Monday, May 26, 2008

Some Thoughts on Utilitarian Arguments Against Torture

The following represent some preliminary thoughts I have had on the question often asked, does torture work?

It depends what you are trying to accomplish with it.

Does it yield reliable information? No.

Does it ever give anything other than desperate fictions from the tortured? Yes

Historian Alfred McCoy explains how torture used on the individual is unreliable, yet perpetrated upon thousands it can supply a small amount of real information. (In my work with torture victims, I certainly have personal knowledge of individuals who have broken under torture and revealed information or given up names to their captors.) But the latter technique is very expensive, especially from a moral/political point of view. It turns the population against you, and degrades the country that uses it. The use of torture always blows back into the society that uses it.

Torture is effective -- short-term only -- in terrorizing a society, as a form of mass societal terror and repression. This is why the U.S. uses it... make no mistake. But long-term... as pointed out just above, it turns the victims and their families against you. You can, as in Algeria, win the battle of Algiers, so to speak, and still lose the entire war and be driven out of the country, as happened to the French.

I don't like the "torture is ineffective" argument, personally. I find it is a utilitarian argument, not a moral argument. The truth is more nuanced than a simple yes or no, so susceptible to the passions of the moment (as after 9/11). Would torture be okay if it did reliably produce good intelligence? This is really the internal logic of the "ticking bomb" scenario writ large.

Would we allow cannibalism if we found it could help feed the poor and hungry around the world? We could just allow cannibalism upon the very old and the terminally ill. Why is this unacceptable to us?

Would slavery be tolerable if it produced an efficient economic system? (The latter was truly argued for some time in U.S. historical circles. See this link.)

If we argue the merits of torture upon utilitarian lines, we end up in endless debates while those being tortured continue to suffer an unending hell, while the powerful parties of the imperial land contend over whether or not their suffering is palatable enough for them.

We must end torture now. Not because it doesn't work, and not because it may, someday, backfire upon the society that conducts it. Torture must end because in the collective consciousness of humanity it is seen as evil, as destructive of common human bonds, a universal anti-moralism that eats into the very core of spirit and soul, and antithetical to the communalistic ethos of men and women striving together to survive in the world.

It must become part of a categorical imperative beyond the vicissitudes of socioeconomic or national struggle. It is anathema. It is like murder, the murder of mankind.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Torture & the U.S. Presidential Race

Scott Horton is deeply involved in a new anti-torture campaign "dedicated to making certain that each presidential candidate makes stopping torture part of their campaign platform" -- and I want to support it. Working with other dedicated anti-torture activists, their initiative announces "No Torture. No Exceptions."
Torture has spread hatred of America, recruited terrorists, and placed our soldiers at risk. It has betrayed our values, damaged our credibility, frayed our alliances, and undermined our ability to promote freedom and democracy.

I've exchanged a few emails with one of the organizers of the campaign. And, of course, I respect Scott Horton tremendously. I can tell you I think these are some of the most dedicated people working the political side of the anti-torture struggle I have spoken with. While this old curmudgeon may have a few cavils about their approach -- hey! let's educate the U.S. population about the long history of American torture, beginning with MKULTRA -- I basically agree with their approach, and the need to construct a broad coalition of anti-torture supporters, showing the U.S. political establishment we are serious about ending this social cancer.

What do these Reject Torture folks want us to do? Well, you could go to their site, which is what I suggest. But the very first thing they want you to do is:
Call each presidential candidate NOW.
INSIST: "No Torture. No Exceptions."

John McCain:
Phone: (202) 224-2235 • Fax: (202) 228-2862

Barack Obama:
Phone: (202) 224-2854 • Fax: (202) 228-4260

Hillary Clinton:
Phone: (202) 224-4451 • Fax: (202) 228-0282

Click here for helpful talking points.
What does "No Torture. No Exceptions" really mean? The website lays out the simple and clear program:
  • reaffirming America's commitment to existing federal laws and international treaties that ban torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under all circumstances.

  • renouncing all legal interpretations and executive orders that redefine torture and permit such acts as sensory and sleep deprivation, stress positions, sexual humiliation, and mock executions.

  • enforcing full transparency of information about how America treats any and all detainees held by our personnel and those in our employ anywhere in the world.

  • rejecting and abolishing the practice of rendering detainees abroad.

  • establishing a single standard of interrogation procedures to apply to all persons held in U.S. custody or by those under U.S. control, whether C.I.A., military, or civilian.

  • treating our detainees as we would have others treat detained Americans.
  • The torture issue has had some small play in the presidential campaign thus far -- most famously when a majority of GOP candidates at an early debate stood up to defend torture, with the hapless Mitt Romney explaining that not only would he not close the Guantanamo torture gulag, he would double its size.

    The Democrats have been a bit more circumspect. And while, for instance, Barack Obama has spoken out explicitly upon changing U.S. policy, there is nothing about either torture or any detainee issue (such as the suppression of habeas corpus) at his official Obama '08 website. The same goes for Clinton at her campaign website. This circumspection is not an oversight, but a capitulation to the "war on terror"/"homeland security" drumbeats of the military/intelligence apparatus that dictates what classifies as an "issue" in America (parroted by the subservient and purchased press). aims to put U.S. use of torture at the front of Democratic Party campaign politics, "by persuading the Republican and the Democratic Parties at their national conventions to include in their Party platforms a plank that fully rejects the use of torture by United States forces and those in their employ." It's a noble endeavor, and while I remain pessimistic that the current political environment and the mainstream political parties are ready to take on decades of subservience to the military-industrial-intelligence state, we lose nothing in making the effort. Furthermore, we gain by getting the issue larger exposure.

    Go to and support their campaign. Call the presidential candidates today. And tell your friends. Pass the word.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Craig Haney on on Psychologists, Detention Facilities, and Torture

    Professor Craig Haney, an expert on the psychological effects of incarceration, and author of Death by Design: Capital Punishment as a Social Psychological System, gave an important presentation at last year's convention of the American Psychological Association. Speaking at the "mini-convention" symposium that examined the issue of psychologists and interrogations and allegations of torture, Dr. Haney spoke to the "degradation" of "our moral universe", not only in relation to governmental policies of torture abroad, but in the emphasis on totalitarian methods of incarceration domestically, and the distortion of decades of legal precedent in order to maintain this prison culture.

    Dr. Haney kindly gave Stephen Soldz the opportunity to publish the entire text of his talk at Soldz's blog. I'll reproduce some key passages here, but to read the whole thing, I'm directing you to Soldz's site.
    I frankly don’t think the ethical dilemmas we confront now as a society and as a discipline can be attributed entirely to 9-11 and the extraordinary -- maybe even in part understandable -- overreaction that our government had to the threat that 9-11 initially seemed to pose. I think instead that we had been prepared as citizens for a long time to react as we did-as, to a certain extent, at least initially, nearly all of us did. And the basis for this widespread reaction was rooted in domestic not foreign policy. That is, the road that has led us so directly to the morally compromised world we now inhabit was under construction for a very long time, in one sector of our society where civil rights have long been violated with impunity, and where people have regularly been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment-in our criminal justice system.

    Indeed, we have as a nation been reacting for a very long time to troublesome, inconvenient, threatening, and dangerous people inside our borders in one way and in one way only: by punishing them with unprecedented, increasingly unmitigated harshness- punishing them in deeply damaging ways and doing so with nary a concern for the psychological consequences that were being inflicted either on them, those connected to them, or the larger group of us who just got used to hearing about, if not actually seeing, it be done. The criminal justice system in the United States has become callously indifferent to the suffering of certain disfavored others over the last three decades and, along with it, so has the surrounding society. Our consciousness, our sensitivities, what we were willing to tolerate being done to others-indeed, to “the other“-have been shifted as a result.

    Sadly, many courts also have dutifully followed suit, taking their lead from the very forces that politicized punishment in the first place, opting to stay out of the fray, frequently refusing to impose meaningful limits on the amount of pain that could be inflicted in the name of preserving civil order. Those of you who are looking to domestic U.S. law for guidance here to the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, for example, as a way to insure humane treatment for detainees in the course of interrogation or confinement-are bound to be disappointed. When pain is made the very purpose of imprisonment, and criminal justice policies seek to spread it to as many corners of our society as possible, then few punishments are too cruel or too unusual as to be legally unacceptable....

    As a country, we passed laws that doubled or tripled and doubled again the rate of incarceration in the United States, so that we far outstripped literally every other nation on the planet in this regard. And no one said a thing. Decades ago we began to incarcerate African Americans in this society at a rate that far exceeded the rate of incarceration of Blacks in South Africa and we still do. And no one said a thing. We abandoned long-held principles of juvenile justice and began increasingly to prosecute and punish children as harshly as if they were adults. And no one said a thing....

