no matter how much we want it to happen now.
The outrage is out there. I have to believe there are those in power who understand the need to see the prosecutions through. We need to keep the issue alive and support any of the legislators who feel the same way. We, as citizens, have a voice. We need to use it every chance we get. (I'm reaching for my Geritol right now. Give me a minute. I'll be right back on the bandwagon.)

I totally understand, Ramona. I too am exhausted by all the years of bushco. And the degradation and trauma bush&cheneyco has put all of us through all these years. And we have another long slog ahead of us. On many fronts: Financial. Health. Education. Legal. Environment. Energy. There is so, so much on the plate.
Being a therapist, I'm used to focusing on the small steps in the right direction and looking to see how we can get the obstacles out of the way. So as long as we keep slogging and get elected officials to slog along with us - and some are willing to do that - then together we'll remove the obstacles, one by one.
Thank you for your presence here, Romona. And your support in this cause. And all the ones that came before it.

Thera, this post is sublime.
I'd like to represent as many levels of response as I can. This post was extraordinarily painful for me to read, so it touched on many.
Personality breakdown is a mental torture infinitely more painful than physical pain. If we think of it in terms of Eriksonian development, personality breakdown, I think, starts in stage six (intimacy - isolation). Instead of the mental movement of losing and finding oneself in another, the mental movement of personality breakdown is having oneself taken away, locked away, to never be found again. It is to be turned into a ghost. It is to live a nightmare from which you cannot awake. Time stops. Hell starts.
Thinking in terms of mirror neurons: to see that happen to someone would generate a coinciding sensation in an observer--a very real re-creation. I've never understood so well what Nietzsche meant by, "If you stare into the Abyss long enough, the Abyss stares back at you."
The most ominous part, Thera, is the note on which you end. I'm reminded of Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time." When the children first begin to travel through spacetime, they transport to a planet from which the universe can be seen entirely differently from the way it can be seen on Earth. The first thing the children see is a shadow which is not cast from anything. IT is a Darkness existent unto Itself. IT is eventually revealed to be a disembodied brain which thinks for people.
Back to this world: "What type of personality does not break down watching torture - day after day?" We ultimately have to make judgments on this pattern of behavior. We have to say Evil. Or we have to say a total lack of personhood. Or we can judge metaphorically: people connected to IT--the shadow which is cast from nothing.
Thera, thank you--as always. But especially for this.
Wow, MBH! What a comment. You have a way of taking what I've written and lifting it to another plane. How right you are! Yes, those mirror neurons of ours - if functioning - are putting us in the very same place of a victim if we are forced to witness abuse. Even reading about it, our mirror neurons help us understand.
This is what I most love about posting here. Some comments, such as yours just now, really move the argument forward.
Yes, I considered calling this part of the series. But again, it deserved to be its own separate post. Nevertheless, the theory keeps working very well. Over and over.
Trust is betrayed. Shame is induced. All sense of control and worth is obliterated. Identity shattered. Intimacy destroyed. Humanity is turned into Depravity.
I can hardly bear to think about it. But think and act we must.

Thank you for your stunningly helpful comment!

When you say "our mirror neurons - if functioning..." I see something crucial at which you're hinting. By definition, to be able to watch torture day after day and not break down, entails the disfunction of mirror neurons.
Eric Harris--one of the Columbine killers--wrote in his diary, "How dare you think that you and I are part of the same species when we are sooo different? You aren't human. You are a robot."
Eric Harris could only see human beings as automatons if his mirror neurons were misfiring. Is the next question, which came first, the mirror neuron misfiring or IT? I don't want to be too philosophical, but I think that question can be dissolved. Maybe there isn't a causal relationship between mirror neuron misfiring and that which we judge to be Evil. Maybe it makes the most sense to say that mirror neuron misfiring is a manifestation of that which we judge to be Evil.
The difficulty is that this is more than just a genetic disorder. Unless we want to say that all of Nazi Germany was inflicted with a genetic disorder, then we have to acknowledge the situational part of mirror neuron misfiring. So we're into a bit of reverse engineering now. What causes the mirror neurons to misfire? Or better: what social circumstances cause mirror neurons to misfire? Or even better: what basic assumptions underlying a social structure cause mirror neurons to misfire?
Funny, I'm referencing "Systemic Deception and the Breakdown of Civic Trust" to answer that question.

