Torture - The Monstrous Deception

February 09, 2008
C R Sridhar

Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself. - James Anthony Froude. (English Historian)

The barbaric ritual of torture is clinically precise. The interrogators lead the suspect to a cold dank room, which is euphemistically called the detention facility. Here the suspect is subjected to the extreme psychological stress of a long wait, allowing him to wallow in his own fear of the uncertain fate that awaits him at the hand of his captors. Then he is asked questions. If the suspect does not crack or if he does not disclose the information required by his interrogators, he experiences sudden and excruciating pain. There is no God for the damned in this room. The walls of the room echo with the shrill and irregular screams of the tortured and the pain never stops unless the suspect breaks down and confesses.

Torture techniques

The mode of torture varies. Even in Western liberal democracies known to espouse humane treatment of prisoners, human rights groups have documented instances of gross abuse of prisoner’s rights under detention. In Northern Ireland a particularly vicious campaign was unleashed against IRA suspects by the British army with the help of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Catholics suspected of being IRA sympathizers were rounded up by the army and subjected to the five techniques. This meant that the suspect would be hooded, made to stand against the wall and assume stressful positions. In addition the suspect would be subject to random loud noises and not allowed to sleep. He was also fed on bread and water. Though the five techniques avoid intense beating of suspects and are believed not to leave physical marks on the body, it was described as a unique and terrifying experience by the victims, which left psychological scars on them for a long time to come.

The US, which is known to aggressively promote human right issues from International forums, has been accused of using torture against Iraqis and Al Qaeda in the notorious Abu Ghraib (Iraq), Bagram and Khandar facilities in Afghanistan. The method of interrogation was simple brutal and terrifying: The suspects were stripped naked in front of their captors and their personal belonging removed heightening the shock of capture, humiliation and fear. ‘ The point is,’ explains the CIA’s KUBARK interrogation manual, ‘that man’s sense of identity depends upon a continuity in his surroundings, habits, appearance…etc. Detention permits the interrogator to cut through these links and throw the interrogatee back upon his own unaided resources.’1 The tactic was to wear down the suspect by keeping him tired and despondent, which was achieved by sensory deprivation (hooding), sleep deprivation and noise (shouting). On many occasions the prisoners were kneed and fisted.

A bizarre and sexually explicit form of humiliation was devised for the inmates of Abu Ghraib prison, where the male prisoners stripped naked were made to crawl on all fours before female guards who held them on leash. Sometimes the inmates were asked to assume degrading sexual positions before the female guards. The aim of this treatment was consistent: to shame and heighten the stress levels of the suspects to break them in interrogations to follow. Other controversial methods included water boarding which Amy Zalman notes as a ‘form of torture in which a bound, gagged prisoner is forced to breathe in water. There are several techniques: a prisoner is strapped to a board, or submerged, or held down and forced to breathe through a water-soaked cloth held over his mouth. All water boarding produces the physical sensation of drowning and a psychological sensation of panic, fear and loss of control.’2

In other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka - to name a few countries - the use of torture is endemic. Egypt was reported by the US State department to hang prisoners from the ceiling and beat them with whips and metal rods. Jordan was accused of beating the prisoners on the soles of their feet and hanging the prisoners in contorted positions. In Saudi Arabia the suspects had their teeth removed without anesthesia. In Bangladesh a nine-year-old boy had his thumb crushed with pliers by the police who were investigating a case of theft of a mobile handset. Notes Jessica Williams with alarm ‘more than 150 countries allowed torture to be carried out in their countries. That’s two-thirds of the countries of the world.’3

Though the methods of torture vary from physical beating, administration of electric shocks and use of psychotropic and other chemicals to induce pain and suffering in the victims of torture, there appears to be consensus that the aim of torture is ‘(a) the intentional infliction of extreme physical suffering on some non-consenting, defenseless person; (b) the intentional, substantial curtailment of the exercise of the person's autonomy (achieved by means of (a)); (c) in general, undertaken for the purpose of breaking the victim's will.’4

No wonder torture is called as the rape of the mind.

An enduring legacy

Viewed from a historical perspective torture is rooted in the chronicles of the past. As George Ryley Scott says ‘Torture, an enduring and seemingly not declining aspect of man's relationship to his fellow man, is an enduring thread through human history.’ ‘Whether it be practiced by primitive people,’ writes Scott ‘ the ancient Greeks or the Catholic Church, whether it be ancient China, Japan, 1930's Germany, or Northern Ireland today, torture is alarmingly systematic and consistent in its methods. Impaling, burning, rack or wheel, mutilation, drawing and quartering, burning or hanging alive in chains.’5 This is historically true. For instance, the techniques involving sleep deprivation, prolonged standing, and isolation are not freshly invented barbarisms of the Americans or Russians in recent times as they date back to the barbarism practiced by the church in the thirteenth century.

The earliest handbook on torture titled Directorium Inquisitorum recorded by the Grand Inquisitor Nicolas of Eymeric in the fourteenth-century and another treatise Malleus Malleficarum (The Hammer of the Witches, 1486) written by Sprenger and Kramer became standard textbooks of torture used on witches and heretics in order to obtain confessions from them for the next two hundred years. In these texts all the stress techniques later employed by the Americans after nearly seven hundred years on Al Qaeda suspects featured. A sixteenth-century lawyer Hippolytus de Marsiliis is credited with the invention of sleep deprivation as interrogation technique. He suggested that as soon the prisoner fell asleep out of exhaustion he should be awakened with violent pricks of the needle.6 Tormentum Insomniae became standard technique used in interrogating the Al Qaeda prisoners by American personnel in the war against terror.

The international law against the use of torture is contained in Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN on 10th December 1948. Article 5 of the declaration states ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ Since then two important international treaties have been adopted to prohibit the use of torture. These are the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions III & IV.

Ticking bomb

Post 9/11, in the war on terror the United States administration under George Bush resorted to semantic quibbling on the issue of torture. The US government took the position that water boarding was not torture and other stress techniques used by US military personnel were defended as Torture lite and not amounting to torture. Some commentators, notably, Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor, ‘have argued that legalised torture could be justified, if the torture in question was restricted to extreme emergency situations and subjected to appropriate accountability mechanisms. Specifically, he has argued for torture warrants of the kind introduced for a time in Israel.’8 As Dershowitz says, "I would talk about non-lethal torture, say, a sterilized needle underneath the nail, which would violate the Geneva accords, but you know that countries all over the world violate the Geneva Accords. They do it secretly…if we ever came close to doing it, I think we would want to do it with accountability and openly and not adopt the way of the hypocrite."

Taking a cue from Dershowitz's justification of the use of torture in one off emergency situations, security experts have put forth a ticking bomb theory seeking to drive home the point that the use of torture is morally justified as it prevents the greater evil of the terrorists from taking innocent lives. Should we not use force to extract valuable information quickly from the terrorist as to where the bomb is located? Should precious time be lost in legally sectioned interrogation methods?

The ticking bomb theory seems reasonable on the face of it but a deeper examination shows that it is mere sophistry.

Firstly, it is by no means certain that information extracted by torture is reliable. In 1764, the Italian philosopher Ceasare Beccaria warned that under extreme torture the detainee would be compelled to tell lies in order to stop the pain and confess to crimes that the captors wanted to hear. Experienced and trained interrogators have challenged the efficacy of brutal tortures to obtain intelligence information. Maj. Gen. Geoffery D Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, stated "a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence.’ Others point out that despite administration claims that water boarding has "disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks", no one has come up with a single documented example of lives saved thanks to torture.’ The failure of justice in the case of Birmingham six calls into question whether confessions obtained under duress are reliable. In this case the suspects were beaten by the police and made to confess for crimes they did not commit. After years of imprisonment the suspects were cleared of any wrong doing when fresh evidence appeared that they were innocent.

Secondly, it is by no means certain that a committed terrorist would confess within a short period of time for the police to diffuse the ticking bomb. A case in point is that of a bomb maker Abdul Hakim Murad who was arrested by the police in Manila and subjected to brutal treatment: his ribs were broken, the police burned him with cigarettes and forced water down his throat. Murad broke after sixty-seven days. It raises doubts about the ticking bomb theory that assumes torture is a sure fire method to extract information in the shortest possible time.

Thirdly, most trained intelligence operatives rarely use violent methods of interrogations to elicit information from the suspect. One of the most successful interrogators in Nazi Germany was Hanns Joachim Scharff Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe. As Maj. Anthony F. Milavic, USMC (Ret) says ‘This German interrogator purportedly gleaned information from every one of the American and British fighter pilots he interrogated without ever resorting to violence. This is not surprising when you consider… that direct questioning 'works 90 to 95 percent of the time.'

Lastly, the legalization of torture under emergency situations opens the Pandora’s box and raises ethical concerns whether torture would then become institutionalised and self-perpetuating over time and that what was once used for emergency purposes finds more reason to justify its wider use. This has real implication for citizens whose freedom could be endangered by the repressive apparatus of the state.

Monstrous deception

At the heart of the monstrous deception is the belief that the end justifies the means. That a little torture is good as it saves lives and promotes the greater good of the society. But time and again history has shown that violence and repression is often counter productive. The Romans put the early Christian martyrs to the sword and inflicted unspeakable atrocities on the followers of Christianity. The Romans thought that the preservation of the Roman Empire constituted the greater good. Thousands of persecuted Christians chose death and died true to their beliefs. Finally, Rome retreated and Christianity triumphed.

By a sad fate of history, Christianity repeated the same mistakes as Rome and cruelly persecuted the heretics and tortured the witches in a despicable manner. The justification of the Church was that a little burning was good as it saved the soul from eternal damnation. Thousands were senselessly slaughtered. The same madness continues in the present war on terror engaged by the most powerful Christian nation in the world against Islam. The moral justification for torture is again based on the monstrous deception that the best interests of liberal democracies are served by causing a little pain. History, it is said, has a strange way of preserving the ignoble ingenuity of human kind in perpetually deluding itself. Nowhere is this more evident than in the enduring and shameful history of humankind breaking its own on the wheel of pain.

1 Brainwash, Dominic Streatfield page 371.
2 Amy Zalman, Terrorism Issues.
3 50 facts that should change the world, Jessica Williams
4 Torture, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy-7th Feb 2006.
5 The History of Torture throughout the Ages, George Ryley Scott.
6 Brainwash, Dominic Streatfield page-373-374.

Sridhar is a Koshy's regular, a Tinto Brass fan, and a cynical Bangalorean
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February 9, 2008
03:20 AM

I agree that torture in any form is wrong. I am against it being used by any government and will not defend its use by any group, anywhere.

That being said, any reason why you seemingly chose to focus on its use by the west/christians when it is used by pretty much every group to get what it wants? no mention of india in here....

February 9, 2008
07:35 AM

Dear smallsquirrel,
I have not spared my own country. please refer to my piece Sunshine India- encounter killings published in desi.
i thought i would be repeating myself as i had covered the subject elsewhere.
Thank you for your comments.

February 9, 2008
07:47 AM

You're missing the expertise of the South American generals in this context - their years of experience deserves at least honorable mention.

February 9, 2008
01:03 PM


Great piece! It reminded me of the Bhagalpur incidents way back in the 1970's when prisoners where blinded by the police and acid poured in their eyes...there was a write-up somewhere by a journalist who talked to the survivors...

February 9, 2008
02:54 PM

Good one, Sridhar.

I looked at it from a different perspective.

its tough to bring it down to personal levels.

Senate watcher
February 9, 2008
10:04 PM

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, this country's chief legal officer, discussed the torture known as water boarding Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chair Patrick Leahy insisted that water boarding "has been recognized as torture for the last 500 years." Though it has been practiced since the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s, Mukasey told Senators he is not sure it is really torture.

Taking a more direct approach, Senator Ted Kennedy asked Mukasey, "Would water boarding be torture if it was done to you?" He answered flatly, "I would feel it was" -- but then insisted that his words did not constitute a legal opinion. "

It's like saying you are opposed to stealing but aren't sure if bank robbery would qualify," Kennedy responded.

Tortured soul
February 9, 2008
10:09 PM

The various new torture methods show that:
(1) the desire to place the tortured detainees beyond the reach of any court or law;

(2) the desire to abrogate the Geneva Convention with respect to the treatment of tortured persons

(3) the desire to absolve those implementing the policies of torture of any liability under international law or local law.

Tortured soul
February 9, 2008
10:14 PM

and what are the other objectives????....specifically in cases like Guantanamo Bay and other european countries sympathetic to the"cause"
(1) find a location for the "detention center" secure not only from attack and infiltration, but also, and perhaps more importantly from intervention by the courts !

(2) rescind any agreement to abide by the proscriptions of the Geneva Convention with respect to the treatment of persons captured during armed conflict or otherwise

(3) provide an interpretation of the law that protects policy makers and their instruments in the field from potential war crimes prosecution for their acts.

February 9, 2008
10:17 PM

The following are forms of maltreatment visited upon prisoners by U.S. personnel . The list was compiled from articles detailing information in official U.S. documents. Allegations by prisoners that were not supported by official documents were not included.

Involuntary injection of tranquilizer (1)

Prisoner put in sensory deprivation garb and blackened goggles (1)
Placement in isolation cell (1)

Shackling in uncomfortable positions for many hours (1)

Prisoners left to soil themselves (1)

Prisoners exposed to blaring music or insistent meowing (1)

Forcible enemas (1)

Sleep deprivation (1)

Flashing lights in prisoners' eyes (1)

Preventing visits by the Red Cross (1)

Sexual taunts by female interrogators (1)

Shackling in fetal positions for 24 hours or more (2)

Deprivation of food and water (2)

Prisoner placed in a sleeping bag and tied with an electrical cord (3)

Strangulation (4)

Beatings (4)

Placing lit cigarettes into prisoners' ears (4)

Use of military dogs (4)

Rape of a juvenile male prisoner (4)

Chaining in a cold room (5)

Holding in a hot room (5)

Burning (6)

Administering electric shocks (6)

Killing (6)

Sexual humiliation (6)

Mock executions (6)

Pouring a glass of water on prisoner's head (6)

Prisoner photographed with a pistol being held to head (6)

Dousing a prisoner with alcoholic liquid and setting on fire (6)

Squeezing of testicles (6)

Sodomizing with a rifle muzzle (6)

Forcing prisoner's heads into the dirt (6)

Striking a prisoner with an empty 5 gallon plastic water jug (6)

Using Taser guns (7)

Prisoner punched in the face (7)

Soldiers sitting on hooded and handcuffed prisoners (8)

Prisoner dragged by the neck and dies (9)

Forcing prisoners to masturbate publicly (10)

Piling prisoners into a naked human pyramid (10)

Hooking wires on the hands and feet of a hooded prisoner who was told to stand on a box or else be electrocuted (10)

February 9, 2008
11:54 PM

The genesis of "No touch torture"

From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led massive, secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak. After experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, electric shocks, and sensory deprivation, this CIA research produced a new method of torture that was psychological, not physical--best described as "no touch torture."

The CIA's discovery of psychological torture was a counter-intuitive break-through--indeed, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the 17th century. In its modern application, the physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA's new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential methods, disorientation and self-inflicted pain, to make victims feel responsible for their own suffering.

In the CIA's first stage, interrogators employ simple, non-violent techniques to disorient the subject. To induce temporal confusion, interrogators use hooding or sleep deprivation. To intensify disorientation, interrogators often escalate to attacks on personal identity by sexual humiliation.

Once the subject is disoriented, interrogators move on to a second stage with simple, self-inflicted discomfort such as standing for hours with arms extended. In this phase, the idea is to make victims feel responsible for their own pain and thus induce them to alleviate it by capitulating to the interrogator's power.

Although seemingly less brutal, "no touch" torture leaves deep psychological scars on both victims and interrogators. The victims often need long treatment to recover from trauma far more crippling than physical pain. The perpetrators can suffer a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to escalating cruelty and lasting emotional problems.

After codification in the CIA's "Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual in 1963, the new method was disseminated globally to police in Asia and Latin America through USAID's Office of Public Safety (OPS). Following allegations of torture by USAID's police trainees in Brazil, the US Senate closed down OPS in 1975.

After OPS was abolished, the Agency continued to disseminate its torture methods through the US Army's Mobile Training Teams, which were active in Central America during the 1980s. In 1997, the Baltimore Sun published chilling extracts of the "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual" that these Army teams had distributed to allied militaries for 20 years.

In the ten years between the last known use of these manuals in the early 1990s and arrest of Al Queda suspects since September 2001, torture continued as a US intelligence practice by delivering suspects to allied agencies, including Philippine National Police who broke the trans-Pacific bomb plot in 1995.

Once the War on Terror started, however, the US use of "no touch" torture resumed, first surfacing at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in early 2002 where Pentagon investigators found two Afghans had died during interrogation. In reports from Iraq, the methods are strikingly similar to those detailed over 40 years ago in the CIA's Kubark manual and later used by US-trained security forces worldwide.

February 10, 2008
12:04 AM

Donald Rumsfeld and torture

When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld boasted, as he did frequently, of his unrelenting focus on the war on terror, his audience would have been startled, maybe even shocked, to discover the activities that Rumsfeld found it necessary to supervise in minute detail. Close command and control of far away events from the Pentagon were not limited to the targeting of bombs and missiles. Thanks to breakthroughs in communications, the interrogation and torture of prisoners could be monitored on a real time basis also.

The first prisoner to experience such attention from Rumsfeld's office, or the first that we know about, was an American citizen, John Walker Lindh, a young man from California whose fascination with Islam had led him to enlist in the Taliban. Shortly thereafter, he and several hundred others surrendered to the Northern Alliance warlord Abdu Rashid Dostum in return for a promise of safe passage. Dostum broke the deal, herding the prisoners into a ruined fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif. Lindh managed to survive, though wounded, and eventually fell into the hands of the CIA and Special Forces, who proceeded to interrogate him.

According to documents later unearthed by Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, a Special Forces intelligence officer was informed by a Navy Admiral monitoring events in Mazar-e-Sharif that "the Secretary of Defense's Counsel (lawyer William Haynes) has authorized him to 'take the gloves off' and ask whatever he wanted." In the course of the questioning Lindh, who had a bullet in his leg, was stripped naked, blindfolded, handcuffed, and bound to a stretcher with duct tape. In a practice that would become more familiar at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq 18 months later, smiling soldiers posed for pictures next to the naked prisoner. A navy medic later testified that he had been told by the lead military interrogator that "sleep deprivation, cold and hunger might be employed" during Lindh's interrogations. Meanwhile, his responses to the questioning, which ultimately went on for days, were relayed back to Washington, according to the documents disclosed to Serrano, every hour, hour after hour. Someone very important clearly wanted to know all the details.

Lindh was ultimately tried and sentenced in a U.S. court, but Rumsfeld was in no mood to extend any kind of legal protection to other captives. As the first load of prisoners arrived at the new military prison camp at Guantanamo, Cuba, on January 11, 2002, he declared them "unlawful combatants" who "do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention." In fact, the Geneva Conventions provide explicit protection to anyone taken prisoner in an international armed conflict, even when they are not entitled to actual prisoner of war status, but no one at that time was in a mood to contradict the all-powerful secretary of defense.

A year after Haynes, his chief counsel, had passed the message that interrogators should "take the gloves off" when questioning the hapless John Walker Lindh and report the results on an hourly basis, Rumsfeld was personally deciding on whether interrogators could use "stress positions" (an old CIA technique) like making prisoners stand for up to four hours, or exploit "individual phobias, such as fear of dogs, to induce stress," or strip them naked, or question them for 28 hours at a stretch, without sleep, or use "a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation". These and other methods, euphemistically dubbed "counter-resistance techniques" in Pentagon documents that always avoided the word "torture," were outlined in an "action memo" submitted on November 27, 2002, for Rumsfeld's approval by Haynes. The lawyer noted that Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Richard General Richard Myers (respectively deputy defense secretary, under-secretary for policy and chairman of the joint chiefs) had already agreed that Rumsfeld should approve all but the most severe options, such as the wet towel, without restriction.

A week later, Rumsfeld scrawled his signature in the "approved" box but added, "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

February 10, 2008
12:10 AM

Alan Dershowitz has also this to say.."THE GENEVA Conventions are so outdated and are written so broadly that they have become a sword used by terrorists to kill civilians, rather than a shield to protect civilians from terrorists. These international laws have become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution."

"The time has come to revisit the laws of war and to make them relevant to new realities," Dershowitz insists.

"The treaties against all forms of torture must begin to recognize differences in degree among varying forms of rough interrogation, ranging from trickery and humiliation, on the one hand, to lethal torture on the other. They must also recognize that any country faced with a ticking-time-bomb terrorist would resort to some forms of interrogation that are today prohibited by the treaty."

Ah, yes, the "ticking-time-bomb" theory once again; that "all purpose" pretext for excusing any imaginable form of cruelty. Dershowitz invokes the most extreme scenario and uses it as the rationale for overturning the laws that protect the individual.

The "ticking-time-bomb" theory has always served as a blanket justification for torture. It is the one example that convinces ordinary people that security should take precedence over human rights. When it is pointed out, however, that the victims of torture are no more than "suspects", (without positive proof of their culpability) attitudes quickly change.

Dershowitz also fails to mention that in countries where torture is permitted, its use quickly spreads to minor criminals who pose no real threat to society at large.

He knows as well as anyone, that once society entrusts the state with the power to use "physically coercive" measures, those measures are likely to be implemented well beyond their original mandate. It is a surefire prescription for widespread physical abuse against people who have no legal recourse.

We should consider the deleterious affects of abandoning our core principles for short term gain. Torture has an inherently corrupting influence on society. It deprives man of his humanity and elevates the state over the individual. The victims are stripped of their rights and left at the mercy of the state.

