Jacques Vallee: Waterboarding's curious corollaries

Jacques Vallee is a computer scientist, partner in a venture capital firm, and author of more than 20 books, including Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, The Invisible College, and The Network Revolution.

Waterboarddddddwood When it was revealed that the U.S. resorted to torture to extract information from prisoners, many people my age must have had a very somber thought for the thousands of young Americans who had given their lives on the beaches of Normandy in a brave effort to rid the world of governments that engaged in such shameful practices. Two other thoughts flashed to mind: the stupidity of giving up the high moral ground at a time when the U.S. had earned so much goodwill thanks to its stand on democracy and human rights; and the pointlessness of such interrogations, often stated by our military experts, since the victims will generally admit to anything in order to stop the pain.

My friend, French Résistance leader Jacques Bergier, who was tortured multiple times by the Gestapo, made the ludicrous "confession" that his network planned to invade Corsica. In reality they were looking for heavy water and for Werner von Braun's rocket base.

As a child of World War Two who remembers its limitless horrors, my revulsion at the practices of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib was so great that it took me a while to realize the more positive implications: if our henchmen used waterboarding, a practice so primitive it placed us in the same hateful historical imagery as the caves of the Inquisition and the cellars of the Nazi, this can only mean that all the fancy interrogation drugs developed in classified labs in the 60s and 70s have failed: there is no truth serum. We should be relieved about that.

 Yankees 2009 06 Medium Truthserum

We already knew that LSD, once hyped as the ultimate key to the mind, did little more than propel you into colorful delusions. But evil doctors had other tricks and claimed to be working in secret on even better, kinder biotech ways to crack open the human soul and read it like a book. Using everything from neurotoxin derivatives to functional MRIs, the State would soon overcome personality defenses, in the interest of our collective safety. It would finally control not only our deeds but our thoughts as well, thus achieving law and order on a grand scale.

Evidently the scheme hasn't quite worked out as predicted: If we could simply slip a little green pill to the bad guys to find out their plans, we wouldn't have to resort to messy medieval practices that don't work. So let's go back to the legal methods of interrogation recommended by the professionals. And let's thank waterboarding for the realization that our intimate thoughts, prayers and dreams, flaky though they may be, will remain safe from chemical violation a little while longer.


  1. Torture is by definition suppose to be painful, but, if you have ever watched the demonstration of water boarding, I don’t think there can be any doubt about the terrifying effects of it on the person being tortured. I have read accounts that support both sides of the issue. I do believe that something must be done to stop the terrorists, and get the information. What is the question!

    1. Not painful. Torture is by definition supposed to be unbearable. Pain is just one method. Many of us are pretty much immune to physical pain, but would crack instantly from waterboarding.

      1. “Torture is by definition supposed to be unbearable. Pain is just one method.”

        … oh,thought you said Palin… Pain… ok… never mind…

  2. There’s an implicit assumption here that the purpose of the torture was to find the truth. However, the history of torture shows that the purpose was to extract confessions: this is what the Spanish Inquisition, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and the North Koreans used it for.

    Back in 2002-2003, when Cheney was talking about “the dark side”, the Bush Administration wanted evidence tying Saddam Hussein to al Queda. Many of them really believed that it was there, so they could tell themselves that they were trying to get to the truth, but they wanted the prisoners to confess that it was so, that Saddam was connected, so they could go after them. If they had a working truth serum, they wouldn’t like or believe what they would hear. Hence, torture.

    1. Pretty much exactly. What little evidence we do have of the torture practices of Bush/Cheney definitely suggest that much of the torture was used in an attempt to backfill the (ultimately false) rationales for the invasion of Iraq. Truth was hardly the priority there.

  3. Indeed, I don’t see how the use of torture proves that there are no truth serums. The purpose of the torture has never been to find the truth, but to make poeple claim what you want them to. To replace their thoughts with yours. This has nothig to do with extracting information and never has.

  4. “who had given their lives on the beaches of Normandy in a brave effort to rid the world of governments that engaged in such shameful practices”

    im no historian but im pretty sure most of those soldiers were simply drafted into a war they had no stake in and did what they were ordered to do, and some died in the process of following them, history is written by the victor after all.

    1. Hawley, my father, like most who served with him in WW2, enlisted voluntarily. He was lucky; he was supposed to land on the beach on D-Day, but the boat he was on was defective (I think it sank in the Channel, don’t remember the details) so his unit wound up landing the next day on a different boat, which may be why I am here.

    2. I’m no historian either, but I don’t recall the US having to draft soldiers to fill out its ranks in WWII. The propaganda was better at vilifying the axis powers while extolling the virtues of the allies, thus inspiring its citizens to action.

      The only mandatory draft I can recall was in vietnam, and we should all know how it affected not only the soldiers, but the general public. Now in our current war, the government won’t repeat the mistake of forcing its citizens to go to war for it; instead it forces those already committed to fight more than they should have to. I consider this a “back door” draft, but thats not the point.