    Once you begin to think of the world as composed of people who are part of the human community and people who are not, to react with extreme punitive harshness toward those whom you have placed outside its boundaries, to demonize rather than to understand them, then a powerful psychological process is set in motion that eventually leads to exactly the place we now find ourselves. But, as I say, we have been on this path for a long time. It is not surprising that when we finally realized that we had come to the logical but unanticipated extreme endpoint in this process-trying to decide whether and how we could participate in the torture of other human beings, we were hard pressed to know what to do or where to draw the lines.

    And without wishing to offend some of my psychologist colleagues, it is important to acknowledge that many of them have participated, actively or passively, in furthering many of these degrading and dehumanizing punitive trends. There are psychologists all across the country whose job is to sign off on these extreme levels of psyche- and soul- and family- and community-destroying levels of prison punishment. And sign off they do.

    I have clients who have been kept in punitive segregation in Louisiana for 35 years, living their lives inside the confines of an isolation cell not too much bigger than a kind-sized bed, except for the hour or so a day they are allowed to venture beyond its confines. Thirty-five years living like this. But no prison psychologist has seen fit to protest this inhumane treatment. In fact, quite the contrary, every 90 days one or another psychologist dutifully examines them and dutifully signs off on their continued isolation. I’ve had scores of mentally ill clients in Texas who deteriorated so badly under conditions of isolation that they regularly smeared themselves with feces and I could be hear them banging their heads against the walls of their cells or the steel cell doors as I walked up to visit them. No prison psychologist protested this treatment or demanded that these men be released from this horribly inhumane form of confinement. I have had thousands of clients in the close management units in the Florida prison system who, in addition to the severe, debilitating forms of isolation to which they were exposed, were prohibited from talking to one another, from one cell to the next. If they violated this prohibition they were pepper sprayed by prison staff, who sometimes would put a blanket over the rear window of their cells so that the gas would linger longer in the air. Some of the men could neither read nor write which meant that, when they were denied the opportunity to talk like this, they were literally denied the opportunity to communicate with other human beings at all. They were kept under conditions like these for years on end. No prison psychologist to my knowledge lodged a complaint over these and other related brutal practices, threatened to quit in the face of them, or took steps designed end them.
    There's much, much more to read in the full essay, and I highly encourage my visitors here to go and read the entire thing.

    It's clear that our society has gravely degenerated, that even those who are committed to help individuals who suffer have had their training and their occupation terribly twisted into monstrous subservience to a racist, authoritarian status quo. Meanwhile, the ruling elite continues marauding from New Orleans to Baghdad, filling the coffers of their off-shore bank accounts, while the poor and unconnected have to cough up more money and mindless labor to keep the machine running.

    For a contrary view as to what a humane penology might look like, one could start by reading Cesare Becarria's 1764 masterpiece, On Crimes and Punishment.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Lying for the Torturers: The APA School of Falsification

    When earlier this month the ACLU released a new slew of FOIA documents -- unredacted portions of Admiral Church's 2005 report on detainee abuses at "war on terror" prisons abroad -- the spin machine of the American Psychological Association sprang into action. APA propagandist, and Ethics Director, Stephen Behnke was called upon to take up the cudgels, whereupon he wrote an unctious, dissembling letter to the ACLU.

    In a letter dated May 15, Behnke praised ACLU for "uncovering details surrounding the treatment of detainees at detention facilities run by the U.S. government around the world." Then he reiterated APA's paper commitment to "the humane treatment of detainees." In between the lofty presentation of ideals and grand commitments, Behnke also made the following points (quoting from his letter, which has circulated via email, but not to my knowledge is online -- bold text below is my editorial emphasis):

    We find what is revealed about abuse in the newly released documents abhorrent. The position of the American Psychological Association is clear and unequivocal: There is never a justification for torture or abuse. In carefully reviewing the documents, we note that according to the information obtained by the ACLU, psychologists supporting interrogations “emphasized their separation from detainee medical care,” and that a psychologist who suspected abuse “recommended the interrogation not proceed and brought in medical personnel to evaluate the detainee.” According to these documents, APA’s policy of engagement served the intended purpose: to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety....

    APA is committed to promoting the humane treatment of detainees. We applaud the efforts of the ACLU to learn the truth about U.S. treatment of detainees. APA will adjudicate any allegation that an APA member has engaged in unethical conduct. If you have information that a psychologist has engaged in torture, I ask that you immediately bring this information to my attention.
    As for Behnke's last contention, i.e., that APA wwould adjudicate any torture allegation against a psychologist, he forgets to mention that most of the information on such behavior is classified. But even more egregious is how APA has treated the formal complaints against one APA member psychologist John Leso. Leso was present for the interrogation of Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, and his contribution was documented via the leaked release of al-Qahtani's interrogation log. Psychologist Trudy Bond, among others, were quick to respond to this and file a formal complaint with APA. She reports on what happened to this complaint in a recent story at Counterpunch. Dr. Bond has given me permission to reproduce the correspondence in the quote below:
    The APA leadership was long ago given hard evidence of misconduct by an APA member. A complaint was first filed by another source with your office against APA member Dr. John Leso in August of 2006....

    ...the Pentagon recently dropped charges against al-Qahtani, with much speculation that this decision was based on the knowledge of the torture he has endured -- torture which Dr. Leso enable as a psychologist and member of APA....

    Dr. Leso maintains a valid license in the State of New York until 2009, and has been a member in good standing of the American Psychological Association since 1996.

    I realize that "justice walks with leaden feet," (though few realize this statement belongs to Harry Weinberger, attorney for Emma Goldman), but my experience with the APA Office of Ethics in fulfilling the above promises feels more than leaden.

    What follows is a synopsis of my attempts to achieve the VERY response YOU PLEDGED in your letter to the ACLU.

    April 11, 2007 by Facsimile
    To: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Dr. Behnke:
    I am filing an ethics complaint against Dr. John F. Leso, a member of APA since 1996. The behavior at issue is participation in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment as documented in the INTERROGATION LOG of DETAINNEE 063 at Guantanamo.
    Dr. Trudy Bond

    April 11, 2007
    From: APA Office of Ethics
    Dear Dr. Bond:
    This is to acknowledge your inquiry received April 11, 2007 indicating your intent to file a complaint against Dr. John F. Leso . . . Once your completed complaint form is received, we will determine whether it is within the time limits for filing . . . We await your response.

    April 15, 2007
    To: APA Office of Ethics
    Fr: Dr. Trudy Bond
    Member Against Whom You Are Complaining: Dr. John Franklin Leso. Major John Franklin Leso was licensed by a psychologist by the state of New York and retains license number 013492 until July, 2009. He is currently an active APA member and has been since 1996.

    September 4, 2007
    To: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Fr: Dr. Trudy Bond
    Attached is a copy of the form I submitted to the APA Ethics Committee on April 15, 2007 regarding APA member John Leso. I have received no acknowledgment of or response to said complaint, and therefore am resubmitting this complaint.

    December 24, 2007
    To: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics, by email
    Fr: Dr. Trudy Bond
    I filed a second formal complaint against John Leso on September 4, 2007 after i had received no contact form APA regarding the first complaint filed in April of this year. The APA Office of Ethics has not even acknowledged receipt of the complaints I filed.

    December 24, 2007
    Fr: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Dear Dr. Bond,
    The Ethics Office does not respond in email to questions regarding specific ethics matters . . please write or fax the Ethics Office and I will ensure that you receive an expeditious response.

    January 3, 2008
    To: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Fr: Dr. Trudy Bond
    As per your request of 12/24/07, I am resending my letter of that date to you by U.S. Postal Mail asking that you inform me of the status of my ethical complaints against Dr. John Leso.

    January 23, 2008
    Fr: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Dear Dr. Bond,
    Thank you for your letter of January 3 . . . I am out of the country and will respond to your question as soon as I return.

    February 6, 2008
    Fr: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Dear Dr. Bond,
    Our records indicate that on April 11, 2007 you contacted the Ethics Office and indicated a wish to file a complaint against Dr. John Leso . . . Our records indicate that as of October, 2007, the Office had received neither the complaint form nor any additional information from you. As a result, on October 11, the inquiry was closed. . . It appears that you took the complainant packet sent in April . . . and used it to file a complaint against (redacted) . . . the complaint form you submitted in the (redacted) matter has Dr. Leso's name covered by "white out" . . .To date, we have not received any complaint from you against Dr. Leso.

    February 12, 2008
    To: Stephen Behnke, APA Director of Ethics
    Fr: Dr. Trudy Bond
    The complaint against Dr. Leso dated 4/15/07 was never acknowledged by APA. On 9/4/07, I resubmitted the same APA form that I had sent to your office on April 15, 2007. This complaint also was never acknowledged.

    February 27, 2008
    Fr: Office of Ethics
    Dear Dr. Bond:
    This is to acknowledge receipt of the completed Ethics Complaint Form and materials for the complaint filed against James F. Leso, PhD....

