On Torture

I’ve written so often on this topic that I feel I should set aside a page to link to the various posts on torture. I believe this topic should be the most important topic America talks about right now, aside from the war in Iraq itself. Outside the war in Iraq, nothing has done more considerable damage to America than our support of torture policies. These things done in secret will haunt us for generations to come unless we come clean of them now!

UPDATED: April 8, 2008

I want to add in here Scott Horton’s “A Tale of Three Lawyers.” Much has been revealed in the last few months about the Bush administration’s violations of law and of their lawyers’ attempts to justify torture. This is yet another example of this. This is a great shame to our wonderful nation.


I have to add this amazing timeline detailing how the CIA tortured detainees and how the orders came from the very top, from George W. Bush.

Bush’s “Alternative Set of Procedures” in the Words of Soviet Prisoners

This one discusses the use of sleep deprivation, giving examples of what Soviet prisoners testified happened to them.

Why Are So many Americans So Eager to Torture People?

This one begins to talk about the show “24” and its use of torture. It also gives examples of how ineffective torture was on our enemies.

Commentary on the Torture “Compromise”

This one discusses much and provides Vladimir Bukovsky’s testimony about what torture he had to endure as a prisoner of the Soviet Union.

The Wrongness of Torture

This one provides two examples of individuals who endured torture and the psychological post-torture effects.

Sleep Deprivation is Torture

This one shows the negative effects of sleep deprivation and also provides a link to the Convention Against Torture, which as it was ratified by the Senate is Constitutionally the Law of the Land:

The 1984 Convention for the Prevention of Torture, ratified by the US in 1994, clearly states that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may by invoked as a justification of torture.”

The Unreliability of Information Garnered from Torture

This one provides even more evidence that information extracted from torture tends to be very unreliable.

There is No Value to Torture

This link provides even more evidence that torture is ineffective, and at its heart has its purpose to completely dehumanize an individual. What’s the point of dehumanizing a person if the effort does not even produce desired results?

Mitt Romney Supports Torture

This one is a personal criticism of Romney, who is a Mormon and who should know better. Unfortunately, many Mormons are showing that they do not know better at this point in time.

The Negative Effects of Torture on the Interrogator

This one provides information from an op-ed written by a former interrogator of Iraqi prisoners. It highlights the nightmares he’s been dealing with ever since.

On “24”, Torture, and the Bush Administration: Improvisations in Sadism

This one commentates on an article describing the effects of the show “24”, its support from the Bush administration, and its use in the field by untrained American soldiers.

Another innocent man, another man tortured by America

This one refers to an op-ed of a man tortured by America who is suing our country over the torture he experienced.


This one is about David Hicks, the Australian Taliban, who is so dehumanized that he cannot take a call from his family because of what he experienced in Gitmo.

What if this was your son or daughter?

I ask this question, because Jose Padilla, tortured by the Bush administration, is an American citizen, arrested on American soil, and tortured in an American brig. Your son or daughter could be next. And legally, with the Military Commissions Act of 2006, you don’t have much of a say about it.

The torture of an American in Iraq

An American was tortured by Americans in Iraq. In a case of mistaken identity. Shows that it still is happening in Iraq.

Effective Interrogation without torture

Colonel Herrington is interviewed on Hugh Hewitt’s show about effective interrogation, and guess what, torture is not on the list of actual effective interrogation. Imagine that.

sleep deprivation used in Gitmo

I talk about a recent article in the American Journal of Bioethics about medical doctors participating in Nazi…er I mean Gitmo interrogations.

Confessions of a torturer in Iraq

Tony Lagouranis was an interrogator in Iraq who had to employ questionable techniques. Read his account.

Sleep Deprivation and the Treatment of Detainees

This one gives an example of a person who went through a self-induced sleep deprivation to show the effects after just four or five days. I also talk about the torture of prisoners in Gitmo, showing examples from a recent article published in the American Journal of Bioethics.

Yet Another Example of Why Torture is Ineffective

This one compares the “confessions” of the British soldiers taken by Iran to that of KSM taken by America. Note how matter of factly we seem to accept KSM’s confession as accurate, but how easily we dismiss the confessions by the British soldiers…

How To Break A Terrorist

Scott Horton writes in Harper’s Magazine about how the US military got to Zarqawi by employing non-torture techniques.

