US Used Communist Chinese Torture Methods
Remember the days when we used to talk about how evil communist regimes were because they tortured people? Well, it turns out that these methods are the basis for what became our modus operandi, embraced in 2002 without any dissent from the Bush administration or member of Congress. Our government approved gruesome interrogation techniques without ever looking to see where they came from.
According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.
Top officials who approved torture were clueless that waterboarding was prosecuted by the United States in war crime trials after Word War II, and was historically used by despotic regimes such as Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Spanish Inquisition. They didn’t know that SERE program trainers warned that these methods were ineffective. And the former military psychologist who persuaded them to do this never conducted a single interrogation. One former CIA official says it’s “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm.”
Philip D. Zelikow, who worked on interrogation issues as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 and 2006, said the flawed decision-making badly served Mr. Bush and the country.
“Competent staff work could have quickly canvassed relevant history, insights from the best law enforcement and military interrogators, and lessons from the painful British and Israeli experience,” Mr. Zelikow said.
What we’ve done here, as the New York Times story says, is “blur the moral distinction between terrorists and the Americans who hunted them.” Released memos, which show that two suspects were waterboarded 266 times, also reveal that CIA interrogators were ordered to torture one of the captives even though they believed he had no new information to reveal.
A little research on the origin of those methods would have given reason for doubt. Government studies in the 1950s found that Chinese Communist interrogators had produced false confessions from captured American pilots not with some kind of sinister “brainwashing” but with crude tactics: shackling the Americans to force them to stand for hours, keeping them in cold cells, disrupting their sleep and limiting access to food and hygiene.
“The Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture,’ ” one 1956 study concluded. “But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.”
Daniel J. Baumgartner, the Air Force Lt. Colonel who oversaw the SERE training, warned that physical pressure was “less reliable” than other interrogation methods, but his memo went to the Defense Department, not the CIA. But shouldn’t the Defense Department have cared about this? And John Yoo, the Justice Department official who wrote the August 2002 memo approving torture, was focused on proving that the president’s wartime powers allowed for harsh interrogations. Yoo consulted closely with Cheney advisor David Addington, and the VP strongly endorsed the program. And so the CIA had the full support of the White House to do as it wished.
And that means we were in a league with Pol Pot and the Spanish Inquisition.Click here for reuse options!
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