Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Terrible Intimacy of Torture (4.26.09)

I don't want to write this post.  You don't want to read it.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Nor is it meant for those unable to wear their heart upon their sleeve.

How can I present the terrible immediacy of torture?
  How make you understand the stress of even simple things they say have no effect?  How give you a flavor for the intense and bizarre connection between captor and victim?  I'm going to fail at all of it.

I'm going to ease us into this with 3 little vignettes:

The analyst gave a paper that was so troubling to him he first published it only in Italian.  Here are some phrases I felt compelled to write down on the only thing I had - two stubs of train tickets:
To care is to be vulnerable.
Fear is not a theoretical concept.

We cringe from fear.

We react to reject fear.

Impact of the witnessing other.

Uncertainty:  the hallmark of true inquiry.
I was trying to face writing this post on torture.

After the lecture, I was discussing this with a colleague who used to be an experimental psychologist.  He wondered if those who designed torture had worked with Seligman.  He told me he used to do that kind of work.  But he gave it up, because:
He was doing an experiment.  There were two groups.  Some were fed much less than usual - on a strict schedule.  Others were fed much less than usual - with no rhyme or reason.  Random meals. Those in the second group died.  All of them.

They were only rats. 

But he decided to retrain.  Become a therapist.
True story:   I was the witnessing other:
One time only - I saw sheer terror in her eyes.  Just for a second or two.  After that her eyes went dead.

The terror entered into me.  The deadness did too.

I cannot forget the NOW of her terror, the NOW of her deadness.

Later I saw visceral terror.  Standing, she pressed herself into the corner.  Wrung her hands.  Desperately slid down to the floor.

Her fear - based on a telephone threat.  This time she feared the NOW of being captured again, putting me in danger - she believed.
Does torture hasten death?  Friendship lengthens life.

Flashbacks mean torture never ends.  They come without warning:  The NOW of torture.  No escape from the torturer - ever.  Flashbacks make sure of that.

Who can produce such horror?  Such deadness?  How can I describe that terrible intimacy of torture?

Sometimes I think of how - RIGHT NOW - people I don't know are in secret rooms.  Feeling totally abandoned by all human kindness.  Helpless.  Terrified.  Nightmares.  Reality - one long nightmare.  Which is which?  Exhausted, but afraid to sleep.  Numb.  But struggling to feel - to stay alive.  Memories obliterated.  Relief at being fed - but hatred for feeling grateful.  Relief when pain stops - but hatred for feeling grateful. 
So tired.  So very tired.  Pain.  Hunger.  Confusion.  When?  Where?  Who?

To dream is to scream.  Who screams?  A bug?  Sludge?  Can't remember.

Is this dying?  Is this living?  Can't think.

Climbers lie down in snow.  And go to sleep.  Must stay awake!  Not that!
I'm sure I've failed.  How can I get you to see and feel what deadness is?  How show you loss of self?   The only NOW as existence-for-torture.  The torturer is the mirror.  Please the torturer.  Or die.  The torturer needs you for the torture.  Needs you to tell.  But you've forgotten.  Nothing's there.  Words fail.  They don't come.  You're only as good as the next thing you can tell.  Tell something.  Anything.  Find the words.   You can see they expect something.  What is it they expect?  They never tell you.  They ask.  You don't remember anymore - if you ever did.  Did you ever have a life outside this room?

How can I describe the loss of life - of past or future?  The  "ONE" who asks, hurts, needs something for the reports.   Flies into a rage that you don't know!

How can I imagine who could do that?  Who created that non-world of Now-Nothing?  How can I think torturer?  How can I convey the perverted intimacy of creating an "object of disdain"?  How paint the "The One" who controls all pain?  All hunger?  All sleeplessness?  All relief!  "The One" who needs facts, names, all to feed the reports. 
I squeeze.  I squeeze this stone - this stone of my creation, this graven image.

Where are the letters on the stone tablet?

 "You are a stone!  Tell me what's written there!"

  "Names!  Places!
How can I imagine the torturer faced with these dead eyes I once saw?  Faced with the blank mind, created by torturing?  Despising the very creature of torture.

What panic if the torturer has nothing to write?  Now what - if there is nothing told?

The torturer too - trapped in the cell.  Trying to force action out of inaction, out of deadness.    Trying to squeeze life out of a stone.    Despising the stony dead eyes.

Captivity creates a relationship of terrible intensity.   I'm sure I've failed.  How can I describe the immediacy, the intensity, the fear, the horror, the need for each other of captor and victim?  The victim needs to live.  The torturer needs to keep a victim barely alive but totally uneasy.

Rats will die if you just deprive them of food - in totally unpredictable ways. 

Uncertainty - the hallmark of true inquiry. 

Control - the hallmark of torture.



Why hatred for feeling grateful?
You hate the one who punishes you - and yourself for feeling grateful to the torturer, when they end the pain. You hate feeling grateful to your torturer. You hate your grateful feelings.
It's shameful to feel grateful to your abuser.
That totally makes sense.
Today I listened to a former soldier, Vietnam, who at age 19 was assigned to sniper duty, being an excellent shot. He carried out roughly twenty assignments of targeted killing, assassinations of known or suspected Viet Cong and collaborators. This included a few Buddhist monks.
He cannot escape his memory. We nominally forgive him because he carried out his duty, while we nominally outlaw his assignment, while we factually continue such practices when the need is felt. Is the torturer any more compromised than this man, or us?
Can we hate the sin and love the sinner? Who is the greater sinner? The executive that wants results at any cost, the lawyer that finds arguments to justify those actions, the director that covers for the actions, by destroying evidence, the torturer, or the guard that does not turn out the light?
Accountability must start at the top, the former President, and it must be demanded by his former supporters.
I agree with all you've said, Tom. When we send men to kill (even in war) we send them into moral jeopardy. When we send them to torture, we send them to hell, we ask them to create hell - and then live in it themselves.
As strange is this may seem, the more it digests, the more this blog gives me a sense of freedom. Maybe it's perverse, but I did want to read that. It hurt like hell, and it brought me to tears. But you've shown the polar opposite side of torture--inquiry. I don't have words.
Sorry for all the comments, but just to clarify. "Maybe it's perverse" is a reference to my desire to read this account, not to the blog. The blog is the polar opposite of perverse.
If I've been able to bring you to tears, then all the anguish it caused me just to bring myself to write, it's been worth it.
It literally felt sick when I posted this.
This morning I reread Judith Herman's Chapter on Captivity in this book, in case anyone could stomach reading more:
Oh god Thera. I could feel your anguish in writing this. I could feel my heart almost beating out of my chest putting myself into that person's place. Terror/then dead eyes....omg I just have chills. How could this have happened? How, in America? We were the light of justice in the world??

Thank you for saying that mage. I could feel it bouncing back right from you. And I think that means the "terrible intimacy" is "communicable." That one who has experienced it can "convey" it to another "who cares" and that one can "convey" it too - and we've "exchanged it" between us.
And here's another thing, mage. The torturer is sometimes one who has been tortured - and inflicts the torture on others as way of maintaining control over the fear (initially experienced internally - but now placed into another).
So, the "terrible intimacy" can work both ways. Through empathy. Or through making someone else feel what they felt.
And if this is so, then the torturer who's been "made" to torture feels it too. Watches it - and it "enters in" - and will not leave them alone.
Thank you. You've really extended my understanding here. Just by allowing yourself to "experience" the place I was trying to write from - and giving it back to me.
Bless you, my dear.
What is the intent of writing this? What are the aims of the post?
Why did you choose the term, intimacy? What definition of that term are you using?