In Dershowitz's world, these constitutional protections are not only provisional, but subordinate to national security; the loftiest goal of all. It is a breathtaking departure from our professed commitment to human rights, and particularly surprising coming from an "officer of the court."

But, it is not merely torture that Dershowitz advocates, but murder; "premeditated", state sponsored murder.

"Democracies must be legally empowered to attack terrorists who hide among civilians, so long as proportional force is employed. Civilians who are killed while being used as human shields by terrorists must be deemed the victims of the terrorists who have chosen to hide among them, rather than those of the democracies who may have fired the fatal shot."

There are enormous gaps in Dershowitz's reasoning, the most prominent of which is his careless manner of excusing the killing of innocent civilians to achieve the objectives of the state. What Dershowitz blithely refers to as "proportional force" is in reality the "scattershot" justice practiced by Israel in their targeted assassination campaign. This is a policy that is so detestable, so utterly racist (it is impossible to imagine that Israel would ever fire missals into populated areas in Tel Aviv to dispatch an "alleged" terrorist; only in the enclaves of the "untermenschen") that it eschews any conceivable moral justification.

It is murder, plain and simple.

February 10, 2008
12:17 AM

Let's start with the definition of torture in the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the United States is a party. Torture, the Convention says, is 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 or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him 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. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

The Bush Administration's rationale for torture rests on a hypothetical argument (crafted most notably by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz), a legal argument (crafted primarily by Berkeley law professor John Yoo), and a syllogism.

The comic Lenny Bruce had a famous routine called "Would you betray your country." A guy is brought in to be interrogated saying, "No way I'll betray my country. No way. Doesn't matter what you do I'll never ta Hey, what are they doing to that guy over there, the guy strapped to the table on his belly? Why are they putting a funnel in his ass. What's that in that ladle? Hot lead? Hot lead? They're pouring hot lead in his ass? They're giving him a hot lead enema? Ask me anything. I'll tell you anything. I'll tell you about my mother. I'll make up secrets."

February 10, 2008
12:24 AM

Alan Dershowitz is the kind of guy who never lets the facts get in the way of a good argument.

The Harvard Law School professor and part-time voracious defender of Israel devoted his celebrity legal mind to combating terrorism. His partisan and fundamental support for Israel, however, discredits his own views on terrorism.

He outraged supporters of civil liberties and due process after September 11, 2001 for suggesting that torture should be legally sanctioned and warranted by the courts--an argument he forwards in his new book 'Why Terrorism Works'. His shining model for a legalized system of torture is Israel, of course. In a talk he gave to the World Affairs Council on September 3rd, 2002, he described Israel's procedure as invoked judiciously and non-lethal in technique. He was unconcerned with who was being tortured and for what. What mattered to him was strictly technical in nature, like a good lawyer.

Ali E
February 10, 2008
12:40 AM

In 2003, Haider Muhsin Saleh, was living in Dearborn Michigan. A former opponent of Saddam Hussein, he had once been imprisoned and tortured by Saddam's secret police in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Upon being released he had fled to Sweden and become a Swedish citizen. When the Hussein regime fell, Mr. Saleh heeded the United States' call for expatriates to return to and rebuild Iraq. He did so with his own funds. Upon his arrival in September of 2003 he was detained and sent to the same Abu Ghraib prison where he had been previously tortured by Saddam Hussein. Instead of getting a chance to rebuild his country he became prisoner #151138 and was subjected to "interrogation."

Mr. Saleh's genitals were roped to those of other prisoners; his penis stretched with a rope and beaten with a stick; his own semen poured on his head; his naked body poured cold water upon it in the dead of winter; his naked body shocked with an electric stick; his neck wrapped with a belt which allowed him to be dragged; his head beaten with a pistol and slammed against a wall; his anus probed; his body urinated upon. Yet this "interrogation" was different than the others. It was conducted not by soldiers but average American citizens, serving as contractors with major American corporations, CACI and Titan.

In discussions about the corporate beneficiaries of the War in Iraq, prominent companies like Halliburton are discussed often. What remains under-reported and under-appreciated is the fact that this war has afforded a vast collection of corporations to reap the benefits of lucrative government contracts. A number of such companies are involved in supervising, maintaining, and providing support for the numerous prisons in Iraq in the areas of interrogation, interpretation, and translation.

In 2004, a major Philadelphia law firm, the Center For Constitutional Rights, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago School of Law, and a handful of volunteers a group of lawyers in the United States brought a civil suit on behalf of Mr. Saleh and the hundreds of others Iraqi prisoners abused and tortured by American contractors working for CACI and Titan. The thirty one count complaint accused CACI and Titan of a whole host of common law torts (such as assault and battery), as well as violations of international human rights, and a RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations ACT) conspiracy. The essential theory of the case was that CACI and Titan had a financial motive to increase the amount of interrogation they conducted. The longer the "interrogations" went the more they got paid. By 2004, Titan was earning 96% of its revenue from government contracts.

Ben T
February 10, 2008
12:45 AM

The book Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights (Melville House; 208 pages), by Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson, is an investigation of the infamous "extraordinary rendition" program used by the CIA to carry detainees to countries where torture sessions are a standard part of state "security." Paglen, a UC Berkeley expert on clandestine military operations, and Thompson, a George Polk Award-winning San Francisco journalist, began their immersion in this most disturbing of homeland security programs through contacts with "planespotting" hobbyists who noticed a series of unusual flight patterns in the western United States.

The "rendition" program began under President Clinton, but has roots in covert air operations begun by the CIA after WWll (carried out most famously via "Air America" during the Vietnam War). But, recalling Vietnam historian Marilyn Young's description of the Iraq war as "Vietnam on crack," the Bush Administration's "war on terror" has increased the use of these flights dramatically.

In order to uncover the truth about these planes, Thompson later explained, "we were researching this as people who didn't have intelligence sources, as people who didn't have sources deep in the aviation business. We were trying to reverse engineer the program so we gathered up all the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records and corporate paperwork that we could. Then we also networked with the planespotters the sort of nerdy hobbyists who spend their time obsessing over the minutia and esoterica of aviation."

Thompson and Paglen eventually also found a former pilot with a CIA-controlled aircraft company called Aero Contractors, based in Smithfield, North Carolina, who was willing to talk to them. The pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained, "Ninety-nine percent of the flying was just hauling people around. It was pretty mundane stuff mainly in Central Asia and South America."

But the "mundane" hauling was part of an overall program of torture which would have been used to justify airstrikes if carried out on U.S. soldiers. One especially chilling example discussed in Torture Taxi is the nightmarish ordeal of Binyam Mohammed. Mohammed, arrested for using a false passport, wound up interrogated by an American who told him, "There are no lawyers. You can co-operate with us the easy way, or the hard way. If you don't talk to us, you're going to Jordan The Arabs will deal with you." Once transferred to Morocco, Mohammed was systematically tortured by men who cut his chest and penis with a scalpel.

LA Khan
February 10, 2008
12:52 AM

Rendition is one of those words that bureaucracies craft to hide official monstrosities. As an artistic term, rendition means "a performance of a dramatic role." Webster's 1913 dictionary defines rendition as "the act of surrendering fugitives from justice at the claim of a foreign government." In its brand new usage, rendition has come to mean surrender of aliens. It is a quasi-legal practice under which US intelligence agencies "render terrorists" to friendly governments, mostly in the Islamic world, for detention and interrogation and more.

Ghastly stories have surfaced how Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and other Muslim states abuse and torture rendered men, inflicting more indignities on them than Muslim inmates have suffered at Guantanamo. Beatings, physical suspensions, electric shocks, and other cruel and degrading treatments have been reported. International human rights groups claim that in Uzbekistan two rendered prisoners were boiled to death. Renditions are now firmly associated with America, torture and Muslim states.

More than anything else, the law (or lawlessness) around renditions is most intriguing. Rendered men cannot be lawfully extradited because they have committed no crime in the Muslim state to which they are rendered. Sometimes, the friendly government has no clue about the identity or activities of the person before he is rendered. Sometimes, the rendered man is not even a national of the receiving state. Hence the contrast between extradition and rendition is vivid. Extradition is an open procedure under which a fugitive is lawfully sent to a requesting state where he has committed a serious crime. Rendition is a covert operation under which even an innocent person may be forcibly transferred to a state where he has committed no crime. It is like a bully dispatching a helpless prey to another bully in another town.

Rendition is not even deportation. A person may be deported under US immigration laws for a variety of reasons including charges of terrorism. Deportation however implies that the person is in the United States. Rendition is not territorial. US agencies can abduct a Muslim anywhere in the world and render him to a friendly government. In December 2003, US agents pulled Khaled el-Masri from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border and flew him to Afghanistan where he was drugged and tortured. But the man was a tad lucky. Though born in Lebanon, el-Masri had obtained German nationality. Germany came to his rescue for he was no terrorist. El-Masri was released, though he would still be languishing in Afghan torture chambers if he were, say, the national of a Muslim state that does not care.

Defying international treaties and US laws, rendition works on dark fringes of legality. The Torture Convention specifies that no signatory state shall expel, return or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. The Convention is so strict in its prohibition of torture that it allows no exceptions under which any such transfer may be justified. Additionally, it is a crime under US laws to commit torture outside the United States. If the victim dies of torture, the crime is punishable with death. It is also a crime for US officials to conspire to commit torture outside the United States. Under both the Convention and US laws, therefore, rendition is strictly prohibited if the rendered person would be subjected to torture.

Sadly, such has become the nature of law in the United States that fertile minds trained in top law schools can find believable exceptions to even clearest provisions of law. Law is a game and talent lies in finding loopholes. Accordingly, the laws against shipping detainees to torture chambers tickle the legal imagination of government lawyers and, surely, they find ways to dodge legal texts. To escape the reach of law, US agents seek verbal assurances from friendly governments that no torture would be committed. Friendly governments nod and receive the cargo. No one winks an eye but all know the script. As soon as men are thrown into torture chambers, lips are sealed. US agencies do not ask and friendly governments do not tell what is being done to "terrorists."

One might ask why the US is abducting and rendering men to friendly states. There are many answers. Sometimes, men are rendered because they have nothing more to tell to US agents but still out of caution they cannot be freed; it is cheaper for the US to detain these men in Muslim prisons than here in America. Sometimes, the rendered men need pressure' to disgorge their stories, and the torture techniques employed in friendly states are just perfect to do the job. Sometimes, men are rendered as a loyalty test, just to make sure that Muslim intelligence agencies are indeed supportive of the US war on terror. Sometimes, it is safer to tuck away minor terrorists elsewhere because lawsuits in America may pester for truth and embarrass the government. No such pestering exists in friendly Muslim states where pro-American, autocratic governments are well removed from public accountability and would love to oblige their friends and masters.

February 10, 2008
12:59 AM

Deeply disturbing revelations in a Vanity Fair article show the essential role US psychologists played in the torture of detainees in CIA and Department of Defense (DoD) custody, heightening the urgent need for the American Psychological Association (APA) to issue clear ethical guidelines prohibiting psychologists in the military or intelligence services from violating basic human rights as part of interrogation processes, the Coalition for an Ethical APA stated. The article is available at


When read in conjunction with the recently declassified Defense Department investigation which revealed that psychologists re-engineered counter-terrorist training techniques as mechanisms for detainee abuse at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, this article is an indictment not only of participating psychologists, but of the Association which refuses to condemn these practices.

In early 2005, the APA appointed a Presidential Task Force to form ethics policy that was dominated by psychologists from the military and intelligence establishment, some of whom were involved in the very interrogation chains of command now shown to have facilitated abuse. The ethics policy of the APA and the report of the APA's Presidential Task Force, taken together, currently allow psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, unlike physicians and psychiatrists, and even permits contravening the ethics code when faced with a conflicting "lawful order" from a governing authority.

After two years of reports that psychologists were aiding abusive interrogations, we now have clear evidence that psychologists directly participated in torture. During this time the APA, the main voice of the psychological profession, has closed its eyes and ears to all reports of abuse" said Dr. Stephen Soldz, Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation and Program Development of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis

The Vanity Fair article reports the role of psychologists in developing the CIA's regime of abusive interrogations ("torture"). The article states "that psychologists weren't merely complicit in America's aggressive new interrogation regime. Psychologists, working in secrecy, had actually designed the tactics and trained interrogators in them while on contract to the CIA." Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen of the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program were brought in by the CIA to use SERE techniques, developed to help our soldiers resist collaboration if captured, to break down detainees.

While Mitchell and Jessen used so-called "enhanced" techniques such as waterboarding (i.e., simulated drowning), most of their techniques became staples of interrogation tactics toward detainees in the war on terror and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article quotes one source as describing the Mitchell and Jessen approach as being to "break down [the detainees] through isolation, [use] white noise, completely take away their ability to predict the future, [and] create dependence on interrogators." The description of these techniques matches those techniques described by former interrogator Tony Lagouranis in his new book, Fear Up Harsh as being used by numerous interrogators in Iraq.

The article also makes clear that the sometimes misplaced prestige of psychology as a science and the importance of the supposed "scientific credentials" of the SERE psychologists were crucial to the acceptance of these abusive techniques by general interrogation staff and superiors alike. The article additionally reports that the APA supported the claim that Mitchell and Jessen had specialized scientific knowledge by inviting them to a joint APA-Rand Corporation, CIA-funded conference on the "Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory." This conference debated "the effectiveness of truth serum and other coercive techniques," according to Vanity Fair.

The article also reports that the these SERE-based techniques developed by Mitchell and Jessen in the CIA's secret "black sites" proliferated to other venues where detainees were interrogated, including Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The proliferation of SERE techniques was aided by the scientific "patina" afforded by psychology, as stated in the article by Human Rights Watch's John Sifton. The article further reports that psychologists at Guantanamo participated in interrogations as judges of abuse levels, as "safety officers" deciding just how much abuse a given detainee could tolerate. This very role has been objected to by other health provider organizations, including the American Medical Association.

Since 2005, multiple press reports and government documents have clearly demonstrated that US military and intelligence service psychologists were involved in developing a regime of psychological torture for use on suspected terrorists. In May, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG) declassified a report revealing that psychologists from the military's SERE program worked with US military psychologists at Guantanamo tasked with "developing the standard operating procedure" for interrogations using tactics that violate the Geneva Conventions. The OIG report also documented that these SERE psychologists played a role in bringing abusive interrogation techniques to Iraq and that the SERE-based techniques also migrated to Afghanistan.The OIG report is available at


February 10, 2008
01:05 AM

Torture and Selective Outrage

The alleged torture of British Navy personnel by Iraqi Revolutionary Guards was page one news in the New York Times and other US publications and the outrage in America and Britain was almost universal.

According to the released 15 captives, they were blindfolded, then forced to listen to guns being cocked, which led them to believe they might be executed. They were placed in isolation from one another, yelled at, and forced to confess to having trespassed in Iranian territorial waters.

These abusive treatments are all awful, and no one would want to have to endure them, but let's be honest here: they pale in comparison to what American captives have been put through in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, and at various secret "black sites" around the world from Poland to Ethiopia.

People held in captivity by American forces--military and CIA--are known to have faced mock executions, to have been beaten to the point of death, and to have endured repeated water-boarding sessions. They have been forced to stay in stress positions for so long that they have suffered permanent muscular and neurological damage. They have been subjected to total sensory deprivation, such as we saw was applied to American captive Jose Padilla, to the point that they went insane. They've suffered extended sleep deprivation, have been left staked to the ground in desert sun, or left wet and naked for days in front of blasting air-conditioners. They've been attacked by dogs, sexually humiliated, raped, and forced to watch the desecration of their Korans.

There are also forms of torture applied which we don't even know about--the reason provided by federal authorities for blacking out the testimony of captives at military tribunals in Guantanamo, and the reason two convicted "terrorists," David Hicks and John Walker Lindh, had to sign gag agreements barring them from talking about the conditions of their captivity in public in return for reduced sentences.

February 10, 2008
01:12 AM

Some high U.S. officials claim not be aware of it, and Judge Michael Mukasey, the President's choice for attorney general, prefers to equivocate, but water boarding has long been a form of torture that causes excruciating pain and can lead to death. It forces water into prisoner's lungs, usually over and over again. The Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s used this torture to uncover and punish heretics, and then in the early 1500s Spain's inquisitors carried it overseas to root out heresy in the New World. It reappeared during the witch hysteria. Women accused of sorcery were "dunked" and held under water to see if they were witches.

In World War II Japan and Germany routinely used water boarding on prisoners. In Viet Nam U.S. forces held bound Viet Cong captives and "sympathizers" upside down in barrels of water. Water boarding also has been associated with the Khmer Rouge.

An extensive record of its use by the United States land forces exists in the records of the invasion and occupation of the Philippines that began in 1898. As the U.S. encountered armed resistance by the liberation army of Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo, and sank into a 12-year quagmire on the archipelago, U.S. officers routinely resorted to what they called "the water cure." Professor Stuart C. Miller's study of the Philippine war, "Benevolent Assimilation," reveals this sordid story through Congressional testimony, letters from soldiers, court martial hearings, words of critics and defenders, and newspaper accounts. The pro-imperialist media of the day justified the "water cure" as necessary to gain information; the anti-imperialist media denounced its use by the U.S or any other civilized nation.

Fresh from their recent victories in the Indian wars, the Philippine invasion of 1898 began with a big war whoop. U.S. forces landed in the Philippines in 1898 led by American officers such Pershing, Lawton, Smith, Shafter, Otis, Merritt, and Chafee, who had fought "treacherous redskins." At least one officer had taken part in the infamous 1891 massacre of 350 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee. A U.S. media that had supported the Army's brutal Indian campaigns rhapsodized about this new opportunity for distant racial warfare. The influential San Francisco Argonaut spoke candidly: "We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but unfortunately they are infested with Filipinos. There are many millions there, and it is to be feared their extinction will be slow." The paper's solution was to recommend several unusually cruel methods of torture it believed "would impress the Malay mind."

President William McKinley dispatched Admiral Dewey to the Philippines with a pledge to bestow civilization and Christianity on its people, and promise eventual independence. Perhaps he was unaware that most Filipinos were Catholics. Perhaps he did not know that General Aguinaldo and his 40,000 troops were poised to remove Spain from the islands. Dewey supplied Aguinaldo with weapons and encouraged him, but that soon changed.

From the White House and the U.S. high command to field officers and lowly enlistees the message became "these people are not civilized" and the United States had embarked on a glorious overseas adventure against "savages." Officers and enlisted men - and the media -- were encouraged to see the conflict through a "white superiority" lens, much as they viewed their victories over Native Americans and African Americans. The Philippine occupation unfolded at the high tide of American segregation, lynching, and a triumphant white supremacy ideology.

U.S. officers ordered massacres of entire villages and conducted a host of other shameful atrocities as the Philippine quagmire dragged on for more than a decade. "A white man seems to forget that he is human," wrote a white soldier from the Philippines.

Atrocities abounded. To produce "a demoralized and obedient population" in Batangas, General Franklin Bell ordered the destruction of "humans, crops, food stores, domestic animals, houses and boats." He became known as the "butcher" of Batangas. General Jacob Smith, who had been wounded fighting at Wounded Knee, said his overseas campaigns were "worse than fighting Indians." He promised to turn Samar province into a "howling wilderness." Smith defined the enemy as anyone "ten years and up" and issued these instructions to Marine Commander Tony Waller: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me." He became known as "Howling Jake" Smith.

The "water cure" was probably first instituted when U.S. forces encountered local resistance. Professor Miller states that General Frederick Funston in 1901 may have used it to capture the Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo. A New York World article described the "water cure" as forcing "water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting . . .." This may have been only one on the versions used.

The water cure became front-page news when William Howard Taft, appointed U.S. Governor of the Philippines, testified under oath before Congress and let the cat out of the bag. The "so called water cure," he admitted, was used "on some occasions to extract information." The Arena, an opposition paper, called his words "a most humiliating admission that should strike horror in the mind of every American." Around the same time as Taft's admission a soldier boasted in a letter made public that he had used the water cure on 160 people and only 26 had survived. The man was compelled by the War Department to retract his damaging confession. But then another officer stated the "water cure" was being widely used when he reported, "the problem of the 'water cure' is in knowing how to apply it." Such statements leave unclear how often the form of torture was used for interrogation and how often it became a way to exhibit racial animosity or display contempt.

During a triumphal U.S. speaking tour General Frederick Funston, bearing a Congressional Medal of Honor and harboring political ambitions, bellicosely promoted total war. In Chicago he boasted of sentencing 35 suspects to death without trial and enthusiastically endorsed torture and civilian massacres. He even publicly suggested that anti-war protestors be dragged out of their homes and lynched.

Funston's words met far more applause than criticism. In San Francisco he suggested that the editor of a noted anti-imperialist paper "ought to be strung up to the nearest lamppost." At a banquet in the city he called Filipinos "unruly savages" and (now) claimed he had personally killed fifty prisoners without trial. Captain Edmond Boltwood, an officer under Funston, confirmed that the general had personally administered the water cure to captives, and had told his troops "to take no prisoners."

President Theodore Roosevelt reprimanded Funston and ordered him to cease his inflammatory rhetoric. Facing a political challenge from General Nelson Miles based in the Philippines, TR, who rode into the White House on his heroic exploits at San Juan Hill, did not intend to nourish more competition. The President privately assured a friend the water cure was "an old Filipino method of mild torture" and claimed when Americans administered it "no body was seriously damaged." But publicly TR was silent about the "water cure."

In an article, "The 'Water Cure' from a Missionary Point of View," Reverend Homer Stunz justified the technique. It was not torture, he said, since the victim could stop it any time by revealing what his interrogators wanted to know. Besides, he insisted, it was only applied to "spies." The missionary also justified instances of torture by pointing out that U.S. soldiers "in lonely and remote bamboo jungles" faced stressful conditions.