The Dark Art of Interrogation

Mark Bowden writes in the Atlantic about torture, in what is a seminal piece of work on the subject. His conclusion is that torture (including torture-lite) should be illegal in all cases, but that some interrogators are going to have to take the risk of breaking the law, and then facing justice on his actions. Most likely, he would not be tried or convicted, if his actions are deemed necessary. He also shows that the old tried and true techniques are far more effective, but only when done by professional, well-trained interrogators. This is a must read on the subject.

Sleep Deprivation and the Treatment of Detainees

This one goes into more detail about that article in the American Journal of Bioethics about the logs from Guantanamo detailing the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or better known as torture to those of us living in the real world.

Romney Still Supports Torture

Well I hoped he would learn, but he has not. Mitt Romney still supports torture, and Republicans still love him for it. How sad.

The Recuperative Power of the Enemy

This post discusses an article that shows how detrimental to our “war on terror” our torture policies have become, showing that our enemy gains more and more strength with each passing day that we torture one of theirs.

Verschärfte Vernehmung, Torture, or Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Showing examples of how these techniques were first employed by the Soviets and the Nazis. Normally that is not a good policy to emulate.

The Negative Effects of Torture on the Interrogators

This links to an article in the Washington Post where three interrogators were interviewed about the ghosts they deal with from their times as interrogators applying torture on subjects.

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Borrowed From the Soviets

This article shows evidence that the CIA learned their “enhanced interrogation techniques” from the Soviets. Note the language that even the Soviets attempted to justify their actions through legal mumbo jumbo. Even they knew their actions were wrong and tried to cover themselves.

Torture Doesn’t Work

Recent study proves torture doesn’t work.


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  1. I like this page and your blog. I wrote a post on this you might like to read as well. I just set up my new blog at worldpress and posted some some old stuff including my torture post. I’d love your feedback.

    I also like your page on nationalism, don’t often I see Anderson, Hobsbawn, and Geller cited on a blog, thogh all are on my shelf at work.

    Nationalsm is frightening, and I believe a recurring paranoid human psychosis that goes something like this: We ______ deserve to to rule because we are racially, morally, religious, culturally etc. superior. We been denied our place by (insert enemy here). We therefore have a duty to defeat said enemy to gain our rightful place. I wonder if it ever will be cured or simply goes in remission until someone drags it out as tool to gain power.

  2. […] The Good Democrat has very thoughtful blog.  I was especially impressed with his pages on torture and nationalism.  Torture is a concern of this blog and many others.  However, few address the […]

  3. professorpfm,

    Thank you for your compliments. I will take a look at your blog. Feel free to visit often and comment often.

    Nationalism was my favorite topic when I studied comparative politics at BYU. I think Anderson best phrased the ideology: “imagined communities.” There is nothing “real” about nationalism. It is all imagined, but powerful imagery it is!

  4. Yep, my nationalism prof at Pitt gave us Eichman in Jerusalem to show the end results.

    BTW, I also like blogs that show Faith and GOP are different things.

  5. Anne Applebaum writes about the indifference following the confession of KSM:

    It is true that the administration has now stated clearly that torture, at least by the administration’s definition, was not used in Mohammed’s interrogation. (“We don’t do torture” is how the White House press secretary cavalierly put it.) But even if we were to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, which hardly anyone will, the circumstances of Mohammed’s detention have been unacceptable by American standards. Even if he was not tortured, he was held in secret, extralegal and completely unregulated conditions, possibly in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, certainly under nothing resembling what we in the United States normally consider the rule of law, either international or domestic. The mystery surrounding his interrogation — when it was carried out, how and by whom — renders any confession he makes completely null, either in a court of law or in the court of international public opinion.

    This is concrete proof, as if more were needed, that it is not merely immoral to operate outside the rule of law; it is also ineffective and in fact profoundly counterproductive: There is no proof that it produces better information but plenty of evidence that it has discredited the United States. Indeed, there could be no more eloquent condemnation of the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies than the deafening silence that followed Mohammed’s confession: Who could have imagined, in September of 2001, that one of the deadliest terrorists in history would admit to the destruction of the World Trade Center — and that the world would shrug its shoulders?