Excellent questions you're asking there. And I of course don't know the answer either. We're speculating. But by some process, we have to assume that certain people can witness events, which for us would be traumatic, but they are not traumatized. That makes me wonder if sadists tune into sexual feelings as a way of avoiding the pain associated with tuning into mirror neurons. Because maybe it's possible to divert one's attention from them - to other, more salient "nerve" information (such as sexual feelings). Or maybe it's possible that sociopaths utilize the mirror neuron info differently that normal people would. Maybe the "use" that info as part of manipulating or controlling others - which would fit a torture situation perfectly - like a synchronized set of interactions, where the info gleaned from mirror neurons is processed as part of the next torture scenario they can envision engaging in. (This may have been the role of the psychologist - just a guess - to observe the person in view of the next manipulation/torture session.)
So for us the mirror neuron is like "raw data" and we just react with empathy. We "are" victims, alongside what we observe.
But for these folks, could they just tune into their own perverted sexuality? Or could they be processing the torture as part of gaining further info about the victim - for the purpose of exploiting the next weakness in the breakdown process?
It all may depend on our neural circuitry to start with - and how our mirror neurons are plugged into the whole circuitry. Because they can't operate in isolation. Think all those stages and all those domains. And everything else about our personality (or anyone's).
You make me think!
Great catch! I was assuming that mirror neurons operate as a closed system.
So the question becomes who and/or how could anyone look into the Abyss and (deliberately) not notice that it stares back.
I love the way you're formulating the 'how'. Instead of the data registering directly, it's filtered into sexual desires, into strategies to reinforce the filtering process, into strategies to better inflict harm.
Before I saw your last response, I was reading back over "Systemic Deception." Something really stuck out under these lights. Sokol was expressing his frustration with "subjectivist thinking." Senselessness, the championing of abstraction, and a preference for intrapersonal reasoning over interpersonal reasoning in all instances. "Subjectivist thinking" seems to be the method by which one filters the data of mirror neurons. In order to (intentionally) ignoring the feelings of others, one would have to invert the thought process. Maybe that inversion is the method of filtering.
Another part of "Systemic Deception" becomes relevant. You mention the "misuse of language." Since subjectivist thinking is observable, and groups of subjectivist thinkers form around their subjectivist thinking, then naturally a language would emerge out of their communication. That as a closed system would be one thing. But all languages intertwine with other languages.
We could call the subjectivist thinking the "language game of filtering raw data," or the "language game of ignoring the eyes of the Abyss," or whatever. What's important is that such a language is not isolated. It--as you say--oozes pus into other languages. So it becomes epidemic. That would account for Nazi Germany or 80% of Americans thinking that invading Iraq was a good idea.
It's speculation, but it may hold descriptive power...
Once again, you extend things so productively. I will have to reread and rethink. But there is no doubt that "language" itself can create "language worlds." That's why, in my view, to learn another language, or more than one, expands one's horizons hugely. You learn to "think" concepts that your own language does not really provide. It opens your mind. Living in another culture does that too - that's why one can experience "culture shock" due to being faced with a myriad of new sights, sounds, smells, interactions which "assault" what one is used to.
That seems to be part of what happens in the torture cell. Culture shock. An assault upon one's expectations of everything that is human.
I just read a phrase I've been thinking about (in a Sunday Times, Week in Review article):

"the terrible intimacy of torture"
That phrase captures what we're looking at. And it affirms your view that we're talking Stage 6. Stage 6 in both directions. Except the "intimacy" is the terrible intimacy of deliberate destruction. Isolation punctuated by the terrible intimacy of torture. (I may do a post with that title - exploring Stage 6 in its worst nightmare edition.)
There's a difference between close combat and killing (which is terrible enough) and close torture with "not quite killing." Oh, my god! (I never thought I would have to deal with such things!)

