Tag Archives: Torture

Into the Dark Chamber (220/415/485)


Date: January 12, 1986, Sunday, Late City Final Edition Section 7; Page 13, Column 1; Book Review Desk
Byline: By J. M. Coetzee; J. M. Coetzee, whose most recent novel is ”Life & Times of Michael K,” teaches at the University of Cape Town.

WHEN a colony is founded, wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in ”The Scarlet Letter,” ”among [ the ] earliest practical necessities [ is ] to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.” Prisons – Hawthorne called them the black flowers of civilized society – burgeon all over the face of South Africa. They may not be sketched or photographed, under threat of severe penalty. I have no idea whether laws against visual representations of prisons exist in other countries. Very likely they do. But in South Africa such laws have a particular symbolic appropriateness, as though it were decreed that the camera lens must shatter at the moment it is trained on certain sites; as though the passer-by shall have no means of confirming that what he saw – those buildings rising out of the sands in all their sprawl of gray monotony – was not a mirage or a bad dream.

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Spring Collection

This Spring’s Torturer’s Collection features a feminine look such as Gina’s black and red, belted floral print dress. This relaxed style also includes a practical touch: the quick-drying material allows the wearer to seamlessly transition from an interrupted drowning (water-boarding) session to a working lunch.


Page 9 Footnote 2

The Committee did not have access to approximately 9,400 CIA documents related to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program that were withheld by the White House pending a determination and claim of executive privilege. The Committee requested access to these documents over several years, including in writing on January 3, 2013, May 22, 2013, and December 19, 2013. The Committee received no response from the White House.

This is important…

… and you should pay attention, in part because the luxury of willful ignorance is a privilege accorded– for the most part– solely to the citizens of Empire. Those who live in places Empire bombs and invades and surveils don’t have the option of turning the channel.

The US Senate is releasing a much-delayed, heavily redacted report on key aspects of the (on-going) US torture regime. The Obama administration and its neoconservative allies did not want this report to be issued to the public. Already, torture enthusiasts such as Mike Rogers are claiming that the release of the report will cause incalculable damage to US prestige and even the death of its agents and operatives. Of course the same was said about wikileaks and Snowden’s revelations.

Read about it. Discuss it. This matters.


Hunger and Justice

“You’re not gonna die, we’re gonna feed you up your ass.”

— Interrogator at Guantanamo Bay (name redacted) to Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

Sometime in the next month a gang of armed men will crash into your home in the dead of night. They will terrorize your family, trash the place, and drag you off, hooded and shackled.

You will be thrown into the back of a truck where you will receive head slaps and kicks should you try to communicate with your captors.

Disoriented, unable to determine your location, your clothes will be cut off of you and you will be dumped into an unheated cell and left for hours or weeks. You will be fed but not permitted to wash or brush your teeth.

One day you will be administered a laxative with your meal. Once your bowels have been voided, you will be diapered, hooded again, and have headphones placed over your ears. You will effectively be in a state of sensory deprivation. You may be drugged without your consent.

Loaded onto a plane, you will travel for so long that you lose sense of time. You will not know where you are going. Inevitably your diaper will become heavy with urine and excrement.

24 hours or more later you will arrive in a place you have never seen before. You will be compelled to submit to a body cavity search by hostile guards who do not speak your language and do not understand you.

You will be placed in a new cell and left to rot for a decade, never having been charged with any offense.

You will be harassed on a daily basis. Some days the lights will not go off. Extremes of heat and cold, loud noise and music, and interruption of natural sleep cycles will fray your nerves. You may begin to experience hallucinations.

During interrogation sessions you will be sexually humiliated, screamed at, and beaten in such a way as to ensure that no marks will be visible. Interrogators will threaten your family with violence. Should you pray aloud, your prayers will be mocked.

Any time you are not completely passive and compliant, you will be subjected to physical attack. As an additional punishment for disobedience you will be stripped naked and forced to assumed “stress positions” for hours on end.

Should your captors decide that you have valuable information you may be taken into international waters where agents of another country, unconcerned about bruises, beat you for hours and force you to drink seawater.

When you’ve reached the limit of your ability to endure this torture you may decide to go on hunger strike in a desperate effort to call attention to the violations of your basic human rights.

Because dead prisoners are seen as an inconvenience in terms of public relations, you will not be afforded this minimal gesture of autonomy.

Instead you will be force-fed by medics who think that you are a “terrorist”.

Good luck.

see also http://www.slate.com/articles/briefing/foreigners/2013/05/mohamedou_ould_slahi_s_guantanamo_memoirs.html

The Salvador Option

As I recall, it was about 2005/2006 that I first heard the phrase “the Salvador option” in reference to the US occupation of Iraq. There were indications from various sources  that the US military had introduced death squads, “black” detention sites, and a torture regime in order to defeat the so-called insurgency. Given the brutal history of the US military and intelligence agencies in Latin America this development worried many people. Now the UK Guardian and BBC have produced a 50 minute documentary which establishes that the US did indeed fund and organize torture centers in Iraq. One of the central figures of this initiative was James Steele. See


Torture (ContCult)

If you cruise around the internet you’ll find plenty of comment on George W. Bush’s recent revelation– we knew this already– that he ordered water-boarding, a practice that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition and was used by US troops in the Philippines at the turn into the 20th century. Bush’s admission that he broke international law has re-instigated an often depressing “debate” about what constitutes torture and whether its use as an instrument of policy is ever justified. Featuring prominently in this exchange is the fabled Ticking Timebomb Scenario (TTS): if you had a suspect who knew the location of a bomb which would kill thousands would you use torture to secure the needed information? Needless to say this is a false hypothetical. Never in the history of the world beyond the confines of cable television has such a scenario unfolded. In fact, more than a few ethicists and philosophers have take up the TTS challenge in order to prove its fallaciousness. If you’re interested in this, you can see a page on this blog– The Question— which I’ve resurrected for that purpose. Two years ago I taught a unit in my Contemporary Culture class on torture, paying particular attention to the use of “no-touch” torture techniques which were pioneered and perfected by the CIA after WWII as outlined in the notorious KUBARK manual, available on-line.

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Weekend Update: US military spied on Planned Parenthood

No, really. But we still don’t know why or how. Also, Congress just voted to renew– yet again– the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 or as I call it the UnStrAP AT RIOT Act with the full support of the party of Hope and Change. Hmm, what else? Oh, right: a “controversial” anti-torture provision of an intelligence funding bill has been killed because it’s… uh… “controversial”. Apparently the provision criminalizes things like

waterboarding, “forcing the individual to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner”, beatings, electric shocks, use of dogs, inducing hypothermia or heat injury, stress positions, deprivation of necessary “sleep, food or medical care” and conducting mock executions. (See here.)

As torture enthusiast John Boehner (R-OH) is reported to have said: “It’s time to stop trying to give foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens and to stop persecuting the men and women risking their lives every day to keep our country safe.”  In other words, we ought to keep intact a special category of subhumans (“foreign terrorists”) for whom laws and human rights do not apply. Torture? Yes! Due process? Not so much.