      William Tecumseh Sherman had it right when he said “war is hell.” The only thing that has changed since the civil war is that humanity has become more adept at killing each other.

        1. I stand corrected. To comment on an earlier comment of yours:

          I think even as late as the 90’s America still wore the white hat in the general public eye. We had no problem drumming up support for operation desert storm, because we were the protectors or poor innocent kuwait. I know, the circumstances surrounding operation ‘shield and ‘storm are more complicated than that, but to the average citizen, thats how it was perceived; good guys doing good things.

          Now, world relations might have been going to pot at this time, but alas, I didn’t watch as much news as I should have in my youth. Even by the time I did watch news regularly, I don’t recall many negative news reports about how the world at large hates the US (and we were bombing the shit out of Bosnia-Herzegovina.)

      1. CYMK posted William Tecumseh Sherman had it right when he said “war is hell.” The only thing that has changed since the civil war is that humanity has become more adept at killing each other.

        I’ve always wondered about the assumption that the only thing that has changed is our killing efficiency.

        Union Strength 2,100,000
        Total Union deaths attributed to the Civil War – 360000
        Confederacy Strength 1,064,000
        Total Confederacy deaths attributed to the Civil War – 260000
        Total Civil war Deaths – 620000
        Length of conflict – 4 years
        Averaging 155000 deaths per year of conflict and 0.2 deaths per combatant

        Coalition Strength – 151,648
        Coalition losses in Iraq 2003 through the end of 2006 – 3255

        Iraqi army at the start of the conflict – 350,000
        Insurgent forces in Iraq – Estimated 130,000

        It’s difficult to get numbers on Iraqi deaths directly attributable to Coalition activities. A Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health study estimated between 393,000 and 943,000 excess deaths from March 2003 through June 2006 with no indications as to responsible parties. If I go with the median of 655,000 Iraqi deaths and attribute all of those to coalition forces, I get around 201500 Iraqi deaths per year for those three years. Add in the coalition deaths per year and we get around 202300 deaths per year for Iraq, total death count is actually not that striking. I’ll pretend that the insurgency is not comprised mostly of former soldiers. 0.95 deaths per combatant. I think I’ll concede the point on the increase in killing efficiency.

        1. Thanks for the run down of the numbers, I did not look them up when I made the comment. I was referring purely to the improvement of weapons over the years, giving fewer and fewer people the ability to kill more and more people.

          Lets take the Springfield, at best a soldier could load and fire 2-3 times in a minute. Individually not that lethal, but put them in a regiment and you have 1,000 plus rounds of hot lead flying 2-3 times a minute.

          Conversely, the M4 Carbine can fire at a rate of 700-950 times a minute (+/- load time). With a magazine holding 30 rounds, I’m going to guess you could unload at least 3-4 magazines in a minute; so 90-120 rounds.

          Using those numbers one soldier with an M4 carbine could fire more frequently and more lethally than a soldier using a Springfield. I haven’t bothered trying to figure out the lethality of bombs or missiles, but I’m sure the numbers are up there (1 bomb or missile = dozens or hundreds dead.) To sum it all up, yes we have managed to kill less people (going by your numbers) in American wars, but we have increased the ability for the few to inflict pain or death on many, many more.

      2. The U.S. drafted far more troops for WWII than Vietnam. The idea that hundreds of thousands of Americans volunteered to fight Japan after Pear Harbor is a myth. People then were just like people now. By the way, at present I don’t know how successful water boarding has been for the U.S., but I can’t feel to concerned for the guys who got it, they are truly bastards. The allied troops water boarded by the Japanese were B. protected by the Geneva convention, B. not engaged in a terror campaign against civilians based on the religious convictions.

    3. …history is written by the victor…

      Meaning no disrespect to Churchill, this hasn’t ever been entirely true except when the losers are illiterate. And the reasons for a war don’t change whether or not the individual soldiers know or care about the geopolitics and moral dimensions of the fight they are in (although many who were on the beaches of Normandy have made it clear in writing about their experience they were very aware of what was at stake). Nor does it change how shameful it is that Bush and Co. made us all complicit in the use of torture, weakly justified by questionable expediency and a warped sense of morality. The lack of efficacy aside, by its use they have forever damaged how the rest of the world views us and made mockery of any call for human rights made by our government. Damn them.

    4. “im pretty sure most of those soldiers were simply drafted”

      I’m pretty sure you’re also pretty sure of whatever you also pull out of your hat.

      Further… even if true, to assume further that they “had no stake” because they were drafted is also drafty.

      Assume what is convenient for you, but why share it?

    5. You don’t have to be an historian, but you might try having some idea of what you’re talking about before making such opinionated statements: Most of those who fought in WWII were in fact volunteers, not draftees, and they died for their country, their friends, and for what they thought was right. This much I know from documented eyewitness accounts from the veterans themselves, publicly available through the Library of Congress among many other published sources.