Intimate refers generally to the innermost nature or fundamental character of something. Intimacy refers to a familiar and very close connection with another as a result of entering deeply or closely into relationship through knowledge and experience of the other. Genuine intimacy in human relationships requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity. As a verb "intimate" means "to state or make known".
It would seem that using intimacy is a perversion of the definition of that term. Ensnarement or entanglement more accurately reflect the situation, and physics even provides a pretty useful definition for the nature of the relationship:

Entanglement is a term used in quantum theory to describe the way that particles of energy/matter can become correlated to predictably interact with each other regardless of how far apart they are.
From the comments, it appears that several people who have suffered significant insults are now publicly grappling with symptoms courtesy of your post.
But this isn't a therapeutic venue - it is an entertainment venue, and conveniently, the author and audience don't have to commit to dealing with them. The whole schtick is entertainment porn - revving up the old emotions in order to get eyes on and hike up the voyeuristic page views. Maybe the commenters are aware and assent to being used as vehicles to generate site traffic and author popularity. Maybe not.
You write that you didn't want to write this post. People who love horror movies hate to peek from behind their hands, but they stay riveted on the edge of their seats, as the horror is the key to enjoyment.
Well, the use of the term "intimacy" goes back several posts to Erik Erikson's stages of development. I deliberately used the phrase after it appeared in NY Times article on torture about 10 days ago. So the word "intimacy" fit a topic I've posting on for some time and the phrase was a perfect phrase to get at the, yes, "perversion" of intimacy. Nevertheless, sadism/masochism is an "intimacy". Not the good kind. But the bad kind. And it's important to deal with reality as it is, not as we wish it would be.
Seems to me that you are the only one reacting in rage here. Again, I would urge that you seek help. It's out there. And if you've been subjected to mental torture via retaliation for whistle-blowing, that is trauma and can be helped.
Most comments below the post recognize that it entailed a great willingness to face suffering to have written the post. If anyone is having flashbacks due to what I have written, well, mine is just one among many posts and articles on torture. And there is no doubt that any one of these or a combination of them can have adverse effects. You may have noticed that in comments here, and elsewhere, I urge people to take care of themselves. Plus, I made it clear in the beginning of the post that it would be hard to read. People make choices. I am not in a position to compel anyone to read here. And I gave my warning from the start.
I'm not sure what you mean about a "venue" - and being here for entertainment. If you've come here to TPM Cafe for entertainment, you may find it sometimes. But this is a place for "reader blogs" and there is no limit on what they may hold. Some may be funny. Some may be sad. Mostly we wrestle with problems and important issues.
Peace be with you. Please, seek help.
You make a lot of assumptions and judgments. I'm not enraged. I'm providing some evidence so that people can advocate for themselves and not needlessly expose themselves to manipulation.
I can't know your motives for writing, and I have no reason to question them. But for you to deny evidence that you don't like or which doesn't fit within your frame of reference actually lends support to what I wrote.
What lead you to write that I haven't sought help? Seeking and receiving are two entirely different things. I haven't received so much as an acknowledgement of any request, and it wasn't even safe for me to have asked. The last comment I left in your previous post provided ample detail.
Maybe in your world help isn't denied or intentionally withheld or that offers of "help" aren't used as lures to predate, but that's the world in which the "other" exist.
I do get your irritation with me ("you're the only one who is...",etc.), and so I won't trouble you further.
Go in peace.
Go fuck off and leave me in peace. I hear you loud and clear.
Below is the most recent illustrious group of "helpers" who have also told me just what my place and value is by their silence. Incompatible with life. Living in the place of the dead.
That's why the rats die - not uncertainty, but certain powerlessness and helplessness to escape predation. Of being told and scolded that there is help is there when there is no such thing. Of being shown life preservers which are offered and then snatched permanently out of reach as taunts. Of cruelty cloaked in kindness.
To: webmaster@challiance. Inquiry re: Victims of Violence program‎; To: helpline Inquiry about whistleblower resources‎; To: moreinfo Inquiry‎ - Dear Director: I emailed you previously, but received no response.; To: Help Desk RE: Help Desk Request‎ - It's been made clear that there are no resources for me; To: me Fwd: Inquiry about resources; To: jo Re:‎ no available resources; To: jo Crisis support inquiry; To: dvb Inquiry about resources for whistle blowers‎; To: info Inquiry about services‎; To: bvanderk Inquiry about resources for whistle blowers; To: moreinfo Inquiry about local resources‎; To: mikeanestis, ... Topic request: whistle blowers‎; To: moreinfo Inquiry about resources for US citizens‎; To: grodin Inquiry re: Lecture about compassion‎; To: julie.park Inquiry about Boston area resources‎; To: falford Whistle-blowing narrative inquiry‎
You and your discussants make it abundantly clear that the only way I will ever escape is by doing it myself. And that, I finally realized from your rat example, is really very simple. I stopped digging through the trash for food.
The intent is to stimulate thought, and discussion. It's the Cafe, that's the point.