That's it: "not quite killing." {chills}
I think you're dead on with the notion of "language worlds." I think what's so painful about what we're doing right now, is that we're looking into--in some literal sense--the "world of torture."
I wish it were just isolated to the cells we're learning about. But I don't know if that's the case. I once heard Jonathan Turley mention "torture program" with extra emphasis. What I felt was--what I thought was just--paranoia at first. The feeling was something like this: {a torture program is systemic in the same way consumerism is}. Wide eyed, I started considering the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay not as something from which we were isolated. The torture in Guantanamo was more like the far end of a spectrum. And we experience the less intense domains of that spectrum all throughout our social lives. Sometimes, in truly loving and honest interactions (like we are often engaged in through the Cafe), we move off the spectrum entirely--out of torturous relationships. But that is the exception, not the rule.
I think this highlights why it's so important that we raise our consciousness to what torture is all about. Torture is not quarantined to a torture cell. The belief in torture comes from somewhere else.
Yes, the torture cell could never exist were it not for a bureaucratic network of memos and reports and people "who will not break down" and lawyers and psychologists and overseers at the highest levels of govt. And a language to sanitize the horror, make it palatable. A language to instill fear in a population and to foster a belief that only the chosen few of a particular party can "keep you safe" from the scary bad guys, who want to destroy your "freedoms" - were it not for our "methods" of finding the bad guys and extracting information from them, which will ..... keep us in power forever and ever. Amen!
Yes! The language reinforces it--normalizes it. Not to excuse those who are complicit, they are deliberately playing this language game. Their willingness to play along is pure Will to Power. But the language channels the Will to Power into an "acceptable" form. If not for the pretentious language, the Will to Power would stand a better chance of sublimation. The Will to Power would be on even footing with compassion and, well, as romantic as it sounds, Love does win. Like Jung said, (paraphrasing) "Where there is Love, there is no Will to Power." And, I'm suggesting, where the Will to Power has no normalization through language, Love is present. In those cases, far fewer people would see sense in torture.
Like you say though, the people who are creating/recreating the language and spreading it, defending it, those people, who are aware of what they're doing. They MUST be prosecuted.
I just read "Distinctions - Torture Versus War." Excellent article. Thank you.
It makes me think about war in general. I mean, war is only possible through dehumanization. Dehumanization is only possible through torture. So torture is logically prior to, and in a strong causal relation to war. Another way of stating the importance of all this: Torture is the direct manifestation of dehumanization. Plain and simple. Torture is not an act in isolation. Torture is the bridge from The Immoral into our world.

I think you're right that torture - the desire to control/to obliterate opposition - predates war. Indeed, war is the idea of destroying your enemy to bend him to your will, to subjugate leaders, a population. Torture involves one. War involves many.
And torture is occurring right here in the USA via sadists every day!
Wow! I was dumbfounded by your equation of control with the obliteration of opposition. It's sort of the polar opposite of consensus--voluntary dissolution of opposition. I never thought of control like that.
Sadism. Yeah, sadism: satisfaction from cruelty. What is that? Where does that come from? I mean, it's not relief from the release of anger. Because releasing anger does not necessarily entail being cruel. Is it relief from the release of anger onto another form of life--and only onto another form of life? If that's the case, then it wouldn't be about the release of anger, but the reaction of pain from the other form of life. But what inherent worth would another person's pain hold? Is it that another person's pain signifies one's own superiority over them? Is it that another person's pain makes someone feel like a master over them? Is another person's pain, then, the fuel that keeps the master in the role of master?
Boy, that's not a fun road to think down. Seems like this is the point where mercy yields to justice.
Your question touches on research into abusive spouses. Thankfully, the majority stop the abuse when the victim is seen to be hurt. These are the spouses who can be helped. But another percentage are actually "turned on" by the sight of an individual in pain - and that actually leads to a continuation of the abuse episode. There is also a situation where some people will escalate the abuse UNTIL the victim cries or appears in pain. So if a person tries to tough it out and be strong, that only eggs on the abuser (though the victim may not know that).
The mechanism? Honestly, I don't know. Right now I feel so sickened by forcing myself to go down this mental road, that I need to give myself a break.
These poor souls....
I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push this too far.
Don't apologize. You are NOT the source of any problems at all.... Just that I'm letting you know this is a hard topic to dig deeply into. Please, you're a great conversation partner. No need to give this a second thought. (we would not be discussing this unless bushco was obsessed with it - which just goes to show how despicable they are!)
TheraP wrote "which will ..... keep us in power forever and ever. Amen!"
You forgot to say "God Bless America."

