OpEdNews » For the Last Time - ALL OF IT - was Torture!
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May 9, 2009
For the Last Time - ALL OF IT - was Torture!
By F. Vyan Walton
It’s well past time we put a final punctuation mark on this entire “Enhanced Interrogations are not Torture” nonsense - Once and For All.
It doesn’t matter what the Polling Data says (Karl), what matters is what the Law Says. The simple fact is that the is No Such Thing as Torture Lite ™?
It’s not a question of whether Waterboarding is or isn’t Torture, and therefore illegal, the simple fact is that Every Coercive Method Authorized by Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury and Bush all meet the U.S. and International definitions of torture.
All of Them.
Contrary to many arguments this isn’t simply a matter of unenforceable International Law. The US signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture over a dozen years ago and implemented empowering legislation under 18 USC 2340 - The Torture Statute. It similarly made it a criminal offense to commit a grave Breach of Geneva under 18 USC 2441 - The War Crimes Act.
In his original August 2002 Memo (pdf) Jay Bybee argued that ten techniques, which had been culled from the Special Forces S.E.R.E. program were not torture because they did not induce “permanent or severe physical or psychological” damage as outlined under 18 USC 2340.
Those techniques were..
attention grasp, wailing, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivations, insects place in a confinement box and the waterboard
Bybee repeatedly argued that the pain and suffering would be “mild”, and unlikely to induce long-term psychological stress because only a few of these kinds of signs had ever been recorded by S.E.R.E. students - but besides the fact that the S.E.R.E. program is voluntary, whereas being held against your will is decidedly NOT voluntary, there is also the issue of duration and repetition. The S.E.R.E. course lasts less than a week, and at any point a student can use a code-word to signify they have overextended their reach. Under the program outlined by Bybee, none of this was possible, and neither was there a definate end to the process…
Amnesty International Describes Torture according to the UN Convention Against Torture this way:
It defines torture as any act by which:
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:
* obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession
* punishing him/her for an act s/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed
* intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person
* or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind;
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.*
ANY ACT - which causes severe physical or mental pain and suffering for the purpose of extracting information. ANY ACT.
Slapping, Grasping, Wall Standing, Cramped Confinement, Waterboarding - it doesn’t matter. ANY ACT.
Both the Geneva and the UN Convention Against Torture do not include a Laundry List of prohibited actions simply because one you do that, it increases the likelihood that someone might try to invent a technique which isn’t included on the list and try to claim that it Isn’t Torture on a technicality.
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits ”violence to life and person,” in particular ”mutilation, cruel treatment and torture” and also prohibits ”outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment”. These terms include ”other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.” The drafters of common Article 3 avoided a detailed list of prohibited acts in order to ensure that it had the broadest possible reach, leaving no loophole. As the official commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross explained:
”It is always dangerous to go into too much detail — especially in this domain. However great the care taken in drawing up a list of all the various forms of infliction, it would never be possible to catch up with the imagination of future torturers who wished to satisfy their bestial instincts; the more specific and complete a list tries to be, the more restrictive it becomes. The form of wording adopted is flexible, and, at the same time, precise.”
The Army Field Manual, which is crafted to abie by Geneva, does include a list of prohibited actions, and that list doesn’t leave any wiggle room for coercive interrogations.
5-75. If used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations,
prohibited actions include, but are not limited to—
• Forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a
• Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape
over the eyes.
• Applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical
• Using military working dogs.
• Inducing hypothermia or heat injury.
• Conducting mock executions.
• Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care.
5-76. While using legitimate interrogation techniques, certain applications of
approaches and techniques may approach the line between permissible
actions and prohibited actions.
Performing any of these actions, could clearly meet the legal definition of torture and a War Crime. As could hiding detainees from the legally authorized monitoring agencies such as the International Red Cross.
Two primary defenses/excuses were proffered by Bybee (and have been parotted by many others) - 1) The Pain and Suffering Wasn’t THAT Severe!
Pain is a highly subjective issue. What might cause minor pain for one person could be intensely painful for another. But then again, even minor inconveniences can become monumentally discomforting over the coarse of time. Some can even become deadly.
Repeated Face Slapping, like any form of assault, can led to bruising, hemoraging and even a subdural hematoma which can trigger traumatic brain injury. I’m not talking about 2 quick slaps, but hundreds of slaps - over the course of days, and weeks and months. The longer the duration the higher likelihood of permanent damage, and even death.