She means go in peace. Be peaceful. Go into the space that is peace.
The price of admission is the desire for admission. That's all you need: to want to be a part of this. Obstruction is not being a part.
Once you want to be a part, you are welcome. That invitation does not go away...
I appreciate you digging into this, and agree wholeheartedly with you about the destructiveness/repulsiveness of torture. But I can't follow your post this time. I feel like I did when I watched the movies Naked Lunch or Mulholland Drive--confused.
Doh, this was supposed to be at the end by itself.
The guy at the bottom described it well. It is impressionistic.
But the disjointedness is deliberate. It's an attempt to evoke the disintegration of torture. Does that make any sense?
I had to go back and forth. Change voices. An attempt to provide what you experienced. You couldn't follow it. That's what torture does to one's brain, among other things. (though I hope this was not torture)
It was to evoke an emotional reaction. Naturally everyone's different.
I very much appreciate your comment. As it allowed me to explain that a bit.
matyra, Mulholland Drive is really similar to this. Mulholland Drive is about the disintegration of identity, which is why it's confusing. The main character is losing herself and reality. If you remember the scene in the theater, you'll remember the speaker saying "it's all recorded; it's all a tape." When a person is "broken," the present tense becomes a theater for the past tense. But without a real experience of the present, all your left with is a horror film.
Very well put!
I knew that after I looked it up, probably logging Google entries like "Mulholland Drive wtf?" After thinking on it, I think part of my problem with this post was the immense effort that I immediately recognized it would take to get a sense of it. I'm an A-to-B-to-C-quick" kind of person. I make lists. I tried to read "Story of an Artist as a Young Man" and liked looking up all of the history lessons mentioned, but absolutely loathed stream of consciousness-ness of the story. To everyone, listening, really listening, is an effort. To immerse oneself into a stream-of-consciousness-loosing-identity-because-of-torture narrative, for me, would require hours of time, tissue, and afterwards a day because of the migraine that I'd have.
So I'm shallow, pedantic, and self-protective. But when I think of America torturing, my immediate response isn't self-reflection, it's intense outrage that 'my fucking country could stoop so low' and empathy to those caught in our country's black site/Guantanamo web--even if they actually did something, no one deserves to be tortured. No one.
Then again, this post was about empathy.
God, I love you, matyra!
Hahahah. "Mulholland Drive wtf." Nice.
I didn't mean to say something trivial. I wasn't sure if you were aware of that or not.
No worries
Dude. A lot of people have experienced trauma. From what I understand, pretending it doesn't exist is not a healthy way of processing it. The best we can hope to do is to touch the trauma--allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it--in a safe and comfortable environment. When we do that, we know that we are not alone. Our fear dissolves.
When we don't process trauma--in ways exactly like this blog and these threads--the trauma touches us, not the other way around. So, that is our choice. Touch it in a safe and comfortable environment or let it touch us whenever it wants. We are choosing the former.
You've nailed it, MBH!
We're "controlling" how we deal with it. Instead of being "controlled" by it.
user-pic most definitely have unresolved issues.
I can't tell how long you have been reading TPM since your blog shows no activity. I can only assume you are new, or you would be more familiar with the community, and know where Thera is coming from.
She is perfectly capable of defending herself, or choosing not to, but I feel the need to speak up.
1st, TPM is not merely an "entertainment venue." We educate each other, learn from each other, discuss topics, some important, some frivlous, support each other (and recently supported one of our members in a financial way) shed light on issues not always on the front burner, and sometimes we do just goof off, so I guess we entertain each other, as well.
And, 2nd, Thera is an active member who, as a psychologist, and general all-around-good-person, has taken the torture issue to heart. She has spent many hours agonizing over it, and has, for some time, been trying to come up with a means of making the issue real to us. To get us to FEEL it. This was her gift to us.
Your voice is certainly welcome here, but perhaps next time you might be a little more gentle in you comments, at least until you know what you are talking about...
And 3rd, sometimes we help break a story or do research or volunteer for something. We're all volunteers here--even if it's just the sitting at the computer on break and chiming in sort of volunteerism.
And 4th, we may be rude to each other on occasion, but terrorized, that was uncalled for.
perhaps next time you might be a little more gentle in you comments, at least until you know what you are talking about...
I have been and continue to be terrorized. I have existed under carried out threats of violence and death for over a decade. I am not a survivor of torture and terror because I am dying from it.
It's you who don't not know, and I wish that you never find out, because to learn it is to experience it.
I understand more fully that this is a closed group which entertains itself by feel good and touchy feel-y messages for the initiated. Seeing how close you can get to torture, poking a stick at torture and then running away while screaming in mock terror is just a game here.
TheraP lured me into sharing (on her previous post) more than I would with the siren call of finding support, and this is the logical result - her acolytes rushing to her defense against the unwanted foul-mouthed intruder who didn't even get an invitation to play. How dare I!
But I knew better, that it was just another ruse for humiliation, ridicule & contempt, and I take responsibility for letting myself participate where I had no business. The irresistible lure was that I have no place to participate, and I speak with no one because no one will speak with me. The total isolation and silence is just as unbearable as the inevitable terror from any contact with people. What to do?
Incompatible with life.
I do know better than to ever point out the reality of the horror because it is so unbearable that you all can't even acknowledge it let alone do anything about it. I've got nothing to say that you want to hear. Your taste of powerlessness and helplessness makes you lash out at the messenger. How dare I!
You all are correct. I'm homeless scum, a nut and slut and unworthy. I've got "unresolved issues". I've sullied your pristine cafe, and I need to be booted well out of sight.
Yes, I know, you sincere helpful people - there's help out there somewhere - keep the faith, you never know what's around the corner, etc., etc. - you're just sure of it.
Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Well, if you're going to go, then go. If you're going to stay, then stay. But cut the "I'm not worthy to be here" crap and then continuing to post routine.
Hmmm.... looks like he changed identities too... Not sure what to make of that.
Dude. You're trying to shame us because you think we've shamed you? So shaming is wrong, but we deserve to be shamed? Is that right?
You're clearly in a lot of pain. We are empathic in regards to your pain. We feel your pain, and you never deserved to be abused--not in the slightest bit.
Be aware that when you speak in anger, it becomes more difficult for people to perceive your pain. Just as when we speak in anger, it becomes difficult to see that we're all in this together.
You can feel safe here. We want you to share your pain. Please, recognize your anger and we'll recognize our defensiveness. Now you can share your pain.
Mega co-sign...I merely suggested you tread lightly, n
What do you expect us to do when you go off on one of us, with no provocation?
You are obviously hurtin' (unresolved issues.) No one is saying "get over it." We are saying calm down and have a dialog, don't come in here elbows flying and expect every one to... what? What exactly were you expecting to accomplish with your demeanor?
I know this, as I live in a similar place. Comfortable in physical things, I am surrounded by people and cared for.
But there are events that still rule a part of me. These events have caused me to conclude that there are some wrongs that can never be put right. Thus I am driven to avenge myself on those responsible for my torment. I know that I will derive no succor from the crushing of my enemies, but nonetheless it is part of what drives me forward. I do look forward though to the peace of mind knowing that if I do succeed, my sacrifice will have done some good in the world. When I was at the lowest point in my suffering that were and are the consequences of being honest, my hatred for my oppressors and desire for revenge were what kept me from giving up.
adelfarb, I understand. I wish I didn't; but I do. Avenging myself against injustice was all that drove me once too. I still sometimes cannot help but flashback to the pain and suffering I felt for doing the right thing--and I feel the greatest pain when I torture myself: I could have done more--I could have been more clear--I could have pushed harder, more covertly, been less detectable--done more good and spared my reputation. I wasn't skillful enough, I keep telling myself. "What happened happened" is not something I can tell myself. I want to believe it's not over.
The truth is, it's not. It's never over. But the drive has to be different. The difficulty is--from what I have learned--it's all too easy to denounce injustice, inequity, and Evil. We have to be driven by something other than the desire to negate Evil *directly*. We will still negate Evil, but only *indirectly*, by organizing, maintaining, and building positive enterprises. This means a reinforcement of "personhood" and all that is entailed therein.
By doing so, we make Evil irrelevant. When we hate Evil, it becomes totally relevant. It consumes us through the very act of hating. So our task is a tough one. We have to separate the shadows in Life (those which serve a purpose--those cast from objects) from the shadows outside of Life (those which serve no purpose--those cast from nothing).
Raising objections to the pharmaceutical company which employed you was the right thing--no matter the consequences. Not everyone can relate, because not everyone has been there. But your position is unique moving forward. Help us create something positive. We need you.
I am at peace with the issues, and I do not suffer from them. I have learned to channel the rage into rational action. As I said elsewhere, I have learned about keeping records. I can do nothing about the people who died because of the drug, but that is not the only wrong I have to act on.
Dear terrorIzd,
It is difficult to respond to your thoughts, what with the awareness that when a person is scalded and wounded and stripped of skin, any effort at comfort may cause you more, unimaginable, pain. In this context of words on a page (and maybe even in person) there is always the risk that no response can be gentle, helpful, or emollient enough. (Moistened towelette? Yeah, right.)
That said, and without coming so close as to cause you more hurt, I hope you can take it on faith (what a strange concept!) that although this group, with our strong rhetoric, seeming insistence on rigorous follow-through, and all-too frequent failure to get at the heart of the matter, may not be what you want or need right now:
we are not the people who made you terrorIzd.
Whoever those people are, I can't say I hope they rot in hell because I try not to say those types of things. Rather, I hope they have realized the error of their ways and are trying to make it up to you--although I realize that the world being the way it is, that's not very freaking likely, and I hope they know where they can stick it.
You are right. Nobody who isn't experiencing pain RIGHT NOW, can really know what it's like, or explain what it's like--our human brains flinch, flee, or refuse to approach. And, to her credit, Thera knows that. I think (though perhaps I am wrong) that is what she means when she says she has failed--it's not that she's failed to write a good post, because it's a great post--it's that, sure enough, it turns out to be impossible to describe what can only be, tragically, experienced and eventually distanced from if not forgotten. To the extent that she has succeeded, she knows that she's caused pain for the people who understood, and she's hung around to acknowledge the responses that she has stirred up and do what she can to help. That alone makes her one of the good ones, although from where you are it may not seem that way.
Personally, I think yours is a useful voice here. It's helpful to be reminded that people who've experienced being crapped on may be REALLY PISSED OFF about being covered in poo, and perhaps not entirely grateful for our efforts at understanding where they're coming from or our inevitably clumsy attempts to help.
So, you go, TerrI. If you don't mind an observation from the peanut gallery (and what has this whole comment been other than that) it strikes me that anybody with the sheer panache to describe themselves as "homeless scum, a nut and slut and unworthy" has a pretty good shot at righting the ship eventually even if it means some pretty unorthodox sail adjustments in the short run.
Feel free to tell me to bugger off, too--in fact, I might be insulted if you didn't. But I hope you'll stick around--maybe not on this issue 'cause it's just too stinkin' close to home--but stick around anyway, and bear in mind that many of us are our own flawed beings, with our own prides and prejudices, writing stuff down anonymously to see if it even makes sense. (See, I'm not even original enough to avoid stealing from Jane Austen.) When it comes to feedback, an honest kick in the pants is harder for me to take than a carefully positive response, but maybe just as good in the long run, eh?
TheraP, I hope you won't be mad that I took up so much space on your thread--thank you for this post and especially for earmarking what the timecodes prove to be a night and a day, to respond to the responses you evoked.
Erica, what a phenomenal comment! (wish I had time to respond at length - but please, feel free any time)
Erica, that is beautiful. I feel a deep sense of peace reading those words.
Thanks MBH.
I think n
We like to believe that the rose of personhood flourishes under the dust of hard times, and will emerge all dewey and nice once we come along with an offer of help. n
Personally, I'm glad for the voice that points out that there's no cliche way to help people who have been traumatized, which is a good reason for not traumatizing them in the first place.
ok, there is something odd about the use of the n
I was going to say that I think n
n is less than 0 - he's using the numerical symbol for it (meaning the sense of being less than nothing)
I got that part of it, but when I typed n(less than sign)0 as part of a response, my comment was truncated after the n and until the end of the paragraph. It made me wonder if terrorIzd had done the name change on purpose or if it was entirely by chance.
Deuced clever if on purpose.
n, I don't know where to start. I've read your quotes and your bio. I've read everything you wrote on Thera's last blog. I wish we could just dismiss you as crazy. But you're not.
I wish I didn't know what it means to feel dead socially. I wish I didn't know what you meant by the emptiness of Erickson's stages of development--because people won't interact with you. I wish I didn't know what it's like to feel that the most fundamental relationship in the world is predator/prey. I wish I didn't understand the torture of blowing the whistle--of having your ethical strength called "immoral." It's nuts! But thank god you have the courage to speak out. I feel a great sense of connectedness reading your words. (I don't feel connectedness to the elbows you're throwing; although I do understand the fear that predation is universal)
I've been in your shoes. I started blogging here a year ago. And I did so because I was so terrified that my story would go unheard. I didn't have the stomach to interact in a thread. I just wanted to blog--to know that if I became prey the next day, my story would live on. You're in a group of people who truly care about you as a person. But as people ourselves, being smacked in the face makes it difficult to interact. Just as you felt as if you were being turned into prey, so we will tend to think you are doing the same to us. So, please, be careful.
The Cafe starts outside the predator/prey dynamic. So it's o.k. to feel o.k. here. Bienvenidos.
I have seen all of the released photos and videos of the torture (there are more coming)... But reading TheraP's psychological account of it still gave me a knot in gut at the thought of it.
Pretty powerful stuff isn't it? When I watch Rush Limbaugh slap himself in the face and say, "these people would call this torture." I would like to gently remind him that so-called Chinese Water Torture is just water dripping on the forehead. But when you're immobilized, and the water drips in random increments, you'll go insane. So yes, Rush, a little water dripping on your forehead is torture. And yes, everyone who says these techniques aren't painful enough to be considered torture: just a little water dripping on your head (timed without rhyme or reason) will make you lose your mind.
And that from a military man. Wow! That really impacts me back. Thanks for the gut-check!
Thera, I want to share something with you. This is the best I can do to thank you for this blog.
These are lyrics from a song called 'flood'. It comes from the perspective of hatred, the "ONE", the dehumanizer. I feel that your words represent the water.