Mark Twain, a leading anti-imperialist voice, offered this view of the water cure:

"Funston's example has bred many imitators, and many ghastly additions to our history: the torturing of Filipinos by the awful 'water- cure,' for instance, to make them confess -- what? Truth? Or lies? How can one know which it is they are telling? For under unendurable pain a man confesses anything that is required of him, true or false, and his evidence is worthless. Yet upon such evidence American officers have actually -- but you know about those atrocities which the War Office has been hiding a year or two...."

February 10, 2008
01:16 AM

The Police State is Closer Than You Think

Police states are easier to acquire than Americans appreciate.

The hysterical aftermath of September 11 has put into place the main components of a police state.

Habeas corpus is the greatest protection Americans have against a police state. Habeas corpus ensures that Americans can only be detained by law. They must be charged with offenses, given access to attorneys, and brought to trial. Habeas corpus prevents the despotic practice of picking up a person and holding him indefinitely.

President Bush claims the power to set aside habeas corpus and to dispense with warrants for arrest and with procedures that guarantee court appearance and trial without undue delay. Today in the US, the executive branch claims the power to arrest a citizen on its own initiative and hold the citizen indefinitely. Thus, Americans are no longer protected from arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention.

These new "seize and hold" powers strip the accused of the protective aspects of law and give rein to selectivity and arbitrariness. No warrant is required for arrest, no charges have to be presented before a judge, and no case has to be put before a jury. As the police are unaccountable, whoever is selected for arrest is at the mercy of arbitrariness.

The judiciary has to some extent defended habeas corpus against Bush's attack, but the protection that the principle offers against arbitrary seizure and detention has been breeched. Whether courts can fully restore habeas corpus or whether it continues in weakened form or passes by the wayside remains to be determined.

Americans may be unaware of what it means to be stripped of the protection of habeas corpus, or they may think police authorities would never make a mistake or ever use their unbridled power against the innocent. Americans might think that the police state will only use its powers against terrorists or "enemy combatants".

But "terrorist" is an elastic and legally undefined category. When the President of the United States declares: "You are with us or against us," the police may perceive a terrorist in a dissenter from the government's policies. Political opponents may be regarded as "against us" and thereby fall in the suspect category. Or a police officer may simply have his eye on another man's attractive wife or wish to settle some old score. An enemy combatant might simply be an American who happens to be in a foreign country when the US invades. In times before our own when people were properly educated, they understood the injustices that caused the English Parliament to pass the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 prohibiting the arbitrary powers that are now being claimed for the executive branch in the US.

The PATRIOT Act has given the police autonomous surveillance powers. These powers were not achieved without opposition. Civil libertarians opposed it. Bob Barr, the former US Representative who led the impeachment of President Clinton, fought to limit some of the worst features of the act. But the act still bristles with unconstitutional violations of the rights of citizens, and the newly created powers of government to spy on citizens has brought an end to privacy.

The prohibition against self-incrimination protects the accused from being tortured into confession. The innocent are no more immune to pain than the guilty. As Stalin's show trials demonstrated, even the most committed leaders of the Bolshevik revolution could be tortured into confessing to be counter-revolutionaries.

The prohibition against torture has been breeched by the practice of plea bargaining, which replaces jury trials with negotiated self-incrimination, and by sentencing guidelines, which transfer sentencing discretion from judge to prosecutor. Plea bargaining is a form of psychological torture in which innocent and guilty alike give up their right to jury trial in order to reduce the number and severity of the charges that the prosecutor brings.

The prohibition against physical torture, however, held until the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. As video, photographic, and testimonial evidence make clear, the US military has been torturing large numbers of people in its Iraq prisons and in its prison compound at Guantanamo, Cuba. Most of the detainees were people picked up in the equivalent of KGB Stalin-era street sweeps. Having no idea who the detainees are and pressured to produce results, torture was applied to coerce confessions.

Everyone is disturbed about this barbaric and illegal practice except the Bush administration. In an amendment to a $440 billion defense budget bill last Wednesday, the US Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in US government custody. President Bush responded to the Senate's will by repeating his earlier threat to veto the bill. Allow me to torture, demands Bush of the Senate, or you will be guilty of delaying the military's budget during wartime. Bush is threatening the Senate with blame for the deaths of US soldiers who will die because they don't get their body armor or humvee armor in time.

It will be a short step from torturing detainees abroad to torturing the accused in US jails and prisons.

The attorney-client privilege, another great achievement, has been breeched by the Lynne Stewart case. As the attorney for a terrorist, Stewart represented her client in ways disapproved by prosecutors. Stewart was indicted, tried, and convicted of providing material support to terrorists.

Stewart's indictment sends a message to attorneys not to represent too dutifully or aggressively clients who are unpopular or demonized. Initially, this category may be limited to terrorists. However, once the attorney-client privilege is breeched, any attorney who gets too much in the way of a prosecutor's case may experience retribution. The intimidation factor can result in an attorney presenting a weak defense. It can even result in attorneys doing as the Benthamite US Department of Justice (sic) desires and helping to convict their client.

In the Anglo-American legal tradition, law is a shield of the accused. This is necessary in order to protect the innocent. The accused is innocent until he is proven guilty in an open court. There are no secret tribunals, no torture, and no show trials.

Outside the Anglo-American legal tradition, law is a weapon of the state. It may be used with careful restraint, as in Europe today, or it may be used to destroy opponents or rivals as in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

When the protective features of the law are removed, law becomes a weapon. Habeas corpus, due process, the attorney-client privilege, no crime without intent, and prohibitions against torture and ex post facto laws are the protective features that shield the accused. These protective features are being removed by zealotry in the "war against terrorism."

The damage terrorists can inflict pales in comparison to the loss of the civil liberties that protect us from the arbitrary power of law used as a weapon. The loss of law as Blackstone's shield of the innocent would be catastrophic. It would mean the end of America as a land of liberty.

Dr Krishnan
February 10, 2008
01:48 AM

Lest this discussion turn into an anti-American slugfest one is reminded of the Khmer Rouge.Whole sections of the Cambodia were tortured and murdered in inhuman ways.So also the Great Chinese cultural revolution applauded by the likes of Amartya Sen.A little earlier Stalin used starvation as a means of torture against Ukraine.A whole nation -Crimean Tartars were uprooted subject to mass torture and displaced.Man's desire to subjugate is ancient and pervasive.Labels change but man's essential darkness has not changed.

February 10, 2008
02:43 AM

pol pot, baby doc duvalier, saddam hussein, pinochet... accounts by bloggers of torture by police in egypt, saudi, iran.. the list goes on and on and on... it is not something particular to the US so I am not sure why the focus there. although I certainly will not condone torture by any individual or state.

it is all very sad.

February 10, 2008
07:58 AM

Perhaps the focus is there because of all the sad hypocritical lectures the first world gives the third world on this issue?....who supported pol pot, baby doc duvalier, saddam hussein, pinochet and all those tin-pot dictators?

February 10, 2008
08:23 AM

The biggest perpetrator of torture....not reported by the lick-spittle press

A Chronology of US War Crimes & Torture, 1975-2005

I. BACKGROUND, 1975-1989

April 30, 1975

South Vietnam falls. The end of a massive US campaign of imperial aggression, including the systematic use of torture, dating back to 1962. At the time, a low point in US international prestige. The last several years of direct US military involvement featured widespread mutiny in the military, troops killing their officers, and intense social conflicts at home between the government and militant peace and civil rights movements. Beginning of the "Vietnam Syndrome," in which US leaders hesitate to unleash mass murder on the world, for fear of such domestic political repercussions.


President Jimmy Carter rhetorically supports human rights,
and calls for energy conservation programs that are "the moral equivalent of war," partly to deal with US reliance on unstable and unjust regimes in the oil-rich Middle East, long recognized by US strategic planners as one of the greatest material prizes in world history, and therefore targeted for US influence, control and dominance. Carter's energy programs fail.


Iranian revolution against the US-supported Shah. 52 US hostages held at the embassy in Tehran until January 20, 1981. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and massive US CIA support for the Afghan mujahadeen resistance, also involving Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies. These same Islamic resistance fighters would later organize the international Islamic terror network symbolized by Al-Qaeda.


President Ronald Reagan includes in his administration many of the same foreign and military policy appointees who would return to the Bush II administration 20 years later. Declares a "war on terrorism." Terrorizes people and popular organizations throughout Latin America, and supports apartheid and terrorism in Africa. Escapes impeachment in the "Iran/Contra Affair," for selling missiles to Iran and using the proceeds to illegally fund contra terrorists in Nicaragua.


Invasion of tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada begins to counter the "Vietnam Syndrome."


Invasion of longstanding US client state Panama continues to counter the "Vietnam Syndrome."



Iraq under Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait on August 2.


Fall of the Soviet Union. End of the "Cold War." Operations "Desert Shield" and "Desert Storm" drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. US President George H.W. Bush publicly calls on Iraqi Shia and Kurds to rise up against Saddam's Sunni-based tyranny, then abandons them to be massacred when they do. The "Vietnam Syndrome" is largely forgotten, and there has been no significant evidence of an effective political left in the US since that time. Deadly economic "sanctions of mass destruction" are imposed on the Iraqi people, strengthening Saddam's dictatorial power over their impoverished nation.


Under President Bill Clinton, the US continues sanctions against Iraq, estimated to kill more than 500,000 children and about a million people total. US missiles strike Baghdad in 1996. US and UK develop and implement the doctrine of "humanitarian warfare" against former Yugoslavia in 1999. Corporate globalization policies in the form of "free trade" agreements, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other institutional organs of global corporate power and governance systematically maintain and extend US imperial power. US Corporate globalization policies aim to conquer the entire world through market economics. Project for a New American Century (including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other subsequent architects of the post-9/11 "war on terror") calls for invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam and control Iraqi oil.


September 11, 2001

Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC kill more than 3,000 people and provide a pretext for US aggression. As a direct result of this deadly "blowback" from the CIA's anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan 20 years before, "everything changed." That is, previously established political checks and balances on the President's imperial powers were systematically cast aside, to facilitate US military and corporate power projection into the strategic energy producing regions of the Middle East. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other powerful Bush administration policy makers immediately counsel war against Iraq. Bush reportedly states: "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass."

September 14, 2001

Congress grants Bush the power "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11."

September 25, 2001

Justice Department lawyer John Yoo directs a 15 page memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez, arguing that there are effectively "no limits" on Bush's powers to respond to the 9/11 attacks, by attacking "pre-emptively" any countries that harbor terrorists, "whether or not they can be linked to the specific terror incidents of Sept. 11." This is significantly broader than the authority granted by Congress on September 14. Bush's decisions "are for him alone and are unreviewable."

November 2001 A Justice Department memo written for the CIA puts forth an extremely narrow interpretation of the international anti-terror convention, allowing sleep deprivation and other "stress and duress" techniques. Bush announces that any non-US citizens he deems to be "terrorists" can be tried by secret military tribunals, rather than in conventional criminal trials. Ordinary evidence rules would not apply, a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would not be required, and no appellate relief beyond Bush would be available. He reserved the right to keep the defendants in prison, even if they were acquitted by the tribunal. After the surrender of the Kunduz fortress in Afghanistan, hundreds of Taliban prisoners (as well as American John Walker Lindh) are taken prisoner. Hundreds of these prisoners die by suffocation in container trucks or by outright execution, with American forces working intimately with the Afghan perpetrators of the massacre.

December 28, 2001

Justice Dept. Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion argues that US courts lack jurisdiction to review the treatment of foreign prisoners at Guantanamo.

January 2002

Rumsfeld approves the use of aggressive interrogation methods, including dogs, to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo.

January 9, 2002 OLC's John Yoo co-authors a 42 page memo concluding that neither the Geneva Conventions nor any of the laws of war apply to the war in Afghanistan.

Mid-January 2002

First plane load of prisoners lands at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo.

January 25, 2002

Gonzalez advises Bush that the Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees in the "war on terrorism" at Guantanamo. Gonzalez describes provisions of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete." In fact, the Geneva Convention provides comprehensive protection for all persons in all armed conflicts, and no one has the lawful power to suspend its provisions. Gonzalez says he is concerned that without this conclusion US officials could be subject to prosecution for war crimes.

February 7, 2002

Over State Dept. objections, Bush issues a Memorandum adopting the essence of Gonzalez' legal position that detainees at Guantanamo are not Prisoners of War entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions. This is an attempt to shield US officials from responsibility for torture. Soon thereafter Bush signs a secret order granting new powers to the CIA to set up a series of secret detention facilities outside the US, and to interrogate detainees there harshly. The administration increases the "rendering" of suspects in a secret CIA jet to other governments to be tortured.

August 1, 2002

A Justice Department Memo ("The Torture Memo") requested by Gonzalez narrowly defines "torture" under US law and the Geneva Convention, as limited to practices causing physical pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Specific practices like "water boarding" are discussed and approved. The memo opined that laws prohibiting torture "do not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants," because he is Commander-in-Chief of the US military. The author, Jay Bybee, has subsequently been appointed to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge.

September 2002

The Bush administration adopts its National Security Strategy, announcing the doctrine of "pre-emptive war" wherever and whenever they choose. Cofer Black, head of CIA Countertorrorist Center, testifies at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee: "This is a highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off."

November 14, 2002

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, one of the Bush government's leading neocons, addresses the Federalist Society, a right wing legal organization that promotes judicial candidates for the Bush administration. Bolton denounces the International Criminal Court, and says that an alternative to international war crimes prosecutions "is for the parties themselves to try their own alleged war criminals. Indeed, there are substantial arguments that the fullest cathartic impact of the prosecutorial approach to war crimes occurs when the responsible population itself comes to grips with its past and administers appropriate justice."

December 2002

Rumsfeld approves initial list of 16 interrogation methods for Guantanamo, in addition to the 17 traditionally approved methods in the Army Field Manual. The new techniques clearly violate the Geneva Convention and US anti-torture laws.

March 6, 2003

Defense Department "Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism" (the "Pentagon Torture Manual") requested by Rumsfeld, adopts the Yoo/Gonzalez legal analyses of torture. "In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the statutory prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority. Congress lacks authority under Article I to set the terms and conditions under which the President may exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief to control the conduct of operations during a war. [NOTE: In fact, Art. I, Sec. 8 of the US Constitution expressly states that "The Congress shall have Power to declare War and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water"]

March 20, 2003

US military forces invade Iraq without authorization by the United Nations Security Council, in violation of international law.

April 2003

Rumsfeld issues a final policy approving 24 special interrogation techniques, some of which need his permission to be used.

May 2003

A group of military lawyers disclose the administration's legal approval of torture and abuse to the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the City Bar Association in New York. They repeat their request that the Bar Association take action in October 2003.

June 26, 2003

Amnesty International raises concerns about allegations of inhuman treatment in US detention camps in Iraq in a letter to Ambassador Paul Bremer

July 23, 2003

Amnesty International releases report, "Iraq: memorandum on concerns relating to law and order," warning of allegations of torture and abuse in US prisons, including Abu Ghraib: "Regrettably, testimonies from recently released detainees held at Camp Cropper and Abu Ghraib Prison do not suggest that conditions of detention have improved" since AI's June 26 letter to Bremer There are "a number of reports of cases of detainees who have died in custody, mostly as a result of shooting by members of the Coalition forces." A Saudi national "alleged that he was subjected to beatings and electric shocks."

August 18-26, 2003

Nearly two dozen prisoners at Guantanamo Bay "Gitmo" try to hang or strangle themselves, including ten simultaneous attempts in a single day, to protest conditions there. They were among 350 "self-harm" incidents recorded in 2003, including 120 "hanging gestures" at the prison, according to a Gitmo spokesman. "The 2003 protests came after Maj. Gen Geoffrey Miller took command with a mandate to get more information from the prisoners"

August -September 2003

In the face of intensifying resistance to US military occupation of Iraq, including bombings of the Jordanian embassy, UN headquarters, and police headquarters in Baghdad, General Miller, Guantanamo Prison Commander, visits Iraq to "Gitmoize" detention operations in US prisons there. Miller is acting under orders from fundamentalist US General Boykin and Rumsfeld's deputy Stephen Cambone. He recommends that military police be used by military intelligence and CIA interrogators to "set the conditions" for interrogation of Iraqi detainees. That is, he recommends that US personnel torture Iraqis. His recommendations are accepted and implemented. Furthermore, Rumsfeld and Cambone expand the scope of their top-secret "special access plan" ("Copper Green") and apply it to detained prisoners at Abu Ghraib, treating male prisoners there roughly and exposing them to sexual humiliation.

October 2003

Delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visit Abu Ghraib prison, and witness "the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty [NOTE: without any charges, trial, or right to counsel or any other contact with the outside world] completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness" for days. A military intelligence officer tells the ICRC that this practice was "part of the process." The ICRC reports that this "went beyond exceptional cases" and was "in some cases tantamount to torture." ICRC complains directly to top US authorities. National Lawyers Guild Convention resolves that Bush and other officials responsible for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, and other international instruments and treaties, and without a formal declaration of war as required by the US Constitution, should be impeached.

November 2003

An internal report by the Army's chief law enforcement officer criticizes the practice of involving Military Police officers in the process of "softening up prisoners for interrogation."

December 2003

An FBI e-mail describes methods used by Defense Department interrogators, posing as FBI agents, as "torture techniques." The FBI document says no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by this torture.

January 13, 2004

Military policeman Joseph Darby reports the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the Army Criminal Investigations Division, and turns over a CD full of photographs. Within three days, a report made its way to Rumsfeld, who informed Bush. They begin developing the cover story "that some kids got out of control."

February 2004

Secret internal report of General Antonio Taguba regarding abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq states that General Miller of Guantanamo urged military commanders in Baghdad to put military intelligence in charge of the prison, and recommended that "detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation." Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib. There was a policy of holding "ghost detainees" in secret, hiding their presence from the Red Cross.

March 19, 2004

A Justice Department memo, reportedly written at the request of Gonzalez, authorizes the CIA to transfer detainees from Iraq to other countries for interrogation, in violation of international law. The memo apparently sanctioned a CIA policy of "rendering" detainees to countries with known records of grave human rights violations, including torture.

March 31, 2004

The Peacerights organization in the UK issues a detailed report calling on the International Criminal Court Prosecutor to investigate members f the UK government, a signatory to the Treaty of Rome ICC Statute, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Iraq in 2003, as part of a "Joint Criminal Enterprise" with the USA.

April 2004

Committee on International Human Rights of the City Bar Association of New York, prompted by senior military lawyer whistle blowers, issues a report on interrogation of detainees. The Committee criticizes exclusion of military lawyers from supervising interrogations.

April 20-28, 2004

US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Guantanamo (Rasul) and US (Hamdi and Padilla) "enemy combatants" cases. CBS "60 Minutes II" broadcasts the first infamous photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One of the pictures depicts a hooded figure standing on a box attached to wires in a stress position known in the intelligence community as the "Vietnam" technique.

May 2004

The Wall Street Journal publicly discloses the contents of the ICRC's October 2003 report on torture.

May 5, 2004

A US Army summary of deaths and mistreatment of prisoners in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse, involving more military units than previously known, and at least 37 deaths in US custody.

May 7, 2004

Amnesty International sends an open letter to Bush, saying that abuses committed by US agents in Abu Ghraib prison were war crimes, and calling on the administration to fully investigate these abuses and ensure there is no impunity for anyone found responsible, regardless of position or rank.

May 10, 2004

Bush publicly reiterates his complete support of Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of public release of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Seymour Hersh publishes his first New Yorker piece on the torture at Abu Ghraib.

May 11, 2004

The Washington Post reports that the policy of denying due process, kidnapping and transporting foreigners to foreign governments to be tortured, "has been developed by military or CIA lawyers, vetted by Justice Department's office of legal counsel and, depending on the particular issue, approved by White House general counsel's office or the president himself."

May 15, 2004

Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker on the Pentagon's top-secret "Copper Green Special Access Plan,", which "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq." "The rules are 'Grab whom you must. Do what you want.'" A confidential Pentagon consultant involved with such programs says: "The issue is that, since 9/11, we've changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means. You don't keep prisoners naked in their cell and then let them get bitten by dogs. This is sick." The New Zealand Herald reports that "Almost 10,000 prisoner's from President George W. Bush's so-called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison."

May 16, 2004

The British Observer reports that "Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp [If the allegations are proven] they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an insitutionalised feature of America's war on terror"

May 19, 2004

US military spokesmen in Kabul, Afghanistan said they would keep their network of "around 20" secret detention facilities in that country shut to the outside world, after reported deaths there. European Philosophy Professor John Gray writes: "[T]he United States is facing an historic defeat in Iraq a blow to American power more damaging than it suffered in Vietnam, and far larger in its global implications. The inescapable implication of currently available evidence is that the use of torture by US forces was not an aberration, but a practice sanctioned at the highest levels. Abuse on the scale suggested by the Red Cross report cannot be accounted for by any mere lapse in discipline or the trailer-park mentality of some American recruits. It was inherent in the American approach to war."

May 20, 2004

US officials admit that unspecified "harsher" interrogation techniques on some detainees at Guantanamo went beyond accepted military practice, and were "non-doctrinal." "The military lawyers believed some of those techniques went too far, other officials said." The fourteen Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee write to Attorney General John Ashcroft "to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act by approving the use of torture techniques banned by international law."

May 21, 2004

US Govt. seeks to renew immunity from war crimes prosecutions previously granted in 2002 to American peacekeepers, with a new resolution before the UN Security Council, but in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal there is growing international opposition to such an extension.

May 24, 2004

Bush gives a speech in which he describes the incidents at Abu Ghraib as acts "by a few American troops who disregarded our country and disregarded our values."