    As you well know, Dr. Behnke, Dr. Leso is not the only psychologist who has had complaints filed against him for involvement in torture, complaints that have not been "adjudicated" by your office. America's role as a torture nation is part of our national emergency. It's past time for APA to match words with deeds.
    A Failed Policy, or a Policy of Obfuscation

    I commend Dr. Bond for her attempt to keep APA on its ethical toes, and for doing the right thing. For my purposes, I wish to concentrate on Dr. Behnke's contention that "APA’s policy of engagement served the intended purpose: to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety." As with the issue of ajudicating complaints, Behkne's contention is a bald-faced lie.

    The relevant section of the Church Report for our purposes is the newly unredacted section on page 281. It concerns interrogation policy and practice in Iraq. The document reads:
    Illustrating our previous finding regarding the breakdown of disseminatio, the chart [which is redacted] demonstrates that the use of some of the techniques approved in the September 2003 memorandum continued even until July 2004, despite the fact that many were retracted by the October 2003 memorandum, and some were subsequently prohibited by the May 2004 memorandum.... the relatively widespread use of these techniques supports our finding that the policy documents were not always received or thoroughly understood.
    The September 2003 memorandum is the Sanchez memorandum of 9/14/2003, CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy, which includes use of isolation, sleep deprivation, dietary and environmental manipulation, among others. The latter carries this "note": "Caution: Based on court cases in other countries, some nations may view application of this technique in certain circumstances to be inhumane. Consideration of these views should be given prior to use of this technique." This memo also included "Yelling, Loud Music, and Light Control: Used to create fear, disorient detainee and prolong capture shock. Volume controlled to prevent injury," and the use of "stress positions."

    To paraphrase a comment by Steven Miles, re this revelation of "widespread use of these techniques" (and despite statements elsewhere in the report that none of the actors involved noted such abuse -- an aspect of this somewhat whitewash of a report that is contradictory)... where were the psychologists when this was going on? The report also notes (pg. 355) that the psychologists did "not function as mental health providers, and one of their core missions is to support interrogations."

    Furthermore, the unredacted portions of the report indicate that "documentation of medical care is not standardized or rigorous.... Separate detainee medical records are not maintained." A few paragraphs later (pp. 354-255), it's noted that "According to the Director, Psychological Applications Directorate (U.S. Army Special Operations Command), the only reason for sharing any medical information would be to ensure that detainees are treated in accordance with their medical requirements." -- In other words, psychologists were gatekeepers for indicating who and who couldn't medically stand the interrogation, such interrogations included, as noted above, "widespread use" of abusive and formally prohibited techniques.

    I don't see how much clearer it can be, given the government is not going to hand us a smoking gun outright. The closest they came to doing that was when the Pentagon released it's own Inspector General report last year accusing SERE military psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell of helping reverse-engineer SERE training into torture instruction to U.S. military/CIA forces abroad. (Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair also wrote a great article on this matter last summer.) Was there any hand-wringing at APA over psychologists being so heavily-implicated in the torture reports? None that was expressed publicly in any case.

    If this is not enough, consider the 11/4/03 interrogation at Abu Ghraib, reported in the Church Report, where a detainee "was initially reported to have slumped over during interrogation and then to have died despite attempted medical resuscitation." Since psychologists were assisting interrogations... where was the psychologist during this interrogation? (Later CID investigation suggested respiration problems due to hooding may have been involved. Hooding is a form of sensory deprivation, as well as inducing fear and disorientation.) -- There are a number of other such cases noted.

    I believe there is more than enough evidence in the documents provided to cast a very ominous light on the actions of psychologists (and other medical personnel) regarding detainee abuse aka torture. In any case, Behnke's statement that these documents demonstrate that "APA's policy of engagement served the intended purpose: to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety" is a patent falsehood given the bulk of evidence presented.

    The APA is on a long, dark road to compromised oblivion. But it does not march alone. There is the recent release of another major evaluation of detainee abuse -- this time looking at the role of the FBI at sites where torture took place. This investigatory report by the Department of Justice Inspector General describes how FBI agents were present at CIA torture, protested it, were ignored by their superiors, and even had their attempts at documenting the torture shut down. At the same time, top levels of DoJ, DoD, the FBI, the CIA, Congress, and the Bush Administration did all they could to facilitate the operations of torture and abuse at "war on terror" prisons that practically span the globe (from Guantanamo, to secret prisons in East Europe, to Iraq and Afghanistan, to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean). Meanwhile, the FBI agents -- the "good" ones -- filed their protests and went back to their jobs, and the American people were left in the dark.

    It seems a majority of the top layer of U.S. intellectual, governmental, and managerial society has lost its mooring entirely. Beholden to a lifestyle and career track that rests upon conquest and imperialistic occupation and control abroad, they either support Bush's criminal policies, or drown themselves in impotent gestures of protest.

    I, thankfully, am done with APA. But their self-serving lies and policy on torture carries on. Where APA sees dollar signs, the rest of us see a growing moral darkness.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    A Troubled Sewer of a Government: FBI & the Failure to Act on Torture Reports

    I begin this very important essay today by publishing a press release from the ACLU. It concerns the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector Report released Tuesday, A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq (438 pages!). I'll have a lot to digest in reading this crucial document, and more to say on it. But it's worth reading the full press release, and let's just say... things look as rotten as we suspected. Bold emphases are my own editorial emphasis.

    Justice Department Report Reveals Senior Government Officials Knew Early On Of Interrogation Abuse But Did Not Stop It (5/20/2008)

    First Government Report To Identify Rice As Receiving Interrogation Complaints

    CONTACT: (212) 549-2689 or 2666;

    NEW YORK - The results of an internal Justice Department investigation released today reveal that officials at the highest level of government — including the White House — received reports on the abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody overseas as early as 2002. Congress called on the department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to conduct the investigation after documents made public through an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed FBI agents at Guantánamo had raised concerns about methods used by military interrogators. Today's government report is the first to identify that then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice received complaints of torture.

    "Today's OIG report reveals that top government officials in the Defense Department, CIA and even as high as the White House turned a blind eye to torture and abuse and failed to act aggressively to end it," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Moreover, the country's top law enforcement agency — the FBI — did not take measures to enforce the law but only belatedly reported on the law's violations. It's troubling that the government seems to have been more concerned with obscuring the facts than with enforcing the law and stopping the torture and abuse of detainees. Had the government taken action in 2002, perhaps the disgrace of Abu Ghraib and other abuses could have been avoided."

    According to the OIG report, which was initiated in December 2004 and took three and a half years to complete, senior administration officials failed to stop torture and abuse even after being made aware of it.

    The report reveals the White House had knowledge of reports that originated with individual FBI agents, including concerns about the unlawful nature of interrogation tactics. Some of these discussions involved effectiveness, while others involved legality, the effect of abuse on the admissibility of evidence, and damage to the rule of law.

    "Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently testified to Congress that he cannot prosecute anyone for anything approved by Justice Department opinions that authorized detainee abuse. But no one gets immunity for acts they should have known were illegal," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The filtering up of information from FBI agents to high government officials makes claims of immunity even more incredulous."

    The report confirms that senior FBI officials knew as early as 2002 that other agencies including the CIA were using abusive interrogation methods. However, the FBI didn't advise its agents to report incidents of abuse until 2004, after the publication of photographs revealing abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    The report also reveals that the CIA hampered the OIG investigation by blocking an OIG interview with a detainee who was the subject of aggressive interrogation techniques including waterboarding. According to the report, the Defense Department had granted the OIG permission to interview several detainees including Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein Abu Zubaydah stating the interviews would not interfere with their attempts to obtain intelligence from the detainees. However, the CIA acting general counsel objected to the OIG team interviewing Zubaydah. The OIG was also denied access to classified information about CIA-controlled facilities, what occurred there, and what legal authorities governed their operations.

    "We are deeply troubled by the CIA's efforts to frustrate the Inspector General's investigation by denying the inspector general access to critical information and a key prisoner," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The report only underscores the pressing need for an independent and comprehensive investigation of prisoner abuse. It's unacceptable that, four years after the publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs, no senior official has been held accountable. Most of those who ought to have been held accountable have been nominated and confirmed to higher posts instead."

    "This new report should become exhibit A at the next congressional hearing on the Bush administration's use of torture," said Christopher Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel to the ACLU. "The House Judiciary Committee is in the middle of the first thorough congressional review of the development and implementation of the torture policies at the top levels of government. The questions are who did what and what crimes were committed. This Justice Department report helps answer both questions."

    In October 2003, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union — along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace — filed a FOIA request for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the FOIA request — including the Bush administration's 2003 "torture memo" written by John Yoo when he was a deputy at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel.

    The ACLU filed another FOIA request in April 2008 demanding the release of the OIG report after media reports that the investigation had been completed for months. Today's report confirms that the Defense Department used its classification review to delay the release of the report.
    Addendum (5/21/08):

    The fallout from the DOJ OIG report is spreading across the print press and blog world. You can almost sense the despair behind the written words, as the evidence of profound failure and monstrous subversion at the top, and impotent protest in the ranks, is infecting those commentators and reporters who survived the Bush years with a shred of ethical dignity. Consider Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane's story in today's New York Times (bold emphases are mine):
    The report says that the F.B.I. agents took their concerns to higher-ups, but that their concerns often fell on deaf ears: officials at senior levels at the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council were all made aware of the F.B.I. agents’ complaints, but little appears to have been done as a result.