Here comes the water.
All I knew and all I believed
are crumbling images
that no longer comfort me.
I scramble to reach higher ground,
some order and sanity,
or something to comfort me.
So I take what is mine,and hold what is mine,
suffocate what is mine, and bury what's mine.
Soon the water will come
and claim what is mine.
I must leave it behind,
and climb to a new place now.
This ground is not the rock I thought it to be.
Thought I was high, and free.
I thought I was there
divine destiny.
I was wrong.
This changes everything.
The water is rising up on me.
Thought the sun would come deliver me,
but the truth has come to punish me instead.
The ground is breaking down right under me.
Cleanse and purge me
in the water.
Thank you Thera.
Namaste, MBH.
I'm glad I came back here and found this.
While there may be intimacy, there is as you note, no equality. I do not know where torturers go in their heads. What "greater good" they think they are achieving. I am relatively sure that where they go is to objectify (at best) their victims and to reify their actions.
For the victim, there are few places to go depending on the circumstances. For myself, I made a contest of survival and remaining whole. I disconnected from what I was forced to say and tucked my integrity into a private holding space within myself. I knew that the likelihood of death was low, though the hatred I saw at points wished me dead with no remorse. However, the consequences of my death stayed the hand.
On the other hand, I skirted ending my own life. I could not sleep - i would doze and wake. I would dream being attacked and wake with bruises - leading me to fear that if I died in a dream, I would truly die. It did not help the insomnia.
It the worst period, I heard her voice in my head trying to drive me to injury and pain. Perhaps that too is part of the intimacy. The internalization of part of the torturer's hatred. Or perhaps between my process and her's the objectification intensified. With my sense of my self neatly barricaded within me, I could watch myself as if from a distance. I am sure that others have varied responses and techniques, and I make no effort to speak for all or any but myself.
These are not memories I wish to revisit, though I do. The last seven years knowing that the United States was systematically engaging in torture has broken my already skeptical heart over and over. The current "debate" is almost more than I can stand. Obama's desire to move forward (rather than addressing a deep wound on our nation and on the world, and on those who have been tortured at our hands, and died at our hands, and are still "disappeared" in our hands) has made it difficult for me to evaluate his decisions with objectivity.
I struggle for objectivity to try and communicate coherently. TheraP, I sense the same struggle in what you have written here.
This week on Real Time with Bill Maher, he interviewed Robert Baer (who had been tortured). Maher had the audacity to press Baer on the torture he had gone through. Baer refused to answer. I could not believe that someone would ask this question on national TV - ask someone to relive this in front of an audience. Now Maher is not known for his sensitivity, but this was beyond the pale for me. My stomach twisted as I watched the million thoughts and experience flash through Baer's eyes. In that moment Maher became the torturer. Perhaps he knew that in that godhood of the TV host.
And that is the other part of this awful thing. That people, knowingly or not, can strike that point of deep pain and humiliation. More awful yet when you see in their eyes that they know they have wounded you and are pleased in doing that.
What I do know soul deep is that torture is desperately wrong. There is no rationalization, or legal argument, that can shift me from that. I am not reasonable in arguing it. I know that inside each of us is a potential torturer. That too is terrifying. We all have the capacity to perpetuate horror, and some seemingly embrace that easily. That is why a stand and a struggle must be taken against what has been done in our name. Not just for the good of the country, nor of our future. Not just because it is the "right" thing to do. But because those who teeter on the edge of easy hatred and objectification see what has been done by our government as permission to let that inner monster out.
Enough, I've said perhaps too much. I think I do understand the struggle you expressed.
Rowan, you have risen to the occasion in a magnificent way. You have done far better than I have - but perhaps my attempt allowed your comment to burst forth. I am deeply grateful for this comment - because I believe you have powerfully aided the cause.
Our task is to drive home to the unwilling bystander the deep wounds that the word "torture" contains.
I owe you the deepest gratitude. And I confer upon you my most sacred blessing.
I understand the purpose of what you have tried to do with this post, and the earlier one on questions you don't ask. You are engaging in a valiant effort to touch the heart. To raise the level of empathy and understanding. That is the worthiest of causes.
It is a difficult task, and one I generally avoid for it entails laying too much of my self in a vulnerable space. The trolls you know can be brutal when they are simply looking for a good fight - or perhaps attention they feel they need. Regardless, what you do takes stepping into a space that is ... difficult. It also asks those who read your works to step into that space. In doing that, you have made clear over and over again that those who step forward will not stand alone. And conversely, in stepping forward we do not let you stand alone. Regardless, it is a gift you offer.
If my small contribution helps with that larger task then that is all for the good.
I fight on the behalf of the suffering voiceless.
That is why your voice here is so important. Not that you need to bare your soul, though you have done so. But your ability to "speak" may give courage to others.
And perhaps our efforts may change some hearts. As bwak and LisB say right below this - we will not let this go.
This is not about retribution. It is about compassion. Raising our voices on behalf of the ones who are voiceless and suffer still.
Too true, Rowan. This country's empathy deficit is perhaps its biggest impediment to real, sustainable progress on any number of issues.
Blogs like this (and yours from yesterday) help to reconnect ourselves the human suffering that is all too quickly dismissed in the clinical dissection and dehumanization the American Body Politic subjects everything to. I've been guilty of that detachment myself and I should know better having touched just the barest edges of these practices at SERE school.
I think this blog did a great job of re-humanizing this subject and reconnecting it to a more visceral level of understanding.
That is very helpful, Jason. Especially from someone who's experienced some of this under the safest possible circumstances.
This post from yesterday at FDL by a psychologist who works with torture victims suggests that indeed there was much evidence that the SERE training (Thanks to you, Jason, I now spell it correctly!) did have harmful effects, which the those who reverse-engineered it apparently tried to cover up.
Oh, dear....
You are speaking truth, no matter how some would seek to deny the facts.
Even the men and women who went through SERE (I had some of the acronym wrong, it is Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) had to readjust to the real world when it was done. Some took much longer than others - usually the younger ones who "resisted" a little too long - and it makes me wonder if they weren't the ones who pushed the envelope to far and needed to be instructed extra hard. We all didn't get the water board if we learned the lesson of resisting up to the point that you feel threatened with physical harm. In the course of our instruction, getting "boarded" meant you had failed.
I remember being interrogated as a "journalist spy" and a "war criminal" by men with thick eastern European accents. They grabbed my lapels and threw me against a "soft and pliable" wall repeatedly. I resisted and hedged and outright lied as the "abuse" got steadily worse. At one point, the instructor doing the interrogation leaned in and whispered in my ear, dropping his accent: "You need to stop resisting now. If this was real life, you would already be dead."
It was part of SERE protocol to break character and let us know when we were getting too close to the line where the end result is death. They didn't want dead "war criminals" if we were captured. SERE was safe in that they really wanted us to learn how to survive such an experience alive, even if we had to give up every shred of "intelligence" we possessed to keep our head firmly on our shoulders.
I doubt any of the "terrorists" we "interrogated" had such assurance.
Thank you for that, Jason. You have now proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt how very, very different is the "training" at SERE versus the "reality" of torture.
That was powerful. And very, very helpful!
More blessings...
My own childhood experience with physical and emotional abuse (culminating in abandonment) made me one of the "tough ones." I am not going to pretend that I was immune... even the most durable body can be broken until the will is compromised. But I can safely say that in an uncontrolled field environment, I would have been killed because my threshold is substantially higher than average.
The reason is simple: torture is intimate. I was abused by those who should have loved me, and I had to trust them with my life and safety because I was a child. This is the same with being tortured. You are a child again, entirely subject to the rules and whims of parental power. To survive, you have to return to your childish self while maintaining a chain of command... you have to be aware that although your torturers are your new adopted parents, there is a higher authority physically represented by your chain of command and symbolically represented by what you hold to be a higher power.
I know that I survived my childhood abuse by trusting in the love of God. I could "go inward" while I was being punished to a quiet place in my imagination that was filled with endless love and adventure. God had bestowed upon me the gift of imagination as a refuge from suffering, and it could not be taken away from me.
This same refuge has helped to heal me so that I can love others the way that I wasn't loved...
Anyhow, yes, torture is incredibly intimate. You have to retain your essential humanity, dignity, and spirit against an authority that seeks to derive you of thees very qualities.
Ultimately, that is what we should be fighting against. A society that propagates torture is a society that is depriving people of their essential humanity. While the lowest among us (terrorists and alleged terrorists) are tortured, the rest of us are damaged in a myriad of discrete ways, from surveillance to victimless crimes to mass murder.
Torture is not the disease... it is a symptom of a root illness called the emotional plague.
Our journeys through life have some interesting parallels. Thanks for adding a needed touch of wit, intelligence and humility (and ass kicking when needed) to the conversation around here.
Thank you, Zipperupus for that personal and cogent comment. And for pointing to the way.
Zipperupus, thanks for stepping forward. I think there is an "emotional plague," but I also think it is one which is encouraged by cultural values and practices. While torture is intimate, it is also depersonalized - particularly when we move to the level of policies of torture.
Most who are trained in interrogation will say that torture doesn't work - to extract reliable information. However, it does work to instill terror - and resistance. Perhaps that is its full purpose after all.
There is a degree of cruelty and disconnection in our society that has always generated despair for me. When it is joined by rhetoric or apathy, heinous things happen with little consequence.
I doubt it too. I know I'm echoing, but thanks for that recollection.
(hugs and hugs and hugs Rowan)
I will not let this go.
We can't.