June 2004

An FBI "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up. An FBI agent reported witnessing "numerous physical abuse incidents of Iraqi civilian detainees," including "strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings."

June 8, 2004

Ashcroft tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that the international ban against torturing prisoners of war does not necessarily apply to suspects detained in the war on terror. He denies Congress access to memos by Bush administration lawyers who reportedly "concluded the president can legally order interrogators to abuse or even kill terrorist suspects in the interests of national security."

June 9, 2004

A New York Times editorial states: "Each new revelation makes it more clear that the inhumanity at Abu Ghraib grew out of a morally dubious culture of legal expediency and a disregard for normal behavior fostered at the top of this administration."

June 10, 2004

A New York Times op-ed states: "Under the doctrine of command responsibility, officials can be held resoponsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates even if they did not order them ­so long as they had control over the perpetrators, had reason to know about the crimes, and did not stop them or punish the criminals. Moreover, the abuses seem to have been more than isolated actions. Instead, they now appear to be part of an explicit policy of coercive interrogations conducted around the globe and supported by Justice Department and White House lawyers, who argued in 2002 and 2003 that the Geneva Conventions and other domestic and international bans on torture did not apply in these cases."

June 11, 2004

Knight-Ridder newspapers announces that the US Army is now investigating deaths of 127 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 37 in early May. "In a press conference Thursday [June 10], President Bush said his instructions were that 'anything we did would conform to US law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations.' But the administration memos that have become public argued that US laws do not flatly prohibit torture."

June 28, 2004

US Supreme Court issues decisions in the "enemy combatant" cases (Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul): "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President" The Court rejects OLC's 12/28/01 opinion exempting such cases from US courts' jurisdiction, after around 600 men and boys were held for more than two years without charges or trial..

July 30, 2004

An FBI agent reports that a detainee at Guantanamo was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music and strobe lights.

August 2, 2004

An FBI agent reports interrogations at Guantanamo in which detainees were shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor for 18 to 24 hours at a time, and most had urinated or defecated on themselves. One detainee was reportedly left in an unventilated room at a temperature "probably well over a hundred degrees." He was "almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him," apparently having pulled out his own hair through the night.

December 20, 2004

An FBI document dated May 2004, from "On Scene Commander ­Baghdad," released under court order to the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, states that Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq, including sleep deprivation, stress positions, dogs, hooding, and sensory deprivation. The Bush administration denies the existence of such an Executive Order.

December 30, 2004

US Justice Department releases a rewritten legal memo, disavowing it previous legal opinions regarding torture. "This memorandum supersedes the August 2002 Memorandum [i.e., "The Torture Memo"] in its entirety."

January 2, 2005

Washington Post reports that Bush administration is planning to imprison suspected terrorists indefinitely and without charges or trial.

January 6, 2005

Alberto Gonzalez testifies at hearings of Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination as US Attorney General, provoking a flood of outraged commentary. For example: "Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzalez himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Americans began torturing prisoners, and they have never really stopped. Mr. Gonzalez is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzalez, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand. One does not teach democracy, or freedom, through torture. By using torture, we Americans transform ourselves into the very caricature our enemies have sought to make of us."

January 8, 2005

Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is discussing "the Salvador option" in Iraq: employing death squads for assassination and kidnapping campaigns that echo the "Phoenix" state terrorism program in Vietnam, and Central American death squad crimes in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras throughout the 1980s.

January 13

The New York Times reports that in December 2004 the White House persuaded Congress to drop a new law that would have restricted "extreme interrogation measures." "Among the procedures approved by the document was waterboarding, in which a subject is made to believe he might be drowned. At times, their discussion included an assessment of whether specific measures, on a detainee by detainee basis, would cause such pain as to be considered torture."

January 25, 2005

The Baltimore Sun reports that the US Army investigated dozens of cases of detainee abuse in Iraq over the last two years, "but case after case was closed with US troops facing no charges or only minimal punishment The documents, internal reports from more than 50 criminal investigations, challenge the government's claims last year that photographed abuses at Abu Ghraib were the isolated pranks of a few low-ranking soldiers." The Washington Post reports that Iraqis are still being routinely tortured under the occupation, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

February 6, 2005

The Minneapolis Star Tribune raises the question of command responsibility for war crimes in Iraq: "independent human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and two of America's most respected investigative reporters, Mark Danner and Seymour Hersh, have all concluded, in detailed investigations, that torture of prisoners was authorized at the highest levels of command. [quoting Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch] 'No soldier higher than the rank of sergeant has been charged with a crime. No civilian leader at the Pentagon or the CIA is even being investigated. But the privates and the sergeants are not the ones who cast aside the Geneva Conventions, or who authorized illegal interrogation methods. Unless the higher-level officials who approved or tolerated crimes against detainees are also brought to justice, all the protestations of 'disgust' at the Abu Ghraib photos by President George W. Bush and others will be meaningless.'"

February 18, 2005

The Chicago Tribune reports that an Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning US soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA torture in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," suspended by his wrists with his hands cuffed behind his back. A guard told an interviewer "the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way [the guard] never had seen before," so he was surprised the man's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets." As guards released the man's shackles, "blood gushed from his mouth 'as if a faucet had been turned on.'" Perpetrators "received non-judicial punishment."

March 17, 2005

CIA Director Porter Goss testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that "I am not able to tell you that" interrogation techniques employed by the CIA in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks were always in compliance with the law. The CIA issued two statements "to clarify his remarks but no official would agree to be named" Goss claimed that "waterboarding" is "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques."

March 19, 2005

On the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Veterans For Peace, Inc. sends a letter and statement of violations to the members of the US Congress, calling for the removal of Bush and Cheney from office, because of a war of aggression on Iraq and war crimes and crimes against humanity in the execution of the war.

March 25, 2005

In spite of recommendations by investigators that they be charged, US Army commanders decide not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

April 23, 2005

Human Rights Watch issues a report calling for a special prosecutor to investigate US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet regarding abuse of prisoners.

April 25, 2005

The Independent (UK) reports that the top UN human rights investigator in Afghanistan was fired "under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticising the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons often before being shipped to Guantanamo Bay."

April 28, 2005

The US Army Inspector General, on the one year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal, announces that no senior US military officer will be held accountable; only Brigadier General Janis Karpinski is relieved of her command and reprimanded. The transparent and utterly shameful whitewash provokes an eloquent denunciation by commentator Joe Conason: "In this disgraceful story, accountability diminishes with every ascending link in the chain of command. Miller and Sanchez at least were criticized in official reports, but Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and Gonzales haven't endured even that degree of discomfort. They haven't even been investigated. Instead, all three have been rewarded and lavishly praised by the president. Tenet got the Medal of Freedom. Gonzales got a promotion from White House counsel to attorney general. And Rumsfeld, despite widespread bipartisan demands for his resignation, got to keep his job. The failure of our "system" in this scandal has not been confined to the White House or the Pentagon, awful as their failures are. Although traditional news organizations such as CBS News, the New Yorker magazine and a few newspapers deserve tremendous credit for their reporting on Abu Ghraib and its sequels, most of the American media has conspicuously hesitated to emphasize this story or to confront the responsible officials. It was remarkable to read the transcript of Rumsfeld's press briefing this week, which reveals the extent of journalistic timidity on this topic. No doubt emboldened by this weakness, Rumsfeld recently placed unprecedented restrictions on the First Amendment freedoms of reporters covering the court-martial of a sergeant at Fort Bragg. On the anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only appropriately outraged editorial in any major publication appeared in the Washington Post, a paper whose editorial support for the Iraq war hasn't diminished its desire to see national honor restored. And then there is Congress, which might once have been expected to enforce accountability on rogue officialdom. Not any more. The House of Representatives is entirely useless under its current leadership, except to echo the excuses of the executive branch and perform whatever favors its corporate sponsors have bought."

Ben S
February 10, 2008
08:41 AM

In recent times, it has become fashionable to regurgitate old arguments in favor of torture, without fully thinking through the human implications of making such statements. Not only lawyers for the U.S. government, but academics from Harvard Law School and Deakin Law School in my own country of Australia have argued for torture.

Torture is as old as law itself; it was used in ancient Rome as in medieval Europe, French Algeria, and Northern Ireland, and now still in over 100 countries. It is not surprising that arguments for torture have reappeared in a time of crisis (or perceived crisis) for western countries, when some people instinctively reach for more legal powers, seemingly blind to the history of past emergencies where torture was deemed unnecessary.

For those who think we live in an age of terror, it is intuitively appealing to believe that torturing one person to save many is the right thing to do. Discussion of torture should not be taboo, but arguments for it must withstand moral scrutiny. The legal meaning of "torture" was drafted by human hands; it is therefore fallible and cannot merely be accepted as divine truth-particularly if the definition of torture is too weak.

More importantly, if we refuse to discuss torture, then we lose the opportunity to publicly explain the reasons why torture is so objectionable. The prohibition on torture cannot merely be accepted as a matter of faith; we must provide rational justifications for outlawing it.

Under international law, torture is a war crime, a crime against humanity, and an international crime in itself. Cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment is also forbidden. The prohibition on torture is absolute, and cannot be suspended even in times of public emergency. Despite this formidable legal architecture, since September 11, the use of torture has accelerated around the world. Let me give you some examples:

* Human Rights Watch reports that at least 9 detainees are know to have died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, and 4 of these were murder or manslaughter;

* An internal U.S. Army investigation revealed widespread abuse of detainees in Afghanistan by poorly-trained and inexperienced soldiers, often out of boredom or cruelty, or for the pleasure of humiliating and inflicting pain on those in their power;

* Another U.S. Army report in 2003 found there were numerous cases of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib in Iraq , including, for example, the case of Abed Hamed Mowoush, who was suffocated inside a sleeping bag by U.S. soldiers. The International Committee of the Red Cross has taken the exceptional step of publicly revealing its concerns about torture; British servicemen have been disciplined for ill-treating detainees in Iraq;

* The United States has "contracted out" interrogations and torture by informally rendering suspects to less scrupulous governments (such as Syria, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt), or to irregular armed forces in failed States (such as the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan). As Human Rights Watch observes, diplomatic assurances supposed to guarantee the treatment of returnees have frequently been found to be ineffective;

* One Australian citizen, Mamhdouh Habib, alleges that he was informally rendered from Pakistan to Egypt by the United States, and tortured while in Egyptian custody. Another Australian citizen, Ahmed Aziz Rafiq, has been detained without charge by U.S. forces in Iraq for over a year, with no consular visits for 11 months. The Australian government has been conspicuously silent in representing the interests of its nationals to the U.S. authorities;

* In May, 2005 Sweden was criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee for returning an Egyptian asylum seeker to probable torture in Egypt , based on secret evidence that he was a terrorist suspect. The Convention against Torture prohibits returning a person to a country where they are likely to be tortured;

* The UK courts have accepted that information obtained by torture may be used for security or intelligence purposes, such as to prevent a terrorist attack, as long as it is not used to criminally prosecute the person. Australian law similarly does not prevent the use of torture evidence for security reasons.

Some cases of abuse in custody may have been isolated acts by renegade individuals like Lynndie England , who have since faced military discipline. Yet, it is also clear that parts of the U.S. administration have pursued a calculated policy designed to push the law against torture to its limits.

Torture as Calculated Policy

In the first place, some U.S. government lawyers have argued that aggressive interrogation techniques do not amount to torture and are therefore permissible. These arguments take advantage of ambiguity in the legal definition of torture, which does not list prohibited acts but instead prohibits the intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering," by a public official, for one of four purposes: to obtain information or a confession, to punish, to intimidate or coerce, or to discriminate.

This general definition invites argument about whether a particular method causes "severe"' pain and suffering, or a lesser degree of discomfort that can be expected in ordinary police interrogations. Thus the U.S. Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, contrives that the pain of torture "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

Lawyers in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Justice issued equally extraordinary legal opinions approving coercive methods supposedly not causing severe pain. These techniques are known by a range of euphemisms: "counter-resistance strategies;" "stress and duress;" "professional interrogation techniques;" "highly coercive interrogation;" "cruel, inhuman, and degrading;" and-my favorite-"torture lite." (Why does everything American have to be related to food and dieting?)

Some of these include sleep or light deprivation, continuous light or noise exposure, withholding food and water or medical treatment, prolonged solitary confinement, exposure to temperatures, forced standing in painful positions, hooding or blindfolding, shackling, and forced nudity.

U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld has also been pushing the legal boundaries. On one opinion recommending forced standing for 4 hours, Rumsfeld wrote: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Of course, there is no difference between standing in the White House and standing in a military prison in front of an enemy soldier.

In the past, such techniques have been condemned as torture or ill-treatment by the UN Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Israeli Supreme Court. The more extreme or vicious acts, such as sexual humiliation of Muslim men, and terrorizing naked prisoners with attack dogs, are also obviously unlawful.

What is striking about these U.S. legal opinions is their selective manipulation of international law, and their deference to the supreme power of the U.S. president. They reflect a belief that the protection of American lives prevails over any other interests, even if the danger to Americans is marginal, remote, or speculative and the impact of U.S. measures on foreigners is severe, indiscriminate, and disproportionate.

As for the CIA, the rules governing interrogations remain secret, and given that they have been authorized to assassinate suspected terrorists, it would be surprising if they had not been authorized merely to torture suspects.

Even more worrying than outright breaches of the law, or attempts to define torture narrowly, is the frontal assault on the prohibition of torture itself-from academics rather than governments. Some academics like Alan Dershowitz and Mirko Bargaric have argued, in a rather cavalier fashion, that terrorist suspects should be tortured to obtain information.

Dershowitz has a particularly morbid fascination with his preferred torture techniques-such as inserting nails under a person's fingernails-and claims that such techniques should be allowed because they cause no permanent damage. He conveniently ignores the example of the Tamil man in the 1980s, who, having been tortured by the Sri Lankan security forces in precisely this way, soon lost of the power of speech, suffered impaired motor coordination, and committed suicide within two weeks of his release.

Whether one tortures to save one life or a thousand lives, the argument for torture is indefensible due to insurmountable legal, moral, and practical problems.

First, it is impossible for interrogators to know with any reasonable degree of certainty that a suspect possesses information about the threat. There are numerous unknown variables, such as the existence of the threat, its extent, location, and duration, whether it can be averted, and the identity and knowledge of the suspect. This means that a person may be tortured based on speculation and untested pre-trial evidence, and it is inevitable that innocent people will often be tortured. We know that even after exhausting all levels of appeal in one of the world's most advanced legal systems, many innocent people in the United States have been wrongly executed. The risk of error is multiplied by the climate of crisis and urgency surrounding terrorist incidents, and the public pressure on interrogators to produce speedy results.

It also means that the torture of an innocent person might only stop when the person is dead. If interrogators are wrongly convinced that a person has information, they will apply increasingly savage torture methods in the hope of extracting the information.

Interrogators may believe that the person is simply holding out, rather than innocent. The problem of torturing the innocent is very real considering that, according to U.S. investigations, two-thirds of detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq were found innocent of any terrorist links, and 40% at Guantanamo . Similarly, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel reports that torture of Palestinian detainees since the second intifadah is routine, even though few are ever charged with terrorist offenses.

Second, licensing torture would undoubtedly encourage its abuse, since the legal and moral stigma attached to torture would be removed. Even if torture saves lives in rare cases, the escalation and abuse of torture in the majority of other cases would undoubtedly cause greater suffering than it prevents.

Some academics counter the slippery slope argument by asserting that torture already happens and it is better to regulate it than prohibit it. That is perversely like arguing that because murder and terrorism happen, they too should be decriminalized. Torture cannot be trivially treated like alcohol or marijuana, where regulation may reduce harm. Torture is not a social problem; it is a different kind of violent harm. In medieval Europe , torture was regulated by detailed rules, yet codification failed to control the reckless and expanding use of torture.

Third, if torture currently happens despite prohibition, then why would interrogators obey the limits imposed by any regulatory scheme? Interrogators would still torture if they think it is in the interests of public safety. It is preferable to hold the line at prohibition, but better to implement it through training police and military forces, and closer judicial supervision of interrogations.

Fourth, torturing anyone who may have information, and not just wrongdoers, casts collective suspicion on whole groups of people, such as the family, friends, and colleagues of a suspect, who may happen to know something about the threat. There is no clear limit to the range of people who could be exposed to torture.

Fifth, if torturing terrorists aims to protect public safety, it is hard to see why other threats should not be combated by torture. Why not torture those planning genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, or rape, even a child kidnapper, as well as those who might know of others planning such crimes? Again, there is no obvious limit to torture once the door to it is opened.

Sixth, torture does not work. Debating the effectiveness of torture immediately concedes that torture may be morally permissible if it works. Nonetheless, since arguments for its effectiveness continue to be loudly voiced, it is necessary to combat such arguments, even if it means getting our hands dirty in the process. Experienced interrogators know that torture produces misinformation rather than information, since victims of torture will confess to anything to make it stop. This could jeopardize rather than protect public safety, as investigators waste precious time chasing up false leads. Torture fell into disuse historically because it didn't work.

Interrogators have sophisticated techniques for gathering reliable information: the shock of capture and disorientation of detention; offering rewards (like cigarettes, or as U.S. Department of Defense lawyer charmingly wrote, cookies), or withholding privileges; surveillance; psychological pressure; deception (including informants); plea bargaining; and gaining the detainee's trust. Most detainees are soon worn down by the sheer exhaustion of resisting interrogators. The struggle against terrorism will be won by meticulous and time-honored police work, not cutting corners through torture.

Finally, torture corrupts our institutions and professions. Requiring interrogators to torture degrades and brutalizes them as human beings, and society cannot demand this of them. (I am trying to imagine what the job description would look like in newspaper: "Experienced torturers only need apply. Former Taliban welcome.")

Since torture would likely be supervised by doctors, it would also implicate medical professionals in serious breaches of medical ethics. Nazi medical experiments on concentration camp inmates, and forced sterilization programs, illustrate the willing complicity of some doctors in implementing and legitimizing state-sanctioned violence.

Further, some international and government lawyers have not covered themselves in professional glory by pursuing highly artificial and literal interpretations of legal provisions, contrary to the spirit and purpose of those provisions, and against the ideals of their profession. It is one thing for lawyers to search for loopholes in tax laws, but quite another to evade or avoid a law against inflicting pain and suffering on a person.


Terrorism does not demand that we torture to defend ourselves. To the contrary, the threat of terrorism reminds us of the importance of protecting human dignity, even of terrorists. Law necessarily draws moral lines in the sand which cannot be crossed; the inevitability of torturing the innocent is a price too high to pay to save the lives of others. In 1999, in an Israeli Supreme Court case declaring that the torture of Palestinians by the Israeli security service was unlawful, Chief Justice Barak wrote: Although a democracy must fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of they day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties.

As a citizen of Israel , Chief Justice Barak well understands the seriousness of the terrorist threat to innocent people, yet deliberately rejected resort to torture. Arguments against torture are not based on alarmism, moral absolutism, or rhetoric. The consequences of forcibly violating the body and the mind are profound and signal an unnecessary return to the blunt techniques of medieval justice. Torture irreparably damages human dignity, devalues human life, and corrupts the institutions of our democracy.

February 10, 2008
10:33 AM

Thanks Ben!

When it comes to social life, there are few if any arguments that end all arguments. But your argument against torture is a welcome exception to all the sophistry and pointless ifs and buts of the likes of Dershowitz, John Yoo etc...

February 10, 2008
11:12 AM

I agree, we *should* talk about it. But really, this whole making it look like the US invented it is really effing tiresome.

Again, not defending any use by anyone... but this whole blame the US for everything bad in the world is bullshit. Blame the US for what the US does, but please... remember that there are other assholes in the world beyond the US and Israel.It's really tiresome and it's not even close to the whole picture. But I guess if you want to be trendy...

February 10, 2008
12:03 PM


True. But then the US (government) does preach certain values to everyone, even issues a pecking order for all the other governments that practice torture. Yemen or Sudan do not do that. Everybody should be held to the same standards and the US (government)is not immune to it. Particularly since it constantly touts its holier-than-thou attitude. This is the view of a lot of American scholars and citizens, and not just of the traditional anti-American. Here, a reflexive defensive position does not help. Sure there are others who might criticise the American governemnt to deflect attention from their own torture routines...but that does not absolve the American government. This is the view, not just of anti-Americans, but of concerned Americans who find the anti-American accusation to deflect attention from what's going on, pretty tiresome too! For example, check out today's editorial in NYT. For example, do you believe habeous corpus is worth defending or should be cast aside due to the real threat of terrorism? For example, should concerned Americans who are raising their voices agains what they see to be some unAmerican trends, be labelled as unAmericans? Religion and nationalism here begin to collapse...as we reflexively rush to defend, sometimes, the indefensible...the fact that there are other worst offenders in the world is of course, and who would disagree, 0+0=0, ie. commonsense..

February 10, 2008
12:07 PM

PS: to see scholars like Dershowitz rationalizing torture, through a cost/benefit analysis, is well...what can we say? (BTW he is Canadian!). There are some issues that transcend cost/benefit analysis. Countries who do torture will do so anyway and do not need an excuse. But why criticise all the time and then rationalize one's own position when the principles are challenged by the real world?

February 10, 2008
12:52 PM


February 10, 2008
05:50 PM


""I agree, we *should* talk about it. But really, this whole making it look like the US invented it is really effing tiresome.""

Sounds like Mrs. Gandhi claiming that corruption is everywhere (0+0=0) when she was accused of corruption!

Proud Indian
February 11, 2008
02:26 AM

SS we want to shut up all US patriots like you who jump instantly to their defence and Israel is just pathetic violator of human rights with proud and arrogant posturings. But its surely okay to focus inadequately on the lone superpower US!!! Maybe the price you pay for being the citizen of USA and as well a lot of us dont like the projected pretensions of sweet, soft image of caring USA!!! Please dont interpret this as a beliigerent diatribe against you personally but why US is so often targeted!!!