    The report quotes passionate objections from F.B.I. officials who grew increasingly concerned about the reports of practices like intimidating inmates with snarling dogs, parading them in the nude before female soldiers, or “short-shackling” them to the floor for many hours in extreme heat or cold....

    Many of the abuses the report describes have previously been disclosed, but it was not known that F.B.I. agents had gone so far as to document accusations of abuse in a “war crimes file” at Guantánamo. The report does not say how many incidents were included in the file after it was started in 2002, but the “war crimes” label showed just how seriously F.B.I. agents took the accusations. Sometime in 2003, however, an F.B.I. official ordered the file closed because “investigating detainee allegations of abuse was not the F.B.I.’s mission,” the report said.
    Nothing could be clearer: torture is the policy of the United States, and even the protests of their own agents in the field are unacceptable. I wonder how many -- or even if any -- FBI agents resigned in protest over this inhumanity and criminality by our own government. While the report lauds the integrity of the agents, I note that few if any chose to resign in protest, or publicly bring this information to the American people who they supposedly serve.

    Glenn Greenwald turns his intellecutal guns upon the Congress and the American people themselves, noting:
    While there is much rhetorical protest over these torture programs in the halls of Congress and in our elite media institutions, there has been little real action in response. Indeed, it has long been known that we are torturing, holding detainees in secret prisons beyond the reach of law and civilization, sending detainees to the worst human rights abusers to be tortured, and subjecting them ourselves to all sorts of treatment which both our own laws and the treaties to which we are a party plainly prohibit. None of this is new.

    But our elite political institutions have decided, collectively, to do nothing about that. Quite the contrary, with regard to many of the revelations of abuse, our elected representatives — with some noble exceptions — have chosen to remain largely in the dark about what was done. When forced by court rulings or media revelations to act at all, they have endorsed and legalized this behavior — not investigated, outlawed or punished it.

    A 2006 ruling by the Supreme Court in Hamdan that the President’s interrogation and detention policies violated the law led Congress, on a largely bipartisan basis, to enact The Military Commissions Act to legalize those policies.
    Greenwald makes the vital point that the nation is imposing zero consequences for these violations of civilized norms. And he points out that key Democrats -- most crucially, now Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- were aware of and apparently substantively approved this torture (something I pointed out in my essay "No Moral Compass" last December). But, unaccountably, Greenwald asks these same political cowards and collaborationists to clean up their act: "Those political officials who were in a position to put a stop to these abuses but failed to do so have the greatest responsibility to take meaningful action now."

    But these officials have already shown themselves incapable or unwilling to take on the CIA, the Defense Department, upper echelons of the FBI and Justice Department, or Bush Administration officials themselves.

    America at a Crossroads

    What we have is a crisis of civil society in America. Our institutions have demonstrated a creaky inability to restrain crime and injustice at the highest levels of government. The aggressive war against and occupation of Iraq continues unabated, even with major, bloody counterinsurgency actions against civilian targets in Sadr City outside Baghdad, and even as the U.S. population views the war with grave distaste. Domestically, sky-high gas and food prices continue to spiral upwards without any intervention by the politicians, who evidently appear frozen to effect any real reforms, paralyzed by the warlike aims of those who rule this country, afraid perhaps to change anything lest the whole corrupt apparatus totter and fall and they lose their power thereby.

    Greenwald concludes, with a sense of desperation that time is growing short:
    It is vital to emphasize here that these matters are not obsolete matters of the distant past — something we can all agree to leave behind in the spirit of harmoniously moving forward. The torture, detention and surveillance policies in question are still the formal and official position of our government — and thus can be applied with far greater vigor not merely in the event of a new terrorist attack, but at any time....

    This could — and should — still all be reversed. The Congress could aggressively investigate. Criminal prosecutions could be commenced. Our opinion-making elite could sound the alarm. New laws could be passed, reversing the prior endorsements and imposing new restrictions, along with the will to enforce those laws. We still have the ability to vindicate the rule of law and enforce our basic constitutional framework.
    It is up to us as citizens to fight this evil, to begin to take action and say "no more". In the hallways of Congress, at state and local legislatures, at union meetings, at PTA meetings, in letters and emails and phone calls, a blizzard of protest... but we are not at the tipping point yet. I don't know when it will come, or even if it will come, but unless the American people stand up and fight for what is right, for themselves and for justice for all, then all may be lost.

    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    New Reports: U.S.-South Korean Killing Fields, 100,000+ Executed

    Associated Press is reporting shocking news of mass graves being uncovered in South Korea. The expose is partly due to the work of a South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    The mass executions of many tens of thousands took place in 1950, only weeks after North Korean armies invaded the South. One mass grave was exposed by a typhoon a few years ago. Recently declassified U.S. documents showed the Americans had taken pictures of a mass killing outside Daejeon. As reported at ABC News:
    With U.S. military officers sometimes present, and as North Korean invaders pushed down the peninsula, the southern army and police emptied South Korean prisons, lined up detainees and shot them in the head, dumping the bodies into hastily dug trenches. Others were thrown into abandoned mines or into the sea. Women and children were among those killed. Many victims never faced charges or trial....

    Hundreds of sets of remains have been uncovered so far, but researchers say they are only a tiny fraction of the deaths. The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million.

    That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is "very conservative," said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press.
    There are supposedly an estimated 150 mass graves around the country, yet to be unearthed. And while U.S. military and CIA documents discuss the killings, officially, the U.S. maintained executions were reportedly the work of the "murderous barbarism" of the North Koreans. But evidence now suggests the executions were ordered by U.S.-installed puppet President Syngman Rhee. (Rhee was the OSS's man in Korea during World War II. The OSS was the precursor to the CIA.) General MacArthur, leading "allied" forces in Korea, called the mass executions an "'internal matter', even though he controlled South Korea's military.

    The Cover-Up, and What We Must Do Now

    How could this have been covered up so long, you ask? A former Air Force intelligence officer tried to tell the story in a 1981 book. The late Donald Nichols told of witnessing "the unforgettable massacre of approximately 1,800 at Suwon," 20 miles south of Seoul." Another story on the subject by AP describes how reporters tried to tell the story back in 1950, only to have it denied and covered up.
    British journalist James Cameron wrote about mass prisoner shootings in the South Korean port city of Busan — then spelled Pusan — for London's Picture Post magazine in the fall of 1950, but publisher Edward Hulton ordered the story removed at the last minute.

    Earlier, correspondent Alan Winnington reported on the shooting of thousands of prisoners at Daejeon in the British communist newspaper The Daily Worker, only to have his reporting denounced by the U.S. Embassy in London as an "atrocity fabrication"....

    Associated Press correspondent O.H.P. King reported on the shooting of 60 political prisoners in Suwon, south of Seoul, and wrote in a later memoir he was "shocked that American officers were unconcerned" by questions he raised about due process for the detainees.
    These mass killings were goddamned war crimes of an immense, killing fields nature. The South Korean government and army of that time were basically creations of the United States. U.S. officers were present at some of these killings (that we know about already), and covered up what they knew -- covered up mass murder!

    After "shock and awe" in Iraq, the carpetbombing of Vietnam, the mass executions of the Phoenix Project, and the thousands imprisoned and untold tortured at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other "global war on terror" U.S. prisons (including the detention of thousands of minors), after these revelations and many, many more, it is time that Americans woke up and began to accept the reality of their history. That history is far bloodier than they care to imagine, and the fact that atrocities of this magnitude were done by or under the guidance of Americans is a hideous truth that we must not hide from.

    More importantly, we should not let those implicated in crimes past and present escape without accountability. A civil commission of the most respected Americans -- none of whom should be from government or the military, as they are too tainted -- should be assembled to investigate the full extent of U.S. involved war crimes. This should include the evidence about use of biological weapons by the United States, as well, during the Korean War. The use of torture post-9/11 should also top the agenda.

    We cannot have a clean start, a la Obama, without facing the truth, as ugly as it may be. I ask all of you: are we really a genocidal country? Do we let mass murder go unpunished? How has it come to this, that one has to even ask such questions in this day and age? Speak out now. U.S. militarism has led us to the gates of a moral holocaust. It is happening now.

    Saturday, May 17, 2008

    That's Some Catch

    I could have written an essay on the ongoing obscenity that is U.S. torture and rendition. Or I could have written on the unconstitutionality of the so-called "unitary executive". Or I could have (and probably will) write about yet another inane epistolary apologia from Stephen Behnke, Ethics Director at the American Psychological Association, replying to a new spate of ACLU-supplied FOIA documents from the Pentagon, and explaining, in regards to multiple revelations of psychologist participation in torture and abuse during national security interrogations at "war on terror" prisons: "APA's policy of engagement served the intended purpose: to stop interrogations that cross the bounds of ethical propriety."