Strength and peace LisB.
Received and hugs back Bwak.
What a gift. (more hugs)

{{{{{{ Hugs! }}}}}}
Rowan's blog on this is so powerful, I want to link to it here, since it's off the list now, in case anyone missed it:
Seriously, thanks for writing this (you also, TheraP).
That Bill Maher thing floors me. Can you imagine him asking a woman to describe in detail what it was like to be imprisoned for a week and raped repeatedly? I don't think some people have any idea what we are really dealing with.
(I kind of don't believe I'm posting this comment ... this is a pretty brutal thread).
Thank you for allowing yourself to become part of the thread, kgb. I know you've been awash in this torture business - I saw your comment over at emptywheel. Take care of yourself if you need to. One can only bear this for so long - and then it's important to take breaks from it - the very breaks the tortured can never get.
It is too easy to put myself in the shoes of the tortured one. I guess that is why this is so hard to look at. I resist this place but I can feel it, if vicariously, this awful secret room and the more awful secret torturer. These are primal images you bring. FEAR. Our bodies may feel these things even when we are just imagining them and react as if they were real to us. In other words, it can make us sick and heartbroken.
And then sometimes, instead of compassion, we experience another reaction – like detachment. I think this is what has happened in the US in dealing with the wars we are in. Many people simply detach from looking at what we are doing. It is too painful, it brings up too much.
But if we do nothing to follow the laws of our land and let those who tortured and those who got tortured go to the secret room forever, how will WE be able to move on? When you deeply look, like you have in your essay, this unresolved torture issue is torture.
What I do expect is a formal bipartisan investigation to show our country and ourselves that our human values and cherished laws are still alive and healthy. If they are, it will happen. If they aren’t, we will embed the consequences of torturing in ourselves forever.