But Sridhar I think one point which is missing in your article(by the way Im short of words but this is not a critique, so please dont mind the expression 'missing') is the element of hate and disgust which drives torture rather than rational calculations. When one engulfs in a racial, religious hatred and forgets that they are dealing with a fellow human being. Remember Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, I can speak with confidence and authority on this since I personally witnessed the hate campaign against the outsiders, but also remember our 'soft' EU is also very complicit in this game. Its disgraceful to hear and observe EU leaders denigrating the immigrants from Islamic states who are struggling poor!!! In case of US I find it very confounding how nicely couched their crusade is in terms of international safety and security. There is more malice in these moves and lets recollect the torture inflicted on the dirty 'commies' who never attacked US on its soil and yet they were tortured enormously across the world.

Proud Indian
February 11, 2008
03:56 AM

Sorry SS there is a typing error on my part the 'US patriots like you' should read like 'US patriots like ones'...My apologies for this error and would have conveyed a personal attack which is not my intention.!!

February 11, 2008
05:43 AM

what "sweet, soft image" are you referring to?

at least there is some humor here.

look, my point is this.... the US does screw up. no denying. but everyone loves to point he finger and ignore the shit in their own back yards.

you guys are allowed to love India, even with all its civil rights violations, and the myriad other issues that happen here on a daily basis. your soldiers do all kinds of fucked up shit in kashmir, and there is no way you can say they don't. you have human rights abuses left right and center. but still, at the end of the day you love your country, as well you should.

so, then, you should be able to see without too much effort why people would also defend the US. Yes, there are issues. yes, some monstrous, indefensible things have been done. but do I still love the US? damned straight, I do. and you should not attack anyone for that either.

as for preaching values, come on... everyone does it... every government. sure, the US has a louder voice so more people pay attention. but india also preaches, and they do so as vociferously... you just have a smaller loudspeaker and less of an audience paying attention. I am not saying it is right, but it is the truth. so while i understand that many things that the US does are hypocritical, I think that is the nature of the beast. I am not saying we have the right. I am not defending it. What I am saying is that if people want to get nasty, then make sure your own backyard is very clean.

my favorite is india shouting for US to do something in the sudan... hey! why don't you do something! I do think the US should do something and I am furious that they do not, but in the meantime, can't india stop whinging and do something on their own? maybe if they stop trading with the government that is causing the problem, that might be a good start, nah? so you see, no one is beyond criticism....

February 11, 2008
06:01 AM

Torture by Police, Goons and Govt officials are good for the society. I am not saying this. The libertarians and fucking educated in India are saying this.

Entire Indian Judiciary is dysfunctional, 2600 crore rupees of bribes are extracted by it every year and the Indian Police are worse than any MAFFIA in any part of world.

and we are talking about "torture in other countries".

Are we doing anything for making a difference in situation in India?

What does all this discussion lead to?

Nothing, but Intellectual Masturbation.

February 11, 2008
08:06 AM

"...your soldiers do all kinds of fucked up shit in kashmir..."...really?...where did you read this propaganda

February 11, 2008
08:23 AM

hey lt. col... you're debating that there is an issue in kashmir? that's pretty funny dude.

February 11, 2008
08:55 AM

Actually SS that is entirely open to debate - like most subjects should be. It is your assertion that this is a closed subject that is rather alarming.

February 11, 2008
09:08 AM

well, no I did not say it was a closed subject... I am just proving a point really... that people are always certain about the monsters in other peoples' closets but are much more lukewarm about the ones living in their own.

see, I always get snarky comments from people if I say anything in defense of the US, but then I find a lot of indians are loathe to admit one thing wrong in their own country.

I do think that that the indian army has done some shitty things in kashmir. do I think it's a tricky situation? by all means I do. but then you should also realize that it's not the only situation in the world that is not black and white.

February 11, 2008
09:44 AM


""you guys are allowed to love India, even with all its civil rights violations, and the myriad other issues that happen here on a daily basis. your soldiers do all kinds of fucked up shit in kashmir, and there is no way you can say they don't. you have human rights abuses left right and center. but still, at the end of the day you love your country, as well you should.""

There is no shortage of human rights organizations and individuals criticizing human rights violations in India. PUCL etc..not sure where you are driving at? Seems to me another generic case of "my sensitivities are injured" (whether about religion, nation, language, etc). Do human rights violations happen in India? Of course they do. The issue is not who does it more. The US government maintains a shrill, self-righteous, holier-than-thou posture about human rights, such that no other country does. Not sure why this is being interpreted as a personal attack on Americans or even the whole American goverment, beause Sridhar's point is anything but. Torture is degradind and inhuman, regardless of who does it. It is worse when self-proclaimed goverments who throw of stones at others indulge in it and then fudge with words to explain it away...the point is not that everybody does it, so in the end it all balances out! Just commonsense .

Besides, this post is not directed at you or anyone personally, but against all those, including of course the majority of American people who value decency and the basic rights of humans...

February 11, 2008
09:51 AM


""see, I always get snarky comments from people if I say anything in defense of the US, but then I find a lot of indians are loathe to admit one thing wrong in their own country.""

Sure, one gets people like this on all sides. There are many Indians, and I am one of them, who will never be loathe to admit that something is wrong with India. Patriotism, whatever it might be, is not a religion nor an unswerving devotion to the current government in power. All this was rehashed in the US during the Vietnam War, and now it comes up again! A governemnt or a country has to deserve and earn respect...Unfortunately I can understand your position; as in an Indian in a islated spot in the US somwhere else will get all defensive when something terrible happens and gets splashed in the media...

February 11, 2008
12:08 PM


Good post. Any ideas on how to reduce torture in India?


February 11, 2008
01:33 PM

Feb. 08, 2009 editorial in the _Washington Post_

""A President Who Tortured""

Waterboarding will leave an indelible stain on the legacy of George W. Bush.

"We do not torture."

-- President Bush, Nov. 7, 2005

" Waterboarding has been used on only three detainees. . . . We used it against these three high-value detainees because of the circumstances of the time."

-- CIA Director Michael V. Hayden,

Feb. 5, 2008

THE ADMISSION this week by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden that three terrorism suspects were subjected to waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 puts to rest any doubt about whether President Bush authorized torture.

For centuries, civilized countries have considered waterboarding, or simulated drowning, to be torture. The United States rightly condemned as war criminals Japanese soldiers who employed the technique against U.S. personnel during World War II. It prosecuted U.S. military officers who waterboarded prisoners at the turn of the 20th century. The practice, which causes its victims to feel that they are about to die, is unquestionably cruel. Every administration prior to this one has judged it to be prohibited by U.S. law and treaty obligations. It is incontestably a blot on the reputation of this country and a breach of the very values we claim to want to export to the rest of the world...""

And BTW, Sridhar's piece does not duck the issue about India. Here is what he wrote:

""In other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka - to name a few countries - the use of torture is endemic.""

February 11, 2008
02:42 PM

Chandra (comment 50),

"any idea on how to reduce torture in India?"

1) Be courageous. Be unreasonable. Be ready to face any consequences.

2) Take Video interviews of people who get tortured. Take videos of the wounds and scars.

2) Create a web server in Serbia. From there broadcast the Videos all over the world.

3) Fill the mailboxes of journalists with torture videos.

4) Finish the paper in Fax machines of Consulates and Diplomats, by sending 1000 faxes everyday.

5) Do not allow the perpetrators of torture to sleep in peace.

6) Create animated videos of how people are subjected to torture in India.

7) Make sure that Indian officials get embarrased in different forums in the world.

20 people are enough to reduce torture in India by 50%. The only condition is that they have to be passionate and unreasonable.

In India, the lawyer and police lobbies do not want any reforms in police and in judiciary. Because, they know they will not get bribes. These lobbies are very strong. The politicians often get a percentage of bribes for their election campaigns.

Tortured soul
February 11, 2008
11:32 PM

Chandra #50...how to reduce torture in India......stop going to Koshy's for a start:))

Dr Krishnan
February 12, 2008
12:05 AM

Sridhar where is this discussion going?Next you will have Sushma Swaraj air brushing Mallika Sherawat.Now that is real torture.

February 12, 2008
12:33 AM

All these comments are off-topic and are being deleted.

February 12, 2008
06:53 AM

Hi Chandra ,

How long Sridhar would be spoon feeding people about the happenings and also ways to resolve them. Please do some work in researching on the subject and throw some light to yourself and the government to stop torturing people.

February 12, 2008
06:58 AM

Hi Doc Krishna

Sridhar has poured his anguish on the subject torture which is depressing enough. But your irrelevant comments tortures us more . Should Mallika Sherawat read this comment possible you might have to undergo the experience aeroplane treatment in the cop station.

February 12, 2008
06:58 AM

#40 smallsquirrel

SS I see where you are going with this and agree at least in principle. But I must say it's a bit naïve to say, as CS points out, that every country has a monster in its closet - implying that they are all guilty so no one can point fingers. Clearly that doesn't apply to either the US or Indian Governments who like to point out the fallacies of others. Sure, every government has monsters but how many and how nasty are they?

The Kashmir situation which you seem exercised about, was engineered by US uber ally Pakistan, with the full complicity of the US government and intelligence apparatus, using weapons and supplies supplied by the US government - ostensibly to fight the Russians. Incidentally while all this was going on AND there was an ethnic cleansing / genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus, the US news correspondents - stuck with the Pakistani line that there was no link between Pakistan and the Kashmir mujahideen. The American people and policy makers were kept in the dark. This despite almost weekly capture of arms and terrorists by the Indian Army in Kashmir that pointed fingers directly at US/ Pakistan complicity. Free press indeed!

The US has schools set up for training people in torture and monstrosities like Gitmo and Baghram - where are the Indian equivalents? There are no Indian equivalents of Charlie Parker or Ollie North who have happily and righteously engineered genocides to the cheering approval of large sections of the American public.

So, while I agree that Indian self-righteousness can be annoying, your arguments need to be a bit nuanced.

February 12, 2008
07:05 AM

And can we please stop using british colloquialisms like "whinging"? I thought their dark presence has been long gone from both American and Indian shores.

What's wrong with the word "whining"?

February 12, 2008
07:11 AM

yes, well I am not making excuses. :)

one wrong does not absolve another. I do not go in for moral relativism.

but I will say this. I don't think that India doesn't have things that you guys don't know about. you think there are not people in india trained in subversive techniques? I think that is naive, to say the least.

as for the "cheering approval for genocide by a large section of the american public"... that is not an accurate picture of reality. you know what the approval rating is for this war in iraq and you know that the public does not support it. and you know that the president's approval rating is in the toilet. so please... that is just the kind of comment I was talking about! the average american is appalled by the situation and is far from applauding. do not perpetuate the myth of the war-mongering, child-murdering, blood-thirsty american because it simply is not true... we have very little control over what the government does in our name, especially when it comes to war.

I think we're more than likely in agreement on most points.

February 12, 2008
07:13 AM

and um, if you wanna get ugly about that, then maybe we need to continue this conversation in what... hindi? kannada?.... please... whinging is an expression that I am free to use and you are free to not use. we both speak english because of the british, so....

February 12, 2008
07:34 AM

Neusinger, re: 51, something you may be unaware of - the CIA supplied its rather comprehensive torture manual to India back in the 1960s. CIA officers flying home after their tour of duty in Vietnam stopped in India to train our folks. This was part of a cooperative process between India and America to deal with China, dating from the 1962 debacle. US found a possibility of weaning away India to its "bloc" and using it as a counter-weight (and launching grounds) against China. Of course all this ended in mid-1970s a couple of years the Nixon rapproachment with China.

In fact, there have been a series of books recently on how America exported its "torture manual" all over the world in the 1960-1980 period.

Prior to this - our torture techniques were basically "laathi maar" police style brutality. The sophisticated use of sensory deprivation etc - as a means of acquiring "intelligence" was imported in the 1960s. The most wide-scale use of these techniquest was came up during emergency when Mrs G used these very well trained personnel to "break" political opponents. Since then there has been a great deal of circumspection regarding its use although police brutality and intelligence related torture continues (as is the case in most state-entities around the world).

Btw - I am NOT BLAMING America for teaching torture. Torture has existed as long as have humans. But the sophisticated contemporary techniques of systematically using psychological, physical and emotional abuse in its contemporary form is something developed post-war by the CIA (there is some VERY interesting historical links btw to the Nazi impact on this process).

My two bits....

February 12, 2008
08:12 AM

the "cheering approval for genocide by a large section of the american public"....is a result of "manufactured consent"...the result of the american media(part of the establishment) telling the american people what it thinks it ought to hear

February 12, 2008
08:18 AM

"you think there are not people in india trained in subversive techniques? I think that is naive, to say the least"
can smallsquirell give us examples of "subversive " activities by Indians.Is she saying that we have schools where torture is being taught?...is she suggesting that we have something approaching a torture manual?....is she saying that we indulge in "extraordinary rendition"?....is she saying that we subcontract our torture to friendly states?

Really ??...now who is naive?

February 12, 2008
08:34 AM

and here is a perfect example of people being self-righteous! right on cue! (#57)

and yoohoo... listen, there are no crowds in american cheering genocide period.

February 12, 2008
10:04 AM

I don't understand something, how come torture is bad?????
You don't expect to actually sit down and talk out the information from a terror suspect, or show him Chris Crocker video on youtube some 100 times so that he talks (though it would be a great torture).
At times you have to get tough. Only issue to be considered is that you are applying these tactics on the right people, not someone we just don't like.
If you got a good intelligence, and some genuine grounds and reasons, then for greater good, then its alright.
And greater good doesn't mean what Roman's did against Christians, that was selfish, thinking just about themselves, but if there are people hell bent on killing some 100s or 1000s of people by blasts and all, its alright to capture those 1 or 2 and give them a taste of their own medicine.

Deepti Lamba
February 12, 2008
10:18 AM

Well Kunal, under certain kinds of torture people would even confess that they are Osama's sex slaves;) See the movie - Goya's Ghosts to know what I mean.

February 12, 2008
10:30 AM

Dude that looks like a good movie, have to download it.
BTW seriously sex slaves????
wow, I thought that dude used to live in caves.... declaring Jihad on half the world, so that he can have all those sex slaves, sorry 72 virgin sex slaves in heaven.....

February 12, 2008
10:37 AM

kunal... tough, yes. torture, no.

so even if you cannot see the moral implications, or the view that dee has presented, it is also against the geneva convention that we should all be abiding by.

your greater good argument doesn't hold a lot of weight. where does it end? I decide my good is more important than your right hand or your reproductive organs or your whatever... it is a slippery slope and as supposed civilized, advanced humans we collectively decided that among other things, the following were off limits:

a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

February 12, 2008
10:51 AM

Dude don't give me Geneva convention, I give a rat's arse to all these conventions where these so called leaders of the world come to enjoy their vacations and expect us third world countries to abide by their rules.

What good UN, these conventions have done for us??? Why Amnesty International don't go in ULFA, LTTE, Nxalite, and terrorist regions to register their protests for killing 100s of Indians per day.

Why 200 of my countrymen are killed because they traveled on a stupid train? what the world does then??? "we condemn the attacks on civilians" yeah thats all you do, and why not, 1bn -200 doesn't make much of a difference to the world right???

And again I am saying greater good, not selfish attitude. And I tell you what greater good is, when I come to rape you, you kill me, yeah thats right, KILL ME, when I come to hurt your family you KILL ME. And thats what is going on in our troubled regions.

Greater good doesn't mean your good or my good, it means the good of the society. Like in a way what Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad did was for the nation, not for their own good. Like what late mr. Baent Singh did was for the good of Punjab not his own.

We have to rise above our own personal vendettas and bias to understand the meaning of greater good. And when you do then even torture is at times the only answer.

And sorry if I sounded rude, I really am.

February 12, 2008
11:02 AM

Can smallsquirell point out one instance of "subversive" activity by Indians?...just one

February 12, 2008
11:15 AM

hey deb, right now no I cannot but that doesn't mean it does not exist. I think you're seriously deluded.

what in hell makes you think that you DON'T?

February 12, 2008
11:19 AM

first of all kunal you live in the US.
second, stop acting like the US put a gun to India's head and made them agree to the geneva convention
third, can you name an instance where torture has actually made someone give information that was useful in preventing further crimes?

February 12, 2008
11:19 AM

well if you can't name even one instance you should SHUT THE HELL UP

February 12, 2008
11:22 AM

Deshabhimani bhai, dekho swabhiman achhi baat hai abhimaan nahin.
India is also very much involved in all these things. I do not remember the name of that women of Assam, but she was believed to be operating with ULFA, and Indian army raped her a few times and then shot in places where I can't even tell over here.
Then certain Sohrabuddin and Kasuri Bi, very recent and very famous examples of such activities by Indians, then a few years ago, Delhi Police brought some terrorists in the Ansal Shopping complex parking lot of Delhi, and then shot them in an "encounter". Later on autopsy revealed that several bones of those terrorists were already broken, they couldn't have stand up forget about running away.

Not that I am speaking against these activities, as I hold no knowledge about the pressure, circumstances and proofs these people had before acting like this, but they did.

And these are just few examples from the top of my head, I bet there are so so so many more, in all parts of India.

February 12, 2008
11:24 AM

hey debs.. wow, you are really mature!

February 12, 2008
11:30 AM

And Small Squirrel no one puts the gun on any one's head but thats how things are done. I give you an example. India-Iran had a gas line agreement, now the line was supposed to pass from Pakistan, but why would Pakistan allow India to get cheap fuel from Iran???? so they included Pakistan in the project and wallah. This is called diplomacy. Sanctions and aid get a whole lot of stuff done in these conventions.

And dudette TBH when torture comes good, you never come to know, because an adversity is avoided. If you really wanna dwell, then last year's Airport attack in London, they came to know before hand that some liquid gel can be used for the attack, and they busted a few people.

Recently in Barcelona they busted a few people, I believe a couple of Indians are also arrested in that terror plot. I do not have the links right now, but let me see if I can find some. And these informations are retrieved by tougher measures only.

Else watch movie Black Friday, thats how police get the information. You call it against Geneva convention, I call it for Humanity.

And then can you please explain me what you mean by me living in US??????

February 12, 2008
11:49 AM

kunal... those plots were foiled by intelligence gathering, not by information gained by torturing people!!!!!!

and what I meant by the comment about you living in the US, is that you're going on and on about "us third world countries" but you're living in the US.

February 12, 2008
11:58 AM

No dedette, intelligence is the name given to information collected from the darkest corners of Guantanamo Bay, from Abu Gharib. But they can not say it out loud.

I do not know if you know anything about Jon Stewart, he is a great comedian, fake news anchor, who actually gives more news than any news channel of the world, that too fair and balanced.
Even though I am a big fan of his, I do not agree with everything, including his views on torture, see these if you want, they are funny as hell and informative.


BTW dudette, you think me living in US has made me any less Indian????

I am as much of an Indian as you are. Trust me I am not lying. And though I do hate the "third world" country tag, but thats how we are addressed all over the world, and we are to be blamed for that, no one else is.

February 12, 2008
12:01 PM

kunal... LOL! I am not an Indian! and I was not saying you are less of an Indian. You are what you are...

and of course I know who jon stewart is... come on now.

we will really have to agree to disagree on the intelligence gathering stuff. I think you've been watching too many movies.

February 12, 2008
12:10 PM

Sorry to butt in to this very interesting conversation but "greater good" caught my eye - let me see where has that been used recently?

Well, there was the "cultural revolution" in China where thousands of people were tortured (oops "re-educated") by the state. Before that, there was the Nazi state that wanted "greater good" for the "fatherland" which kind of meant killing of 12 million people as part of this wonderful process.

Then there was that policy driven starvation, deportation, torture, imprisonment of the various "soviet" populations...Oh THEN there was the Belgians torturing in the Congo. The British in various colonies. The French in Vietnam (before gratefully passing on the onerous duty to the US). THEN there was the Pakistanis torturing thousands of Bengalis. And Iraqis doing it to their own. The Church and its Inquisition...the Israelis with the Palestinians...

To make it simple, Kunal, WHO decides what is the "greater good"? When the same state that is allowed to torture with impunity because its for the "greater good" turns against your family and you because of whatever reason, will you submit yourself and your loved ones to rape/torture etc because its for a "greater good"?

Actually - let me paint an even more graphic scenario: You as a brown boy in America are suddenly stopped at an airport because some computer blooper erroneously flags you up as a "terrorist" (its been known to happen!). You are not given any explanation, no access to lawyers, zipped off to an unknown site and tortured until you are willing to say anything they want you to say. Just so the pain will stop.

THEN armed with the confession which contains all sorts of names including the people you most love, the same state goes after them (yes, that happens - people tend to yell out names of those they really care about when they are put under unbearable pain). The state then tortures THEM till they are ready to confess to whatever they are accused of.

After years of incarceration, extensive torture, possibly death resulting from the abuse, the state turns around and says, "oops we made a mistake, but it was for the greater good."

I am assuming you will be happy to use the arguments you have used above to absolve the state for the "greater good"?

February 12, 2008
12:14 PM

Sorry to butt in to this very interesting conversation but "greater good" caught my eye - let me see where has that been used recently?

Well, there was the "cultural revolution" in China where thousands of people were tortured (oops "re-educated") by the state. Before that, there was the Nazi state that wanted "greater good" for the "fatherland" which kind of meant killing of 12 million people as part of this wonderful process.

Then there was that policy driven starvation, deportation, torture, imprisonment of the various "soviet" populations...Oh THEN there was the Belgians torturing in the Congo. The British in various colonies. The French in Vietnam (before gratefully passing on the onerous duty to the US). THEN there was the Pakistanis torturing thousands of Bengalis. And Iraqis doing it to their own. The Church and its Inquisition...the Israelis with the Palestinians...

