Torture In U.S. Prisons: The Longest Hunger Strike
Ann Neumann writes about William Coleman, a U.S. prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for the past five years:
There are two places in the U.S. where you can be fed against your will: a Catholic hospital and a prison.
Staff turned off the video camera typically used to record medical procedures. They strapped Coleman down at “four points” with seatbelt-like “therapeutic” restraints. Edward Blanchette, the internist and prison medical director at the time, pushed a thick, flexible tube up Coleman’s right nostril. Rubber scraped against cartilage and bone and drew blood. Coleman howled. As the tube snaked into his throat, it kinked, bringing the force of insertion onto the sharp edges of the bent tube. They thought he was resisting so they secured a wide mesh strap over his shoulders to keep him from moving. A nurse held his head. Blanchette finally realized that the tube had kinked and pulled it back out. He pushed a second tube up Coleman’s nose, down his throat, and into his stomach. Blanchette filled the tube with vanilla Ensure. Coleman’s nose bled. He gagged constantly against the tube. He puked. As they led him back to his cell, the cuffs of Coleman’s gray sweatshirt were soaked with snot, saliva, vomit, and blood.
“I have been tortured,” he would say later. And it was enough to make Coleman start drinking fluids again. For a while. When he stopped a few months later, the prison force-fed him again, and twelve more times over the next two years. By last year they could no longer use Coleman’s right nostril. A broken nose in his youth and repeated insertion of the tube have made it too sensitive.
Full Story: Guernica: The Longest Hunger Strike
See also: America’s Most Common Torture: Solitary Confinement
The psychology of torture and the future of interrogation
Last year, Basoglu discovered that the trauma associated with CIDT ["cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," considered separately from physical torture but also illegal] has two further aspects that increase its psychological impact (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol 79, p 135). His study of 432 torture survivors from Turkey and former Yugoslavia revealed that when several techniques are applied at the same time – such as hooding while forced to stand naked in a stress position – the effects of each one compounds the effects of the others. In addition he discovered that CIDT has a cumulative impact over time, fuelled by the sense of helplessness that it engenders. This means that it makes little sense to ask whether any specific CIDT amounts to torture, Basoglu says, because the overall impact cannot be judged separately from the context in which it is administered.
The same study revealed that people who had been subjected to CIDT were at greater risk of developing long-term mental health problems than those who had been subjected to physical torture alone. Basoglu suggests that this might be because torture stimulates the victim’s body to release pain-relieving opioids, and this process is triggered more rapidly with repeated exposure to pain. Victims often report that the anticipation of torture is worse than the torture itself, during which they describe a general numbing of the body.
New Scientist: Beyond torture: the future of interrogation
Electro-shock experiment replicated in France
A French TV documentary features people in a spoof game show administering what they are told are near lethal electric shocks to rival contestants.
Those taking part are told to pull levers to inflict shocks – increasing in voltage – upon their opponents.
Although unaware that the contestants were actors and there was no electrical current, 82% of participants in the Game of Death agreed to pull the lever.
Programme makers say they wanted to expose the dangers of reality TV shows.
They say the documentary shows how many participants in the setting of a TV show will agree to act against their own principles or moral codes when ordered to do something extreme.
BBC: French TV contestants made to inflict ‘torture’
This is, of course, a replication of the Milgram experiment.
Glenn Greenwald notes the irony of Fox News’s moral outrage over the incident.
Former UK ambassador: CIA sent people to be ‘raped with broken bottles’
Just when you thought shit couldn’t get any worse:
The CIA relied on intelligence based on torture in prisons in Uzbekistan, a place where widespread torture practices include raping suspects with broken bottles and boiling them alive, says a former British ambassador to the central Asian country.
Craig Murray, the rector of the University of Dundee in Scotland and until 2004 the UK’s ambassador to Uzbekistan, said the CIA not only relied on confessions gleaned through extreme torture, it sent terror war suspects to Uzbekistan as part of its extraordinary rendition program.
“I’m talking of people being raped with broken bottles,” he said at a lecture late last month that was re-broadcast by the Real News Network. “I’m talking of people having their children tortured in front of them until they sign a confession. I’m talking of people being boiled alive. And the intelligence from these torture sessions was being received by the CIA, and was being passed on.”