Each generation beyond an instance of evil seems to lose a degree of comprehension of the depths of human depravity. It is events such as these that bring us back to the fact that we have not evolved much, no matter our culture.
Sigh... how true. It seems that individuals "evolve" in terms of development. But whole societies? How far have we really come? This is why the Rule of Law is so important. Why ethics and morals are so important. Why distinguishing means and ends is so vital.
Yes, you point to something very sad about the human condition. Very scary too.
Individuals evolve, so therefore does it not stand that societies must as well? The only explanation for that not being the case is that societies remain stagnant while the members within it do not. Impossible.
Those in power; those to whom we have given the power, choose the pace of our legal and historical evolution. It is the larger duty of the rest of us to force them to keep up when they lag behind. Then, when they are breathing hard and falling to their knees, to replace them. Then to watch the new ones very carefully.
When we are slow to act, lazy to recognize and anxious to avoid the unseemly we ignore the fear inherent to human nature. We look the other way and then decry the result. Or we don't. Either way, all we really want is to keep living our lives without thinking too much. Without being scared.
Until it's "us" instead of "them".
I can realistically look at both sides of this. There's a realistic side that sees thousands of years of recorded human history. Rise and fall of civilizations. Atrocities in all centuries by all sorts of supposedly civilized societies. That's one side of it. And in the face of all that evidence I can totally buy into your comment. Yes, that's what keeps me going, in spite of all the obstacles!
In regards to the medical participants, would exile be to harsh a punishment?
Who wants them?
Thera, this drifts away from the gist of your post, but is well worth contemplating. It seems that few understand the implications which flow Obama's release of the OLC memos. I've become very intolerant of the pouting and tantrums by Obama's supporters, who would place the whole burden for cleansing this nation of its recent dark past upon his shoulders alone. It seems to me they are attempting to prove what the right charges: that the left-side of the political bipolarity views Obama as a messiah. He is just a man, and our President; bound by his oath of office to defend and support the Constitution. Part of this duty includes insuring the The Executive Branch remains in possession of its power. By releasing these OLC memos, Obama has now set a precedent which may have far reaching implications tending to decrease the Executive Branch's independence. This was done, because neither the Legislative or Judicial Branches had been able to secure these memos for public release, and this was an obstacle blocking proper investigations into the acts of the Past Presidential Administration.
I see some comments in this thread loudly proclaiming that Obama's Administration must now proceed farther down this path. They still are blind to the reality, and still wish to make a messiah out of our President. America is a Constitutional Republic. What these persons desire would break The Constitution, and America with it. They need to quit issuing lamentations and supplications to the President, turn to face the other two separate, but equal branches, and demand that justice now be served by them.
I want justice done as much as anyone. I am appalled, disgusted and deeply depressed by the actions of GW Bush's Administration. Yet, vengeance is not a rightful emotion for humans; it is best left up to the gods. The forms must be properly adhered to, or we risk losing everything in this rush to judgment.
"Classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information," according to Executive Order 12958, as amended. Nor can judicial review reliably compel disclosure of such information. In order to win declassification and disclosure of previously released information, a FOIA plaintiff must show that each of the following conditions is met: 1) the information previously released is as specific as the information that is being requested; 2) the information requested matches the information previously released; and 3) the information requested has been made public through an official and documented disclosure (Fitzgibbon v. CIA, D.C. Circuit, 1990).
The new release does not alter this non-disclosure policy, which lends credence to the statement of former CIA director Michael Hayden that the government could have successfully argued against disclosure of the OLC memos in court, as he favored.
But the four newly declassified memos are now themselves "an official and documented disclosure." This means that not only have their combined 124 pages been published (with limited redactions) but also that an obstacle to the release of a related body of legal and intelligence information has now been removed. Such material can no longer legitimately remain classified. Furthermore, the new release will also enable participants and other officials to speak publicly about the issues involved.
Steven Aftergood, "OLC Torture Memos Declassified", FAS Secrecy News blog, April 17, 2009
Fuck Legal Mumbo Jumbo.
Obama threw this ugliness into OUR laps, and sure, into Congress and the Judiciary's lap
So what are you going to do? I'm going to make sure that my reps and everyone I know hear that it it is UNACCEPTABLE, and to demand they bring charges against those who spit on everything this country ever stood for.
Anything less is unthinkable.
I share your anger Bwakfat, but I think I have to agree with PseudoCyAnts' approach on this.There are rules, procedures, precedents and just plain normal politicking (which I don't considering a dirty word). It's satisfying to say "Fuck legal mumbo-jumbo" but also dangerous. If you fuck it long enough, there won't be any legal mumbo jumbo or any law period, and then all issues are settled on the basis of who is best at violence.