To make it simple, Kunal, WHO decides what is the "greater good"? When the same state that is allowed to torture with impunity because its for the "greater good" turns against your family and you because of whatever reason, will you submit yourself and your loved ones to rape/torture etc because its for a "greater good"?

Actually - let me paint an even more graphic scenario: You as a brown boy in America are suddenly stopped at an airport because some computer blooper erroneously flags you up as a "terrorist" (its been known to happen!). You are not given any explanation, no access to lawyers, zipped off to an unknown site and tortured until you are willing to say anything they want you to say. Just so the pain will stop.

THEN armed with the confession which contains all sorts of names including the people you most love, the same state goes after them (yes, that happens - people tend to yell out names of those they really care about when they are put under unbearable pain). The state then tortures THEM till they are ready to confess to whatever they are accused of.

After years of incarceration, extensive torture, possibly death resulting from the abuse, the state turns around and says, "oops we made a mistake, but it was for the greater good."

I am assuming you will be happy to use the arguments you have used above to absolve the state for the "greater good"?

February 12, 2008
12:15 PM

Really??? you are not an Indian??? not even origin??? I thought why else you would be on desicritic forum when you have nothing to do with India. Then what nationality you belong to, if I may ask????

Anyhow its not about movies dude, its about real life. And this is what is going on in real life, and TBH, where does these movies come from? very much from real life only.

Else you tell me how come police actually gets to the exact location for the raid and arrests these terrorists and retrieve shit load of weapons?

Now if you mean that I have never really experienced torture, then yeah I never had, I used to think me being grounded was torture enough, but turned out, it wasn't. I have seen a few things coz my uncle himself is an ACP, so once upon a time when I went to India, I saw something, and the guy not only confessed about stealing, but also gave up the jewelery.

Anyhow, you see to have real crappy taste in soccer teams, but must say, your sense of humor rocks, anyone who knows about Jon Stewart, is always having a good sense of humor.

February 12, 2008
12:17 PM

Kunal, firstly its Desicritics, not India critics, secondly, anyone and everyone is welcome to be a Desicritic, to criticize, to write, or to comment, Finally, it's not very desi of you to question people's origins, dude.

February 12, 2008
12:18 PM

thank you, anamika, for so nicely painting a picture of what I was trying to get across to Kunal... I was feeling a bit lazy and did not give it a good effort... mostly because I found it difficult after being called dudette so many times... but you have hit the nail on the head here.

and oh, greater good... I think we can draw from today's MNS behavior, where they feel the need to beat up and throw out north indians from maharashtra for the "greater good" of all marathis.

February 12, 2008
12:26 PM

kunal... I have everything to do with India... I live here! I am married to an Indian and I have a child who I would also suppose is a desi. So there you have it. And I am an Italian Jew who is a US citizen. There, happy with that answer? Not sure it will change anything. I have as much right to be on this site as a hungarian atheist or an icelandic buddhist.

Deepti Lamba
February 12, 2008
12:35 PM

Kunal, recently a techie was nabbed for caricaturing Raj Thackeray on Orkut. The poor man was incarcerated for quite some time before the cops realized that the IP address provided to them was wrong.

Imagine what that techie must have gone through rotting in jail with hardcore criminals.

Add torture to the miscarriage of justice and we have a regular fascist state.

Most rights are taken away in the name of the greater good- the day the Patriot Act was passed Americans lost the right to privacy - their homes can be searched without warrants in the name of national security and hey it doesn't take much to 'plant' evidence.

It just isn't about nabbing some thief but in many ways its about taking away peoples rights through fear and intimidation and basically bending them to the will of the state.

February 12, 2008
12:40 PM

First of all Aman thanks for your insight buddy, but for all these years I thought Desi is the term largely used for Indians. Though I do know the literal meaning of the term.

And now Anamika, that was not just an interesting post but even very articulate and informative, thanks alot.

I won't call you dudette, coz I am already hearing that it may cause irritation hence inadequacy to debate.

Anyhow, whatever exaples you have just given are the ones which I said already are kind of selfish, for example Hitler's own propaganda against Jews. Now was that serving the cause of Germans???? No way, but was Germany right to speak up about the sanctions on them after World War 1???? Hell yeah. Were they right to stand up against LoN?? yes maa'm they were.

Again similarly, Soviet's used it to broaden their boundaries, their own greed of more land, more power. When China "re-educated" the protesters, they again tried to suppress. Now I won't go into Belgium and Vietnam, because I do not have any idea about that.

Now this brings to the most important question you just asked, "WHO decides the good?" Computers in the airport?????

Anyhow my reasoning is based on the scenario:

1) You have a good intelligence.

2) You arrested the guy, and found enough convincing proofs that, that dude is really involved in something more than what meets the eye.

And most importantly, never apply these tactics on the people who are involved in peaceful protests. No matter how much they are against the government. I believe in democracy and even if there are Kashmiri groups who want to get away from India, and are involved in peaceful protests, never ever take any hard stance against them.

But again that still doesn't answer the question of "Who decides", well first rise above the personal greed. Do not cross boundaries because the other nation is weak and can not stand for its own, whether that be Iraq, Tibet, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or even Pakistan.

Rise above the differences of caste, race, religion. Do not involve state in these issues. And then there is a crime against the state or your people, to avert that, employ any tactic which can be, to protect your nation and your citizens from being harmed by these anti social elements.

At times fire has to be dealt with fire, and as much we are from the land Gandhi's non violence, we are from the land of Chandra Shekhar's never surrender attitude as well.

And Squirrel how come MNS are involved in any kind of greater good??? they are in for their own. And notice I didn't call you dudette, dudette, damn.

February 12, 2008
12:45 PM

kunal... you want lunatics to employ rationality and reason to determine this so called "greater good?"

I am pretty sure those thackerays really in their teensy little hearts believe they are acting in the greater good of marathis. but that don't make it good.

your assumption that people will follow these rules are pretty funny. even now china is still convinced that the greater good involves tibet being locked down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season and that india should cede arunachal pradesh. that, to them, is the greater good.

I find it rather sweet that even in this day and age you think that nations/individuals are capable of rising above personal greed.

February 12, 2008
12:52 PM

Hey hey hey Squirrel don't get me wrong, I never said that you do not have a right to be here, I was just curios, because the issues on these forums involve India, and I asked you because it was interesting why a non Indian would be here. No disrespect kiddo. Just a harmless question.

And Deepti, your example defies my logic blatantly. Now arrest of that guy was alright, ok they got some wrong intel, they arrested the guy. But then Police has to get the proofs before incarcerating for so long. Moreover I do not even feel that these crimes are actually the ones requiring arrests.

See I guess the difference is that you guys are taking torture as black and white thing. You are like, "ITS WRONG", because its against Geneva Convention et al. Its inhuman and stuff.

And all I am trying to imply is that if situation and circumstances demand, and you have impeccable proofs that there more than what meets the eye, then in those cases torture is at times a good option.

I am seeing torture in that gray area, on which you guys are turning a blind eye.

I believe duty of the state is to make people safe, and at times it requires strong measures.

About Patriot act, the problem lies in the fact that now government is not required to gather proofs before arrest, which I believe is wrong. You have to have certain proofs, like in the case of techie police had an IP address. If you do not have anything conclusive, then no government should be taking any action because a computer bleeped on a brown man.

And in the case of Techie, police were at a fault because for 200 days they couldn't figure out whther he actually did it from his computer, I believe there are 1000s of ways to know what has been done from a certain computer, and they didn't even cross check the IP address.

And Squirrel, I am sorry if I hurt your sentiments, had no plans, absolutely 0, nil, nada.

February 12, 2008
01:02 PM

Squirrel, you actually read the post, when I myself saw that whole thing, I was thought "dude even I won't read that", so thanks alot.

And I do agree with you, I am being too idealistic, but ..... (I am thinking of a word which can replace dudette) you are so wrong when you say that Thakreys actually think they are doing good for Marathis.

Fact is, Shiv Sena, and MNS do not have enough budget to put their posters in entire Mumbai, forget about Maharashtra as a whole. So they do what Rakhi Sawant does, they play a game of being controversial so that all these news channels give them free airtime and in a way they can get Marathi votes.

They don't have any ambitions for national politics so play votebank politics in their own states and are content with that. And TBH, they are actually successful.

Rest, yes its not an ideal world, there would be times when innocents will be caught and may be will have to go through hell, and may be I will call it collateral damage. But if torturing 10 guys can avert another bomb blast in Mumbai, can mean one less terror attack in Delhi, can mean saving 20 innocent lives, let it be.

I was one who was even against the release of Azhar Masood for that Indian Airlines plane hijack, he ended up killing 1000s of people, Americans, Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanis, and we saved 150, not a smart move I would say.

February 12, 2008
02:48 PM


""But if torturing 10 guys can avert another bomb blast in Mumbai, can mean one less terror attack in Delhi, can mean saving 20 innocent lives, let it be."'

"If" being the operative word here...

February 12, 2008
03:07 PM

Ok I concede to you guys win. I am wrong.
Torture- very bad idea, be humane, no torture at all.

Now tell me, you arrest 2 guys, expected to be terrorists, caught with weapons, RDX, switches et al.

So whats your next course of action?

You will show him yesterday's grammy to get out the information... oops I am sorry, we can't torture. Yeah we can ask them......


And Commonsense, I have already said that torture should be allowed only in cases where you have conclusive evidence that there is something kept away from your eyes, and can be severe for the innocent people of the world.

But then again I am wrong, so you tell me the way.

February 12, 2008
03:16 PM


""You will show him yesterday's grammy to get out the information... oops I am sorry, we can't torture. Yeah we can ask them......"'

:). How about asking them to spend some time with Sumanth? :)

February 12, 2008
03:25 PM

Kunal, another way of looking at torture is through the Orwellian language of "pre-emptive strikes" and "collateral damage", "either with us or against us", "evil vs. good", etc. etc. If you accept that these concepts and their deployment make for a better world, you win the argument. Even this particular discussion is not in the spirit of winning any arguments...

February 12, 2008
03:30 PM


""even now china is still convinced that the greater good involves tibet being locked down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season "'

amazing imagery SS!! Temporal, the power of words!

February 12, 2008
03:36 PM

You are absolutely right buddy, that its not about winning any argument but presenting both sides.

As per with us against us argument, I guess US was right in case of Taliban. They were going in Afghanistan and Pakistan has always supported Taliban, hence message of president was unambiguous and infact right. At the same time, in the broader picture it wasn't.

Like I said before that world can not be viewed in black and white, hence its not right by saying with us without us argument or even saying whether torture is right or wrong.

But claiming torture is against humanity because certain Geneva conventions and Amnesty International says so, then I disagree. Tell these so called humanity organizations to have a march condemning terrorists in their own regions, sacrifice their children to some insane bomb blast and come out and talk about "Human rights".

All I mean is that at times torture is the only way, and we should not hesitate implementing that, and then this power MUST NOT be misused against the helpless people, just because you don't like them.

Any power is as good or as bad as the person having it.

February 12, 2008
03:37 PM

BTW commonsense whos Sumanth???
sorry I don't know.

February 12, 2008
03:45 PM


""But then Police has to get the proofs before incarcerating for so long."'

You talk about the "real world" and then assume that this is how the police works, always in the "real world"...since you mention movies, John Steward and the Grammies...wonder if you've seen a movie called _In the Name of the Father_(1993). Not fiction, about IRA "terrorists" incarcerated, finally released. All along the police knew that they had the wrong people. There are too many examples of this kind...another movie _The Thin Blue Line_ (1988), not fiction..where the police knew that they had the wrong man..another famous example from Canada, a native Indian guy called Donald Marshall and he spent a few years in jail...subsequent inquiries revealed that the police knew he was innocent, but one officer said something like "don't get all worked up, he's just a native Indian"...the inquiry came about because the actual murder felt remorse and confessed. More recently, still in Canada, the RCMP (sort of the Canadian FBI), "rendered" a Syrian Canadian (forget his name) to Syria, where he got tortured, almost killed. The RCMP chief later had to resign, because some of the officers knew he was innocent but didn't do anything. Last year or so, the tortured guy, an innocent computer scientist, sued, got millions. There are too many non-stories...just scratching the surface here...

Somewhere you mentioned that you knew a police officer who tortured a prisoner and the prisoner promptly produced the necklace or something that he'd stolen, but had denied initially. Well, in Saudi Arabia, they believe they have bettered this techniques. Chop off the prisoner's arms so he will never steal again. The believe they do it for the "larger good". They also have a habit of trying women who have been gang-raped, and not the men who did it, presumably for the "larger good of the society" in question. You decide!

February 12, 2008
03:54 PM


Smallsquirrel is in a better position to tell you about Sumanth. I had no idea too, until a few weeks ago...

As for:

""and then this power MUST NOT be misused against the helpless people, just because you don't like them.""

Easier said than done, since as you said, and I entirely agree, we live in the real world of power, power-politics, organizational demands and quotas ("we need to arrest a few more to show how effective our latest drive to eradicate whatever has been") enormous amounts of money to be made, potential rivals to be subdued or eliminated, plain old jealousies, turf rivarlies, unadulterated psychotics who get power plus the usual assortment of sociopaths who are not necessarily to be found in jails but a very march a part of so-called "respectable" organizations and institutions. Pretty much "real life"! A bleak picture I might paint, but there are always other kinds of people... Me for instance? :) Just kidding!!

February 12, 2008
03:56 PM

Got go run Kunal! Did not intend to argue with you for argument's sake! There is no such thing as an argument to end all arguments anyway! :)

February 12, 2008
04:03 PM


""Good post. Any ideas on how to reduce torture in India?""

Good question Chandra! If only we knew! However, the famous Colombian painter Fernando Botero, when asked a similar question at his recent exhibition at UC-Berkeley, of the abu ghraib incidents, responded something to the effect of: "I am an artist, not a politician or a police-officer. My job, as is the job of poets, writers, intellectuals is to engage in permanent accusation about issues like these". Maybe not all of us might agree, but "permanent accusation" is a good term. Even dictators who have all the power and need not fear elections are not totally immune to public opinion turning against them...and it turns against them, sooner or later, due to insitutionalized means of leveling "permanent accusations" that have no particular, axes to grind for personal gain, symbolic or material.

February 12, 2008
04:05 PM

See commonsense I guess Saudi are a nation where crime rate is almost 0%, though I do not believe in their judiciary process. And again as I mentioned before, your state must be free from all religious, caste, creed bias. So I won't even discuss Saudi laws for obvious reasons.

Now I agree with all of you that this is way too realistic. Its never gonna happen. I haven't seen all these movies, which I will, but I get your point.

And thats why I do nolt support China's government where State has all the powers. You have to have a democracy of a nation like India or US, where everyone can be held responsible for their actions.

At the same time where you have to give certain liberties to police, and in cases without any declaration.

As I told you, you catch a criminal, recovered guns and proofs, you have to use certain ways to know if there are more people involved, what their plan was. Not that you take off somebody from the streets and solve cases, something Haryana Police is best at. I bet you have read the joke of lost deer and Haryana police recovering it from the forests.

May be situation will get better once you make torture legal, in this case you will get this job regulated and hence there would be less cases of police atrocities.

February 12, 2008
04:30 PM


""See commonsense I guess Saudi are a nation where crime rate is almost 0%, though I do not believe in their judiciary process. And again as I mentioned before, your state must be free from all religious, caste, creed bias. So I won't even discuss Saudi laws for obvious reasons.""

Oops, I still have some time to kill! (cannot torture time :)). But this has all the makings of another "argument" so I will desist after pointing out that there is "crime" and then there is "crime" (white collar crime, suite crime whatever one wants to call it). No particular evidence for assuming that hacking off people's arms, legs, necks does anything to reduce "suite crime" committed by so-called respectable folks. No evidence either to assume that suite-crime is any less dangerous and lethal for regular folks like you and me (Ralph Nader is not the only one who can tell us more about this...no shortage of books/research). Yet, how many times do we really see the heads of Enrons being dragged to jails in handcuffs? etc. etc.

I have to reign myself via a figurative yet resounding and painful kick on my own ass for slowly but predictably sliding into an "argument" mode! I apply the brakes and wait for the spontaneous applause...Sorry :):) Almost got carried away there!

February 12, 2008
06:14 PM

Just what does the language of torture really mean?

Environmental manipulation
Subjecting prisoners to extremes of hot and cold.

Forced grooming
Forcible shaving. Deeply humiliating for some Muslims.

Manipulative self-injurious behaviour
The US government’s description of 21 attempted suicides at Guantanamo Bay.

Pride and ego down
Label for techniques used to undermine prisoners’ self-esteem and dignity.

Kidnapping terrorist suspects and delivering them to a foreign country for trial. In ‘extraordinary rendition’, suspects are ‘lent’ to a foreign country for interrogation and torture.

Resistance to interrogation: a training system used by British special forces, in which subjects are stripped naked and sexually humiliated.

Rumsfeld processing
Colloquial term for removing prisoners from army camps and holding them in CIA facilities, which the Red Cross is not permitted to visit.

Sensory deprivation
Depriving prisoners of both sight and hearing, for example, by hooding combined with white noise.

Sleep adjustment
Repeatedly interrupting a prisoner’s sleep, while allowing them adequate sleep overall.

Stress position
Position which a prisoner is ordered to maintain, causing discomfort or pain without physical contact.

Unlawful combatants
US definition of Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners; as such, they are said to be unprotected by the Geneva Conventions.

The Vietnam
Treatment in which electrodes (real or fake) are attached to the victim's body.

CIA treatment in which the victim is smothered with a wet cloth, creating the sensation of drowning.

February 12, 2008
06:15 PM

Some of the explicit and implicit claims governments have made to avoid the charge of torture.

Torture may extract vital information

In some circumstances, perhaps. However, in reality the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario featured in thrillers is vanishingly rare; very few detainees have information which is valuable enough, and needed urgently enough, to justify using torture. In any case, under torture most people will rapidly say whatever the torturer wants to hear. Ironically, torture may appear to be most successful when it is most worthless.
It’s an emergency

According to the UN Convention Against Torture, ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever’ justify torture. Alone in Europe, the British government has declared that a state of emergency exists, allowing it to detain terrorist suspects without trial (although not to torture them). The Egyptian government declared a state of emergency in 1981, against the threat of Islamist militancy; it is still in force, and torture is common.
They don’t deserve any better

In 2002 the US government declared that its Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners were not prisoners of war but ‘unlawful combatants’, depriving them of the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The effect is to allow the US to detain its prisoners indefinitely, and to remove the obligation to treat them ‘humanely’. However, the phrase ‘unlawful combatant’ does not appear in the Geneva Conventions; many international lawyers argue that the Conventions do in fact cover the Guantanamo detainees.
It’s not really torture

US intelligence has devoted extensive time and effort to devising interrogation techniques which they claim fall short of qualifying as torture. However, this is not a humanitarian strategy: the accounts of Guantanamo survivors suggest that the cumulative effect of the treatments used there is just as traumatic as that of conventional torture. In any case, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights forbids both torture and ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’. Human rights groups say ‘torture lite’, Guantanamo-style, is illegal as well as immoral.

February 12, 2008
06:25 PM
February 12, 2008
06:30 PM

If that link doesn't work pls try this ...
Dismay Grows Over US Torture School

should dissuade people here talking some crock about the "benevolent" superpower.

February 12, 2008
06:39 PM

smallsquireel couldn't come up with a single instance of "subversive" activity by Indians.

she doesn't know what she is talking about.

February 12, 2008
06:41 PM

White House authorised torture

Can this squirrell come up with a single instance of the highest office in India authorising torture?

February 12, 2008
06:43 PM

SS I guess you are right - we do both speak English because of the British, as do for example W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Or for that that matter members of the national front.

So what's your point? Is whinging a commonly used term in India or America? Or is this just part of the colonial fantasy that some Caucasians adopt when they move to tropical climates? Pith helmet anyone?

February 12, 2008
06:48 PM

#23 smallsquirrel: "pol pot, baby doc duvalier, saddam hussein, pinochet... accounts by bloggers of torture by police in egypt, saudi, iran"

um... smallsquirrel, my behen, just- how much American history do you know? EVERY ONE of these instances that you mention was a US puppet.

February 12, 2008
06:52 PM

smallsquirrel #35 "my favorite is india shouting for US to do something in the sudan."

I dont know where you got this - I am quite sure that most indians and in fact the rest of the world will be very happy for the US NOT to do something in Sudan.

February 12, 2008
06:53 PM

This link plays a video to the SOA

February 12, 2008
06:59 PM

Textbook Repression: US Training Manuals Declassified

U.S. Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture

Teaching Torture

February 12, 2008
07:30 PM

#53 smallsquirrel: "as for the "cheering approval for genocide by a large section of the american public"... that is not an accurate picture of reality. you know what the approval rating is for this war in iraq and you know that the public does not support it. and you know that the president's approval rating is in the toilet. so please... that is just the kind of comment I was talking about!"

SS I don't want to dump on you - and I don't want you to feel like everyone is attacking you - but this is a public board and if people post fallacies - I feel the need to point them out so readers aren't left with the wrong impression. The responsibility! ; )

Anyway, from my interactions with Americans over the last 10 years all I can say is my experience is very different from yours. There was unabashed jingoism after 911 - calls for revenge against any one basically. This has now started to change after years of failure but not out of compassion but rather fatigue and a sense that things are not going well. Did you see the movie "Charlie Wilson's War?" Did you read the reviews in the US press? Do you recall the contras, Ollie North and Regan?

February 12, 2008
10:40 PM

Commonsense, I guess you have a point that all these Enron people were let go with a slap on the wrist whereas people of particular caste and community are subjected to hard tactics. I guess thats what you wanted to say.