    The Telegraph, from the UK, adds their view also:

    The problem for the Administration is that, even if he and his fellow prisoners are found guilty, the world will condemn the procedures by which the verdicts were reached. Guantánamo has become a byword for scorn of proper judicial process. Because of allegations of torture, any evidence extracted there would not stand up in a civilian court.

    The authorities have thus been forced to have recourse to military commissions as a means of bringing to account those whom they have good reason to suspect of terrorism. And because there are still nearly 400 detainees at Guantánamo, the damage being done to America’s reputation through the workings of the tribunals and commissions is likely to continue indefinitely.

    Five and a half years after 9/11, America is in urgent need of inspired public diplomacy to restore its image. Yet the arrogance that led to Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib hangs like an albatross around the neck of anyone who would make a move in this direction. That was clear from the reception given to George W. Bush during his recent tour of Latin America. His Administration has a primary duty to defend Americans against the likes of Mohammed.

    The tragedy is that the methods it has chosen are undermining the validity of what should be a perfectly legitimate quest.

    Seriously, who believes any word that comes out of KSM’s mouth, especially after he comes out of the highly questionable circumstances regarding his detention. This administration has done a total disservice to justice. His confession holds no credibility because of where he has been these past four years.

  6. The Washington Post Editorial also gets into the fray about KSM’s treatment at the hands of the CIA.

    Time for the truth to come out.

  7. I’ve updated the page.

  8. Amnesty International writes about the inhumane conditions found at Guantanamo Bay. They quote from one report:

    “”Reports indicate that the treatment of detainees since their arrests, and the conditions of their confinement, have had profound effects on the mental health of many of them. The treatment and conditions include the capture and transfer of detainees to an undisclosed overseas location, sensory deprivation and other abusive treatment during transfer; detention in cages without proper sanitation and exposure to extreme temperatures; minimal exercise and hygiene; systematic use of coercive interrogation techniques; long periods of solitary confinement; cultural and religious harassment; denial of or severely delayed communication with family; and the uncertainty generated by the indeterminate nature of confinement and denial of access to independent tribunals. These conditions have led in some instances to serious mental illness, over 350 acts of self-harm in 2003 alone, individual and mass suicide attempts and widespread, prolonged hunger strikes. The severe mental health consequences are likely to be long term in many cases, creating health burdens on detainees and their families for years to come.””

  9. I’ve updated the page

  10. Andrew Sullivan finds a jem, sort to speak that is, seeing what the topic is.

    The phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

    Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. ‘Waterboarding” was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The “cold bath” technique – the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo – was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed University,

    pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.

    In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether “enhanced interrogation” using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration…

    Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end – all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases. Notice the classic, universal and simple criterion used to define torture in 1948 (my italics):

    In deciding the degree of punishment, the Court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Art. 5 of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945. The Court came to the conclusion that such acts, even though they were committed with the connivance of superiors in rank or even on their orders, must be regarded and punished as serious war crimes.

    The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn’t wash with the court. Money quote:

    As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.

    The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.

    So using “enhanced interrogation techniques” against insurgent prisoners out of uniform was punishable by death. Here’s the Nazi defense argument:

    (c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

    This is the Yoo position. It’s what Glenn Reynolds calls the “sensible” position on torture. It was the camp slogan at Camp Nama in Iraq: “No Blood, No Foul.” Now take the issue of “stress positions”, photographed at Abu Ghraib and used at Bagram to murder an innocent detainee. Here’s a good description of how stress positions operate:

    The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

    This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone through them disagree. They describe:

    Dreadful pain in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.

    Yes, this is an account of someone who went through the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Dachau. (Google translation here.)

    Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I’m not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture – “enhanced interrogation techniques” – is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

  11. I’ve updated the page again

  12. I have added the two new posts on torture.

  13. Again, my comments have been deleted. Shocking.

  14. When in Disagreement, just delete…very cowardly.

  15. um, I haven’t deleted any comment here. It probably went to Akismet. Let me go see what naughty words you put in the comment.

  16. you must have used a swear word. Swear words are blacklisted on my site. Any comment with a swear word is gone. Poof. Just like that.

