Saturday, December 10, 2005


An important article and book on the history of US torture

No person is whole if s/he does not understand history. An article by Naomi Klein on torture , summarizing a new book, reminds of our past: In his forthcoming book, A Question of Torture, Alfred McCoy synthesises this evidence, producing a riveting account of how monstrous CIA-funded experiments on psychiatric patients and prisoners in the 1950s turned into a template for what he calls "no-touch torture", based on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. McCoy traces how these methods were field-tested by CIA agents in Vietnam as part of the Phoenix programme and then imported to Latin America and Asia under the guise of police training.... And in Iraq the dirty work is already being handed over to Iraqi death squads, trained by the US and supervised by commanders like Jim Steele, who prepared for the job by setting up similar units in El Salvador. The US role in training and supervising Iraq's interior ministry was forgotten, moreover, when 173 prisoners were recently discovered in a ministry dungeon, some tortured so badly that their skin was falling off. "Look, it's a sovereign country. The Iraqi government exists," Rumsfeld said. He sounded just like the CIA's William Colby who, asked in a 1971 Congressional probe about the thousands killed under Phoenix, a programme he helped launch, replied that it was now "entirely a South Vietnamese programme". The point is that the US has, over four decades, systematically devised methods of torture that inflict maximum physical and psychic pain while sounding perfectly innocuous. If you don't touch someone, how can it be torture? But of course sensory deprivation is the vilest form of attack on the human spirit.
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