And I agree that this is a flaw, specially when someone is caught without adequate proofs, just on the basis of some paranoia. I never supported that and will never support that. Though my stance remains the same, a person caught with foolproof evidences, can be subjected to "harder tactics" so as to acquire some other sensitive information.

As such I do not have any idea whats going on over here but I see whole lot of people accusing US for involving in certain tactics and absolving India as the most holy nation of the world.

Even being an Indian, its hard for me to swallow. You give it an official stamp or not, torture is torture. And India is very much involved in all these activities. Not that I am against it, at times this is the need of the hour. So please stop accusing US for everythng, when everyone is doing the same.

February 13, 2008
12:17 AM


Saudi Arabia is a very violent country where repression of civil liberties is endemic. Gun battles rage in the streets of Saudi Arabia loosely labeled as terrorist attacks. I remain extremely skeptical about the tall claims of Saudi being 0% crime free. Crimes committed by local Arabs seldom get reported in police stations.

When I was Dubai (UAE)in 2005 I heard that there was robbery close to a hotel I was staying. I was told that many crimes are not reported to the police. Period.

February 13, 2008
12:40 AM

debs honey... your personal attacks are precious. do please try to get your torture definitions correct, though, as it seems you have made up many of these... waterboarding is not with a wet cloth. it involves pouring water into the nasal passages to mock drowning (with serious physical side effects)

next time do your quasi research more carefully.

neusinger. also a lovely personal attack. WTF? cannot come up with anything real to say so you attack me personally for being white? very creative. you also are fabricating your information. good luck with that. I can see you have an agenda and I will leave you to it. it's not worth my time. you don't want a discussion...

you can both read the comment policy again. and everyone is not attacking me, just you and your alterego debs.

February 13, 2008
04:29 AM

I'm not trolling as neusinger...i think deepti lamba can check the ip addresses and verify that...you don't seem to be very popular ...its as simple as that

Here's a link to waterboarding...

now you try and get your quasi assertions right ....

February 13, 2008
04:36 AM

can you come up with ONE instance ...one single measly single instance of the highest office in India authorising torture?

You can't...because there just isn't any evidence to that effect and yet you claim "subversive" activity....if you continue to make your quasi assertions it would only betray your very REAL ignorance and prejudices.

February 13, 2008
04:37 AM

can you come up with ONE instance ...one single measly single instance of the highest office in India authorising torture?

You can't...because there just isn't any evidence to that effect and yet you claim "subversive" activity....if you continue to make your quasi assertions it would only betray your very REAL ignorance and prejudices.

face it pint-sized rodent ...your unfounded and silly assertions are the ones that are precious

February 13, 2008
05:02 AM

uh, things like torture and corruption are not AUTHORIZED PUBLICALLY by the government.

but does that mean that the cops here in india don't beat prisoners every day.

And what do you think happens when the Indian government gets a Pakistani prisoner? You think they talk to them nicely? We've all seen Veer Zara, and while it is fiction... you think that while Pakistan is treating your prisoners like shit that you all are putting them up at the Leela?

You are quite frankly ridiculous. I am not going to engage any more with you. It's pointless. You are exactly the kind of self-righteous jerk that I was talking about.

Meanwhile you do not have any evidence to the contrary either, except your own nasty assertions. And the vitriol you spew just belies the fact that you are simply mouthing off for the sake of it. You hate amercians and are prejudiced beyond reason. You know NOTHING about me whatsoever but make ugly assertions that are completely baseless.

and besides, you've yet to say anything except personal attacks against me and some pointless frothing. nothing you have said has any merit.

enjoy your rather silly life, debs. you're not worth my time.

February 13, 2008
05:14 AM

oh yeah and I forgot... so what do you call the pouring of acid into the eyes of undertrials by policemen in Bhagalpur?

there is your incident. so stop being smug.
I can come up with a bunch more, but I will stop there.

February 13, 2008
05:30 AM

Squirrel, as such I do agree with all your points whole heartedly, but whatever happened in Bhagalpur was totally justified.

Police got immense support from the locals due to this reason only.

Just the way even in Sohrabuddin case Police is getting support from all corners of Gujrat. Hence again my point, torture is justified at some points.

February 13, 2008
05:39 AM

using acid to blind prisoners is justified?!?!?!??

on what planet, yaar?

February 13, 2008
05:48 AM

Squirrel those people were not even qualified to be called as human beings. Every one of them was charged for more than 10 even 20 murders, rapes, extortion, and what not, and more than that, there were 100s of unreported cases.

And then on top of that, they were never going to be punished, because either people were too scared to come out against them, or the judiciary process was rigged to the core. Police along with people mind you, did what was necessary to teach them a lesson and get crime under control.

Thats the kind of language these goons understand. Similarly with Sohrabuddin case, police did was was needed to control him.

Some call it inhumane, I ask how many they would have killed if police hadn't took this action.

February 13, 2008
06:22 AM

Kunal - you seem to assume the following:
"1) You have a good intelligence.
2) You arrested the guy, and found enough convincing proofs that, that dude is really involved in something more than what meets the eye."

But all this is based on the premise that the state is interested in "good intelligence" as opposed to political expediency. CS has already pointed to some cases of the US being wrong and torturing complete innocents. There are many more and not just for the US.

So my question has still gone unanswered: who decides that someone ought to be tortured? You obviously believe in the all-good, all benevolent, god like state that can do no wrong. I on the other rely on statistics to know that MOST of the violence in the world is carried out by states.

Also, for someone who purports to live in the "real world" and talking "realistically," most of your knowledge about torture appears to be based on movies and TV series like 24.

Let me point out some basic facts: All major intelligence organisations across the world concur on ONE fact: that torture does NOT produce reliable information. That means "the ticking bomb" scenario is a Hollywood lie (or a Bollywood one if you wish).

If you have thirty minutes to a nuclear explosion and ONE guy in hand, there is NO real way of "torturing" the information out of the person. But this makes for a useful political fiction (and not only for the US but for most states).

Do you know why torture was mostly inflicted on political leaders during the Emergency? Or at Abu Ghraib? Or by Saddam's forces? Or indeed the point of the Mexican coca-cola process?

Because torture has POLITICAL purposes. It is an EXPRESSION of state power both internally and externally - that means against what the state feels are internal opponents or outside enemies (and this changes depending on the state and situation).

In fact, TORTURE DOES THE SAME THING THAT TERRORISM DOES: it sends a message to the whole society that it is vulnerable and can be punished/made to suffer.

That is one reason CIA spent so much time developing its torture manuals - it wanted to express power without resorting to the overt brutality that was linked to the Soviet Union/China etc during the Cold War - CIA's torture manual provides a very interesting insight into the political psyche of the US (NOT its people but its political classes who shape/perform the national identity). Same with the Saudis, Cambodians, Chinese, etc..

Beyond that, you mentioned a family member who is an ACP. So let me tell you a key difference that was pointed out to me in an interview by Mr. R.N Kao (who formed the RAW). He was a former IPS officer who had seen the founding of SB and CID earlier. He said that the police followed a logic of forcing a confession - it didn't matter if it was true or not, they just needed the right words said so the case could be shut. Intelligence on the other hand needed REAL and credible information and that meant torture was not very useful.

Now why this anecdote? Because he was the head of RAW during the Emergency and knew that the tortures carried out (as per the CIA manual as well as by older police techniques) were not meant to get any intelligence but intimidate the opposition into maintaining "peace and stability."

Now you do the maths....

Deepti Lamba
February 13, 2008
07:04 AM

So my question has still gone unanswered: who decides that someone ought to be tortured?

Jack Bauer

February 13, 2008
07:18 AM

dee..ya, him and SIFF.

February 13, 2008
09:28 AM

Can we add "dancing queen" to that list?

February 13, 2008
10:11 AM


""Pith helmet anyone?""

I'll take a dozen please! So I can reduce my verbal diahhorea...and make pithy arguments...

February 13, 2008
10:15 AM


""Even being an Indian, its hard for me to swallow. You give it an official stamp or not, torture is torture. And India is very much involved in all these activities. Not that I am against it, at times this is the need of the hour. So please stop accusing US for everythng, when everyone is doing the same.""

I am against it regardless of where it happens, and regardless of whatever my citizenship might be. Not only does it not pay or produce results. Even if it does pay, it degrades my sense of what it is to be human. No, I'm not a saint either (but I try! :))

February 13, 2008
10:18 AM


""Anyway, from my interactions with Americans over the last 10 years all I can say is my experience is very different from yours. There was unabashed jingoism after 911 - calls for revenge against any one basically. This has now started to change after years of failure but not out of compassion but rather fatigue and a sense that things are not going well.""

No "hard" research data, not even soft one. However, this obviously rings true to anyone who lived thru it during those times. Not to mention the two sikhs or so gas-station attendents who were killed, mistaken for arabs - turbans.

February 13, 2008
10:21 AM


""Squirrel, as such I do agree with all your points whole heartedly, but whatever happened in Bhagalpur was totally justified.""

What the FISH!!!??? Grrrrrrrr Grrrrrr (another DC critic finally loses it...No, not you Kunal, I refer to myself...reacting to your sad sense of justice...

February 13, 2008
10:23 AM


""Squirrel those people were not even qualified to be called as human beings. Every one of them was charged for more than 10 even 20 murders, rapes, extortion, and what not, and more than that, there were 100s of unreported cases""

Evidence? There's a piece, by Amitava Kumar (the writer) I think, where he intereviews these Bhagalpur survivors, sans eyes...

Anand Menon
February 13, 2008
10:29 AM

Anamika has raised some very valid points...the telling observation is of course...

"In fact, TORTURE DOES THE SAME THING THAT TERRORISM DOES: it sends a message to the whole society that it is vulnerable and can be punished/made to suffer."

Torture is an expression of power more than anything.

February 13, 2008
10:41 AM

SS #122

Wow - care to explain this?

"neusinger. also a lovely personal attack. WTF? cannot come up with anything real to say so you attack me personally for being white? very creative. you also are fabricating your information. good luck with that. I can see you have an agenda and I will leave you to it. it's not worth my time. you don't want a discussion..."

1. "also a lovely personal attack. WTF?" - where?
2. "you attack me personally for being white?" are you? where did I do that?
3. " you also are fabricating your information." again - what information am I fabricating?

Deepti Lamba
February 13, 2008
11:01 AM
February 13, 2008
11:14 AM

Anamika I guess you are taking the case out of some movies when a nuke is ticking and police is trying to get a lead.

But again I have already said, I lost you gyus won, I concede, torture MUST BE banned.

Now police arrests 2 guys with ample amount of RDX, and AK-47s.

Now what police are supposed to do to know if there are any more accomplices, what the targets were, if there is more RDX in the city?????, and if there is any time bomb scenario, where the place and time is already chosen.

Now here it changes equation, doesn't it????

You are taking torture, as a tool for political subjugation, and I am saying that there is more to it than just political vendetta as shown by Ms. Jayalalitha number of times.

I agree that state is no saint, and at times these powers are used by the people incharge to consolidate their position. But then you are absolutely disregarding the fact that there can be much which can come to light through these processes, foiled Barcelona, London bombings, when in India you see scores of weapons and bombs on display.

I do not know why you believe that I am too much influenced by 24. I have never seen the show, if you believe me. But thats not the point, point is you are disregarding torture as one of the technique of police to get the information out. And like all kinds of intel, even this information can not be 100% accurate, but atleast the guy in the cell knows that police are gonna return to him if they don't find anything.

Else you answer my question.

"What the FISH!!!??? Grrrrrrrr Grrrrrr (another DC critic finally loses it...No, not you Kunal, I refer to myself...reacting to your sad sense of justice..."

Dude read all interview, never once there would be a survivor saying he was scot free. Everyone was as much guilty as possible. Else you google it and find me one link where an innocent was punished.

A few days ago a policeman tied a thief with the back of his motorbike and took him on the round of streets. How many channels glorified a thief at that time, "Police atrocities and all" yeah police atrocities, because its ok to let go of a thief who is snatching chains all his life.

Have any of you undergone an experience of chain snatching???? I know because my sis and my mum had gone through it. And no I am not showing myself as victim, but when someone snatch a thick gold chain IT HURTS BIG TIME. First the snatcher is always on a bike, when he snatches, he pulls the chain in a way that it injures the neck is a serious way, and at times when the chain doesn't break, they end up dragging the victim for some time and in process not only snatching a stupid chain but also inflicting heavy injuries, at times critical.

And what happens to the thief???? thank you Indian judiciary, will be locked up for a day, and then released on bail or something, or at the most get a 3-6 months jail time, and after 6 months, welcome back to the business, all hail Indian courts.

Whats the better alternative???? give him a lesson that he will never forget, his compatriots will never forget. There won't be any thievery in that part of the town for atleast few months.

Inuman??? yes, effective??? HELL YEAH.

Now you might say I am being stupid, but you do ot know the plight of living in small towns. As I see most of us are living in UK, US, and if in India, are in metros where the biggest concern is, "Yaar aaj paani nahin aa raha, chalo kam se kam light to hai na"
Go out there in districts like Bhagalpur, and you will come to see the light in the darkest corner of India.

People do not travel with their headlights on, on certain highways in India. You know why????
Women can get out of the homes after 6:00 in these parts of India, you know why????

Only people sitting in in the cool air of AC can actually talk about human rights, there are places in India where there is no right to live. Where only the guy with a gun has the right to live.

Judiciary has failed us big time guys, accept it. Mr. Prem Kumar, chief justice of Delhi, when Narsimha Rao, Chandra Swami appeared in his court for bail appeals, he rejected, and sent everyone to remand.

Chief Justice Prem Kumar, one of the most honest person in the entire judicial history of India, got transferred to anonymity, and all the leaders got off, free of any stains. Hell even tide can not manage that kind of clean action.

Azhar Masood, why the fish he wasn't killed rather than being arrested???

Then you know there was a guy, Rajan, after whom came chhota Rajan, he was a big time hot shot, with 200 murder cases or something. Police arrested him, he applied for bail, bail rejected, still got free from jail, why???? some clerical mishap by the help of some real influential people.

What happened??? 6-7 people from Delhi court got fired, next time police didn't arrest him, he was encountered.

You call this justice?????

I call pouring acid in such people's eyes a better justice.

February 13, 2008
01:22 PM


""Only people sitting in in the cool air of AC can actually talk about human rights, there are places in India where there is no right to live. Where only the guy with a gun has the right to live."

"Chief Justice Prem Kumar, one of the most honest person in the entire judicial history of India, got transferred to anonymity, and all the leaders got off, free of any stains. Hell even tide can not manage that kind of clean action.""

"I call pouring acid in such people's eyes a better justice.""

Good governance and the application of existing laws can avoid acid (that too kick-ass desi-acid that even cut thru the bones in some cass)justice. Japan, Canada, Singapore etc. etc. are "relatively" free of street crime, without having to resort to vigilante justice..

February 13, 2008
01:24 PM


""Only people sitting in in the cool air of AC can actually talk about human rights""

Actually, wherever I am right now, the cool air of the AC would be the ultimate torture and violation of my human rights :)

If the acid-test of justice were meted out to the likes of Ken Lay and his ilk, nobody would stand for it...

February 13, 2008
01:53 PM

And executive summary for those pressed for time:

""even now china is still convinced that the greater good involves tibet being locked down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season""

""face it pint-sized rodent ...""

""um... smallsquirrel, my behen, just- how much American history do you know?""

"using acid to blind prisoners is justified?!?!?!??
on what planet, yaar?""

""What the FISH!!!???""

""News of interest: Executions may be carried out at Gitmo""

""So my question has still gone unanswered: who decides that someone ought to be tortured?""

""whatever happened in Bhagalpur was totally justified.""

"Squirrel those people were not even qualified to be called as human beings."

""Ok I concede to you guys win. I am wrong.
Torture- very bad idea, be humane, no torture at all.""

""this particular discussion is not in the spirit of winning any arguments..."" (read: why stop this argument by conceding...more fun to keep it going!)

February 13, 2008
01:53 PM

An executive summary for those pressed for time: (and those used to executive summaries)

""even now china is still convinced that the greater good involves tibet being locked down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season""

""face it pint-sized rodent ...""

""um... smallsquirrel, my behen, just- how much American history do you know?""

"using acid to blind prisoners is justified?!?!?!??
on what planet, yaar?""

""What the FISH!!!???""

""News of interest: Executions may be carried out at Gitmo""

""So my question has still gone unanswered: who decides that someone ought to be tortured?""

""whatever happened in Bhagalpur was totally justified.""

"Squirrel those people were not even qualified to be called as human beings."

""Ok I concede to you guys win. I am wrong.
Torture- very bad idea, be humane, no torture at all.""

""this particular discussion is not in the spirit of winning any arguments..."" (read: why stop this argument by conceding...more fun to keep it going!)

February 13, 2008
02:28 PM

Hey you are misquoting me...

I said ok I concede Torture bad idea, but tell me how you will get information from those you arrest with weapons and RDX. You give me a better way and I accept your argument.

BTW that was a good way of ending an entire argument.

February 13, 2008
03:40 PM

Kunal, you caught my own "monstrous deception" :)

A better, "new and improved" version coming up (too much time on my hands!)

February 13, 2008
04:42 PM

Executive summary version 2.0 (more to come?! Now that WOULD qualify as torture for all readers. Aaman might send me to the "chiller room")

Getting Personal:

"its tough to bring it down to personal levels."

"the greater good involves tibet being locked down tighter than a bull's ass in fly season "'

Dr. Krisnan:
"Lest this discussion turn into an anti-American slugfest one is reminded of the Khmer Rouge."

""pol pot, baby doc duvalier, saddam hussein, pinochet... accounts by bloggers of torture by police in egypt, saudi, iran.. the list goes on and on and on..."

""who supported pol pot, baby doc duvalier, saddam hussein, pinochet and all those tin-pot dictators?""

"remember that there are other assholes in the world beyond the US and Israel."

"my favorite is india shouting for US to do something in the sudan... hey! why don't you do something! I do think the US should do"

"I don't understand something, how come torture is bad?????" You don't expect to actually sit down [and show a terrorist]Chris Crocker video on youtube some 100 times so that he talks (though it would be a great torture).""

"And dudette TBH when torture comes good, you never come to know.."

"under certain kinds of torture people would even confess that they are Osama's sex slaves;)"

"I am as much of an Indian as you are. Trust me I am not lying."

kunal... LOL! I am not an Indian!"

Really??? you are not an Indian??? not even origin??? I thought why else you would be on desicritic forum when you have nothing to do with India. Then what nationality you belong to, if I may ask????

"it's not very desi of you to question people's origins, dude."

"And notice I didn't call you dudette, dudette, damn."

"BTW commonsense whos Sumanth???
sorry I don't know."

"Torture by Police, Goons and Govt officials are good for the society."

"Pith helmet anyone?"

"a pithy remark..."

"SS I don't want to dump on you - and I don't want you to feel like everyone is attacking you"

"As such I do not have any idea whats going on over here..."

""neusinge, WTF? cannot come up with anything real to say so you attack me personally for being white?""

"...its not a black or white issue."

""So my question has still gone unanswered: who decides that someone ought to be tortured?"

"But again I have already said, I lost you gyus won, I concede, torture MUST BE banned."

"face it pint-sized rodent ...your unfounded and silly assertions are the ones that are precious"

"smallsquirrel, my behen"

"Even being an Indian, its hard for me to swallow."

""I think you're seriously deluded."

"Chandra #50...how to reduce torture in India......stop going to Koshy's for a start:))"

""What the FISH!!!??? Grrrrrrrr Grrrrrr (another DC critic finally loses it...""

"What does all this discussion lead to? Nothing, but Intellectual Masturbation."

As the curtain comes down to deafening applause, everyone heads over the the SIFFER's nautanki or roadshow in Bangalore. Time for the "monstrous deception" take 2.0

February 13, 2008
05:12 PM

Wow doesn't it totally change the argument when comments are trimmed down???

I never thought I can be represented as the one against torture... but you did that :p

Anyhow, if I have to summarize my own opinion it would be.

Till the time you get other tactics like "Truth potion" or something like this, which really works, you can not do away with torture.

No matter how inhumane it might sound, but some people do not deserve to be treated as humans.

February 13, 2008
08:37 PM


Just for F!! (as in fun, not FISH!). Deep down, you are a good guy because you like John Stewart..!!) And by the way, I know it's a typo, but still, it is not "Abu Gharib", but Abu Ghraib! Temporal calls dollars "Abu Daulat" ie. opposite of Abu Gharib...Not that you need any testimonials from me or anyone, but take from a fellow Delhi-dude, you are a cool guy! (No, I don't mean the "chiller room" either :))

February 14, 2008
06:54 AM

CS: "dude" you've got WAY too much time. Go out and do something "real" as opposed to virtual.

Kunal: I used the "ticking bomb" scenario because that is the one the US has been using to build arguments in favour of torture. Your example is a variation of the same. Even if you found two guys with RDX etc, there is no real guarantee that you can "torture" the information out of them in order to stop their mates.

Now please note: TORTURE IS NOT THE SAME AS INTERROGATION. A trained detective/interrogator can get more information out of a suspect WITHOUT torture but through questioning. And no, no isolation cells, sensory deprivation, physical pain-infliction etc have to be utilized.

So here is my answer: get a good interrogator to keep talking to these guys based on the REAL intelligence you have and watch their reactions. Meanwhile, get your people out there to INVESTIGATE and follow up all leads which any good investigative agency (police, military, intelligence) will have. Plots are cracked by old fashioned detective work and intelligence and not with torture.

Also, I think you have blurred the line between torture and revenge/justice (encounters etc).

Btw, the Barcelona plot you mentioned wasn't a result of torturing people but a very long and complex operation. I knew one of the detectives who was involved in it (and also knew through friends one of the policemen who died later in Madrid post the train bombings while assaulting the building).