  5. The “Corsica” admission reminds me of a defense against torture: any clandestine/secretive group that fears torture can decide on an predetermined obfuscation– they come up with a plausible but fake story to tell under torture, and they all memorize the details, so if more than one is tortured they will all give the same story, thus confirming it in the eyes of the torturers.

  6. “If we could simply slip a little green pill to the bad guys to find out their plans, we wouldn’t have to resort to messy medieval practices that don’t work”

    The object of torture is torture. I may be wrong, but the torturers on that Abu Ghraib photos don’t seem to be interested in extracting information.

  7. …the stupidity of giving up the high moral ground at a time when the U.S. had earned so much goodwill thanks to its stand on democracy and human rights…


    Perhaps ordinary Europeans who remembered the Gestapo and Stalin felt goodwill to the U.S. But my impression is that younger generations in Europe, as well as their leaders and intellectual heroes, generally regarded the U.S. as rich and powerful and therefore contemptible well before George W. Bush. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Daniel Ortega, and even Mao in his day had radical chic, which wasn’t earned by their stance on human rights.

    1. I was in Europe in late 2001. In the short period between the 9/11 attacks and the U.S.-led bombing of various peoples who had nothing to do with them, Europeans loved America. There was an EU-wide moment of silence for the victims on September 15, 2001- something that the U.S. didn’t even have.

      That Bush squandered this unprecedented opportunity of international goodwill to start two wars is unconscionable.

      1. Well, I wasn’t there during that time, which was rather brief. But a quick Google search shows at least one author, described as British, who has a different view:

        And it is a myth that the new resurgence of anti-Americanism began when George Bush invaded Iraq. It originated shortly after America was attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists. Following a “honeymoon period” when the world grieved with every American, opinion-makers in Britain and France decided that America should accept some blame for the tragedy.

        He goes on, speaking of historical anti-Americanism.

        1. I’m not saying that anti-Americanism began when Bush invaded Iraq. I’m saying that we had a brief period when it was largely on hold, and Bush threw that away by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he made it worse than ever by authorizing torture and extraordinary rendition.

          We’ve never been universally loved, but failing to keep the moral high ground in a fight against people who would behead innocent bystanders on video is a new low.

  8. This is by far the most positive take on the situation I have ever read. Mr. Vallee, do you want to be my grandpa? :)

  9. Unfortunately no drug can make the torturer feel the satisfaction of watching someone suffer for crimes imagined or real.

    Perhaps one should give the mind bending drugs to the torturers so they just think they are causing pain and suffering. Then other, less barbaric methods can be used to actually prevent pain and suffering by stopping the perpetrators of it.

  10. In a number of cases, the shining boys who stormed the beaches mercilessly killed unarmed soldiers who had surrendered. Is it because (in hindsight) we know that the Nazis were as evil as we later discovered that these war-crimes are forgiven by the same people who profess absolute horror about Abu-Ghraib & Guantanamo? Or is it just hypocrisy?

    I respect all the men that have fought for our country above all, those that were wounded or killed. However I recognize that they were not saints & do not place them up on a pedestal to which I then attempt to co-opt in order to hand down moral judgments.

    1. It didn’t take hindsight to know the Nazis were bad (thats what propaganda is for), granted I doubt the allied forces knew the depth and breadth of what the Nazis were doing. As inhumane as their experiments were, the knowledge and technology gained by Nazi scientists still benefits us today, but the ends don’t justify the means. Period.

      1. “but the ends don’t justify the means. Period.”

        damn right, i doubt anyone could imagine the bloodshed that would have followed if we had attacked the nazis instead of solving our differences through diplomatic channels.

        1. Man, you weren’t kidding when you said you weren’t a historian, were you?

          Or maybe your sarcasm is recursive…

  11. @Brainspore. I agree that the period in which anti-Americanism was on hold was brief. It seems to me, though, that for the post-WW II generations, America never earned goodwill for devotion to human rights. America was hated the way Salieri hated Mozart in Amadeus, for being an impossibly privileged upstart. Maybe Salieri would have given up his grudge against Mozart if he learned that Mozart was giving money to the poor and tending to lepers. But maybe Salieri would have hated him even more. In any case, the U.S. had a short period of pity and sympathy from Europe for having been brutally assaulted, and thus taken down a peg. The only way to keep this kind of sympathy would be to stay down, to stay a victim. Rebounding with any kind of strength was bound to erase all pity, and maybe garner more jealous resentment. Human rights isn’t much of a factor either way.

    1. Appropriate that you’d mention that relationship from “Amadeus” since the movie was a work of fiction and the two composers apparently admired each other in real life.

      Your position seems to be “they’d hate us no matter what, because we’re so awesome and they’re jealous.” Mine is more along the lines of “they admire us for what we do right and despise us for what we do wrong.”

      1. I would have been happy to take an example from any other work of fiction, but Amadeus was the one that sprang to mind. I think it’s apt.

        So we each have our general positions, even if they each could probably use a bit more defining. But as a very vague proposition, I think my view is a better description of reality, at least for some of the more articulate and fashionable parts of the European population. I don’t think the social trend setters base their preferences in international relations on human rights. Instead, if I may simplify and exaggerate a little, they base their views on other factors — such as, who is the plucky underdog? — and only later come to human rights as a talking point, whichever side it comes down on.

