16.4.09

Thoughts on Bybee Torture Memo 08-01-2002


Up to 30 days. They were authorized to torture for up to 30 days. They had on staff a psychologist who was trained in psychological warfare, who was trained in the most up-to-date methods of breaking down a human being. The last line is the most terrifying; "techniques you believe will dislocate his expectations regarding the treatment he believes he will receive". Techniques, in other words, that will convince him that America is a country that tortures, that all he's heard about America as a nation of laws or as a nation without the will power to destroy a human being when threatened is a lie, and every image he has of us as a cold-hearted and murderous nation is confirmed. What nation wouldn't accept the democracy we peddle when we actively work to convince our enemies that human rights are going to be shed if they fuck with us?


"The only way he can influence his surrounding environment", the only way he can stop the torture, "is to cooperate". The sentence about culmination is fantastic as well; not only were they designing this program to be an intensifying one, where they begin with smaller tortures moving toward larger ones, but they keep the sliding scale around after they've peaked. This is crucial; remember, their justification is to break his expectations of treatment. Why, then, would they need to continue to repeat the same treatments? Presumably, any notions he had of the United States as a government bound by laws or ethics would be gone one he has been placed in a coffin and had bugs dropped on him, or as he been waterboarded. So why continue?


The reason not to repeat tortures after they've been inflicted, but not because they've done their job convincing. It's because they stop being effective. This is the moral ground on which they've built their actions, on efficacy.


Here is an example of their rule of law: A limitation on the violence they can enact in order to justify their violence, and an ominous statement "The individual is not permitted..." Or what? Or the constraints on their behavior come off?


Up to eleven days of forced sleep deprivation. The claims about the effects of sleep deprivation are of cases of voluntary sleep deprivation, in the 11 day case, an attempt to set a world record. It also lacked a position within an explicitly defined program from breaking a person down, did not come after being tortured in a small box by having phobias exploited, did not come after being forced to stand for hours, being beaten, after having been shot three times.


The end is infuriating. The only definition of torture that was acceptable to these people was being with clubs or burning? So everything short of beating someone with a weapon and lighting them on fire, basically everything that didn't do obvious permanent physical harm, was acceptable within these guidelines.



Torture involves leading the victim to think they're going to die. As long as you're not explicit, however, and just let him think he is going to die, you're fine. But with waterboarding, their true reasoning is borne out. It doesn't matter if we make you think you're going die. We can fulfill the psychological definitions of torture all we want, as long as we don't burn you or cut you.


This is the final purpose of this memo is to enshrine this as the fundamental legal definition of no-torture. In the end, the darkness of this is that the "ticking time bomb" scenario is completely lacking. This behavior is legally justified by the United States in all situations overseas where we have "enemy combatants" in custody. Obama's decision today is laudable in how far-reaching it was, but his reasoning does nothing to refute this legal reasoning. First, he claims releasing these documents is justified because the facts contained in them are already public. If they hadn't been? If there were other acts performed by the United States contained within these documents would they have been redacted? Or would these never have been released? Would Panetta's logic, that the CIA would suffer a "loss of reputation" having been revealed as torturers, not jail time, not punishment, but a loss of reputation, would this have won out? Second, with the refusal to prosecute the war criminals involved, no matter how much we'd like to move on, doesn't Obama implicitly justify this legal reasoning? If we are left without recourse when laws are broken, isn't the argument that laws therefore weren't broken furthured? And worse, if that's possible, is the new Administration convinced of the seriousness of this legal reasoning? Have they decided not to prosecute because these acts might actually be considered legal? That they would only enshrine these despicable acts into law? There is a sickness in this memo, but it isn't limited here. Every time torture opponents resort to utilitarian reasoning, the "torture doesn't work" mantra, we vote again in favor of a torture that does work. We spur Defense Department research into advanced psychological torture techniques. We don't need to resort to morality here, only to point out that torture is wrong because it is done without due process, according to the whims of interrogators, according to their biases and gaps in their information. Repeatedly this document claims as its source of information the same men who are charged with the torture of the prisoner. They "do not believe", "are not aware of", "do not consider". Who are these men who will now go uncharged, who hide behind black marker, who are allow to decide whether their own victim is ready to accept their tortures?

Let them be, we're told, and I agree. These men asked for permission to torture, and in all likelihood would have stopped were they told that they would be prosecuted for any actions beyond the prescribed interrogation techniques. So let's not let them be. The ones on whom the responsibility for these war crimes rests, whose names sit in congressional registers and on the lists of former presidents and secretaries of defense.

5 comments:

Hollingsworth J. McTubbins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hollingsworth J. McTubbins said...

I agree with everything you are saying, but why stop there? Let's do something about it, you've got a platform to lay out a real plan -
so, what do you want to do about it?

Grant said...

I don't know. I haven't got past the point of heartbroken and angry.

Hollingsworth J. McTubbins said...

We should start a punk band.

As much as I'd like to be cynical and sad about some of the decisions made by this administration this can't be one of them. I really don't think they're sanctioning torture, at least they are publicly admitting it happened and that it was torture. Baby steps.

Plus, I doubt our fine president (who I hear used to be a Somali pirate and is also related to Hitler) really wants to go up against the CIA right now.

Grant said...

Oh no, I'm not sad about the way the memos came out, or the promise not to prosecute, which is, from what I've heard, not true, they're going after some motherfuckers.

It just hurts to read that disgusting nazi logic and not know what to do.