Stuff that isn't obviously torture if you're a US gov't official

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54 Responses to “Stuff that isn't obviously torture if you're a US gov't official”

  1. This list is basically a synopsis of every episode of Kiefer Sutherland’s convoluted TV show “24″

  2. Deidzoeb says:

    I could have sworn most of this junk was settled at the Nuremberg/Tokyo trials, or maybe other precedents within the US: that lawyers or advisors who smooth the way for torture and/or breaking Geneva Conventions were accessories to the crimes they helped justify. Did I err?

    I wish everyone who flew those black POW/MIA flags and complained for decades about Vietnamese mistreatment of American soldiers would apply the same standards to Yoo and the Bush admin for disappearing and mistreating prisoners of war. Would the VC be let off the hook by claiming that the US never declared war, therefore John McCain and others were only “enemy combatants”?

    • RTM says:

       Repugnicons will justify anything.  Even John McCain is a sellout now.  TORTURE AWAY in the interest of higher profits for me and my cronies!  There are no morals left on the right wing extremist path, and the mainstream Republicans are voting Democrat now (to maintain fiscal and constitutional conservativism at the “expense” of social progressivism).

    • None of this stuff is even vaguely legally controversial, and the Yoo memo is indefensible, any minimally competent law professor would have flunked it as obviously specious. Nor is the evidence in doubt, given that virtually everybody in the chain of command has confessed in public, several of them in writing, to having broken these laws.

      Now, who are you planning on arresting them? In what court will they be tried? What judge will sentence them?

      The  UN Convention against Torture (which the US has ratified, and therefore it’s binding law in the  US, on par with the Constitution itself) attempted to preempt this problem by removing prosecutorial discretion in torture allegation cases: if there is any plausible accusation of torture or of ordering torture, signatory states are required to prosecute it; if the accusation is false, let a court and a jury acquit, not a prosecutor.

      Why does anybody bother to negotiate with the US, though? At no point in our history have we ever lived up to the terms of a treaty, if the treaty impaired presidential authority even in the slightest. Ask an Indian.

  3. Brainspore says:

    Not torture? Says Yoo.

  4. Daemonworks says:

    The rule of thumb: It’s only torture if the “bad guys” do it.

  5. Capstan says:

    I think we should start adding these penalties for infractions by school children in these officials’ school districts. If it’s good enough for Americans, it’s bound to be good enough for their kids.

  6. vrplumber says:

    The theme of these methods seems to be leaving no physical marks, which is useful if you want to deny the victim evidence of his torture. (or non-torture I guess)

    • Brainspore says:

      Reminds me of the church’s (theoretical) ban on breaking the skin during the inquisitions. Then, as now, the restrictions basically just inspired more creatively diabolical punishments by the people administering the torture.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      The Bush administration guidelines were something like ‘no organ failure or death’.

  7. Finnagain says:

    Any government which tortures its own citizens is by definition illegitimate. Pro-torture government officials should be treated to the list above. 

    • Brainspore says:

      It wouldn’t even bother me as much if it were just a few government officials behind this, because then we could theoretically kick the bastards out. What really worries me is that they really ARE abiding by the will of the people when they sanction this shit.

    • bardfinn says:

       No, no they oughtn’t. They should be arrested, treated humanely, set on trial, convicted, and placed in a jail cell – and all possible fruits of their crimes should be confiscated and redistributed.
      We don’t have to stoop to the level of the criminals. We don’t have to let them profit from their crimes.

  8. Thad Boyd says:

    Would the Last Civil Right in America Please Remember to Close the Door on Its Way Out?

    Ooh.  It’s guns, right?  I bet it’s guns.

    • rtb61 says:

       Need the guns, can’t lose the guns, without them you don’t have an internal enemy with whom you can justify the use of extreme force.
      Take for example a guy in his underpants with a golf club, how can you execute him during a no knock, don’t know if it’s criminals or the police raid (and give a warning as you pull the trigger doesn’t count for nothing). With limited guns out there, it would be impossible to justify what is really impossible to justify.

  9. catherinecc says:

    And it’s going to continue until American citizens send a clear and unmistakable message that such things are not tolerated.

    But as the saying goes, people end up with the government they deserve.

  10. Ito Kagehisa says:

    Most Americans virtually experience all these things as a form of entertainment.

    Torture is a staple of TV and video games; every child knows that good guys can withstand any amount of torture with no lasting effects and bad guys break down sobbing and confess where the kittens and explosives are hidden long before they are significantly harmed.

    This is the world we have built; many loving human urges are evil and must be hidden, but sadism is part of everyday authoritarian normality.

  11. After reading the article, it has become obvious to me that under US law NO sociopath is liable for his evil acts, BECAUSE he does not understand they are evil (that was apparently the basis of the dismissal). Why do I not find that encouraging?

    • Marja Erwin says:

      No, they only get qualified impunity if they hold a position of power. If an unperson or an ordinary civilian did this to anyone except an unperson, they would face worse torture than they inflicted. If an official or police officer does it, they will probably have protections. If the president does it, it’s not illegal.

      (And it’s quite clear that many people are, in the eyes of the government, unpeople, with police ignoring those who kill sex workers, with politicians calling on people to kill trans folks, and with prosecutors targeting minorities who defend themselves from would-be-murderers.)