        As I recall, a lot of rhetoric in the cold war considered the USSR and the USA as either moral equivalents, or else gave less credit to the USA. Israel was popular among lefties, until Israel started to beat the Arabs. Gradually, the Palestinians became cast as hero-victims, and the Israelis as villains. I’ve already mentioned the romanticization of the Cuban revolution.

  12. Judging by what got leaked during the MK-ULTRA trials about not only the project’s ideas for how to construct truth drugs but also their methods of testing the efficacy of said drugs, it isn’t surprising that no real progress was made. About the best they managed in terms of what is out in the open is injecting a barbituate into one arm and then an amphetamine into the other (rocketing the subject into a babbling fit, during which they might say something vaguely useful).

  13. dragon lord: “I do believe that something must be done to stop the terrorists, and get the information. What is the question!”

    Once you start waterboarding, you *are* one of the terrorists.

  14. For the record, it should be noted that waterboarding, which isn’t torture, was only used on two very high value prisoners (Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed).

    However, thousands of Americans have been waterboarded. “All special operations units in all branches of the U.S. military and the CIA’s Special Activities Division employ the use of a form of waterboarding as part of survival school training, to psychologically prepare soldiers for the possibility of being captured by enemy forces.”

    1. Just because the government declares that a rose is a tulip, it doesn’t change that fact that the rose is still a rose. If threatening to kill someone over and over again doesn’t qualify as torture, then what does? Does it only count as torture if it leaves permanent scars? Or it only counts if it kills you?

      Khalid Sheik Mohammed gave info to authorities before he was waterboarded. Then he was “…waterboarded 183 times while being interrogated by the CIA…” and as far as I am aware gave up no more actionable intel. But even if he did give up further intel, you can only threaten someone so many times before the threat becomes empty (and after 183 times, it had to be pointless.)

    2. For the record, Waterboarding IS torture. After World War II, the US convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: “I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure.” He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. “Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning,” he replied, “just gasping between life and death.”

      Also, Jesse Ventura was a Navy Seal who had the waterboarding training. He calls it torture.

    3. _kevitivity quoth:

      For the record, it should be noted that waterboarding, which isn’t torture, was only used on two very high value prisoners (Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed).

      Interesting claims. Where do you get your information? My sources disagree; and as far as I know, every single person who has ever undergone waterboarding says it is torture. Are you speaking from experience?

    4. Waterboarding is a form of torture, anyone who disagrees with this has never seen it done or had it done to them. Torture is a physical and psychological process. There are several methods of psychological torture used every day in the United States prison system to this day yet are not generally considered “cruel and unusual” therefore are considered legal. In addition to this police interview practices are based off of torture methods. It’s the basis of projecting fear/anger/discomfort/depression that constitutes psychological torture. There are no visible scars, yet the results are the same from certain types of psychological torture as physical torture. They will tell you what you WANT to hear rather than the truth. The truth will not make the torture stop. Telling the torturer what they want to hear is what makes it stop.

      So if you’re high on the horse and trying to say that waterboarding isn’t torture, hold out your hand, make a fist and punch yourself as hard as possible.

    5. ALtohught I do not hold much stock in wikipedia as a valid source, I cn tell you that you are correct in this regard. While intervieiwng many returning friendly POW’s from VietNam and the first “Persian Excursian” I can tell you that waterboarding is nothing compared to what are service men and women have endured.

      The purpose of turture is to inflict every lasting pain and is based upon revenge. The first rule of thumb in any interrogation is to garner immediate order of battle information, and strategic intellgience from high level targets. Any professinal interrogator will tell you that physical and psychological torture, or the threat of it will produce unreliable information. The purpose of the counter-interrogation scenarios developed by the pow or enemy noncombatant is to delay the retrival of timely intelligence. Persons of interest and high on the target lists recieve hours of counter-interrogation training, and yes waterboarding is one of the techniques used on them. The purpose of the training is to establish one’s own breaking point. LtCol. Higgins (USMC) comes to mind but he did n’t think he needed the training and discarded the possibility of his capture. I have never meet anyone who cannot be broken, and without physical torture.

      The unprofessionalism depicted by the media evidence of Abu Grab was the work of unskilled “weekend warrors” lead by the incompetent, and were nothing more than an unsupervised group of sadistic morons. The results of which have resultd in prison sentences for the lower ranks, another example that upper leadership not being held responsible for their own actions, or lack thereof and/or callous indifference.

  15. so the government was burning away your tax dollars training Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed survival should they ever get captured by enemy forces.

    i feel safer already

  16. I suspect that there is a dark recess in the human soul where some truly enjoy meting out measured doses of suffering to others. The “war on terror” gave them a chance to act on those impulses. (Or, more likely, have others act on them on their behalf, so they could keep their hands clean and savor the misery from a safe distance.)