The Raw Story: Former UK ambassador: CIA sent people to be ‘raped with broken bottles’
A court decision that reflects what type of country the U.S. is
It’s not often that an appellate court decision reflects so vividly what a country has become, but such is the case with yesterday’s ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Arar v. Ashcroft (.pdf). Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian descent. A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal’s McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he’s 17 years old. In 2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then (d) was “rendered” — despite his pleas that he would be tortured — to Syria, to be interrogated and tortured. He remained in Syria for the next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured. Everyone acknowledges that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of nothing. I’ve appended to the end of this post the graphic description from a dissenting judge of what was done to Arar while in American custody and then in Syria.
In January, 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister publicly apologized to Arar for the role Canada played in these events, and the Canadian government paid him $9 million in compensation. That was preceded by a full investigation by Canadian authorities and the public disclosure of a detailed report which concluded “categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada.” By stark and very revealing contrast, the U.S. Government has never admitted any wrongdoing or even spoken publicly about what it did; to the contrary, it repeatedly insisted that courts were barred from examining the conduct of government officials because what we did to Arar involves “state secrets” and because courts should not interfere in the actions of the Executive where national security is involved. What does that behavioral disparity between the two nations say about how “democratic,” “accountable,” and “open” the United States is? [...]
This is precisely how the character of a country becomes fundamentally degraded when it becomes a state in permanent war. So continuous are the inhumane and brutal acts of government leaders that the citizens completely lose the capacity for moral outrage and horror. The permanent claims of existential threats from an endless array of enemies means that secrecy is paramount, accountability is deemed a luxury, and National Security trumps every other consideration — even including basic liberties and the rule of law. Worst of all, the President takes on the attributes of a protector-deity who can and must never be questioned lest we prevent him from keeping us safe.
Glenn Greenwald: A court decision that reflects what type of country the U.S. is
“Why do they hate us?” revisited
Note, too, the vast gap between how Americans perceive of their actions (mere “aberrations”) and how so much of the rest of the world perceives of it, especially those in the targeted regions. So much of this disparity is explained by a basic lack of empathy: imagine if every American spent just a day contemplating how they’d react if some foreign army from a Muslim nation invaded and bombed the U.S., occupied the country for the next several years with 60,000 soldiers, killed tens of thousands of citizens here, set up secret prisons where they disappeared Americans for years without charges or even contact with the outside world, imposed sanctions that blockaded food and medicine and killed countless children, invaded and ransacked our homes at will, abducted Americans and shipped them halfway around the world to island-prisons, instituted a worldwide torture regime, armed their allies for attacks on other Western nations, and threatened still other invasions.
Do you think Americans might be seething with rage about that, wanting to kill as many of the people from that country as possible? Wouldn’t it be rather obvious that the more that was done to Americans, the more filled with hatred and a desire for violence they would be? Just consider the rage and fury and burning desire for vengeance that was unleashed by a one-day attack on U.S. soil, eight years ago, by a stateless band of extremists, that killed 3,000 people.
Along those lines, a new poll from The Washington Post today reveals that 42% of Americans favor bombing Iran’s “nuclear development sites” (49% of Republicans; 38% Democrats; 42% Independents), while 33% of Americans favor “invading with U.S. forces to remove the Iranian government from power” (40% Republicans; 32% Democrats; 30% Independents). Although majorities oppose that, that is a rather substantial group of Americans that favors having us bomb and invade our third Muslim country in less than ten years, not counting the places we bomb covertly or the countries bombed by our main Middle East client state. And just imagine how much that support among Americans will increase if the U.S. Government ever starts advocating it and, therefore, the U.S. media even more loudly than now beats the drums of war against Iran.
Glenn Greenwald: David Rohde on the “why do they hate us?” question
Portable pain weapon may end up in police hands
THE Pentagon’s efforts to develop a beam weapon that can deter an adversary by causing a burning sensation on their skin has taken a step forward with the development of a small, potentially hand-held, version. The weapon, which is claimed to cause no permanent harm, could also end up being used by police to control civilians. [...]
Like all supposedly non-lethal weapons that could be used to control civilians, the Pentagon’s new portable weapon is raising concerns. “I’d like to know why they want another advanced pain compliance weapon like this,” says Steve Wright, non-lethal weapons analyst at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK. “Persuading by pain rather than brain – through conversation – has led to push-button torture in the past. If it leaves no mark on the skin how will anyone prove it’s been abused?”