Yes stratofrog. That is indeed the heart of the issue. That the nation will end up being the secret witness and that wound will linger indeed.
You have great insight into the psychodynamics of this. Yes, there is an oscillation between feeling "flooded" by the emotions and then your emotions shutting down. (This is the exact meaning of psychic shock. It's an oscillation. Your mind processes a bit of it, then shuts down - over and over.)
Your first paragraph accurately describes our "mirror neurons." Obey can tell us more about them than I know. And I know them as you know them. Via how they function in my mind. Mirror neurons fire when we watch or imagine the behavior and emotions of others. And these neurons fire "as if" the same emotions and behaviors are happening to us. Or as if we are enacting the very behaviors we see - or imagine.
Now here's the interesting thing. It is my contention that when we internalize something, we don't just internalize half of it - the half we can identify with (such as the victims), we internalize the "relationship" (captor/captive; torturer/tortured). And that is why I am so concerned about the effect of viewing violence or playing violent video games and so on. Because our minds process it as if we're doing (and experiencing) whatever is happening. Both the victim side of it. And the perpetrator side of it. It's a great advance for a species to have this capacity. It allows us to imagine vividly. To recall vividly. To invent and create (both the good and the bad). Victim and Perpetrator.
Now that's scary! That suggests the power of the Paranoid Position that cheney represents. The person who is filled with rage and contempt (don't forget the contempt - that seems to be his basic position from which he operates). And the "emotional contagion" that 9/11 became for the country.
Imagine Obama as the leader during 9/11. There would have been calm. His calm would have calmed us. We would not have had a knee-jerk reaction of rage and desire for retribution. (Based on w's fear and cheney's rage.)
As I think about it, how ironic is it that the right, which was filled with contempt and rage and a rush to get retribution - against the designated enemies (and we tortured to try and find the "intelligence" to prove Iraq was behind 9/11!!!!) - how ironic then, that the same folks who were SO eager for retribution then are so convinced that is the place WE are coming from now.
It's cheney's paranoia all over again. He doesn't recognize that what he's trying to brand US with - a rush to judgment, desire for retribution - is his own internal psychic style. The neo-cons never realize they have turned themselves into fascists - out of fear of them. (Mirror neurons = become what you fear! Unless you work on compassion. And empathize even with your enemies.)
That's why it's so important to stay with reality. That's why it is vital we do everything here via lawful means. Slowly, deliberately, allowing law enforcement to investigate, to sift the evidence, and so on.
Boy did you spark comment! ;)
And that is why I am so concerned about the effect of viewing violence or playing violent video games and so on. Because our minds process it as if we're doing (and experiencing) whatever is happening. Both the victim side of it. And the perpetrator side of it.
Isn't there a risk of these same bad effects occurring from weeks and weeks of the country being riveted by congressional hearings or trials in which lurid descriptions of every sort of violent depravity are read into the record. I'm not saying I am convinced this shouldn't happen. But I'm very worried about where all this is going, all this national fascination with torture and the discussion of torture, whether to take a pro position or a con position.
I'm not convinced that the outcome of such a process is either justice or enlightenment. Look what happened to the Rodney King jurors. After weeks of watching film of Rodney King being beaten, the shock wore off and they didn't think it was so bad anymore.
I don't see a fascination with torture. I see horror over what's happened!
As I wrote below, the genie is already out of the bottle. We have to deal with this. Trying to stuff it back it only allows that all of this goes underground and comes up later in harmful ways. We can't let this come back to haunt us.
Nazi Germany was dealt with very well. Even today children in Germany learn about this. It is not hidden. People can handle it. I recall seeing photos of the concentration camps at a very young age, 11 or so. They were searing. But I saw what evil could do.
We must face things. Before we can decidedly reject them.
I also don't think don't we can stuff the genie back in the bottle either at this point, TheraP. But I just have to disagree with you if you don't think part of what is going on in our society right now is a fascination with torture and the recesses of the human dark side. There is some sort of complex attraction/repulsion phenomenon at work. The same was true when the Abu Ghraib photos were first released.
Reflection on torture brings with it reflection on the role of pain and threat in the maintenance of social order and in systems of dominance and subordination of all kinds, not just in the extreme conditions of the torture chamber. In some ways, we are all part of that complex social order, occupying dual roles as the recipients of pain and threats of pain, and as dispensers of pain. There are clearly certain kinds of pleasure involved in imaginatively engaging with this part of life, both as inflicter and recipient. If there weren't, people would pay money to willingly subject themselves to sadomasochistic horror films like the Saw films.
We are all aware on some level of the extent to which we are kept obedient by fear, and by implicit threats of pain and deprivation. We know that our freedom is limited by those who possess the power to inflict pain on us. I remember the old George Lucas sci-fi film THX 1138. The narcotized citizens of the dystopian society portrayed in the film are "entertained" by watching endless holographic television scenes of the police beating prisoners. How different is that from our own world, in which Americans seem to devour about 17 different versions of the police procedurals Law and Order and CSI, in which every conceivable form of unsanctioned behavior is illustrated, along with the assurance of inevitable detection and consequent state-imposed suffering. CSI particularly loves to dwell on guts, decay and body parts. The power and authority of the forensic police gods of CSI is underlined by the fact they are granted the license to transgress the ancient taboos about the boundaries of the human body and the veneration of human remains. They represent government's control though power over the human body.
I have a friend from Germany, and based on my discussions with her, my impression is that the dominant mental approach the the Holocaust among Germans is humiliated and pained silence, and a deep sense of shame and unexpiable guilt. The country has managed to move forward, but I don't know if they have really dealt with it all that well. maybe we'll do better as we expose the torture wounds. But it is an open question.
There is a certain pattern in Western thinking about the proper way to restore balance and order that is based on concepts of agony, confession and catharsis. Intriguingly enough, the medieval inquisitors believed that the use of torture was justified because only the mortification of the flesh could get the sinner to confess and repudiate his sin, and atone with God. And some more gentle modern approaches to psychotherapy - certainly not all - seem to see it as an inherently agonizing process of exposure leading to a cathartic release and healing: torture, confession, atonement.
We also have an obsession with retributive justice - which is not quite the same thing as vengeance. Immanuel Kant argued that even if a society were disbanding itself, and there were no longer any need to punish its prisoners for the sake of social defense, they should still execute all the murderers in the interests of retributive justice. This is one expression of the ancient idea that there is something like a metaphysical notion of balance and "desert", that the order of nature is thrown into imbalance by transgression, and that this imbalance remains until the doers of evil receive evil in return. I personally believe this is all a myth. No balance is restored. On the other hand, the punishment does reproduce the cycle of intimidation based on pain and death, which plays a role is sustaining social order.
What will come of all these commissions and prosecutions? Will it be healing? Will we "deal with" the horror? Or will we revel in the horror and perpetuate it?
These ideas deserve a post of their own, Dan. I hope you'll write it.
I very much agree.
Argghh. Now that seems like torture! But I'll try.
I hope so
Boy, you packed a lot into that, Dan. To begin with let me say I have not watched a single TV show or movie you've mentioned. Indeed, I tend to deliberately avoid such subject matter in films, books, and I almost never watch TV anyway. I certainly never "wanted" to deal with this kind of thing, but anyone who does therapy ends up with people who've been severely harmed as children - to the point of torture. Thus, I've had to deal with patients and read books and go to seminars on this.
You're making some interesting points and all of it deserves of a blog of its own. Especially as this is obviously troubling you.
One thing that concerns me from your comment is a view of therapy as if it has to be miserable to be helpful. That's not accurate. And if you imagine that I'm addressing this because I have some belief that people's mental health needs it, you're sadly incorrect. We've been dragged here by bushco. Not me!
This is a topic that must be dealt with. I saw your comments elsewhere. And you are clearly concerned about the torture and you fearlessly post comments such as this one of yours today:
He gives me the impression of an abused child whose father made the boy call him "Sir" all the time in between tannings. He always looks like he is on the edge of explosion, and his eyes steam with fanatical rage. He calls everybody "Sir", but in a weirdly contemptuous way. After a while, the "Sirs" start to feel like a verbal inhibitory mechanism for suppressing the impulse to shove an ice pick into his interlocutor's forehead.
Go for a blog!
One thing that concerns me from your comment is a view of therapy as if it has to be miserable to be helpful.
Just to be clear about that, TheraP, I briefly mentioned in the comment that I know that not all psychotherapy embraces this outlook or proceeds in this way.
In fact very little therapy does. The old time psychoanalysis was that way. But we're waaaaay past that.
Ok, my apologies if I misunderstood that part.
Yeah, no problem. I was thinking of what are by now some of the sort of old, melodramatic cultural stereotypes of psychotherapy.
Just to be up front, I have a brother who is a family therapist. He's always trying to get us to dredge up every awful and painful secret or trauma from the history of the family. I think most of the rest of us would prefer just to laugh and let it all go.
You know, I'm sorry to hear that. Because work and family or friends are two different things. I see where you're coming from now.
And I really would like to see that blog you've been urged to do. Because I think I understand now that you weren't trying to accuse me of being some sort of torture-obsessed pervert. But you're trying to get at how our society has been infused with violence and torture and so on. And it's worrisome. It's not the "point" of this blog, but there are some very unhealthy aspects of all of this. Glorification of war. Glorification of violence and even torture. There's a sense, to me, that people are looking for more and more experiences which test the boundaries - whether they do it on the web or in movies or tv.
It's worrisome, on my end, because it reminds me of the Roman Empire in its decline. The gladiators. Throwing people to lions and turning them in to human torches. Things like that.
But I still very strongly feel this war crimes thing must be investigated.
And again, I hope you do that blog.
We are all aware on some level of the extent to which we are kept obedient by fear
Maybe you are, but hey Dan?
Speak for yourself.
You're not afraid of anyone?
I mean, just as a little example, Bwakfat, I was driving home from work today and in one part of my route I was going about 80 MPH. I reached an area where I have many times seen state troopers parked in the wooded divider, looking for speeders. And so I slowed down to 70 MPH. I didn't do it because I suddenly realized the wrongness of my ways. I did it because I didn't want to get an expensive parking ticket.
Of course, that's relatively low-level form of fear-based coercion. And I'm a very law-abiding middle aged white man in a predominantly white suburb. In some parts of the world, including this country, for certain kinds of people, the fear is much more palpable and direct. There is the fear of various kinds of harassment, being followed, being arrested arbitrarily, being framed for crimes one did not commit, or even receiving beatings.