    1. If you only suspect that a great many people truly enjoy the suffering of other living things, you are a true innocent, my friend. Live long and prosper.

  17. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told the Red Cross in 2006 that to slow down the waterboarding being applied to him by the CIA and others, he simply invented stuff he figured they wanted to hear & after a while, they gave it up and stopped their severe torture routine. The number 183 seems to represent times that water was applied to his face, thus the total waterboarding is certainly much less. But even still, it certainly is hard to imagine how taking this guy to trial in NYC after all that much blantant torture has been applied to any individual for any crime whatsoever, no matter what they are accused of including masterminding the 9/11 disaster, is going to make the USA look in the eyes people watching from all around the world. Thanks for your clearheaded insights Jacques. You’re good (as always)……..

  18. For the record, waterboarding was not restricted to a few individuals. It has been used by the American police/prison system for some time, even before the Bush II administration. I have read descriptions of the waterboarding of some mass-arrested protesters in the Clinton era. Of course, the term waterboarding was not as commonly-known at the time, but the accounts describe some variations on the practice, e.g. the substitution of pepper spray (OC) for water.

    1. I have read descriptions of the waterboarding of some mass-arrested protesters in the Clinton era.

      Citations? Were they waterboarded by the Feds, or by State or local authorities?

  19. Hiding behind the ‘moral hight ground’ what does that even mean. Torture is for intimidation. Torture is cutting off fingers, breaking bones. Torture is meant to hurt and give permanent signs of intimidation. How many individual have been tortured by the US? 3, 5, and if you mean water-boarding thats not torture. Anyone who has been water-boarded knows it will not kill them. Someone being tortured thinks they are going to die a violent painful death. How do you get information out of someone you have killed? “War is hell”, If you are going to wage war you better be prepared to destroy the other party’s ability to wage war. How did we win WW2? It sure was not through negations. We won by taking away Hitlers ability to wage war. That meant a lot of innocent people along with his army had to die. Get off it people if we want to wage war then lets turn our arm forces loose and win… If not get out.

  20. Truth Serum always brings up an unpleasant memory from childhood.

    In my midwestern “City” which most costal guys would call a ‘town’ at best we had an incident. A few houses away from where I lived when I was a child, we had a man murder a whole family. The head of the family he murdered was his cocaine dealer; “Don’t hold out on me, maaannnn….!” He shot them all, including a baby in a high chair in the kitchen with a double barreled shotgun.

    The noise, screams, etc. got the neighbors attention who called police. They arrived after the murders, but they had his liscense number and found him at his home both literally high as a kite with a bag of cocain AND literally “Red Handed”…

    So it was in the news and discussion instantly and it was just a matter of debate wether we’d bring back “Frontier Justice” and hang him publicly or let him rot in jail a decade first. The public wanted the former to send a message that we were uneager to become “Just like the big city…”

    The problem was Da Fuzz…
    They had watched too many cop shows on TV. And somehow they thought they needed a confession. So they took him up to the hospital and had him pumped full of sodium pentathol. They got a confession, more from keeping him incommunicado for at least 10 days, at least 1 due to the drug needing to be flown here. He confessed in a real doped up state, but kept saying “I want a lawyer…”

    They took a slam dunk case from the arms of conviction into the jaws of aqcuittal. That is, any public defender could get Charles Manson to walk under that level of incompetence, but this guy had a good lawyer. There’s a phrase from the late, great Sam Kinison; “$20,000 for F*cking Re-Hab!? If you can afford $20,000 you haven’t got a problem yet!”

    The guy had GOOD lawyers once he was able to get them since he still had a lot of money. If the police had did their jobs, they maybe would have been able to buy him life in prison and even then he would have been hung in public due to laws still on the books. However, due to their abuse of Miranda law, he not only didn’t face the noose, he got off scott free and “Innocent as SIN” The city had to pay $8 million to him since “Prosecuting an innoncent” had made him kind of unpopular in town, so he had to get a new identity elsewhere.

    That’s how good it works in RL…

    However, before it could be ‘de-bunked’ (one GOOD use of De-Bunking, not that anyone does for reasons I mentioned earlier) they went on to the “Repressed memory testimony” bandwagon.

  21. OK, what I don’t get is, why are we just allowing ourselves to pussy foot when being faced with hard core terrorists? Unfortunately, we have to fight some of this battle on their terms and eliminate them or we’re leaving ourselves open for all kinds of 9/11 type events. Unfortunately, they’re creating a scenerio of kill or be killed.

    1. why are we just allowing ourselves to pussy foot when being faced with hard core terrorists?

      Why indeed? None of this mamby-pamby waterboarding stuff, lets bring back the rack, and thumbscrews. A short session with a lead boot would surely get us quality intelligence.

      In fact, lets just do away with all that criminal coddling due process stuff while we’re at it. After all, security from evil-doers is the highest good, isn’t it? Put some REAL fear into the hearts of potential criminals and terrorists, that’s what I say. That whole constitution thing is just an outdated piece of liberal propaganda that shouldn’t apply to anyone the leaders god gave us think is the enemy anyway, Right?

