An August 29 Washington Post article entitled “How a Detainee Became an Asset” details how the CIA’s “harsh interrogation techniques” caused Khalid Sheik Mohammed to become a CIA “asset,” meaning that he sung like a canary, confessed his crimes, disclosed everything he knew, and cooperated with the CIA.
Well, there you have it. Torture really does work, probably even on the innocent. It converts terrorists and potential terrorists into allies and it saves lives. Hail torture!
But why stop at isolation, sensory deprivation, forced standing, waterboarding, walling, beating, and sex abuse? Why not the rack? Why not electricity on the genitals?
Here — take a look at some really good methods of torture that are depicted in the Medieval Torture Museum in San Gimignano, Italy. Why not utilize the Wake of Juda’s Cradle? Why not the Virgin of Nuremberg? I’ll bet those methods of torture garnered plenty of cooperation from their victims.
The reason that U.S. officials haven’t used those old methods of torture is because a few decades ago they learned the benefits of what might be called “touchless torture.” The beauty of touchless torture is that it doesn’t leave any physical scars on the victim but yet is just as effective as physical torture in securing confessions and cooperation. Touchless torture enables the torturers to say, “He’s lying! We haven’t tortured him at all. Who are you going to believe — a terrorist or your loyal, devoted, patriotic, flag-waving CIA agent or U.S. soldier?”
What does touchless torture consist of? Things like extensive periods of sensory deprivation, isolation, and forced standing, and extreme temperature changes.
Now, you might say, “Well, that’s no big deal. Why, anybody who can’t withstand that is a wuss.”
Well, except for one thing. Ask any American POW during the Korean War if touchless torture is no big deal. Because the fact is that touchless torture was successful in doing to American soldiers, including officers, what it succeeded in doing to Khalid Sheik Mohammed. The touchless torture employed by the North Korean communists so messed up the minds of American servicemen that they ended up zombie-like and confessing to all sorts of evil crimes, including waging biological warfare, against the communists.
Where did U.S. officials come up with the techniques of touchless torture? Yes, from those North Korean communists who they had denounced for “brainwashing” U.S. servicemen into becoming compliant assets of the communists. Of course, they’ve added some important additional techniques to their arsenal of “harsh interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding, walling, beating, and sex abuse.
Anyone who thinks that what the CIA and the military have been doing since 9/11 is all new and is just the work of a few bad apples is living in la-la land. As Michael Otterman points out in his book American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, touchless torture has been a fundamental part of CIA and U.S. military operations for decades.
Go back to Operation Phoenix in the Vietnam War. You’ll find it there, big time. Go back to the torture manuals that the Pentagon employed at the School of the Americas. You’ll find it there, big time. Go back to the SERE program, which ostensibly taught U.S. servicemen to resist touchless torture. You’ll find it there, big time. And of course, after 9/11, you find it there, big time.
Undoubtedly, there are those who are hoping that the government will be able to pull off another Abu Ghraib by prosecuting a few “bad apples” but leaving intact the torture system itself and leaving alone those who ran it and continue running it. If they succeed in doing that, then why not at least end the deceit, charade, and hypocrisy by openly repealing criminal laws against torture and proudly proclaiming America as a pro-torture country?