Our criminal justice system is a very large punishment industry, dispensing a staggering amount of punishment each day. All of that massive volume of punishment, and the ceaseless public broadcasting and dramatization of pursuit and punishment, surely has a purpose and has an effect. The effect is to generate a giant, omnipresent cloud of intimidation and fear. Maybe such a thing is necessary to preserve order; maybe not. But it's there; and its big.
Even people who are not formally punished for crimes of which they are convicted are often informally pre-punished, just so the state can show who's boss. In the Law and Order shows, which I mentioned before, the police frequently go out of their way to make their arrest in the most humiliating, public way possible - even though the people they apprehend are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.
Dan, you've got a couple of great blogs in you, buddy!
There was a fascination with torture.
Think Hostel.
Think the Saw series.
We knew torture was occurring, and enacted the "logic" behind torture viscerally.
The Saw series especially... Discipline and punishment are used in order to morally refine evil. Think about the film from the perspective of the Bush era. There are cameras and recorders everywhere, and the lives of the individuals being punished (displined to death) are open books, meaning they have been recorded and invaded their entire lives. The audience in the cinema shares in the perspective of the torturer (the Cheneyesque master of torture) and the victims who are being tortured for their own good. The fulcrum of the Saw series is that the victims kill themselves and deserve it. Criminal justice at its most Kafkaesque.
Ergo, the fascination is there, but it is with the creative aspects of torture as a solution to moral problems, not the reality of torture as practiced.
that the victims kill themselves and deserve it
That is the ultimate control a torturer seeks! To have a "willing victim". Thanks for giving an example that allowed me to point that out. It is the most insidious horrible end-point of torture. Because if the victim is "willing" then the torturer is absolved of guilt. (well, on a conscious level...)
Thanks for that!
Zipperus, I used to be a college professor, and concluded from the observation of my students' attitudes that one of the largest obstacles standing in the way of progressive change in this country was the extent to which very many people have deeply internalized the fatalistic American attitude that people almost always get exactly what they deserve, and that even when they don't get what they deserve, only the weak and undignified complain about it.
Society everywhere preaches the stoic endurance of one's one suffering, along with contempt and suppression of empathy for the suffering of others: Play with pain; don't whine; don't claim victimhood; don't organize with others; just deal with it. That's the corporatocratic creed preached by both the entertainment and news divisions of our media.
What you are speaking into, per TPM roundup:
Poll: Close Public Divide On Torture A new ABC/Washington Post poll finds a majority of Americans supporting President Obama's decision to release the torture memos: 53% in favor, to 44% again. A slim 51%-47% majority supports investigation of whether laws were broken in the treatment of terrorism suspects. At the same time, it's a close divide on whether the U.S. should consider using torture in some cases: 49% against it, versus 48% who say there are cases where it should be considered.
I read that as fertile ground for the right seeds. That is, it's an opportunity, not something to shy away from.
Here's the thing, eds. Their sample was actually quite skewed - I read something on it (based on data that hadn't been published yet). Not by Nate, that would have been better. But they sampled as if you could break political leanings via a bell curve, so to speak, so that conservatives constituted a third of the sample, moderates a third, and liberals a third (relatively speaking). Thus, in spite of overweighting conservative respondents, they still got a majority wanting investigations.
Apparently there's another poll coming out this morning or today.
But yes, your point is valid. There is opportunity. And it's worth it to write from a place that can plant seeds. Because even many, many conservatives are horrified by torture and the betrayal of our ideals as a nation.
I don't see the significant overweighting of conservatives, and I don't know where you read about this. I also don't see any evidence of any weighting in the polling sample or the stated results, such as you allege.
Don't confuse Republicans with Conservatives. There are conservative Democrats, for example. Where's your data to support your claims here?
It was in a link from an FDL thread. Sorry, I don't have time to chase it down.
I know. Conservatives are not all Repubs etc. I agree.
Thanks, O!
Personally, I'd describe that as more than a slim majority. And wow! That 40% are "paying close attention" - that's almost an unheard of level of attention. If that's the case, I think we may see this "slim majority" widen.
Very helpful of you to post that.
Yes but the number of people who think that torture is okay is a bit horrifying.
Glad to hear that concerns you, O. I wonder what that's all about....
You know what, O? I never saw the rest of that whole poll! Didn't scroll down. Now that is scary! Very scary!
Seems like people are looking at "torture" in terms of some people deserve it. And they're not thinking at all about the fact that these people had no legal recourse.
People often believe that individuals deserve the outcomes they get. Therefore... if tortured, they deserved it. OMG!
Thera, it's new.
It's likely as poorly weighted as the other. Gallup? Oh, right.
Keep in mind the MSM ignored this as long as they could.
This issue isn't going away.
Not going away. At least the majority want this investigated. This is really scary, though, that people would approve. Yes, I know some do. But, wow!
You mentioned Nate [Silver] so I looked at his blog:
"This is perhaps compounded by the fact that Gallup used the deliberately ambiguous phrase "harsh interrogation techniques" rather than "torture"."
It's sad to see him spinning like that.
Once again, harsh interrogation is not the same as torture. Asking about one if you mean the other is a mistake. Those who ask about torture are polling for something very different than what Gallup was asking.
We know that how you ask the question can strongly determine the distribution of the answers.
Those who ask about torture are polling for something very different than what Gallup was asking.
Yep. Remind me to tell you about the time I called into CSPANS Washington Journal and a Republican pollster offered me a job.
My assumption is that 7 years of repeated Muslim=Arab=Terrorist=Muslim is having a lasting effect. It was certainly heavily reiterated in the most recent presidential election where too many folks still think that Obama is a Muslim and "pals around with terrorists" and was not born in the United States. I recently wrote an intro-educational piece for an anti-oppression program on the relationship between anti-Arabism and Islamophobia. The part right above the conclusion is most pertinent to what seems to be reflected in the poll - if anyone is interested.
Anyway, there is also a belief on the part of many (also repeatedly reinforced) that the "terrorists" (not suspected terrorists) and "enemy combatants" are the worst of the worst. That certainly downgrades concern for a lot of folks. The fact that many apparently were not guilty of anything, or that there is a difference between being suspected and guilty, seems to have gotten lost in the rhetoric and spin.
You're missing something on the 40%, I think.
40% of those who are following it favor investigation, 58% don't.
40% doesn't appear in the text so I figure you looked too quickly at the first item and the picture of the data. Take another look:
I think the asymmetry between all Americans and following closely is striking! The overall figures are 51/42 but those who are paying close attention are at 40/58. That says something very important to me.
I hope Nate takes a good look at this soon.
Terrifying that almost half of the people in this country are or vote with barbarians.
I'll comment as if the poll accurately represents the feelings of the people of this country. The [almost] half who wouldn't want the memos released is almost certainly made up of the same half , who don't want investigations and is the same half who think it should sometimes be “considered”. I interpret their choice to consider torture to mean they are for torture if it serves their purpose. I presume most of these same people have flags on their car antennas, ribbon decals on the sides, and “I support the Troops” bumper stickers.
Where you see fertile ground for the right seed I see ground half covered by bad seed which is deliberately nourished by by fear mongering and encouragement of the lack of empathy for the “other” and a complete indifference to how many of the others die as long as “our troops” keep the land of the free and the home of the brave safe from those who “hate us for what we are”.
I am an atheist, or at least a very skeptical agnostic, but I have to agree with uncle Leo about one thing, we need to give these folks some religion. Whatever the solution, it is certainly a problem we must not shy away from. .
That is an excellent comment. And I think it fits with the view of this I wrote above - the ideas I've come to, that paranoia is also catching. Those are the seeds you point to. And you are right. We need to gently weed some gardens, while sowing seeds of compassion at the same time.
Thanks for that insight! :)
The [almost] half who wouldn't want the memos released is almost certainly made up of the same half who don't want investigations and is the same half who think it should sometimes be “considered”.
I think we need more empirical information to make that judgment. Some of the people who don't want the memos released might be people who are concerned about the toxic, depraved and psychically polluted environment in which we and our children are forced to live, and don't want to contribute further to what is evolving into a dangerous, prurient fascination with the details of waterboarding, whipping, leg-breaking etc.
The urge to project ourselves imaginatively into the experiences of the torturer or the torture victim, and feel their pain, reminds me in some way of the medieval flagellants who wanted to brutalize their own bodies so they could identify more closely with the sufferings of Christ.
Dan, you make some good points. At the same time, people can protect themselves from reading about this. The genie is out of the bottle anyway. We have to deal with it.
"The [almost] half who wouldn't want the memos released is almost certainly made up of the same half , who don't want investigations and is the same half who think it should sometimes be “considered”."
If I understand what you're saying there, a better poll would have asked differential questions to test your reasonable hypothesis.
I could not follow your closing paragraph. But in terms of "bad seeds", yes it's a competitive environment regardless of whether or not "one man's flower is another woman's weed" applies.
Someone . . .
. . . should put down the stat sheets and calculator and get in touch with their soul . . .
Just saying . . .
No doubt you should, not that I assume you use stat sheets at all.
Hit home?
We can all sit around and yammer about the polls and such and sidetrack ourselves into feeling good or bad about whether or not others approve or disapprove of this ugly period in our history. But it all comes down to a singular responsibility issue.
I dare you to look at the deadness in the eyes of the zombies...
I dare you to look in your own eyes.
"I dare you to look in your own eyes."
That is of course impossible without a good mirror. Or at least using a poor mirror says more about the mirror than the eyes or what stands behind them. The mirror you offer is worse than poor here.
Which zombies? I don't see a "singular responsibility", so what's that about for you if you're not just failing to be "clever" about "soul"? Your posting style represents someone seeking to be in control, in TheraP's words, a torturer. Is that who you are, or merely an affectation on the part of a Decoy?
Politics is not about the souls of individuals, it's about how those souls relate to each other. The terrible intimacy of torture might touch a soul, but in the context the discussion was about polling methods which might use the likes of "stat sheets" to approach an accurate model (mirror) of a sort of collective soul of the country on a specific issue.
If your cheap shots have more soul behind them, feel free to get vulnerable and let it shine out more clearly.
Keep yammer there . . .
I wouldn't wish to control any individual let alone anyone of your ilk. It would be like walking a cat. You see ... I recognize that anyone who would accuse another of torture through simply communicating on a message board displays the insecurity within their own self.
Now back to your stats sheets and calculators.
You really are that shallow. :(
I did see The Ed Show is promoting Single Payer and grass roots. How about growing some and contributing more than shit chat here?
See . . .
By my suggesting that you keep yammering here, it's allowed you to dig your own hole, deeper and deeper and deeper. Feel better?
No, after you, Mr. Shallow Alphonse!
Just checking loose ends . . .