  22. All they had to do was get them hooked on cocaine and then suddenly deny them access. They would have been begging to tell the truth, just to get their fix.

  23. Not mentioned with those figures was the level of asymmetry – the Civil war had a loss balance of about 0.722, while the Iraq war had a loss balance of about 0.005.

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    1. …to equate water-boarding and the treatment of the GITMO prisoners with classic torture is disingenuous, to say the least, particularly when the criticism of America comes from Mr. Valle, a Frenchman; in the long bloody history of torture, France stands head and shoulders above every other civil culture…

      Then he should know from what he speaks, yes?

      By your logic no American should be qualified to criticize contemporary slave traders since the U.S. is unrivaled in modern history for human trafficking. But even if Vallee’s nationality did have any impact on his credibility, he’s hardly alone in his contention that waterboarding is torture.

      Are you aware of anyone, anywhere in the world, who has undergone waterboarding and does NOT consider it torture?

    2. mahone dunbar,

      We’re not currently hosting vacuous and unreferenced comments accusing a whole nation of being torturers.

  25. If it’s not torture then why is it done,and what exactly is it intended to be? A means for the torturer and victim to pass the time? A sort of amiable game they play together?

    1. If it’s not torture then why is it done,and what exactly is it intended to be?

      As it always has been, sadism is a means of satisfying the sexual impulse of the sadist. All torturers, and all persons who condone torture, are mentally defective. Most people know this, and that’s why they hate people and nations that allow torture.

      “Intelligence” and “revenge” are only excuses. Torture is about satisfying the requirements of the diseased mind. Sadly, the USA has allowed several of these diseased minds to gain leadership positions where they can create more of their kind.

  26. @ SalVoce: “OK, what I don’t get is, why are we just allowing ourselves to pussy foot when being faced with hard core terrorists? Unfortunately, we have to fight some of this battle on their terms and eliminate them or we’re leaving ourselves open for all kinds of 9/11 type events. Unfortunately, they’re creating a scenerio of kill or be killed.”

    No. You cannot defeat evil by becoming evil. This is a war that is much more about ideology than about who fights dirtier. If you want to defeat an ideology, you don’t kick it in the junk. Using violence doesn’t make you right. That’s part of the insidious wickedness in the terrorist mindset to begin with. If you want to defeat an ideology you engineer social change. You don’t do that with bullets and waterboards and flying airplanes into buildings. You do it with economics, engineering, diplomatic ties, infrastructure, indoor plumbing, internet access, roads, airports, a “serve and protect” style police force, national solidarity, festivals, organized religion (yes), and more sociology, psychology, and anthropology than gunpowder and metal. You do it by understanding that terrorism is an act of desperation, that suicide attacks are a symptom of hopelessness, and that torture is violent paranoia. You comprehend zeitgeists and memes, social networks and economic consequences, vengeance cycles and the roots of fundamentalism. This is what Chris Nolan’s Batman teaches us: A concept is much more potent than a person.

    @ mahone dunbar: “…In historic context, to equate water-boarding and the treatment of the GITMO prisoners with classic torture is disingenuous, to say the least, particularly when the criticism of America comes from Mr. Valle, a Frenchman;…

    The idea that the only valid criticism can come from the unblemished is a pernicious little falsehood that needs to be stomped out. This isn’t a continuum. This is a binary: ARE YOU DOING SOMETHING BAD? YES/NO. IF YES, THEN STOP IT.

  27. Sadly, I disagree with Dr.Vallee. There was waterboarding, but there was also a naked man having his genitals attacked by a german shepherd. Allegedly raping someone’s child in front of them to coerce information was another activity at Abu Ghraib. Ask Seymour Hersh about it.

    Waterboarding was only one among many ‘techniques’ used against the prisoners, it doesn’t preclude the use of highly effective drugs. That’s flawed logic, though none have pointed it out in fear of offending the researcher for whom we have so much respect. LSD?! They’ve had decades to refine drugs like scopolamine. http://www.biopsychiatry.com/scopolamine/borrachero.html

    Maybe people were handed over to the the modern-day versions of Dr.Ewen Cameron, Dr.Jose Delgado, Dr.Sydney Gottlieb etc… before or after the physical brutality. Unless there’s a shortage of mad scientists, it’s dubious that clandestine mind control research ended in the 70’s.

    If Sydney Gottlieb wasn’t so sloppy when it came time to destroy evidence 35 years ago, we wouldn’t know a mind control program ever existed. It would just be another excuse for the closed-minded and uninformed to call someone a tinfoil-hat wearing, paranoid conspiracy theorist.

    This short film should be shown to all high school students IMO. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8925084547426407728

    This is the best society human beings can produce? After watching the film of the altruistic leopard seal, humanity makes me weep. If we ARE engaged with some kind of advanced intelligence, it’s no wonder why it might not want to have anything to do with us.