  17. Yo Mamma,

    You must be bored, however. Why are you frequenting my site if you don’t really care for the conversations going on here? Have you gotten bored at Sean Hannity’s blog?

  18. I’m not familliar with his Blog…does it link to yours? are you guys pals? perhaps some snuggling once went on, but now there is bitterness and contempt?

    And No, there weren’t any swears, and it was posted for a while, but now it’s not. Strange.

  19. huh, then I do not know what comment that was, Yo Mama. Perhaps you can write it again?

  20. Jane Mayer writes about the CIA’s black sites. Very very informative.

  21. An excellent article on the excesses of torture. This is not becoming of a true American.

  22. Sleep deprivation is torture? Good god, cry me a f’ing river. Perhaps if you just fix them a nice cup of warm herbal tea, the terrorist will no longer want to slit your throat. I found your little blog through your ridiculous post on Michael Totten’s article. You’re “gee, does it say how many buildings we damaged in Ramadi?” BS makes me ill. It’s a war you moron, f’ing whiny-ass defeatist liberals make me sick.

  23. thanks for stopping by.

  24. Condi Rice (the worst Secretary of State ever!) surprisingly can’t recollect if she got assurances from the Syrians that Arar would not be tortured. Surprise surprise.

    Rice did not apologize in the hearing and avoided directly answering a question from Massachusetts Democrat Rep. William Delahunt who asked if she knew Arar was tortured in Syria.

    “You are aware of the fact that he was tortured?” Delahunt asked.

    “I am aware of claims that were made,” she responded.

    But when asked if the United States had received any diplomatic assurances from Syria that Arar would not be tortured, Rice said her memory of the events had faded and she would have to respond later to the question.

    Of course her memory faded. After all, you can’t have your memory work too well when you are being recorded. You can’t be on record to state something true. That would be detrimental to your cause and all…

  25. If you’re free on Friday, this is a case worth supporting against torture:


    Read especially the link to Maher Arar’s 2003 piece where he tells exactly how he was tortured. The courts keep dismissing these cases accepting Bush’s arguments that “national security” and state secrets would be revealed. So basically the government commits a crime then tells the courts that they are allowed to cover up evidence of their crimes and the courts accept it. A large segment of the judiciary is no less guilty of supporting Bush’s evil than Bush himself and the feckless Congress are.

  26. I don’t work far from there, but I won’t be able to take time off at that hour unfortunately. Thanks for the invitation.

    Your analysis is spot on, as usual, and sad.

  27. I have updated this page to include that CIA torture timeline.

  28. I have updated this page

  29. Food for thought.

    “Article 4, THE Geneva Convention (1949)

    A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

    1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

    2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

    ( a ) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

    ( b ) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

    ( c ) That of carrying arms openly;

    ( d ) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

    3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

    4. Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, who shall provide them for that purpose with an identity card similar to the annexed model.

    5. Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.

    6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

    “GCIV provides an important exemption:

    Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention [ie GCIV] as would … be prejudicial to the security of such State … In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity (GCIV Article 5)

    Devils Advocate : Whats your definition of humanity?

  30. I’m not sure what your point is, Scott. Are you defending torture?

  31. Nope. I’m questioning your implied definition of torture (perhaps I mistake what you are suggesting). No-one claims that hooking up car batterys to someones testicles is torture. But is shining a bright light in someones face and playing a Britney Spearks tune torture? Okay, well maybe a Britney Spears song… but anyway, you get my point. If that constitutes torture, what is an acceptable method of interrogation?

    Also, while actual torture is reprehensible, the individuals in question are not covered under the Geneva Convention. Just common decency. But thats sorely lacking in this world anyway.

  32. What are you suggesting is my implied definition of torture?

  33. “The Dark Side” is a must read on this subject. Shocking stuff. Let me throw some names out there: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheyney, George Bush, John Yoo, David Addington, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and Tommy Franks. John Yoo ring a bell? He was just recently released of all pending federal charges of crimes against humanity. How about Dick Cheney? Know what role he played? You’d be surprised, especially if you knew how he ordered like a Hitler crimes against everything human, allthewhile being paid big buck by you and me to do it! He still walks around a free man.

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