Stress Positions, Wall Standing and Cramped Confinement are all classic forms of torture. They are used to induce muscle fatigue, which one might associate with body building - but the static nature of the muscles producers a very different result than increasing Lat or Deltoid size. When combined with sleep deprivation, extended periods of acute muscle fatigue can cause the subjects kidneys to shutdown. Generally speaking a lack of functioning kidneys tends to lead to a lack of Life!
Even the psychologist whom some OLC memos cited to argue that the suggested methods were harmless, in fact says exactly the opposite.
“As soon as you add in any other stress, any other psychological stress, then the sleep deprivation feeds on that, and the two compound each other to make things far worse. I made that very, very clear,” he said. “And there’s been a lot of research by others since then to show that this is the case.”
As for whether such stress could be considered “harmful,” Horne was unequivocal. “I thought it was totally inappropriate to cite my book as being evidence that you can do this and there’s not much harm. With additional stress, these people are suffering. It’s obviously traumatic,” he said. “I just find it absurd.”It’s is even more difficult to quantify psychological pain and suffering than it can be for physical pain, but it can’t seriously be argued that deliberate attempts at inducing fear and shamefully humiliation (such as the use of nudity, dogs and insects) had No Effect At All! Further we have amples examples of the impact of physical and emotional abuse, particularly in domestic situations when women are the most common targets.
Women who live in violent households experience intense feelings of fear, panic, and anxiety (Jones 87). Many experience feelings of depression and shame, because they feel guilty about staying in their current situation (Jones 87). Women who are victims of abuse over a prolonged period of time will develop feelings of learned helplessness, or in other words, they will feel powerless to do anything to ameliorate their situation. This feeling of learned helplessness will further contribute to a depressed state. Women who are physically abused are also often verbally abused. This verbal abuse includes name-calling, making one feel worthless, playing mind games, and isolation from one’s family and friends. Verbal abuse can be more damaging to a woman’s psychological well-being than physical abuse. Which physical abuse the wounds heal, but psychological abuse is more difficult to overcome.
Clearly we are usually discussing men rather than women when talk about detainee abuse, but the simple fact is that most women in domestic violence situations CAN LEAVE and end the abuse - a detainee doesn’t have that option, and hence has the potential to feel even more helpless and become even more psychologically damaged. Putting aside the obviously problematic argument of “which is worse”, it it clear that both the law and society consider this kind of abusive treatment to be unacceptable - so how then can we consider similar treatment to be permissible under the color of authority regardless of the circumstances?
The simple truth is we can’t.
The second argument offered is 2) We we’re doing it to Save American Lives
Besides the fact that the CIA Inspector Generals Report, and the FBI Director both dispute claims that “Enhance Interrogation” has succeeding in producing “Good Actionable Intelligence” that saved lives, there is one very simple response to this, the UN Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has signed and ratified, states…
Article 2(2) of the Convention states that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
In short, there are NO ABUSIVE ACTIONS, either physical or psychological, which are permitted under Geneva for extracting information and under the UN Conventions there are NO EXCUSES.
Many people tend to look at the purely as a “waterboarding” issue, but the fact is long before you reach that particular technique, you’ve already long passed the threshold into torture and war crimes. But even with that in mind, few people even realize what waterboarding truly is. Even Wikipedia knows better than Jay Bybee.
Waterboarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages. By forced suffocation and inhalation of water, the subject experiences drowning and is caused to believe they are about to die. It is considered a form of torture by legal experts, politicians, war veterans, intelligence officials, military judges,and human rights organizations. As early as the Spanish Inquisition it was used for interrogation purposes, to punish and intimidate, and to force confessions.
In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, waterboarding precipitates a gag reflex almost immediately. The technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage. It can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage or, ultimately, death. Adverse physical consequences can start manifesting months after the event; psychological effects can last for years.
Certain forms of waterboarding do not allow water to enter the mouth and lungs by using a non-permiable or cellophane sheet to cover the nose and mouth (although the Method used under S.E.R.E. isn’t one of these), but far from being “safe” this version of waterboarding it can enduce the phenomenon of Dry Drowning.
