You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Torture’ tag.

This is where ‘patriots’ and others accuse me of hating the West and America.


Our inflated sense of being the ‘good guys’ and on the right side of history shields us from the monstrous atrocities that have been and are being committed in our name.   The very truth of the matter is that there is no right side of history, only self interested actors on the state and individual level acting inhumanely toward those deemed to be the enemy.  The truth is that being tortured for in the name of democracy or dictatorship is quite irrelevant to those being put to the irons – the only take away is that torture can not be justified, not ever.

The history of US intervention in Central and South America is a history of coups, brutal repression, and torture.  One of the specialists sent to ‘teach the torture trade’ was Dan Mitrone, his legacy is written in the blood and lives of Left activists and innocents across Central and South America.

“The late US journalist and author A.J. Langguth credited US advisers led by Mitrione with introducing “scientific methods of torture” to Uruguay. These included psychological tortures like playing recordings of screaming women and children and telling prisoners it was their relatives being tortured, to more traditional torture techniques like electric shocks applied under the fingernails and to the genitals. According to Manuel Hevia Cosculluela, a Cuban double agent who infiltrated the CIA and spent years in the agency’s Montevideo station, Mitrione said that the key to successful interrogation was to apply “the precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount to achieve the desired effect.”

“A premature death means failure by the technician,” Mitrione told Hevia. “You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist.” Mitrione walked a very fine line between surgical and sadistic when he added: “When you get what you want, and I always, do, it may be good to prolong the session a little to apply another softening up, not to extract information now, but only as a political measure, to create a healthy fear.”

In order to build the perfect underground classroom in which to teach his Uruguayan students the tools and techniques of their torturous trade, Mitrione soundproofed the basement of his Montevideo home. He tested its integrity by blasting Hawaiian music or having an assistant fire a pistol from the room while he listened from different points outside the home. Hevia claimed it was there that Mitrione trained Uruguayan police to torture using “beggars from the outskirts of Montevideo,” a practice he honed to perfection while stationed in Brazil. “There was no interrogation, only a demonstration of the different voltages on the different parts of the human body,” said Hevia.

The Cuban claimed that Mitrione personally tortured four beggars to death in his bespoke dungeon. This fits a historical pattern: At the notorious US Army School of the Americas (SOA), then located in Panama, US doctors supervised torture classes in which homeless people were kidnapped from the streets of Panama City and used as human guinea pigs. According to one former SOA instructor interviewed in the award-winning documentary film Inside the School of the Assassins, “they would bring people in from the streets to the base, and the experts would train us on how to obtain information through torture… They had a US physician… who would teach the students… [about] the nerve endings of the body. He would show them where to torture, where and where not, where you wouldn’t kill the individual.”

This is not the practice of any nation that claims to value human rights.  Yet in death, a clinical, merciless torture teacher was celebrated:

“Back in the US, Dan Mitrione was hailed as a hero. White House spokesman Ron Ziegler lauded his “devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress” as “an example for free men everywhere,” calling him a man who “exemplified the highest principles of the police profession.” To his wife, he was the “perfect man.” His daughter called him “a great humanitarian.” Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis even staged a benefit concert for his grieving family — Mitrione had nine children — in his home town of Richmond, Indiana on August 29.”

Imagine if we could hear the incriminating shameful stories at the same volume as the triumphant patriotic tropes we are taught, we might able to begin the process of reclaiming our shared humanity.


Source: Counterpunch – Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione




No one tells me ‘nuthin anymore.  We missed the UN international torture day, it happened on June 26th and of course I hear about it after it happens.  Our media coverage was, underwhelming, as torture must not bring us down from the elation felt in the US for the SCOTUS SSM decision.

I’m not even sure what to wear to celebrate UNITD, orange jumpsuit?  Bruises?  How does one costume lifelong psychological trauma.