New Scientist: Portable pain weapon may end up in police hands
Long article on tasers and their use and misuse
The latest case, as of this writing at least, involves a Syracuse mother who was pulled out her car during a routine traffic stop. She was summarily tasered, cuffed and arrested in front of her kids by an officer who left them behind, alone in their car, while he took her to the station and charged her for resisting arrest, driving five miles over the speeding limit, and disorderly conduct — the diaphanous charge controversially leveled on Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. earlier this year.
There’s plenty more where that came from. Did you hear the one about the pregnant woman who was tasered because she wouldn’t sign her speeding ticket, or the pregnant woman who was tasered at a baptism party thrown by her father, a bible-study teacher who was charged with public intoxication in his own backyard and whose wife and son were also tasered? How about the officer who tasered a pregnant woman while inside the police department?
Or the cop who tasered a girl, no lie, in the brain, because he couldn’t chase her down on foot? Or the one that shoved a taser up a man’s ass in Idaho? Or those who tasered and pepper-sprayed an umbrella-wielding man in a Dollar Store bathroom, and after finding out that he was both mentally disabled and deaf still decided to charge him with resisting arrest, failure to obey a police officer and (of course) disorderly conduct, charges which the on-duty magistrate refused to accept? And don’t forget the belligerent baseball fan, the 72-year old grandmother, the bride and groom tasered at their wedding, the bicyclists who were tased after cops tried to run them off the road. And what about that guy who burst into flames? What about the six-year-old who was tasered after threatening to cut his own leg with a glass? (That’ll teach him!)
Alternet: Why Are Cops Tasering Grandmothers, Pregnant Women and Kids?
There’s also some worthwhile material on the benefits of tasers as a (sometimes) non-lethal weapon.
Glenn Greenwald: American media complicit in war crimes
That was typical of Beltway media behavior even as revelations of war crimes and high-level lawlesness proliferated: oh, calm down with your extremist, unhinged rhetoric. Broder boasts that he called for Clinton’s resignation over a sex scandal and “had no problem with” Nixon’s impeachment over what was, by comparsion to Bush scandals, a relatively minor infraction. As revelations of torture mounted, did he call for Bush’s impeachment or even resignation? No. Like most of his colleagues in the media, he did the opposite: he dismissed objections to what was happening as hysterical and fringe and insisted that Serious and Good People were in charge.
This is a vital reason — I’d say the central reason — why people like David Broder and his media colleagues don’t want investigations and prosecutions: because they were complicit in most of it, and such proceedings would implicate them as much as the criminals themselves. Think about it: what would happen if Dick Cheney were “in the dock,” if high-level American officials were adjudicated in formal proceedings as war criminals and felons? The question would naturally arise: how was that allowed to happen? What did the American media do about it while it happened? What was the Dean of the Washington Press Corps saying and doing to stop it and to alert the citizenry as to what was going on? And the answer, of course, is: nothing. They supported the war criminals and mocked and demonized those who objected.
Salon: Who are Broderian anti-investigation journalists really protecting?
The Washington Post’s Cheney-ite defense of torture
If anyone ever tells you that they don’t understand what is meant by “stenography journalism” — or ever insists that America is plagued by a Liberal Media — you can show them this article from today’s Washington Post and, by itself, it should clear up everything. The article’s headline is “How a Detainee Became An Asset — Sept. 11 Plotter Cooperated After Waterboarding” — though an equally appropriate headline would be: “The Joys and Virtues of Torture — how Dick Cheney Kept Us Safe.” I defy anyone to identify a single way the article would be different if The Post had let Dick Cheney write it himself. The next time someone laments the economic collapse of the modern American newspaper, one might point out that an industry which pays three separate reporters (Peter Finn, Joby Warrick and Julie Tate) and numerous editors to churn out mindless, inane tripe like this has brought about its own demise. [...]
As Sargent reported, even Bush’s loyal Terrorism adviser, Frances Fargos Townsend, admitted that the IG Report provides no basis for what the Post today is ludicrously implying
Glenn Greenwald: The Washington Post’s Cheney-ite defense of torture
See this paper on the effectiveness of torture.