Yup -- Still here yammering and trying to figure out what's on the stat sheets and calculator.
Ya' know it was real beautiful in Seattle the past 3 days.
You ought to get out more often.
Hmmmmm . . .
I just posted this the day before yesterday in another forum. It was part of a longer piece, but this was the heart of the matter.
Currently, torture loving authoritarian enablers' practices merely sentence more and more people to an early death.
And I've seen the deadness come into many, many peoples eyes when they've forced themselves to take on this subject.
Thanks for taking this on Thera.
It took me well over a week to work myself up to writing this, once I knew I had to. And I only went "so far" into it. I went as far as I could, but that's why I feel I've failed - because I couldn't go any farther. I just couldn't. I see you understand.
Oh, the gift you are.
You are an access for the cure of the empathy deficit we are experiencing now. You embody the true Empath. I feel that the true Empath is contagious. Access to the One for others.
Until we can experience the real impact of anything, we have no power to transform either the "thing" or our relationship to it. The capacity to presence that impact in and for others is rare indeed.
Thank you
I am your humble servant. Namaste.
Thera and everyone who followers her marvelous thought provoking posts:
I too watch Maher over the weekend and was quite startled by his line of questioning with his guest. But two significant things were said that need to be pounded into the Mmainstream Media.
First the thought sequence for the previous administration; First "the U.S. doesn't torture", Second "well onnly a few times and onnly this one really bad man", Third "ok so we tortured him 6 times a day for three months..but he was a really bad man" Fourth, "none of the techniques we used threatend his life he only thought he was going to die" and the Grand Finale "yes, we tortured but it worked we got actioinable inteligence it saved American lives"
Ok, stop take a breath, read that again and think about the various members of GWB's administration and you can almsot see them reading these words from the telepromters over the last few years...yes, I know, makes you want to scream at the TV. Go ahead it will make you feel better.
Then one of his commentators made this beautiful statement regarding "putting this torture business in the past for the sake of the country"
he said, and I quote loosley... aren't all crimes in the past Do we not proscute someone for murder beacause it's in the past...ot the guy he killed was a bad person...we MUST prosecute the individuals resposible for the memo's justifying torture..the people who sanctioned the torture and those people who knew it was wrong and did it anyway....all are violations of the law and everyone of those people involved knew it was morally, ethically and legally wrong.
Unfortunatly it was said on Maher's show and it will not get any credence.
Years from now the only difference between this country and the rest of the wrold may just be they way we did or didn't handle this period in our history. I am praying that someone in the Obama administation figures out that there is more at stake here than moving a politiacal agenda forward over the next four years but, just perhaps, the survival of this nation as a great shining light of democracy.
What a beautifully pulled-together argument! Especially the "pretzel logic" of we'd don't it, but it works, and besides, it doesn't really do any harm.
I simply love your last paragraph! Thanks so much. :)
talk about "pretzel logic"!
Correction: Especially the "pretzel logic" of we don't do it, but it works, and besides, it doesn't really do any harm.
There. I feel better now.
Wow, thanks. I saw the Maher show, too, and I think the guy that said that was comedian Dana Gould.
You know, people keep trying to make this issue into something it isn't.
I don't understand their fear.
Peoples can find Mahers show here
if inclined.
I wonder if they just have people so cowed from 9/11 and cheney-paranoia, that people have stopped thinking. Or is it all the violence in video games and movies and tv?
Where did my Constitution go?
I think they are scared. Who wants a bunch of scared people running the country?
Bush and Cheney are cowards.It amazes me that they managed to imbibe the populace with that fear.
I'm glad it was noticed that the press terms it "torture" when the poll didn't. And so on.
Language games. He who controls the poll questions, controls the country!
Scary thought!
Thank you Thera and thank you Rowan.
You are welcome. Thank you for your contributions to both discussions.
Not to be outdone by Rowan, I must thank you as well, of course.
It really has been a pretty good thread here. A few bumps. But what is life without bumps?
Thera, I tried earlier to say something substantive to this after reading you and Rowan's comment, but the two pieces shook me up a bit much. I think I'm on the end of my tether on the torture 'debate'. My brain isn't of much use in this state. Will try again when my nerves settle down. Sorry.
right now I'm just happy Dick is back. Great news in dark times.
They were two powerful threads, weren't they? Take care of yourself, Obey. Never apologize if you need a break. We are in some very difficult trenches here. Thank goodness we're doing this together - and not in isolated cells being broken.
I've pretty much taken this as far as I can, I think. After this it's just keeping the pots simmering somehow or another.
Read the humor! DD is back! As you say.
If you want to read a genuine account of what it's like to be the victim of torture, rather than this impressionistic/psychological post, I recomment this book:
Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number
by Jacobo Timerman. It's quite unforgettable and shows torture for what it is, horrible, brutal and pointless.
Not everybody can stomach that much. I doubt I could. Long ago I tried to read The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn. I couldn't make it very far.
But thanks for providing that info.
As noted above, the impressionistic style here was to convey the disintegrated self produced by torture, the fragmentation of thinking.
As I said over and over, I've failed. I'm ok with that. What I wrote had to be said. It seems to have touched many. It is what it is.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Well, you are right about more than one thing, TheraP. I didn't want to read this post. In fact, I have not read most of the blogs concerning torture that have been posted over the past several days. I don't really need to read them because I know exactly where I stand on the issue. My opinion is rock solid. It's an immovable object in my mind. It will never change.
My mind was made up when I was in elementary school. I don't recall what grade or which teacher...all I really remember is a textbook opened to a page filled with illustrations of instruments of 'punishment'. This is where I was first introduced to the 'Stocks', the 'Rack', and the most awful thing I'd ever seen in my young life, a device called the 'Iron Maiden'. Especially disturbing to me were the two iron spikes that were driven into the subject's eyes when the two halves of the iron maiden were brought together.
It was a relief to learn that 'we' didn't use those instruments of 'punishment' anymore because 'we' were now much more civilized. Whew! Was I ever glad to hear that!
Of course, now that I'm a grumpy ole middle-aged Midwestern grannie type, I recognize the 'punishment' for what it really was...torture. I've absorbed a lot more about the subject over the years. It's always been a prickly fit in what I like to call the 'smoothness of thought'.
For me, torture is wrong. Always. It was wrong in 2002. It was wrong 500 years ago. It was wrong a thousand years ago. It was wrong forever ago. Yet, it has always been a part of humanity. It exists. Still. Today. It is a dark part of human-ness that takes too much out of me to deliberately study. I need a period of mental and spiritual preparation before I can deal and I haven't been able to discipline myself too well this past little while. That is why I have stayed away from the blogs concerning torture. I cannot find the balance, the center, to speak coherently about it.
I understand that in the next few days or so, there will be images of torture released to the media. I will not actively seek them out. A visual prompt is not necessary for this old warrior.
This was a good purge blog, TheraP. Thank you.
Thanks for that, flowerchild. A remarkable comment. We all need to know where we stand as well as to stand where we know we need to be.
This may be the end. But, what a thread! What an amazing thread!

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