I’ll be ready next year though, rest assured.  :/

torture   Have you ever wondered about some of the shared traits of humanity?  One could prosaically think of Love, Compassion and Happiness and one would be correct.  If the similarities ended there, I wouldn’t be writing, nor would you be reading about the prevalence of torture across the globe.

“The report titled Torture in 2014 – 30 Years of Broken Promises read: “Although governments have prohibited this dehumanising practice in law and have recognised global disgust at its existence, many of them are carrying out torture or facilitating it in practice.”

“Three decades from the convention and more than 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights torture is not just alive and well. It is flourishing,” according to the report.

Amnesty said 155 countries have ratified the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture but many governments were still “betraying their responsibility” with at least 79 countries continuing to engage in the outlawed practice in 2014.

“It’s almost become normalised, it’s become routine,” Amnesty Secretary General Salil Shetty told reporters at the launch of the “Stop Torture” campaign in London. The campaign focuses on Mexico, the Philippines, Morocco and Western Sahara, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.”

   Awesome.  It is infuriating to see that people understood their situation and attempted to rectify the sad state of affairs – we *are* capable of being decent human beings, yet today we turn away from the lessons learned so long ago. 

“The group notes how the UN Convention made torturers “international outlaws” and prompted governments worldwide to denounce the practice. But it warns that in reality many are endorsing or at least failing to tackle the issue head-on.

“Governments have broken their promises, and because of these broken promises millions of people have suffered terribly,” said Shetty.”

No country should be above international law, the existence of jurisdictions ‘outside’ the International Court of Justice’s purview make tackling issues, like Torture,  that stretch across national boundaries difficult, if not impossible to resolve.  But hey, we’re past that whole ‘torture thing’ right?  Right??

“As I interviewed an ever-increasing number of the victims of 21st century American torture, I began to research the historical antecedents of each revolting method. The zealous acolytes of Vice-President Dick Cheney were talking about ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ as if we were being kinder and gentler now. Consider one favourite of CIA interrogators much used in the early days of the Afghanistan invasion: someone who dared talk to another detainee held in the frigid mid-winter cages of Bagram air force base would be hung up by his wrists, handcuffed to the metal fence so that he could barely stand on the tips of his toes.

handcufffenceDoes that sound like torture? Perhaps not, until a doctor explains how the shoulders gradually dislocate, amid intense pain. The method is so effective that a recalcitrant prisoner could be persuaded to give a confession that might end in his own execution. For this reason, it was employed by the Spanish Inquisition, who called it Strappado. I began to use this word, and was gratified some months later when The New York Times adopted my use of the term.

Next, I took a small historical liberty in describing a second technique as Reverse Strappado – I am not sure that the Spanish ever truly differentiated, though it is even more excruciating: this time, the prisoner’s hands are tied behind his back before he is hung from the wrists.

Waterboarding has a particularly ironic history when we trace the 21st century US practice. It is sometimes described as simulated drowning, yet this is misleading: it is a process of actual drowning. It may or may not be carried through to the point of death, at the election of the practitioner. Most commonly (what a tragedy to think that it has been common!), a cloth is placed over the face and water is poured over the victim so that he cannot breathe. Waterboarding has been widely used for several centuries, by the Spanish Inquisition, the Gestapo, Japanese torture squads, the Khmer Rouge, the Soviet secret police, Pinochet’s death squads, Mugabe’s hired thugs and, latterly, the democratically-elected government of the United States of America.

Waterboarding Middle AgesYet, perhaps it is the terminology that betrays the ultimate evil: the Inquisition were brutal but honest, calling it tortura del agua (‘water torture’). The Americans dressed it up when waterboarding Abu Zubaydah scores of times, referring to it as one of many ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’. That was doubtless designed to sound less savage, and give the Bush administration wriggle room to pretend that it was not actually violating the UN Convention against Torture.

But where did this Orwellian description originate? Did Dick Cheney coin the term? No. Indeed, when Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo waterboarded their victims, they referred to it as Verschärfte Vernehmung, which literally translates as ‘Enhanced Interrogation Technique’.