PCA, your comment does not at all stray from where my own thoughts are going. Indeed you have clarified my own position - and you likely could see that from some of my comments above.
I completely agree with your comment. And I wonder if you should consider making it a post to stand on its own. It is powerful. It is accurate. And it shows the way forward. It upholds the power of We the People, in whose hands lies the fate of the nation. As it should.
Focusing on Obama is a side-issue and a distraction. Because he has become, for many, a projection upon which people place hopes and fears, as if he could be the Savior. And as if, failing to be the Savior, he then becomes the Scape Goat.
Absolutely, it is up to us, We the People, assured in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that the powers of any elected officials are merely held in TRUST. That We the People need to understand our role, our sacred duty, to assume leadership ourselves, to insist our elected officials follow our desire for the Rule of Law, for Justice (which yes, takes its slow and steady pace), for equality before the law, and so on.
Thank you for clarifying this. Indeed, it is central to this whole issue of torture. As torture is an effort to effect total control. And the dismantling and investigation of this societal horror MUST not be done via executive fiat - which does no more than perpetuate dictatorial powers.
Blessings upon you, PCA. You are a clear voice of reason here in the Cafe.

PCA, that is so well said. It meshes perfectly with Thera's notion of revolution in thought--not in pitchforking or demanding extra-constitutional action.
Agreeing with Thera, this would make a great post on its own. Agreeing with Bwak, I think my Senator (a member of the judiciary committee) will be receiving an open letter soon. I think I'll submit it to the local paper as well. Does anyone have a bullhorn?
"Who but the devil pulls
Our walking strings?
Abominations lure us
To their side.
Each day we take
Another step to hell
Descending through
The stench
-- Baudelaire
"Fleur du Mal"
Justice is not without mercy, but we must first bring to justice, those who violated the law.
"OLC Memos Confirm Integral Role of Health Professionals in US Torture", Physicians for Human Rights, April 16, 2009
Thanks for this. I will follow up.
Revelation, "get out of her my people, if you do not want to share in her sins"
WE are not cowards; we will stand up against the power of the lawless. We cannot sit idly by, hoping our elected officials find a conscience.
Throw it right back at the Rightwing Fundamentalists. Either Obama stands up for righteousness sake or he'll be judged by his inaction.
Passing the buck is what got us here.
We should not shrink back now.
Why should those of us, who are appalled at the lawlessness of our elected officials shut up? Lawless leaders and their supporters; who hid behind the flag and with a fevered Patriotic pitch, telling us about how our enemies hate our way of life and our values.
Even suggesting that if WE did not go along with their lawlessness, we would be persecuted as Un-American.
All the while WE THE PEOPLE were misled, Lied to. And it has been determined that we were not guiltless and that we too, are guilty of crimes against humanity.
Hypocrites. Take the rafter from your own eyes, before you try to remove your neighbors’ splinter.
WE THE PEOPLE have been humiliated and dishonored by our leaders.
Would you have us whitewash the Truth, in order for the perpetrators to get away with their sins?
Will the American people be judged as complicit, and stupid followers of unrighteousness, deserving of the fate that awaits the lawless, and the cowards who dare not stand against them.
We must remove the cancer or it will kill us.
Enough of this Patriotic cover up.
We cannot allow the previous Administration, to have a blatant disregard for the men and Women who fight to defend the principles and Good values of what our Nation Under God Stands for.
Or why should we defend her? Seeing as how she has become captive to an enemy from within, who has defiled OUR precious things? Liberty
This Nation does not stand up for Cover-ups and torture, or hypocrisy.
To the Most High, The God WE ARE UNDER, he will expose the Hidden things, in order to bring to light, those who profane the Sacred trust, and we should not protect, or excuse those who would trample our Values, as of no worth.
Hidden things like Secret Renditions, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, came to light despite attempts to keep these detestable things, hidden from the American people.
Now there are those, who believe America will not stand if she is criticized, and I say she will not stand for long, if she does not correct her ways.
Quit lying to US.
Take your reproof and learn from it.
Justice is not without mercy, but we must first bring to justice, those who violated the law.