    Yes, I could have written on that and more. But tonight, I'd rather revisit a favorite episode from Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (from Ch. 39, "The Eternal City", pp. 398-99), bold a few lines for emphasis, and just leave it at that.
    "There must have been a reason," Yossarian persisted, pounding his fist into his hand. "They couldn't just barge in here and chase everyone out."

    "No reason," wailed the old woman. "No reason."

    "What right did they have?"


    "What?" Yossarian froze in this tracks with fear and alarm and felt his whole body begin to tingle. "What did you say?"

    "Catch-22" the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. "Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."

    "What the hell are you talking about?" Yossarian shouted at her in bewildered, furious protest. "how did you know it was Catch-22? Who the hell told you it was Catch-22?"

    "The soldiers with the hard white hats and clubs...."

    "Didn't they show it to you?" Yosssarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. "Didn't you even make them read it?"

    "They don't have to show us Catch-22," the old woman answered. "The law says they don't have to."

    "What law says they don't have to?"


    "Oh, God damn!" Yossaraian exclaimed bitterly. "I bet it wasn't even really there."

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Support the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008

    An action alert from Physicians for Human Rights:
    We urge you to write your Senators and Representative today to support the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act of 2008.

    Shocking exposés this week by the New York Times, Washington Post, and 60 Minutes have confirmed the alarming breakdown in health care for detained asylum seekers and other immigrants in custody of the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), resulting in needless suffering and, in the most tragic cases, avoidable death.

    The Detainee Basic Medical Care Act would help to prevent these tragedies by requiring the government to protect the rights and well-being of asylum seekers and others held in immigration prisons throughout the United States.

    Please take action now in support of humane treatment and the right to health care of asylum seekers and other immigration detainees....

    If you know of currently or previously detained asylum seekers who received inadequate health care in detention, please let us know as soon as you can by emailing Jennie Baldé at
    Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein are reporting the story at the Washington Post:
    The most vulnerable detainees, the physically sick and the mentally ill, are sometimes denied the proper treatment to which they are entitled by law and regulation. They are locked in a world of slow care, poor care and no care, with panic and coverups among employees watching it happen, according to a Post investigation.

    The investigation found a hidden world of flawed medical judgments, faulty administrative practices, neglectful guards, ill-trained technicians, sloppy record-keeping, lost medical files and dangerous staff shortages. It is also a world increasingly run by high-priced private contractors. There is evidence that infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and chicken pox, are spreading inside the centers.

    Federal officials who oversee immigration detention said last week that they are "committed to ensuring the safety and well-being" of everyone in their custody.

    Some 83 detainees have died in, or soon after, custody during the past five years. The deaths are the loudest alarms about a system teetering on collapse.
    I once had an asylum detainee as a psychotherapy patient. I can tell you he suffered tremendously from poor health care at the center where he was held: poor access to doctors or medications; misdiagnosis; jailors who saw most ill detainees as complainers at best, or malingerers at worst -- and this patient was lucky, as he did not have a life-threatening illness. Something must be done!

    Support PHR's campaign and take action now.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    Of Hair Shirts and Golf Balls

    Keith Olberman has lit into George W. Bush for his callous, inane, and thoughtless remark that he has given up playing golf as a tribute to the sacrifice and death of soldiers he sent into war in the Middle East. Obviously, no sacrifice is too great for this morally-challenged criminal. This may be the most easily satirical mark in the history of all satire, as a multitude of columnists and editorialists have had a field day with Bush's expressions of faux-deep feelings. -- Anyway, here's Keith's take:
    "Mr. President," he was asked, "you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?
    "Yes," began perhaps the most startling reply of this nightmarish blight on our lives as Americans -- on our history.
    "It really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
    Golf, Sir?
    Golf sends the wrong signal to the grieving families of our men and women butchered in Iraq?
    Do you think these families, Mr. Bush - their lives blighted forever -- care about you playing golf?
    Do you think, Sir, they care about you?
    You, Mr. Bush, let their sons and daughters be killed.
    Sir, to show your solidarity with them - you gave up golf?
    Sir, to show your solidarity with them - you didn't give up your pursuit of this insurance-scam, profiteering, morally and financially bankrupting war.
    Sir, to show your solidarity with them - you didn't even give up talking about Iraq - a subject about which you have incessantly proved without pause or backwards glance, that you may literally be the least informed person in the world?
    Sir, to show your solidarity with them, you didn't give up... your
    4,000 dead Americans and your response... was to stop playing golf!
    Not "gulf" - golf.

    April 30, 2004... and now where are we?

    If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science, it seems most probably that they will serve the purposes of whatever individual or group has the power.
    The quote above is from U.S. psychology pioneer Carl Rogers. It is worth pondering his statement as we consider both recent developments in the fight against U.S. torture, and more general considerations about the role of psychologists, physicians, and other scientific and medical personnel in interrogations for Bush's "War on Terror."

    I was reading the New York Times's article on the decision by the "Convening Authority" at Guantanamo to drop all charges "without prejudice" against purported sixth 9/11 Al Qaeda hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani, when my attention was drawn to an ad from the CIA trumpeting the announcement that they were seeking applicants for "National Clandestine Service Careers." A few clicks later, curious to see what they were offering for my own profession (not that I wish to apply), I found a number of positions open. Here's one that caught my eye:
    Operational Psychologist
    Work Schedule: Full Time
    Salary: $82,961 – $127,442
    Location: Washington, DC metropolitan area

    Responsible for providing behavioral science consultancy to the Intelligence Community, the major activities involved in this role include psychological testing and behavioral assessment; customized training/consultation on topics related to cross-cultural personality assessment; and applied research.
    "Applied research." "Cross-cultural personality assessment." Perhaps it was the sort of job that Major John Leso, psychologist at Guantanamo in late 2002-early 2003, had applied for, only to find himself present at the 54-day interrogation of Mr. al-Qahtani, otherwise known as Detainee 063. As Philippe Sands explains in his recent must-read article at Vanity Fair, "The Green Light", Mr. al-Qahtani had the unusual luck to have his interrogation log publicly leaked, detailing the torture -- which included 15 of 18 torture techniques, then under special approval of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- he underwent, in part under the participation of psychologist Leso.

    No one knows for sure, as the "Convening Authority" is under no statutory obligation to explain herself, but it seems likely that al-Qahtani was dropped from Bush's projected show trials of other selected detainees, projected to begin sometime next year, because the evidence on him included large amounts of material produced through torture. There is no way the government can suppress this evidence by citing state secrecy, as the interrogation log is now public record, thanks to an anonymous leaker. Portions have already been published at Time Magazine. The full log is available at Center for Constitutional Rights.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the Bush Administration is preparing to try five other "high-profile" Guantanamo inmates at its dubious military commission hearings, as it seeks the death penalty for all five. One of the five is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks, who was admittedly waterboarded by CIA torturers during his interrogation. The videotape evidence of this was destroyed, leading to a brouhaha in the press and increased Congressional scrutiny.

    Legal Experts Take on Bush/Cheney's Legal Team

    Some of that Congressional interest was displayed at hearings on May 6 before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the House Judiciary Committee, looking at Bush Administration lawyers and the development of Administration interrogation rules over the past six years. Much of this history is already available in Philippe Sands' article cited above. Mr. Sands, a professor at University College London, was one of three prominent legal authorities to testify at the hearings (transcript courtesy of
    Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Committee, the story I uncovered is an unhappy one. It points to the early and direct involvement of those at the highest levels of government, often through their lawyers, the individuals on whom I largely focused. In June 2004, after the scandal of Abu Ghraib broke, and the August 1, 2002 Bybee Torture Memo became public, Mr Gonzalez and Mr Haynes appeared before the media to claim that the Bush Administration had not authorized such abuse. Contrary to the impression given by the Administration, repeated by Mr Haynes when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2006, his involvement (and that of Secretary Rumsfeld) began well before that stated in the official version. Mr. Haynes had visited Guantanamo, together with Mr Gonzales and Mr Addington, discussed interrogations, and then recommended that the U.S. military abandon its tradition of restraint. My conclusion, on the basis of interviews and documents, is that this is a story not only of crime but also of cover-up, to protect the most senior members of the Administration from the consequences of the illegality that has stained America’s reputation.
    Also speaking at the hearing was Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, who has recently called for the firing of University of California law professor John Yoo, who is heavily implicated in giving legal cover for Bush's torture plans. Ms. Cohn spoke very precisely about the legal gyrations of Bush administration lawyers as they sought refuge from legal accountability for the deliberate breaking of torture laws both national and international. What follows is an edited version of her testimony:
    What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression? They are all jus cogens. Jus cogens is Latin for "higher law" or "compelling law." This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition. [emphasis added]

    The United States has always prohibited the use of torture in our Constitution, laws executive statements and judicial decisions....