These specialised torture techniques should not obscure the purported utility of a good old-fashioned beating. Of course, the sophisticated sociopath will not call it anything so pedestrian. One Guantanamo euphemism is Forcible Cell Extraction (FCE), where half a dozen goons in Kevlar armour burst into a prisoner’s cell with batons and riot shields and pound him into the concrete floor. As recently as 2013, this was happening almost every day – and sometimes more than once – to my client Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in the prison.”

Ah, The vaunted Progress of Humanity! – a rancidly perfumed recipe written with the tears, blood and ruined bodies of the tortured.  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling *very* modern here in the 21st century.









You can bet your bottom dollar it is not, but let’s allow DarkMatter2525  illustrate yet another putrid facet of the glory of christianity.

Mmm…sweet sweet torture symbols for the winz!





Shutdown this, markets crashing that.  Hey, if the Americans want to self-destruct their country maybe they should start with Guantanamo Bay.

   We have not written on America’s imperial adventures for awhile here at DWR.   Constant examination of the antithesis of our civilization lays bare the soul, to touch the carefully crafted web we ensconce ourselves in and shake it till the dirty bitter truths rupture forth, wearies the heart and mind.  To see things as they are, as Buchan does, empties the carefully nurtured vessels of hope and replaces it with despair and bitterness:

“You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.”

  • John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir Ch. 3 “Tells of a Midsummer Night”, The Power-House (1916)

There is only so much anger and rage to go around, and after awhile, the grave injustices of the imperial wars led by the US forces us to indulge (well mostly me as I primarily wrote about it) in the luxury of “anger fatigue” where we have the privilege of  simply not responding anymore to the toxic stimulus the entire war/torture/inhumanity scenario Guantanamo so perfectly engenders.

Doesn’t work so well if you happen to be residing in the Guantanamo black hole;  as a Canadian citizen well knows – thank goodness they have finally released Omar Khadr. But there is another less happy tidbit of news, this week marks the 10 year anniversary of “Gitmo” and the international embarrassment it causes and continues to cause for the USA.

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoner arriving at Guantanamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in US history. Guantanamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It has long been past the time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close. 

President Obama has failed to shutter Guantanamo, even though on his second day in office he signed an executive order to close the prison and restore “core constitutional values”. In fact, the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act that Obama signed on New Year’s Eve contains a sweeping provision that makes indefinite military detention, including of people captured far from any battlefield, a permanent part of American law for the first time in this country’s history. This is not just unconstitutional – it’s just plain wrong.

I sure Hope he Changes that particular law, stat.  Indefinite detention is a precious handmaiden that portends the malevolent abuse of power.  Unfortunately until important (read the 1%) start getting detained it will remain out of the consciousness of the American public.

As documents secured by the ACLU demonstrate, Guantanamo became a perverse laboratory for brutal interrogation methods. Prisoners were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, extreme temperatures and prolonged isolation. It started with two false premises: Those who were sent there were all terrorists picked up on the battlefield and that, as “unlawful enemy combatants”, they had no legal rights. In reality, a tiny percentage was captured by US forces; most were seized by Pakistani and Afghan militias, tribesmen, and officials, and then sold to the US for large bounties.”

Ah yes, back to the unreality of the GWBII’s rule.  The whole we are empire, we make our own story and you plebes conduct yourselves accordingly to our narrative.  This particular break with reality is not going away quietly.  The whole shining beacon of freedom and democratic rule narrative the US likes to trumpet to world is much less believable with the spectre of Guantanamo Bay lurking conspicuously in the foreground.

“Our nation continues to pay the price for those egregious errors. Torture is the principal reason for the astonishing fact that, more than 10 years after 9/11, the alleged perpetrators of those attacks – though in US custody for as long as nine years – have not been brought to justice.

