Wednesday, March 18, 2009


USA as a country of sadists

by Larry Geller

The April 9 issue of the New York Review of Books carries an article by Mark Danner, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites, that I find almost impossible to read. It describes, in great detail, methods of interrogation that are unequivocally torture.

It’s one thing to read that the US subjected prisoners to sleep deprivation or even waterboarding, and quite another to read how these techniques were used simultaneously and for long periods of time (months). This kind of reporting has not been available to the average reader before.

The report is based on the ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody, by the International Committee of the Red Cross 43 pp., February 2007. Its veracity is unquestionable. What the ICRC is describing is torture, and it was ordered by and practiced by Americans.

The article has renewed calls to prosecute Bush and others in his administration who authorized torture. One of Bush’s lies, apparently, was that he did not authorize anything illegal. Only investigation, prosecution and trial can bring out his and others’ responsibility for these crimes.

But what about the others, those who carried out torture, knowing it to be illegal or not? What about those who piloted the planes, knowing that they were taking a human being to be tortured in one of the so-called black sites or in some foreign country? What about the psychologists who so willingly cooperated with interrogators and, in fact, made the torture possible? What about those who killed prisoners in the course of interrogation?

Let’s also ask about those who work in the US prison system who favor beatings and more old-fashioned methods to those taught by the psychologists. My first exposure to this issue was in 1971, when the mainstream press lied about the true nature of the Attica Prison riot in New York. No, the prisoners did not riot and cut the throats of guards. Despite press reports, no coroner corroborated the lies. In fact, the prisoners were subjected to brutal prison conditions including torture. After the riot was quelled, with hundreds of deaths, the survivors were tortured again.

The problem continues endemically in this country. According to psychiatrist Terry Kupers who has given testimony on conditions in many US prisons:

The plight of prisoners in the USA is strikingly similar to the plight of the Iraqis who were abused by American GIs. Prisoners are maced, raped, beaten, starved, left naked in freezing cold cells and otherwise abused in too many American prisons, as substantiated by findings in many courts that prisoners' constitutional rights to remain free of cruel and unusual punishment are being violated.

I can’t help asking what there is about the American character that makes this possible? Just because the order is given to waterboard someone doesn’t mean a person has to follow that order.

From the Wikipedia article on the film, “The Good German:”

The film's title alludes to the notion of "a good German", one who ostensibly was not to blame for allowing Hitler to persecute the Jews, and who did not see the Holocaust as it occurred before his eyes. Thematically, the film centers on guilt, and whether it is possible to survive the atrocities while being unaware of and uncomplicit of them.

Well, the “good American” is aware of the torture in Iraq. With the publication of this article, all the readers of the New York Review of Books have been suddenly transformed into “good Americans.” It’s hard to find a literate person who does know know about Abu Ghraib and what took place there. What are all these people doing to stop these crimes against humanity?

Bush walks the streets a free man today, and torture continues in US prisons at home and no doubt abroad. Obama has not stopped it. We have not stopped it. Are we a country of sadists and murderers? Why do we not act through our Congress or the courts? Who is attending to the prison problem? Doesn’t anyone care?


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