    The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, says, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture."

    Whether someone is a POW or not, he must always be treated humanely; there are no gaps in the Geneva Conventions. He must be protected against torture, mutilation, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity, particularly humiliating and degrading treatment under, Common Article 3....

    The US War Crimes Act, and 18 USC sections 818 and 3231, punish torture, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment.

    The Torture Statute provides for life in prison, or even the death penalty if the victim dies, for anyone who commits, attempts, or conspires to commit torture outside the United States....

    In Filartiga v. Peña-Irala, the Second Circuit declared the prohibition against torture is universal, obligatory, specific and definable. Since then, every U.S. circuit court has reaffirmed that torture violates universal and customary international law. In the Paquete Habana, the Supreme Court held that customary international law is part of U.S. law....

    Yet on February 7, 2002, President Bush, relying on memos by lawyers including John Yoo, announced that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda members....

    Lawyers in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote memos at the request of high-ranking government officials in order to insulate them from future prosecution for subjecting detainees to torture....

    The [United Nations] Torture Convention defines torture as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering. The U.S. attached an "understanding" to its ratification of the Torture Convention, which added the requirement that the torturer "specifically" intend to inflict the severe physical or mental pain or suffering. This is a distinction without a difference for three reasons. First, under well-established principles of criminal law, a person specifically intends to cause a result when he either consciously desires that result or when he knows the result is practically certain to follow. Second, unlike a "reservation" to a treaty provision, an "understanding" cannot change an international legal obligation. Third, under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, an "understanding" that violates the object and purpose of a treaty is void. The claim that treatment of prisoners which would amount to torture under the Torture Convention does not constitute torture under the U.S. "understanding" violates the object and purpose of the Convention, which is to ensure that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"....

    Nevertheless, Yoo twisted the law and redefined torture much more narrowly than the definitions in the Convention Against Torture and the Torture Statute. Under Yoo's definition, the victim must experience intense pain or suffering equivalent to pain associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body functions will likely result.
    Attorney David Luban, a Georgetown law professor, and the third expert to speak at the committee hearing, zeroed in on White House legal counsels' terrible twisting of the meaning of pain and suffering under torture: I mentioned earlier, [John Yoo] wrenches language from a Medicare statute to explain the legal definition of torture. The Medicare statute lists severe pain as a possible symptom of a medical emergency, and Mr. Yoo flips the statute and uses the language of medical emergency to define severe pain. This was so bizarre that the OLC itself disowned his definition a few months after it became public. It is highly unusual for one OLC opinion to disown an earlier one, and it shows just how far out of the mainstream Mr. Yoo had wandered. This goes beyond the ethical limits for a legal advisor. In fact, even in the courtroom there are limits to spinning the law: ethics rules forbid advocates from making frivolous legal arguments, or failing to disclose adverse legal authority. But it would be a mistake to focus only on Mr. Yoo. Mr. Levin’s replacement memo also takes liberties with the law. In particular, when the Levin Memo discusses the term “severe physical suffering” (which is part of the statutory definition of torture), it states that the suffering must “prolonged” to be severe – and that requirement simply isn’t in the statute at all. Under that definition, of course, waterboarding would not be torture because people break within seconds or minutes. This is a perfect example of a legalistic definition that looks inconspicuous but in reality narrows the definition of torture dramatically. Notice that the quicker a technique breaks the interrogation subject, the less prolonged his suffering will be – so the harsher the tactic, the less likely it is to qualify as “torture.”
    I wonder if any CIA psychologist wannabes were watching the House committee testimony on C-Span. Perhaps they will have to sign a waiver releasing the Agency from liability if they are later found prosecutable for war crimes. One never knows.

    Torture and Civil Society

    Among those who are fighting to remove psychologists from government interrogations at Guantanamo and other "war on terror" prison sites (including CIA secret torture prisons), there is some recent hope that the tide is turning in the struggle against the ossified bureaucratic apparatus of the American Psychological Association. Steven Reisner got a plurality of votes in the first round of voting for APA president. Even more, a petition to essentially remove psychologists from operational roles at national security interrogations has gained over 800 signatures thus far.

    About 950 signatures, or about 1% of the total APA membership, is needed to move the petition along to the next stage in the overly onerous process of delivering a vote on participation in interrogations to the overall APA membership. Along the way, supporters must survive vetting of the measure by both the APA president and the APA Council of Representatives. I believe the petition supporters are hoping that political pressures within and without the organization will help push it through. Meanwhile, APA leadership is planning to once again "discuss" the interrogations "issue" at its annual conference this August, hoping, no doubt, to talk their opponents into oblivion, or at least to a standstill, as they await marching orders from their bosses in Washington, DC and/or Langley.

    We are too close and embroiled in the struggle against state-sponsored torture to get a complete perspective on just how compromised major portions of U.S. civil society has become. But things are not exactly looking promising at the moment. The quote from Dr. Rogers that opened this essay was written over forty years ago. A generation has come and gone, and the same problems remain. Note Rogers' emphasis: "If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing their science..." Scientists and attorneys, doctors and soldiers, if one is only concerned with advancing their profession, then professional parochialism is surely the prelude to societal dissolution.

    Dr. Steven Miles, whose book Oath Betrayed documents the complicity of medical doctors and personnel in torture and abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, among other prison sites, is fond of noting that over four years after the revelations of the sickening, criminal abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib was made public on April 30, 2004, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) "maintains continuous editorial silence on medical complicity with human rights abuses in US war on terror prisons." Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association maintains the fiction that psychologists are at Guantanamo, for example, in order to make interrogations "safe" for the detainees.

    Slowly, achingly, you can feel the decent core of society straining to lift the crimes of torture and aggressive war off its bowed shoulders, like a modern Atlas struggling to raise the world up, while bureaucrats, military and intelligence hawks, crooked politicians, careerist attorneys, war profiteers, and oblivious medical and psychological personnel careen over themselves to pull it down. Will they succeed? And which "they" do you identify with?

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    Congress Pushing Back Against Bush Plans to Attack Iran

    David Swanson at has posted a letter from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers to President Bush. Dated last Thursday, Conyers threatens to bring impeachment charges against Bush if he unilaterally attacks Iran, without bringing the issue before Congress for approval. Swanson notes, "Please call your Congress Member at 202-224-3121 and Email them and ask them to co-sign" Conyers's letter.

    To date, I don't know how many new signatories the letter has received. Unless this strategy has the full backing of the Democratic majority and Congressional leadership, I don't know how effective it will be. A new war -- or rather the expansion of Bush's imperialistic, falsely-named "war on terror" -- in the Middle East would be a catastrophe not just for this country, but for countless millions across the world, and devastatingly murderous for who knows how many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent Iranians.

    I heartily endorse David Swanson's request to email or phone your congressman/congresswoman and tell them to sign on to the letter to Bush. Here's the text of Rep. Conyer's letter:
    May 8, 2008
    The Honorable George W. Bush
    President of the United States
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President:

    We are writing to register our strong opposition to possible unilateral, preemptive military action against other nations by the Executive Branch without Congressional authorization. As you know, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power "to declare war," to lay and collect taxes to "provide for the common defense" and general welfare of the United States, to "raise and support armies," to "provide and maintain a navy," to "make rules for the regulation for the land and naval forces," to "provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions," to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia," and to "make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution ... all ... powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States." Congress is also given exclusive power over the purse. The Constitution says, "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law."

    By contrast, the sole war powers granted to the Executive Branch through the President can be found in Article II, Section, which states, "The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States." Nothing in the history of the "Commander-in-Chief" clause suggests that the authors of the provision intended it to grant the Executive Branch the authority to engage U.S. forces in military action whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior authorization from Congress.

    In our view, the founders of our country intended this power to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to unilaterally launch, without congressional approval, preemptive military actions against foreign countries. As former Republican Representative Mickey Edwards recently wrote, "[t]he decision to go to war ... is the single most difficult choice any public official can be called upon to make. That is precisely why the nation’s Founders, aware of the deadly wars of Europe, deliberately withheld from the executive branch the power to engage in war unless such action was expressly approved by the people themselves, through their representatives in Congress."

    Members of Congress, including the signatories of this letter, have previously expressed concern about this issue. On April 25, 2006, sixty-two Members of Congress joined in a bipartisan letter that called on you to seek congressional approval before making any preemptive military strikes against Iran. Fifty-seven Members of Congress have co-sponsored H. Con. Res. 33, which expresses the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress.

    Our concerns in this area have been heightened by more recent events. The resignation in mid-March of Admiral William J. "Fox" Fallon from the head of U.S. Central Command, which was reportedly linked to a magazine article that portrayed him as the only person who might stop your Administration from waging preemptive war against Iran, has renewed widespread concerns that your Administration is unilaterally planning for military action against that country. This is despite the fact that the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, a stark reversal of previous Administration assessments.