  12. Ann Boyles says:

    This is terrifying and sickening, and the euphemistic nature of some of these makes it even worse. Incidentally, I was curious what “forced grooming” even meant, and apparently it’s “shaving of facial hair etc.” http://lawofwar.org/interrogation_techniques.htm

    • Deidzoeb says:

      It seems minor, but there’s a lot of identity caught up in how we wear our hair, whether we decide to shave it off, whether you have so little control over your body that someone else can force you to shave. Seems more humiliating for women to have their heads shaved because it’s less common in our culture.

    • Guest says:

      Some people have serious daddy issues. I mean the wardens.

  13. ffabian says:

    All this stuff must be part of this freedom-thing the USians tell us they have and we Europeans don’t.

    USians are rather quick condemning others for their oppressive government (ref.: comments BB Article: Surface-to-air missiles in London) – makes it easier to forget their own country goose-stepping toward a police state eh?

    • davidasposted says:

       So what you’re saying is that Americans should not make generalizations about others… oh wait. (I think) I see what you did there.

    • Ipo says:

       I’m still wondering which ffantastic, enlightened European country you are from. 
      Not Belarus I assume. 

      Are you under the impression that smart Americans are cool with that shit? 

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Not Belarus I assume.

        On a barely related note, I’m fascinated that Austria (and likely some other countries) won’t attend Euro 2012 in Ukraine because Yulia Timoshenko has some scratches on her abdomen, but had no problem at all attending the Olympics in Beijing.

        • ffabian says:

          ;-) That’s the reason the Austrians like to tell.

          They won’t attend because they failed to qualify.

  14. hymenopterid says:

    Can we end solitary confinement while we’re at it?  There seems to be this belief that it’s ok to make sombody’s life hell as long as you don’t physically hurt them.  That’s crazy.  Psychological trauma lasts longer than cuts and bruises.  If you put someone in solitary confinement for even a week, they will never be the same.  If you think about it, physical torture is just a tool to achieve the end result of psychological trauma.

    • RTM says:

       Personally, I’d be perfectly happy with that type of torture, but that’s the point. . . you keep trying different things until you find what is torturous.  There you go, it’s all part of identifying your goal and the means, whatever it may be . . . GO GWB&DC!   Is it any wonder why they don’t travel internationally, and will never do so ever again?

    • bardfinn says:

       Some people both want and need solitary. It’s a damn sight better than gang rape and HIV infection, being shanked repeatedly, or the various other dangers of general population.

  15. E T says:

    We can all make witty comments on BB – and then actually do something. Why not join ACLU, Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International. 

    Unless you think just commenting here will change anything…

    • Shinkuhadoken says:

       Awareness and discussion of known problems are usually the first step to action. Just sayin’.

    • davidasposted says:

      If you think that joining ACLU, HRW, or Amnesty (note: I was an Amnesty volunteer for 4-years) will change this behavior, you’re kidding yourself.

      • Brainspore says:

        Those organizations don’t stop this stuff from happening, but at least they provide some opposition when it does. They also score some very real and important legal victories every once in a while. They don’t always win but they beats the hell out of giving up.

  16. Ian G says:

    I think one of the things missed here and by most of the comments is that torture isn’t the threshold, Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading treatment is. 

    So the even if Yoo, Bush et al. didn’t find that the United States practices rose to the level of physical torture (which would be willful indifference to suffering) they are clearly in violation of the lower standard of the Convention to which we in the U.S. are signatories. To say that torture is the standard for violation of the Convention is to accept the framing that torture apologists and criminals want you to so they escape punishment.

  17. Sinabhfuil says:

    Perhaps the reason for acceptance of such tortures is the concept that it’s something that shouldn’t be done to “American citizens”, but can be legitimately done to anyone else? Until the concept of being humane to all humans is accepted, there’s always a gap in ethics where the cruelty can get in.

  18. Brainspore says:

    Those analogies are pretty weak. You might as well compare waterboarding to washing one’s face in the morning.

  19. vrplumber says:

    Let me know if you still feel that way three weeks into being woken up every 15 minutes from your comfortable position on a cold concrete floor.

  20. “Sleep adjustment” is a euphemism for “not allowing subject to sleep for long periods of time,” and/or interrupting sleep frequently, which has the same very unpleasant effect. I’d agree that in the short term, that or withholding blankets (or “forced grooming,” unless that’s another euphemism) might not be “torture,” but they weren’t doing this in the short term. I mean, the whole reason they were doing it was to punish him and/or get him to talk, so by definition it wouldn’t have been short-term. Nor were they doing these things in isolation, so the issue is really whether someone subjected to all that stuff (or even just one of the more heinous things) has been “tortured.” And the answer to that has been “obviously, yes” since way before 2002.

  21. Brainspore says:

    How many months do you think you could sleep naked on a cold concrete floor before you considered it worse than a “mild irritant?”

    Hell, even dogs at the animal shelter usually get a damn blanket.

  22. Brainspore says:

    We’ve seen the evidence. Nobody is getting sued for “taking one of a prisoner’s three pillows.”

  23. bardfinn says:

     Forced Grooming is removal of body hair; delousing powder; showers (cold); loofah-onna-stick; antifungals; isolation.

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