The reputation of the US as a defender of human rights has been profoundly diminished because of Guantanamo’s continued existence. Our allies have refused to share intelligence out of concern that it will be used in unfair military commissions, and will not extradite terrorism suspects if they will end up in military detention. Perhaps most critically, military officials acknowledge Guantanamo has been used for years as a recruiting tool by our enemies – creating far more terrorists than it has ever held – thereby undermining rather than enhancing our security. And torture is also why federal courts were rejected in favour of military commissions with looser evidentiary standards. Even under this imbalanced system, only six Guantanamo prisoners have been sentenced for crimes before a military commission”

    The farther we fall from truth the more our lies become the reality of our consciousness.  Orwell, in 1984, describes the process, the thinking unthinking – the conscious denial of reality in pursuit of the ever dimming goal of security and “peace”.  We strive for security yet continue with actions and policy that directly undermine our stated goals.  There is official truth and then there is the reality of the situation.  Torture is never permissible in civilized society, but enhanced interrogation techniques are?  The dissonance is frightful, but goes on as a acceptable truth, a foul monument to media an its sterling misinformation campaign.  The media helps us forget our empathy – we overlook our role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, innocents except for possessing the wrong ideology and skin colour.

Is starving to death not considered torture?  We should be asking the survivors who languished and suffered but managed not to die under the UN sanctions in Iraq during the 1990’s, about civilized behaviour.   We talk of rights, but extend them unevenly depending on ethnicity and skin colour.  We have the audacity to wonder why they still hate us after all we’ve done for them…

“Each branch of government shares responsibility for the perpetuation of Guantanamo’s legacy. Congress has chosen to score political points rather than do what’s right. It has repeatedly used its power of the purse to prevent the release or resettlement of Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release, and to bar criminal trials of those against whom there is evidence for prosecution in federal court.

Guantanamo was not a problem of President Obama’s making, but it is now one of his choosing. After his pledge to close Guantanamo within a year, the president failed to show the commitment necessary to build Congressional support, provide a logistical plan to release Guantánamo prisoners or bring them to trial. Like President Bush before him, Obama has also claimed the authority to detain without charge or trial terrorism suspects captured far from any theatre of war. 

Finally, the courts have refused to articulate and enforce clear limits on the executive’s detention authority. To be sure, the Supreme Court has on three occasions heard challenges to the Guantanamo regime, and every time has repudiated the excesses of the political branches. Those decisions held that Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention under habeas corpus, that the Geneva Conventions applied to the fight with Al Qaeda, and that the Executive Branch could not unilaterally create a military commission system with limited rights for the accused.”

Let’s bust out a little Dostoevsky, from his “The House of the Dead”:  “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  How do we fare now that we embrace the concepts of infinite detention and enhanced interrogate techniques?

“All branches of government must rise to the task. The Supreme Court must define the scope of war-time detention. It must ensure the right to habeas corpus is a meaningful one that tests, and does not rubber stamp, the government’s case. Congress must lift the unnecessary restrictions on transfer and release from Guantanamo, particularly for the 89 men whom our security services and military have unanimously determined should be released.

President Obama must also show the courage of his previously stated convictions and either prosecute the other 82 men in federal court or set them free.

Then Guantanamo must close.”

Guantanamo must close indeed.

It is the first step in the necessary self examination regarding our claim to be civilized and protectors of liberty and justice.  Does one treat gangrene by ignoring the symptoms?  A little perfume for the rotting stench?  A fresh white bandage to mask the fetid pustules on our corpulent ideals?  (smacks about the head for mixing metaphors?)  Guantanamo is but a symptom of what is wrong with our society and democracy; it is at our own peril that we continue ignore the root causes the Gitmo’s, the Patriot acts, and challenges to our basic liberties.

I’m not a fan of all of Jessie Ventura’s politics, but he makes a strong case against the use of torture while explaining to the designated right-wing nut on the View how and why its wrong.

Let’s open up the discussion.  When, if ever, is torture permissible?  Leave your opinion in the comments. :)


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