  28. So someone reads these before they get published? If it’s actually you Dr.Vallée, I’d like to say thank you for engaging the public once again. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and your work.

    I can scarcely imagine having a career aussi intéressant que la votre. Your interpretation of the ufo phenomena in relation to folklore is an inspiration. I have read Magonia, the trilogy, and recently the old ‘UFOs from Space’ and have followed your career somewhat. You’ve managed to be consistently associated with some very advanced research, sometimes I wonder if you aren’t an ambassador from an advanced civilization, but I am a functional crazy so don’t be too flattered.

    Now that I’m past my kneejerk reaction, I’m considering the possibility that you’re more interested in the replies that your post might generate than the flawed logic. Dr. Vallée opens with a troll post hehe, who would have thought!

    Do you know what I find more bizarre than the Dr.X phenomenon and Ingo Swann’s encounters with Mr.Axelrod combined? The mere fact that we exist. There aren’t words to describe how amazing and unlikely it is. Amazing because of the process from the supposed big bang start until now and the ongoing requirements, unlikely because it’s supposed to be random.

    More credible to me is that we are part of an information system created by a super-intelligence. Literally a simulation in a computer, WE could be artificially intelligent avatars . Or maybe forms of consciousness playing with the avatars. The possibilities are unlimited, we know so little. I don’t rule out God, just fearful or silly interpretations of God. Talk about mind control, there’s been an ongoing stream of it from Italy since ancient times.

    I feel like I’ve already taken too much of your time, but if you could recommend book or an author to me, I’d be very grateful. And my last post was maybe a bit raw for Boing Boing, I don’t mind if it doesn’t get published.

    Best Wishes!

  29. The muslim victims of the US torture apparat were exposed to dogs because this makes them religiously unclean; unfit to engage in prayer, unfit to enter paradise, unworthy of the solace of Allah’s regard.

    Mohammad (peace to his name) is said to have cut the sleeve from his garment to avoid disturbing a sleeping cat, but he did not care for dogs, and commanded his followers to regard them only as work animals, never as pets or companions. They are filthy beasts, after all.

    Many of the psychological tortures inflicted at Abu Ghraib by the US are invisible to the unschooled American mind; the torturers worked at learning how to permanently degrade their victims in ways that mere physical abuse could never accomplish.

    It was never about gathering information. It was always about gratifying certain peoples’ need to increase the sum total of human suffering and pain in the world. That was and is the goal of the people who created the system that resulted in Bagram and Abu Ghraib; these people devoutly believe in the biblical definitions of Good and Evil, and ardently wish to personify the latter. The devil always quotes scripture.

  30. There is a thread about this blog post ongoing at the Rigorous Intuition forums, and several posters there have voiced contentions about Mr. Vallee’s analysis.

    A primary difficulty is that the logic of his conclusion does not seem to follow, that is:

    “Our henchmen use waterboarding = there is no truth serum”

    There’s no more reason to believe that U.S. torture would stop if there was a “truth serum” in existence than there is to think that because we torture there is no truth serum. The one simply doesn’t follow the other, Torture has nothing to do with obtaining actionable intelligence. It is a technique of power, of propaganda, and of brain washing, or mind control, via extreme abuse.

    Which leads us to another problem with the blog post. Mr. Vallee’s conclusion tends to validate the concept of incompetence and failure with regard to MKULTRA and the U.S. government’s successive and possibly ongoing mind control programs. The survivors of these programs have a difficult time being recognised as victims, despite government admission and congressional testimony. It’s too bad that Mr. Vallee’s opinion here looks like it will contribute another specious talking point for the skeptics, and further degrade a more general pubic’s ability to come to terms with the survivor’s reports.

    It seems out of character for Mr. Vallee to take the U.S. intelligence agencies at their word for much of anything, much less on the use or efficacy of their psychoactive medications, or their motivations for torture. In as much as his research in the paranormal has been an inspiration for many years, it is hoped that he can attain his previous high standards in his successive blog posts here as well.

  31. Hey 64, check out post 60. I used to hang around at RI when it was a stimulating blog and not so morose. Does page one still constantly have 3-4 posts on the IP issue? Like that discussion ever goes anywhere. Is Hugh still, well… Hugh? Too bad Jeff stopped posting, he could really get the synapses firing.

    Anyway, bit of a coincidence that someone from RI would post basically a duplicate of my post. Hours after mine (loser:), but still, it’s chillin ;P
    Reality is way stranger than fiction.

  32. @65, Sorry for simply reiterating your observations, but my eyes had glazed over after reading all the comments above yours that seemed to miss the point about Vallee missing the point. Anyway, I second your emotions. This blog post is counterproductive.

    Besides that, no, the IP issue, while still contentious, doesn’t get the play it used to at the forum, though it usually flares up whenever activity in the region does. And Hugh has basically been hounded out, though he occasionally makes a cameo. Come on back sometime and call the rest of the posters there losers, too. You’re makin’ me feel all special.