That is why the whole Khaled Sheikh Mohammad saga is sooo dodgy - the evidence of a "massive" plot provided by some guy tortured in Pakistan who was kindly "handed" over for political mileage. If you follow the story, there is VERY little about the Heathrow plot that does not smack of political motivations from various governments involved.

Finally, SS: "things like torture and corruption are not AUTHORIZED PUBLICALLY by the government" (116)

That is generally the case but US has spent the past six years working out ways of doing just that. When senior government officials spend a great deal of media time explaining what does not count as torture and who can be tortured with impunity, that statement becomes untenable.

Without offending you, I agree most democratic states based on rule of law do not publicly authorise torture. But most states with totalitarian tendencies/structures do. This is the unwritten rule that Bush and co broke after 9/11 and thats why so many of the posters here and elsewhere have been so furious at US hypocrisy.

At the end, US is a democracy and despite Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo, it was AMERICANS who re-elected the people who publicly support torture. As per the Nuremberg standards, this makes all Americans responsible. After all, its the US that has held that standard up as the "model" since the WW2 trials. In a post 9/11 era, the world is holding the US up to the same.

Please note this is NOT an attack on America or Americans, just an explanation of WHY Neusinger and various others have focussed on US on this issue rather than China, Saudi etc.

February 14, 2008
07:10 AM

no offense taken at all anamika. you have stated what you needed to without being nasty, which is more than I can say for some others on this post.

And I think we're more in agreement than not on what you've said.

neusinger... what did you say that was a personal attack? let me refresh your memory: "Or is this just part of the colonial fantasy that some Caucasians adopt when they move to tropical climates?" I can only assume that this was some nasty comment about me. And nasty it is. And you are fabricating the whole "applauding for genocide" bullshit. The average american does not support the war in Iraq, and the polling numbers on this issue support what I am saying. You're just coming out with rhetoric with NO evidence.

As for the rhetoric post 9/11, there were calls for all kinds of things, even peace and no war. but I suppose you think that no one calls for revenge in India post bombings? what the fuck?

You have an agenda, and that is to paint a very one-sided picture of the US. It is false and for anyone that has half a brain it is simply sad. But as you've said before you think you have some mission to inform people. you go right ahead. right or wrong, I cannot stop you. But I can tell you that if you were an adult you would be man enough to admit that NOTHING is black and white.

February 14, 2008
09:08 AM

Anamika has got it spot on..#143 "it was AMERICANS who re-elected the people who publicly support torture"

what we are witnessing is an attempt by the present US administration to make torture mainstream by downplaying certain aspects and highlighting others.Throw in the media which willingly tows the line of the administration and you can manipulate the opinion of the larger public

February 14, 2008
09:40 AM

SS #144 fyi:

Gallup Poll: 75% Support Iraq War....
posted 03/22, by Proud Republican (viewed 126 times) | Scope : National
Popularity : 1 (0 encourage, 0 discourage)
Relevance : 1

Yet again another Poll this time Gallup, showing a large majority of Americans support War with Iraq(75%).And the largest one week increase in the stock market in 20years. Given all this info, will the anti-war kooks have to take baths and get jobs?

Americans Express Strong Support for War
Expect few casualties and quick conclusion

by David W. Moore

PRINCETON, NJ -- With the war already 24 hours underway, a quick-reaction poll conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup on Thursday night finds widespread public support for the decision to launch the attacks, along with expectations for a quick war with few casualties. The vast majority of Americans believe Saddam Hussein is still alive, but they are somewhat divided as to whether the war will be a success if he is deposed from office but not captured or killed. Now that the war has actually begun, the public is feeling considerably more confident than it was last Monday, when President George W. Bush first announced his leave-Iraq-or-else ultimatum to Saddam. Americans also anticipate a shorter war with fewer casualties than they did at the outset of the first Persian Gulf War in January 1991.

The poll shows that three-quarters of all Americans approve of the decision to go to war, including 60% who approve strongly. Only one in five Americans disapprove -- 15% who feel strongly and 5% not strongly.

February 14, 2008
09:45 AM

neusinger... today, dude, not before. the support for the war TODAY is nill.

and pls do tell why you chose to attack me personally.

February 14, 2008
09:48 AM

get your shit straight:


February 14, 2008
09:49 AM

For the change from support for to to an anti-war sentiment see:


February 14, 2008
10:10 AM

what gets me is this... the smugness of people about the US. by an accident of birth you are from another country. you could just as well be an american. your false sense of moral superiority based simply on citizenship is really the most ridiculous premise I have ever come across.

I am not trying to absolve the US from any responsibility from anything. what is funny is that I have stated that I do not support the war yet you still attack me simply because it is trendy to hate the US and bitch at americans!

you need to look at why you've got your knickers in a twist here. you try to correct my english and instruct me not to use britishisms, you call me a colonialist.. what is your point? seriously. what is your damned point? especially since it seems you're living in the US, isn't it?

February 14, 2008
10:24 AM


I wish I'd listened to you and Temporal ("less is more").! BTW your #143 is certainly the argument to end all arguments about this topic. No wonder Kunal has moved elsewhere :)

February 14, 2008
11:08 AM

"I wish I'd listened to you and Temporal ("less is more").! BTW your #143 is certainly the argument to end all arguments about this topic. No wonder Kunal has moved elsewhere :)"

Tumne bulaya aur hum chale aaye....

yaar apan dono dilli waale kitte vele hain. BTW dude you got 161 posts in last week.... what a fishing feet that is. I am so very impressed. And yeah BTW thanks for letting me know about the bird flu thing... that was very moral boosting *&%^@

And I do totally agree with your point that we need better judiciary and better ways of implementing laws, and this will stop the Gangajal cleansing with desi acid. BTW dude did you know that (Girls need not read this part, its boys talk) Sanjay Dutt married that Gangajal item dancer???? she wasn't that hot. But looks like that guy has a knack of making wrong choices. (ok guy talks ends here)

Anyhow Anamika, coming back to your point that we need better interrogator and intelligence than torture, and I think we need these before we resort to torture, and then we will always get better information. And I agree that there is no proof that the information you get from torture would be accurate, but then you never know about any information, whether with or without torture. As a computer science geek I would say that most of the time what we get is not even information, its just random data.

But at least when a guy is undergoing whole torture thing, he would think at least twice about lying, as he can very well get massive returns. Only this time, they will hurt even more.

Moreover I brought political thing in it because someone said that torture is used against the political enemies most of the times, which is also true.

And seriously dude, you know the guy who foiled that Barcelona attack??? wow. See thats the difference, my cousin slapped a guy to get the stolen stuff back, and your people used a different method. So my friend, therein lies the difference of opinion ;)

And for god's sake stop blaming USA for everything. Atleast USA has enough courage to come out in open and say yes we do waterboarding, what about countries like OUR very own India who does everything still keep the image of a "saint". Moreover torture was a science first explained by OUR very own friends, Soviets.

So stop criticizing USA just because they were being honest. Right now its hip to slam US over everything, when the fact is more than half of the world is getting US aid, if the world is so damn upset by USA, then stop taking any aid from US taxpayers of USA.

And whatever aid India gets even from UN and UNICEF and all, that too comes from USA. Moreover twice India squandered all the efforts of the world to wipe off polio from the world, an effort majorly funded by USA only. Because OUR politicians thought that they better change their water closet than give polio drops.

So stop hating USA for OUR own sake.

February 14, 2008
01:12 PM

every single day, i walk to my office in the university i happen to teach at, determined to write the book that will change everybody's perception about the world. then i make the mistake of logging on to DC! because of dc, this world of ours is deprived of the news of my earth-shattering discoveries and theories. thanks to dc, people all over the world are denied the wisdom they so crave...does that constitute torture or is it simply a testimony to:

1. my lack of a social life?
2. the effort the dc team puts in to make this site so appealing?
3. my repressed "messiah complex" about saving the world?
4. the fact that i did not buy that buddhist "ego killer" i came across in a souvenir shop while trekking in sikkim?

February 14, 2008
01:36 PM

To Respected Commonsense,
Suddenly I after reading your post I regretted myself for talking in the way I was. Calling you a dude, when you clearly belong to a different intellectual universe all together.
The feeling that I am talking to an author who possesses the secret to change the world forever and for betterment, is overwhelming in itself.
On top of that you are a teacher in a university, again something which made me feel.... small, in any which way possible.

Damn you DC, you are responsible for the world to not to see the light of wisdom through this man's words.

BTW, if I am have any say in the matter, I would rather recommend buying that "Ego killer" thingy.

Lolz dude no wonder you are good with words.

February 14, 2008
03:26 PM


Methinks I can get some local lohar to make an "ego-killer" for me, right here in the u s of a. i seriously need one, perhaps more than one!

February 14, 2008
03:29 PM

as for being a teacher in a university, nothing to crow about; just my mistake for not paying attention to my friends' sage advice, "abey, teacher hamesha phateecher"...so i have to hoodwink everybody by selling some snake-oil in the form of a book, claiming to solve all mysteries of this world. It would be the ultimate torture for everyone....

February 14, 2008
05:50 PM

SS #150 "because it is trendy to hate the US"

Kunal #152 "Right now its hip to slam US over everything"

February 14, 2008
07:24 PM

Innocent american woman stripped by cops


February 14, 2008
11:14 PM

First off if you didn't notice, shes in a cell, hence not really innocent. But by no means I will pass a comment whether police were right or wrong to do something like that. May be they had some grounds, if you have not heard of people keeping drigs in various cavities of their bodies, may be you need to be educated.

Anyhow that thing apart, may be Police were totally wrong, and if that is so, its inhumane to do something like this and full blown investigations and punishments should be given to the culprits.

BTW you don't really need me to show some of the best footages of Indian justice department, where gang rapes and stripping the women for some crimes committed by the relatives is as common as it can get.

So stop pointing fingers because it makes you look real hypocrite and if I may say so, ass.

Dude you are in US as well?? then no wonder you are such a post champ. We in US have nothing to do except get on the net and try to change the world. Whereas in India boy the day is always shorter.

BTW what university you grace by your sheer presence?

February 14, 2008
11:38 PM

This is the last bit I will say here because I think this thread is played out and off track. but neusinger... you still have not made your point. we could pull up articles all day long about abuses in the US. they exist, I never said they did not. and they exist in India, too. but you still don't have a point, and you still are operating on your senseless agenda. and you still cannot figure out why you are attacking me simply for being white and american other than the fact that it is trendy.

stop behaving like a lemming and do some original thinking. good luck!

February 15, 2008
12:52 AM

SS @160

SS I am not attacking you for being white or an American. I see that you're still being insulting but have at least managed to avoid swear words in the last post. So maybe we can have a civil discussion yet.

My point was stated in #51 - read it and respond, politely if you can.

If you would like me to restate my comment:

briefly its (1) that Americans who tacitly caused the deaths of thousands in Afghanistan and Kashmir should not point to those places without at least some sense of irony and history.

(2) My other point was that the American public has cheered intervention in country after country in the name of fighting the cold war or more recently in deposing this or that dictator who was a friend earlier in the name of bringing democracy to those people. The anti-war movement has always been a very small part of the population except in two instances. Vietnam in the later phases of the war by which time more bombs had been dropped on the civilian population of that country than in all WWII. And in that case the opposition to the war was triggered not by compassion for the dying Vietnamese but by fear of the draft. And more recently in the opposition to the Iraq war - popular sentiment is slowly turning against both bush and the war and again its not out of compassion but a sense that this is loosing proposition.

But I repeat myself.

My comments were directed to the finger pointing with regards to Kashmir. I don't have anything against Americans as a people. Many have been misled and misinformed by the the leadership and the media but many are also keenly critical of the warmongers and doing their best to keep the government honest.

February 15, 2008
01:06 AM

Kunal, point well taken and yes you may say so. I will refrain from pointing fingers. Just never thought that one day I would see stuff like this in the US.

February 15, 2008
03:43 AM

CS: thank you janaab, but perhaps focussing on that book would be more useful than DC? Get that egokiller asap... :-)

Kunal - unfortunately, knowing people who work in that field (intelligence and counter-terror) means you get to know WAY too much about the way governments work. So I dont think its that "cool."

On the other hand, I am assuming you are quite young? This is not an insult btw just something I noticed given your language and a blind trust in ANY government's ability to function (at one point you point out that if someone is in a cell, they cannot be innocent!). Can I ask you to make a good use of the internet and just start googling (you get better with practise and by using scholar etc) and go beyond wikipedia pls?

One of the things you will find is just how often governments work in ways that are untrustworthy. And this is not just the US but ALL governments (although as I said before totalitarian ones have fewer checks on them). Part of it is because any state will try to preserve its power, part of it is hubris while some of it is the sheer momentum of a behemoth which is hard to correct and re-align.

And governments torture/imprison/kill innocent people all the time. Which is why it is necessary for the average law-abiding citizen to be EXTREMELY JEALOUS of our rights and ACT UPON our responsibilities. This means ensuring that a government does not get any room to start down that slippery slope to totalitarian behaviour - and that means opposing torture FOR ANY REASON AT ALL and making sure that your government knows it (thats why we have a vote!).

You think that torture will convince someone not to act criminally the next time (152), but most evidence shows that torture is a also a good way of CREATING "criminals:" follow the trajectory from peaceful political protests to increasingly violence and finally suicide bombings in Palestine; look at the way Chechens have behaved; look at the reactions in Central America; check the ways that Irish violence increased rather than decreased with British occupation/presence and "police" action.

When a government tortures - and especially when the "tortured" dont have any political redress - the result is further violence against it. A fair bit of the "naxalite" violence is linked to police brutality in India, as is some of the north-east organised violence. It was J&K police brutality to "crack down" in the early 1990s that created more rifts than Pakistan-sent jihadis could have achieved.

You talk of villages - well, I am not a "dilli-walla" but from eastern UP/Bihar region, and grew up in those small towns and villages you speak of - and in those it is the police who is the problem not the average criminal. It is the police that creates/enhances criminals by its "slapping" around and "chai-paani."

Would be happy to recommend a book list if you like but a google scholar search should turn up a fair biblio...

February 15, 2008
03:57 AM

Oh btw, Kunal, get a copy of Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. It has - I think - the best explanation of what we are discussing. Captain Segura (one of the characters) divides the world into two parts: the torturable and the untorturable.

"There are people who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea..." Segura says at one point.

Scrolling back on this thread shows exactly how astute that observation was back in 1958, and how prophetic.

February 15, 2008
10:37 AM

Kunal baby listen to Auntie Anamika;)

February 15, 2008
10:37 AM

Kunal baby listen to Auntie Anamika;)

February 15, 2008
11:29 AM

Anamika # 163, on target, without a single mis-step! (searching for that ego-killer lohar type here...)

Kunal: I don't want to remind the hapless university that hired me about the fact that I'm still there :)

SS: don't leave just yet! the coversation is quite civil now...

Neusinger: hang on too!

February 15, 2008
11:46 AM

I suppose what Anamika and perhaps even the author have to say is that the usual assumptions about torture are now untenable. Torture is not a historical curiosity from a less “civilized age. Nor is it a technique of inquiry and punishment used only during war or revolution. Torture does not happen only occasionally at the insistence of a particular head of state; a policeman, or a prison guard. It is not confined to primitive” countries and it is a fallacy to assume that torture doesn't happen/is not sanctioned in the so-called western democracies.In his book Torture and Democracy author Darius Rejali explains that torture has its supporters even in democracies and that the techniques that constitute torture are stealthy that they leave few marks.The disturbing implication of the truth is that we are all less likely to complain about violence committed by stealth. Authorities today do not rely on torture primarily to extract confessions from persons guilty of crime. Rather, torture has become inherent in the political systems of govemments to subjugate and terrorize dissidents. It arises from the attitude recently expressed by one chief of police in the Dominican Republic: “Political prisoners are not only prisoners but hostages of the govemment.” When governments wish to intimidate the entire population they punish anyone, not just opponents of the regime. Consequently, people who are completely apolitical are tortured . These "prisoners of circumstance”are jailed and tortured simply because they are friends or relatives of those who belong to an opposition party or because they were present when members of such a party were arrested.

February 15, 2008
03:02 PM


I must say I was intrigued by the your comments. For example try as I might I could not figure out what you meant by this:

"We in US have nothing to do except get on the net and try to change the world. Whereas in India boy the day is always shorter."

What is the connection between these two sentences and when you say "We" do you mean Desis in the US or all everyone in the US?

If you do nothing except get on the net and try to change the world - what about your classes? Is this something your parents should know about?

February 15, 2008
03:15 PM

Dude first off, I am sorry if I sounded rude, at times I am divided as for me I have respect and love for two nations. I am as much of love with US as I am with India, may be more to India.

And thanks alot for being a sport, even with a jack@$$ like yours truly.

And well yeah I meant everyone in US has ample time to write up blogs and do youtube videos about how to change world but rarely we, as everybody in US, rarely step out from the comforts of their rooms to let the message be clear.

You remember there was a hugely popular video "don't tase me bro", and everyone posted so many videos and blogs, condemning the act of police against that poor guy, but no one, absolutely no one from the hall stood up to say anything about it. So most people in America are hypocrite in that sense. Even for getting some aid for AIDS patients you have to call upon the biggest rockstars, because people are too tired to get out for AIDS patients, but for Megadeath, hell yeah.

Whereas in India you always have a day full with events, at times struggling for survival, then at times getting better than others and at times trying to beat yourself. And then we always have some kind of rallies in India, with thousands of people, no matter how lame the cause is. Those people in the rallies might not spent any time in writing blogs but are over there for support on the streets. Like I was in India when the whole AIMS thing happened, when students came out against reservation laws. I did not see any video on Youtube to support that but thousands of people carrying candles.

And about me being on net... I.. I... I... don't think my parents should know anything about it.....
after all what mama doesn't know, can't hurt her. right?

And I am sorry and thankful to you for your kind reply.

February 15, 2008
04:32 PM


No problem and thanks for clarifying that. But you have touched upon a (I think) very improtant time.

The tension between real interactions and virtual ones. Some people even put this down to GenX vs Gen Y etc but it may have more to do with the changing times.

With the increasing availability of the internet (this is obviously more so in the west) people find it easier to fulfill their need to conversation/ friendship/ romance by coming home and logging in. Say 5 minutes. As compared to going out and meeting a friend at least a couple of hours - and more importatnly for desis - money!

But in the end its a less satisfying form of relationship sort of akin to self gratification - sure its easier - but not as much fun. Anyway today is Friday, hope we all go out and talk to some real people!


Man Singh
February 15, 2008
04:59 PM

Bhai commonsense , this debate has become so long.

My opinion is that our aim is to provide security to common people. It is the human rights of masses that are important and not the human rights of terrorists and their associates.

Those who terrorise the humanity deserve punishment and law enforcement agencies has to be given rights to do anything to fetch information out of brains of hard core criminals.

Torture is uncivilised way of doing that. But untill more sofisticated methods are inventied by scientists, law enforcemnet agencies have no choice but to use these `uncivilised' and `inhuman' methods.

I call upon all of you to please use your brains in inventing `civilised' ways to eliminate torturous methods of investigations.

In my area, around 10 years back, special task force carried out a combing operation against dacoits. they killed many in encounters and whole area is living a peaceful life. I do agree that some innocent people might also have been killed in this operation, but problem has been eliminated for ever.

Similar operations hsould be carried out against naxalites and other terrorists and eliminate them so that law abiding citizens of the country can live a peaceful life.

We should worry more for human rights of common people and not for human rights of dacoits, naxalites, terrorists and their associates.

That's how practically problems are solved.

I am surprised to see why hearts of some people always vibrates only at `torture of naxalites and terrorists'. same hearts never seen crying when common people suffered or tortured by Police.

have you ever seen Teesta Seetalvad, Shabana Azmi or Javed Akhtar saying a single word when North Indians were tortured by Thakrey Junior though they poured around an ocean of tear on Gujraat. This is the reality of so called humanists my freinds. they are associates of terrorists in the guise of human right activist? be careful of them my freind.

Let's evolve some fool proof techniques to read the mind of the alleged people so that law enforcement agencies can get rid of torturous methods of interrogation.

Top priority is the safet and security of common people and not the `torture of terrorists'. let's defend the masses and should not hesitate in doing anything including torturing some to protect the belongings and dignity of masses.

Technolgy is the only hope for humanity my freind. Just like DNA , Finger prints etc are fool proof technologies, same way the day on which mind reading techniq will be developed, torturous ways to be gone.

Let's work abit more harder on that fron in place of wasting so muuch time here to discuss human right violations of `inhuman terrorists and naxalites' who in frst place are zeroing human rights of civil society.

February 15, 2008
09:57 PM

Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Scalia's remarks about torture reflect a fundamental problem with conservative judges. Scalia's approval of torture in certain circumstances ignores an important point that every first-year law student learns in his constitutional law course: that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law - and, equally important, are sometimes adjudged innocent when the trial is ultimately held.

In other words, when the government takes someone into custody and begins torturing him, how do we know that that person is deserving of torture or has important information that can be tortured out of him? Ordinarily, we don't permit the government to determine the guilt or innocence of a person it is accusing of a crime. That's the very purpose of the trial.

Yet, under Scalia's reasoning on torture (and under the government's reasoning), that basic principle is thrown out the window. Scalia effectively says, "While a trial will later determine whether the accused is guilty or not, we must vest the government with the pre-trial power to torture anyone it suspects of being guilty, despite the fact that a trial may later confirm that the person was in fact innocent."

How's that for a bit of judicial nonsense?

After all, if we're going to have that much faith in the government, then why not dispense with a trial altogether? Why not simply let the government decide not only who is worthy of pretrial torture but also who is guilty of the crime?

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