My comment to you is directly below.
You call for Justice is absolutely on target. And your description of justice is on target as well.
I did a blog months ago: In the Service of Justice.
It is up to We the People to insist our elected officials and appointed officials do their jobs - to obey the Rule of Law and enforce the Rule of Law.
I love every bit of your comment, with one exception: We can't expect one man to do it all. Or you're asking for a dictator!
We must all stand up in the service of Justice! We must stand up. And we must call for all of our elected officials to stand up with us. And we must call for our appointed law enforcement and Judicial authorities to stand up with us. Congress is charged with oversight. Law enforcement and the Judiciary are charged with investigation and prosecution. (Those are not the jobs of the executive - but Obama's job is to get out of the way and let the appropriate authorities do their jobs.)
Justice means all who are investigated and prosecuted will get every protection that they denied others!
Perhaps as important as the record is the fact that the perpetrators are around us now.
How many of the criminals, 'professionals' and otherwise were involved?
I read that KSM was waterboarded 183 times, surely there were more than just a handful of people who participated.
Now as we sit preaching to each other, many of these monsters continue to practice as physicians and psychologists, EMT's and nurses, policemen and prison guards.
They are here, now and have not forgotten.
We must see them all brought to account, and if Obama stands in the way for political reasons, he too must be dealt with.
This is why investigations are so crucial. This is why we need to get every background document which was used in writing these torture memos (etc). This is why we need law enforcement to follow up on anyone involved. You are correct that they could be anywhere in society by now. As well as the fact that in this country we have such a "culture of violence" which includes incarceration of 1/4 of the world's prisoners, the death penalty, and so on.
But it must all be done with deliberate Justice employed.
I find it fascinating that this thread has been so very polite, in the word's best sense. It is as if the subject itself forces us to be careful with our words and respectful of the good faith apparent in all of the comments. It has been an important discussion, not a flame war, for which I am profoundly grateful to all of you. Everyone.
We know how to do this, and in doing so, we make everyone stronger as an ally to ultimate healing.
Thanks TheraP for leading it on the right path.
Thanks for pointing that out, Carol. It may also be due to the fact that I have written this, based upon a document which came straight from bushco and reports in both the NY Times and WaPo, which are utilizing nothing but released documents, public records, and individuals close to the actual events.
I feel like we inching closer to the absolute center of this issue. That it devolved on the assessments of health care professionals, who assisted lawyers in devising torture and providing personality assessments to justify it and plan how to do it. Disgusting!
I picture cheney just rubbing his hands together in glee that they identified willing psychologists and willing medical personnel and willing lawyers. To authorize "almost killing" of individuals without any recourse to justice!

For instance this person, what would you think of having her as a babysitter?
(Extracted from at page 3/4)

I befriended SPC Hannah Schlegel, an analyst who was being retrained to be an
interrogator (many others were being retrained in this same way). Schlegel told me
detainees were routinely stripped naked in the cells and sometimes during interrogations
(she said one man so shamed had actually made a loin cloth out of an MRE (Meal Ready to
Eat) bag, so they no longer allowed him to have the MRE bag with his food). She said they
also starved them or allowed them to only have certain items of food at a time. She said
they played loud music – “Barney I Love You” being the interrogators’ favorite. I was
shocked by this and told her I couldn’t understand how she could cope with the nudity.
Wasn’t it embarrassing or at least uncomfortable? Schlegel said that this was one of the
new practices and they got used to it. Moreover, she got a thrill out of being a woman
interrogating them, knowing how much it angered and offended them to have a woman in
a position of authority and control over men. She said they used dogs to terrify and
torment the prisoners. She also said they deprived them of sleep for long periods of time.
This was all part of a carefully planned regimen that had been introduced after the arrival
of the teams from GTMO.
What you report is accurate. Yes, imagine being the clothed woman with this shamed man you're looking at like a dog or worse. It makes me sick even to contemplate!
Or maybe some of these guys are cruising your neighborhoods at night as police making sure that you are safe.
(Page 3 of above link)
The first alarming incident I heard about was that some of the interrogators had gotten
drunk, and then under the guise of interrogation, molested an underaged Iraqi girl
detainee. It could have been worse, but MP on duty stopped them. Friends of some of the
interrogators involved were concerned that COL Pappas would deal severely with the
incident. They asked me to recite a falsehood about COL Pappas, in the hope that he
would be disqualified from serving as convening authority. I refused to do this.
Once a taboo is destroyed... it is difficult to build it again. This is the problem of returning troops as well. (not that I'm calling them torturers... but it's a similar problem)
Thera, thank you for this post. I rarely comment here, but what you wrote brought me to tears of misery over everything that has happened in our names. Among your many insights, a thing that struck me particularly was the impact of their actions on the people who directly engaged in torture, even though they were selected as "right" for the job. Everything about this program led to dehumanization. I wonder how many insulating layers existed between Cheney, with his dark vision, and the people who did the waterboarding, how many between those people and Bush, who demanded facts to fit what he said. There is something about all this that means we can't let the chain of command just shift all its weight onto people at the bottom charged with executing orders that destroyed them. And there also needs to be a way of seeing that decision makers aren't so carefully removed from a visceral sense of the horror they've set in motion. Otherwise, this will never stop.
What a stunning comment. And it reminds me of a book by a military psychologist called: On Killing - The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.
This book, which is very painful but excellent, details how soldiers are systemically "brain-washed" (my word) to eliminate the taboo of killing. And how "killing" is so taboo that soldiers in the Civil War pretended to fire weapons, rather than kill. That self-defense is not enough to allow for killing. That the closer you are to the "victim" you may have to kill - the harder it is to inflict death. And torture would, I'm sure, fit within that taboo.
We are looking at something very dark, premeditated in so many ways, and so destructive. In that book discussing having killed is the hardest thing for any veteran the author interviewed. But imagine the torturer - how could one discuss that? How can one live with that? With having destroyed a living person?
I am honored that you chose to comment here today.