    As we and others have continued to review troubling legal memoranda and other materials from your Administration asserting the power of the President to take unilateral action, moreover, our concerns have increased still further. For example, although federal law is clear that proceeding under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) "shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance" can be conducted within the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes, 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(f), the Justice Department has asserted that the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping in violation of FISA is "supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs". As one legal expert has explained, your Administration’s "preventive paradigm" has asserted "unchecked unilateral power" by the Executive Branch and violated "universal prohibitions on torture, disappearance, and the like."

    Late last year, Senator Joseph Biden stated unequivocally that "the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach" the president.

    We agree with Senator Biden, and it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued. Because of these concerns, we request the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these matters. As we have recently marked the fifth year since the invasion of Iraq, and the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq, your Administration should not unilaterally involve this country in yet another military conflict that promises high costs to American blood and treasure.

    The Honorable John Conyers
    Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Stop "Loyalty Oath" Witchhunt

    "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter."

    Article XX, Section 3 of the California Constitution, § 1360 Necessity of taking constitutional oath
    I thank People for the American Way for sending me an email to inform me of their campaign to reinstate Wendy Gonaver, an American-studies lecturer at California State University at Fullerton. Ms. Gonaver was fired the day before classes last semester. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports it:
    ... she would not “sign an oath swearing to ‘defend’ the U.S. and California constitutions ‘against all enemies, foreign and domestic’” unless she was allowed to include a statement explaining her views, “a practice allowed by other state institutions,” the reporter, Richard C. Paddock, writes. The university refused to grant her request.

    Earlier this year, California State University at East Bay fired Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker mathematics instructor, for trying to add the word “nonviolently” to the state loyalty oath and for refusing to sign it when the university did not allow her to add the word. She was later reinstated.
    As a number of articles point out, academic loyalty oaths are a remnant of the Cold War, when anti-communist hysteria took root at colleges and universities across the U.S. For instance, in 1950, prominent psychologist Erik Erikson left the University of California at Berkeley rather than sign the McCarthyeseque "loyalty oaths" demanded by the university at that time. (He ultimately ended up back in academia around ten years later, at Harvard.)

    A Los Angeles Times story on the Gonaver case notes that while written to catch and persecute communists during the McCarthy era, the effect today is to persecute religious believers for whom non-violence is a signal belief. The Times article explains:
    As a Quaker from Pennsylvania and a lifelong pacifist, Gonaver objected to the California oath as an infringement of her rights of free speech and religious freedom. She offered to sign the pledge if she could attach a brief statement expressing her views, a practice allowed by other state institutions. But Cal State Fullerton rejected her statement and insisted that she sign the oath if she wanted the job.

    "I wanted it on record that I am a pacifist," said Gonaver, 38. "I was really upset. I didn't expect to be fired. I was so shocked that I had to do this."

    California State University officials say they were simply following the law and did not discriminate against Gonaver because all employees are required to sign the oath. Clara Potes-Fellow, a Cal State spokeswoman, said the university does not permit employees to submit personal statements with the oath....

    Certain school districts and community colleges have been known to let employees change the wording of the oath when they sign or to ignore the requirement altogether. Others, including the University of California, advise employees on how they can register their objections yet still sign the pledge.

    All state, city, county, public school, community college and public university employees -- about 2.3 million people -- are covered by the law, although noncitizens are not required to sign.

    UC Berkeley was the first to impose a tough anti-communist loyalty oath in 1949 and fired 31 professors who refused to sign.
    (Erikson refused to sign the oath, in part, as a protest against the firing of the professors.)

    While you would think that first amendment rights would stop attempts to impose loyalty oaths, the law and Supreme Court decisions have been equivocal. (See this article from the website for Cornell University Law School.)

    The rulers of this country keep archaic laws such as loyalty oaths "on the books" not to persecute Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses, but to police dissent in the society, to harass those who believe in the need for radical societal change, and in general to impose a totalitarian uniformity of thought upon society, and most particularly upon those who staff and run the institutions that manufacture and teach knowledge in the society.

    The abrupt fall of the Soviet Union, which led to a triumphalist and belligerent stance internationally by U.S. rulers, produced a hazy amnesia upon the American populace, who remains unaware of how the effects of the Cold War ballooning of the national security state remain still with us. The "war on terror" is not much more than a repackaged campaign from the Cold War era, with a new ersatz enemy to be feared, and a military, CIA, and defense and educational establishment set to perpetuate its World War and Cold War existence no matter what the cost.

    That the neanderthals at Cal State Fullerton cannot bend to accommodate the non-violent Quaker beliefs of Wendy Gonaver is an ominous sign that the forces of nationalist and militarist reaction have made great headway in America in the Bush years.

    You may feel angered enough to go to the PFAW website and sign their petition demanding Cal State allow its employees to "express their religious or other objections to signing the state’s 'loyalty oath.'"

    While I can support this call, it strikes me that the proper stance to take is to demand an end to all loyalty oaths. They are not meant to really stop saboteurs, terrorists, communists, or anyone else who would really wish to powerfully oppose this country -- what person so inclined would feel any compunction about lying on such an oath anyway? Loyalty oaths are meant to police and frighten the population. They are against everything this country was founded upon. They should be banned.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008

    Poem on the Lisbon Earthquake, 1759

    On November 1, 1755, the first massive earthquake to shake modern Europe destroyed the city of Lisbon, then the fourth largest city in the Western World. Lisbon was a rich, pious city, with many churches, one of the centers of the Inquisition. The quake and resultant fire and tsunami was said to kill over 70,000 people. The priests and philosophers of the time grappled with how such wanton destruction could happen in a world supposedly run by a beneficent God.

    One of the most famous responses came from a leader of the European Enlightenment, François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire. His reaction to the disaster came in the form of a poem, "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, or: An Examination of that Axiom 'All Is Well". The following selections from this long work are from a 1912 translation by Joseph McCabe:

    Unhappy mortals! Dark and mourning earth!
    Affrighted gathering of human kind!
    Eternal lingering of useless pain!
    Come, ye philosophers, who cry, “All’s well,”
    And contemplate this ruin of a world.
    Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,
    This child and mother heaped in common wreck,
    These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—
    A hundred thousand whom the earth devours,
    Who, torn and bloody, palpitating yet,
    Entombed beneath their hospitable roofs,
    In racking torment end their stricken lives.
    To those expiring murmurs of distress,
    To that appalling spectacle of woe,
    Will ye reply: “You do but illustrate
    The iron laws that chain the will of God”?

    Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice
    Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?
    In these men dance; at Lisbon yawns the abyss.

    "’T is pride,” ye say—“the pride of rebel heart,
    To think we might fare better than we do.”
    Go, tell it to the Tagus’ stricken banks;
    Search in the ruins of that bloody shock;
    Ask of the dying in that house of grief,
    Whether ’t is pride that calls on heaven for help
    And pity for the sufferings of men.
    “All’s well,” ye say, “and all is necessary.”
    Think ye this universe had been the worse
    Without this hellish gulf in Portugal?
    Are ye so sure the great eternal cause,
    That knows all things, and for itself creates,
    Could not have placed us in this dreary clime
    Without volcanoes seething ’neath our feet?
    Set you this limit to the power supreme?
    Would you forbid it use its clemency?
    Are not the means of the great artisan
    Unlimited for shaping his designs?

    Nay, press not on my agitated heart
    These iron and irrevocable laws,
    This rigid chain of bodies, minds, and worlds.
    Dreams of the bloodless thinker are such thoughts.
    God holds the chain: is not himself enchained;
    By his indulgent choice is all arranged;
    Implacable he’s not, but free and just.

    Why suffer we, then, under one so just?
    There is the knot your thinkers should undo.

    The vulture fastens on his timid prey,
    And stabs with bloody beak the quivering limbs:
    All ’s well, it seems, for it. But in a while
    An eagle tears the vulture into shreds;
    The eagle is transfixed by shaft of man;
    The man, prone in the dust of battlefield,
    Mingling his blood with dying fellow-men,
    Becomes in turn the food of ravenous birds.
    Thus the whole world in every member groans:
    All born for torment and for mutual death.
    And o’er this ghastly chaos you would say
    The ills of each make up the good of all!
    What blessedness! And as, with quaking voice,
    Mortal and pitiful, ye cry, “All ’s well,”
    The universe belies you, and your heart
    Refutes a hundred times your mind’s conceit.

    All dead and living things are locked in strife.
    Confess it freely—evil stalks the land,
    Its secret principle unknown to us.
    Can it be from the author of all good?

    He sinks beneath the ruin he has wrought.
    What is the verdict of the vastest mind?
    Silence: the book of fate is closed to us.
    Man is a stranger to his own research;
    He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
    Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
    Devoured by death, a mockery of fate.
    But thinking atoms, whose far-seeing eyes,
    Guided by thought, have measured the faint stars,
    Our being mingles with the infinite;
    Ourselves we never see, or come to know.