  33. From Dr.Vallée’s Purple Justice case, we know the French were seriously engaged in mind control/social engineering at the end of the 70s, long after MK. I say the French but I guess it would be more appropriate to say ‘some perpetrators’. Who can say what flag the clandestine world people call their own? (see Richard M. Dolan’s work) Anyway, I doubt the States would lag behind in ANY aspect of military research.

    And 64, the MK survivor ladies will NEVER get recognition. Stop tilting at windmills. Who is going to admit to those heinous crimes when they can just let it drop down the memory hole. Physical trauma based programs using children as subjects? Sex camp for 9 year olds to be deployed in blackmail operations? Nobody wants to believe ANYONE is capable of that level of sickness, let alone secret parts of their own government.

    All the survivors have is their word and there’s always Elizabeth Loftus, the FMS cult, and the Ministry of Truth to add further doubt as to the veracity of any claims they may have. I find it a bit of a stretch to imply that a brief comment about LSD works against their cause.

    The MK-type stuff is the only thing I can think of that has a level of disinformation comparable to that which permeates the ufo topic. I think you go too far by presuming that a comment about LSD makes Dr.Vallee an expert the in history of US black programs,like the internet detectives at RI.

    I doubt he’s aware of the survivors that are now in their 50’s and 60’s or what they went through. It’s a dark twisted subject, not too many want people want to traumatize their minds by considering such a depressing subject with it’s huge noise to signal ratio.

    Your snide comment about how this post will somehow adversely affect them, is just typical RI pessimism. That forum is a cesspool of negativity and paranoia. Here we have an acclaimed intellectual who can post about any topic that he wishes. One of the topics chooses draws attention to the black programs of the 60’s and 70’s. Is it just possible that this could pique someone’s interest in the topic, that they might learn more.

    I’m guessing the “we torture therefore we have no truth drugs” assertion is just trolling. I don’t know what he’s thinking. But one thing that is certain is a PhD in Computer Science would spot a glaring logic error like that in about 2 seconds.

    1. “We already knew that LSD, once hyped as the ultimate key to the mind, did little more than propel you into colorful delusions.”

      Colorful delusions?!?

      There is ample evidence supporting the therapeutic effect of LSD when used properly. It has been shown to alleviate PTSD, help people with OCD, completely remove symptoms of cluster headaches for months (no other cure is known), remove end-of-life anxiety in the terminally ill, etc. etc.

      Colorful delusions?!?

      Get your facts straight.

  34. @68, your Cervantes reference is not all that apt, as Don Quixote was imagining the windmills to be giant monsters, whereas the ongoing mind control programs and the certainty of the continued use of drugs in these grotesque interrogations is a monster all too real. As I recall, Jose Padilla’s lawyers insisted that he was dosed during his “detention”. But really, who cares, right? He was just a Latino gang member, anyway, and his example could never extrapolate to encompass the more pressing concerns of our passive citizens.

  35. The purpose of torture is to create fear. Gathering information is secondary and used only to rationalize the true purpose which is to demoralize one’s enemy. It is also a powerful testosterone amplifier for the twisted jerks who perform these acts of mayhem.

  36. To #60, whether it was waterboarding or dogs attacking genitals, Mr. Vallee’s point stands: No one has yet found a foolproof way into our thoughts. I think it’s because our thoughts and our consciousness are only loosely connected, and therefore our actual thoughts would be impossible to read.

  37. #74, context is everything. Vallee was talking about “colorful delusions” in the context of interrogations, i.e., saying that as a device to make people tell what they know, LSD is useless.

  38. Then again, maybe we humans aren’t so bad, just easily manipulated. Some people think that that humans have been shepherded by some kind of powerful intelligence(s) all the way back through our blood-soaked history.

    We know how vulnerable the average person is to manipulation, propaganda, advertising, hypnotism… are we just an Alien Xbox? It would explain why we’re so preoccupied with sports, warfare and rock band. I’m sure someone wise has mentioned that things aren’t at all as they appear.

    Or maybe some treat us like toys and others like lab rats and still others like Kindergarten students. I prefer being the latter, the wonders never cease.

  39. People like mahone dunbar and the anonymous coward suggesting we’re “pussy footing” have been informed by TV shows like 24 rather than actual interrogators. Torture does not reliably produce the truth. It produces what the torture victim thinks will gt the torture to stop.

    And if someone *has* been trained in resisting torture, they’ll spread a number of falsehoods in with whatever they say so the interrogator will have to chase down dangerous false leads, giving whatever target the torture was intended for a chance to escape.

    In the case of the much vaunted “ticking time bomb” scenario, let’s say the terrorist knows where the bomb is, pretends to crack, then sends the police to the exact opposite end of town. Good work, eh? The resources that might have been sent to defuse the bomb elsewhere are now neutralized.

    Occasionally, though, someone will release some true information under torture, but what torture also does is give the victim enough hatred for the interrogator to cling onto whatever other information they can and never trust the interrogator again.

    In short, torture is an unreliable tool used by idiots to make themselves feel macho. Which is why Bush used it.

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