"I wonder how many insulating layers existed between Cheney, with his dark vision, and the people who did the waterboarding,"
Dick was probably on the speakerphone with some of his pals, rather enjoying the tormented cries of the victims. Probably taped them to listen to themlater, in private..
TheraP, once again, a big personal thank you for your depth of logic and reason, you have provided us with another tool for teaching. Your post and this whole consequent thread is comprehensive, and revealing.
Very kind words, JEP. Were it not for so many who come here to read and comment, this thread would not exist. So I'm grateful for that as well. We are all part of a chorus. We may play different roles at different times. But by and large it is very hopeful music we are raising here.
The issue seems quite clear. The Geneva Convention is clear. We are a signatory. Bush was a criminal. Obama had better not turn out to be one. I am confident that will not happen.
Well said!
Excerpted from
She ist one of the faces symbolizing the Iraq war. Pictures showing her abusing Iraqi detainees in Abu Graib prison brought her notorious fame throughout the world. In her first interview in three years Lynndie England talks about Abu Ghraib, about Charles Graner, about guilt, her current life - and the role of the Bush administration.
You live in Ashby, a small town with a population of 1300. How do people treat you now?
They don't treat me any different. I haven't met a person yet that's been negative to me. Not since I got home. Most of them back me up one hundred percent. They say, "What happened to you was wrong." And some even say they would have done the same thing.
What do they mean by "They would have done the same thing"?
That they would have followed orders, just as I did in Abu Ghraib.
And they believe she was just "following orders"...
Our population is so uneducated! People don't really understand the Constitution, let alone know much about history, and so on. Ignorance is the root of so much that has gone wrong here. Ignorance and propaganda and apathy. sigh....
She's entitled to claim that.... Of course it wont work in a court of law, much as it didn't work in Nuremberg. What is wrong is that she was the centre of all the attention when she was ACTUALLY following orders. She was painted as a bad apple, but was she? It's unfair to nail the people who follow the orders without having a look at where the orders come from...
Not that I am defending her. She should have known better and said that her orders were illegal, but having been in the military I can just say it's far harder than it might seem from the outside.
How would anyone know about the ones that may have been raped or killed? To say it never occurred is being Naive.
The Rampart Scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (or CRASH) anti-gang unit of the LAPD Rampart Division in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The convicted offenses include unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of evidence, framing of suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and covering up evidence of these activities.[1]
Extraordinary rendition and irregular rendition are terms used to describe the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another.[1] "Torture by proxy" is used by some critics to describe situations in which the United States has purportedly transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture. It has been alleged that torture has been employed with the knowledge or acquiescence of the United States (a transfer of anyone to anywhere for the purpose of torture is a violation of U.S. law). Condoleezza Rice, (then the United States Secretary of State), stated in an April 2006 radio interview that the United States does not transfer people to places where it is known they will be tortured

Okay, now the question of prosecution is officially stated. There will be no US instigated prosecutions - that is unless you are low enough on the ladder of evil to be an easy mark.
Obama is a pusillanimous wretch. Coward, fool and traitor to us all.

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