    The hand of pleasure wipes away our tears;
    But pleasure passes like a fleeting shade,
    And leaves a legacy of pain and loss.
    The past for us is but a fond regret,
    The present grim, unless the future’s clear.
    If thought must end in darkness of the tomb,
    All will be well one day—so runs our hope.
    All now is well, is but an idle dream.
    The wise deceive me: God alone is right.
    With lowly sighing, subject in my pain,
    I do not fling myself ’gainst Providence.
    Once did I sing, in less lugubrious tone,
    The sunny ways of pleasure’s genial rule;
    The times have changed, and, taught by growing age,
    And sharing of the frailty of mankind,
    Seeking a light amid the deepening gloom,
    I can but suffer, and will not repine.

    A caliph once, when his last hour had come,
    This prayer addressed to him he reverenced:
    “To thee, sole and all-powerful king, I bear
    What thou dost lack in thy immensity –
    Evil and ignorance, distress and sin.”
    He might have added one thing further—hope.
    To support disaster relief in Mynamar (Burma), and make a donation online, click here.

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    Catholic Church Bans Anti-Torture Activist

    Dr. Steven Miles, the author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, and faculty member at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics, was supposed to speak last Sunday before at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church. The subject was torture and its effects upon society.

    Four days before Dr. Miles' talk, it was cancelled. The background to the story, as reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is that anti-abortion members of the diocese opposed his appearance "since he helped reverse an anti-abortion scare tactic by the Minnesota Department of Health"... thirty years ago! The irony of defending unborn lives, even as a recent poll suggests a majority of U.S. Catholics support torture "sometimes" or "often", was not lost on the Star-Tribune reporter, nor will it be lost on anyone who reads this story.

    According to local press coverage, back in 1978:
    The department was telling women that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. There is no established connection between abortion and breast cancer, and that spurious assertion was removed after scientists, including Miles, testified at the Legislature that it had demoralized the health department and "besmirched" (Miles' word) its reputation.

    Miles, a geriatrician, has performed no abortions. But when the Catholic Bulletin threatened to publish the names of doctors who provided abortions to indigent women, Miles wrote a letter to the editor asking that he be named, too, since he supported safe, legal and affordable abortion for those who needed them.
    (Speaking of respecting life, coincidentally, the same issue of the Star-Tribune has an article describing the death by taser of a young man by the Minnesota State Patrol. The tasering of the victim was grotesquely described as a "nonfactor.")

    Dr. Miles will give his talk anyway tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Carondelet Center, next to the College of Saint Catherine at 1890 Randolph Ave., in St. Paul. He has given the text of his presentation to Stephen Soldz, with permission to "redistribute, download, copy and use this material in any electronic or printed form." The following is the text of his speech, as reproduced at Dr. Soldz's website:
    Torture and the Courage to Be Inconvenienced

    Steven Miles MD

    [I was invited to give this talk at adult education at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on May 4, 2008 and lead a discussion of this topic on the evening of May 6. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul informed me that Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life encouraged people to contact the diocese to not allow me to speak because I am pro-choice on abortion and pro-euthanasia. Although I am pro-choice on abortion, I have written and spoke against physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. This talk on torture addresses neither. My wife and I have adopted and raised a disabled foster child. The Archdiocese instructed St. Joan's that I could not appear at the adult education in the church. St. Joan arranged for a college venue.

    The author hereby grants permission to redistribute, download, copy and use this material in any electronic or printed form. No further permissions need be requested.]


    I am deeply honored to be able to speak with you today about the issue of torture.

    Torture is not an exotic or esoteric topic. Although we rarely speak of it, it has directly wounded most of us. It is government policy in more than half of the world’s 200 nations. Our relatives fled the torture in East Europe, Latin America, or East Asia. Some of us were dispossessed by torture which enforced United States racial policies. Some of us have lost colleagues to torture in mission. Some of us sent or lost relatives who fought against torturing regimes. Forty thousand families in Minnesota have a torture survivor; we all bear the costs of their diminished parenting abilities, earning power, and sadness.

    My family has been touched by torture too. My wife’s ancestors disappeared in the Holocaust of Belarus. Our adoptive son survived the Cambodia’s killing fields and as a nurse put himself in service of the refugees of Ruanda. I have worked with survivors of torture on three continents and assist several groups, including Minnesota’s Center for Victims of Torture, which strives to treat or prevent torture.


    The word “torture” comes from the word for “twist” capturing the design of devices like the rack or the wheel that contort the body. We should however not allow our empathic recoil from the image of a person’s agony to cause us to miss the point that torture is aimed to destroy a community. The destruction of a person is the path-the destruction of a community is the goal. The Passion story has all the elements of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
    The ostentatious and unnecessary use of an inside informer,

    The mocking purple robe and the public label, “The King of the Jews,”

    The scourging and the nails.
    Jesus was not some Nazarene carpenter who was picked at random. He was selected and tortured in a manner that was designed to destroy the community carrying His message. In today’s scripture, Jesus reflected on that communitarian nature of his impending arrest and execution,
    I glorified You on earth
    by accomplishing the work that You gave me to do.
    I pray for them. And I have been glorified in them.
    And now I will no longer be in the world,
    but they are in the world, while I am coming to You.
    John 17:1-11a
    Torture is generally used to attack and suppress civil society. This is why it is aimed at the monks in Burma, the political leaders of Zimbabwe, the playwrights of Czechoslovakia, the journalists of Russia, the students of Chile, or the union leaders of Uruguay.

    In this use, torture is a strategy to maintain

    • The corrupt against the civic minded,
    • The empowered over the disenfranchised, and
    • The best fed in lands where most are poor and hungry.

    Torture is government by intimidation, horror, fear and division. It is antithetical to those who would create societies to flourish by lovingkindness, justice, and inclusion.


    In the still space of our confession, we must speak of our active and acquiescent, personal and collective, complicity with the culture of torture.

    • We must acknowledge that torture is a problem for all of us. It has found fertile ground in the lands of Islam, on the Buddhist ground of Cambodia’s killing fields, in the fatherland of the Reformation, in the topsoil of communist nations, in the democratic motherlands of Turkey and the United States and in the loam of the Catholic lands of Latin America.

    • We must confess that every people seem capable of torture, even the United States - Convener of the Trials at Nuremburg, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and instigator of the Geneva Conventions for the protection against “torture, or cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment.”

    • We should note that the National Catholic Reporter of March 24, 2006 reports that Catholics–more than the public at large, more than Protestants, and more than Evangelicals, support interrogational torture. Secular Americans were most likely to reject interrogational torture.

    Then, we must turn from confessing complicity with the culture of torture to the abolition of torture and to reconciliation in societies of justice and lovingkindness.


    After the crucifixion, Jesus’ community-the real target of His torture–gathered at Olivet.
    All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, Acts 1:12-14
    They reaffirmed their faith in the message, the movement, and the kind of civil society that had been entrusted to them.
    Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed,
    but should glorify God because of the name. 1 Pt 4:13-16
    Reconciliation means accepting our responsibility for building a culture against torture.

    We are responsible for knowing the facts. Research by the CIA, the Army, and the National Defense Intelligence University all show that interrogational torture is ineffective. It does not defuse ticking time bombs. The television show “24″ lies. Torture:

    • Produces bad information that leads to bad policy and needless dangerous battlefield sorties.
    • Radicalizes survivors
    • Makes it impossible to recruit human intelligence.
    • Alienates populations.
    • Causes an enemy to fight to the death rather than to surrender.
    • Undercuts the possibility of appealing for the humane treatment of our own soldiers who are taken POW.

    We are responsible for resisting the culture of torture.

    • Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela were freed by our solidarity with their cause.
    • Our amens enabled Martin Luther King to beat back the culture of Jim Crow.
    • Our complacency allowed Major Roberto D’Aubuisson to assassinate Archbishop Romero and his forces to oversee the defiling and murder of the Maryknoll sisters.
    • Our complacency allowed the sadistic guards at Abu Ghraib to go about their business; but our unwillingness to put their photographs aside saved countless lives.

    Oona Hathaway, a law professor at Yale University studied 160 nations some of which torture and others of which do not. She found that the witness of the Mothers of the Plaza in Argentina, the honesty of the Chilean Medical Association, or the dignified protests of the lawyers of Pakistan summoned nations towards curbing the scourge of torture.

    In such facts and examples, we can discern the path of reconciliation.

    We must summon the courage to be inconvenienced by the culture of torture.

    We must accept responsibility for rejecting the culture of torture in our personal and collective actions, including our acts of citizenship.

    We must lift our voices and hands in solidarity with civil communities of justice and lovingkindness in order to move from confession to the abolition of torture.
    Dr. Miles will also be lecturing this May 10 at a fundraiser for the torture treatment center, Survivors International. He will speak on Torture and Ill Treatment: Ethical Responsibilities of Healthcare Providers at the ACLU offices in San Franciso. For more information, or to register, contact Survivors International via email,, or call (415)546-2080.

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