In normal breathing, the diaphragm contracts, causing the lungs to expand (lungs are above the diaphragm). This expansion draws air into the lungs by generating a negative pressure or vacuum. Air first travels through the rigid larynx and upper airways before filling the inflatable alveoli in the lungs.
When water or other foreign bodies are inhaled, laryngospasm occurs and the person’s larynx spasms shut. As a result, the vacuum created by the diaphragm cannot be filled by the inrush of air into the lungs, and the vacuum persists. In an attempt to force air in through the spasmed larynx, the person may breathe deeper and with more effort, but this only increases the vacuum’s force inside the chest. The obstruction to the inflow of oxygen causes hypoxia, and the obstruction to the outflow of carbon dioxide causes acidosis, both resulting in death.
In addition, a multifactorial form of pulmonary edema is produced. The heart continues to beat normally during this time, and blood continues to circulate, though pulmonary oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchange is markedly reduced. The volume of blood in the pulmonary circulation increases, by pulling in more blood from the abdomen, head, arms and legs - abnormally large volumes of this blood enter the pulmonary circulation via the superior and inferior vena cavae (great veins) in response to the persistent partial vacuum. From the vena cavae, the increased blood volume flows through the right atrium and into the right ventricle. The blood volume is great enough to stretch out the ventricle, similar to water entering a balloon.
POP! You’re dead.
This is what Jay Bybee Wrote about severe suffering and Waterboarding.
Any pain associated with muscle fatigue is not of the intensity sufficient to amount to “sever physical pain or suffering” under the statute, nor, despite it’s discomfort, can it be said to be difficult to endure. As we understand it, when the waterboard is used, the subject’s body responds as if the subject were drowning–even though the subject is well aware that he is in fact not drowning.
As a simple point of fact, if you’re “body is responding as if you’re drowning” — You. Are. Drowning! All of the negative impacts, from lung damage, acidosis and edema are likely and possible depending on the duration and frequency of the treatment.
Abu Zubaydah who was waterboarded 83 times (in additional to sleep deprivation, endless loud music and stress positions) is a long way from free from “Sufferring”:
First, they beat him. As authorized by the Justice Department and confirmed by the Red Cross, they wrapped a collar around his neck and smashed him over and over against a wall. They forced his body into a tiny, pitch-dark box and left him for hours. They stripped him naked and suspended him from hooks in the ceiling. They kept him awake for days.
Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures.
But physical pain is a passing thing. The enduring torment is the taunting reminder that darkness encroaches. Already, he cannot picture his mother’s face or recall his father’s name. Gradually, his past, like his future, eludes him.
The last point is that even if these techniques all managed to successfully slalom through the minefield of U.S. and International Law, there is considerable evidence that CIA and Military Personnel in the field - went far beyond the guidelines provided by the OLC and not just at Abu Ghrab or Gitmo.
A 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was “”undetermined”" although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death. Notes say he “”struggled/ interrogated/ died sleeping.”"
An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by “”OGA.”" He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries.
A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on November 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq. A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of General Mowhoush, lists “”asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression”" as the cause of death and cites bruises from the impact with a blunt object.
A detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison, captured by Navy Seal Team number seven, died on November 4, 2003, during an interrogation by Navy Seals and “”OGA.”" A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of Manadel Al Jamadi, shows that the cause of his death was “”blunt force injury complicated by compromised respiration.”"
A 52-year-old male Iraqi was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body.
If Death By Interrogation isn’t enough to prove torture - then nothing is torture. Nothing at all.
And this is precisely the point, those that support this policy would attempt to redefine reality right out of existence. If our only protection against Torture is whether someone makes you stand on one leg for 4 hours instead of 8 Hours or 12 hours, then we have No protection at ALL.
That is why a Hard Bright Line needs to be maintained, that is why Disbarment is Too Good For “Em, the entire lot of the War Criminal Gang needs to be fully investigated and prosecuted. Anything less is a disgrace.
Author’s Website: http://www.truth2powerproject.com
Author’s Bio: Born and Bred in South Central LA. I spent 12 years working in the IT Dept. for federal contractor Northrop-Grumman on classified and high security projects such as the B2 Bomber. After Northrop I became an IT consultant with the state of California in Sacramento and worked on projects with the Dept of Consumer Affairs and CalTrans, as well as projects for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. Now living in Los Angeles with my own independant web design company where I operate the Truth 2 Power Online Radio Station.