Read this and weep

The New York Times today has a long article on the torturing of prisoners by the US at Guantanamo, CIA black sites, and at other facilities around the world where the US government has control. The descriptions and the long-lasting physical and psychological effects on the victims, many of them subsequently released because they were innocent, makes for truly depressing reading as you wonder how people could treat other human beings this way.

Here are just a few of the sickening stories.

After enduring agonizing treatment in secret C.I.A. prisons around the world or coercive practices at the military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, dozens of detainees developed persistent mental health problems, according to previously undisclosed medical records, government documents and interviews with former prisoners and military and civilian doctors. Some emerged with the same symptoms as American prisoners of war who were brutalized decades earlier by some of the world’s cruelest regimes.

At least half of the 39 people who went through the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation” program, which included depriving them of sleep, dousing them with ice water, slamming them into walls and locking them in coffin-like boxes, have since shown psychiatric problems, The New York Times found. Some have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, depression or psychosis.

Hundreds more detainees moved through C.I.A. “black sites” or Guantánamo, where the military inflicted sensory deprivation, isolation, menacing with dogs and other tactics on men who now show serious damage. Nearly all have been released.

After prisoners were released from American custody, some found neither help nor relief. Mohammed Abdullah Saleh al-Asad, a businessman in Tanzania, and others were snatched, interrogated and imprisoned, then sent home without explanation. They returned to their families deeply scarred from interrogations, isolation and the shame of sexual taunts, forced nudity, aggressive body cavity searches and being kept in diapers.

Mohamed Ben Soud cannot say for certain when the Americans began using ice water to torment him. The C.I.A. prison in Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit, was perpetually dark, so the days passed imperceptibly.

The United States called the treatment “water dousing,” but the term belies the grisly details. Mr. Ben Soud, in court documents and interviews, described being forced onto a plastic tarp while naked, his hands shackled above his head. Sometimes he was hooded. One C.I.A. official poured buckets of ice water on him as others lifted the tarp’s corners, sending water splashing over him and causing a choking or drowning sensation. He said he endured the treatment multiple times.

In 2004, the C.I.A. turned Mr. Ben Soud over to Libya, which imprisoned him until the United States helped topple the Qaddafi government seven years later. In interviews, he and other Libyans said they were treated better by Colonel Qaddafi’s jailers than by the C.I.A.

Today, Mr. Ben Soud, 47, is a free man, but said he is in constant fear of tomorrow. He is racked with self-doubt and struggles to make simple decisions. His moods swing dramatically.

“‘Dad, why did you suddenly get angry?’ ‘Why did you suddenly snap?’” Mr. Ben Soud said his children ask. “‘Did we do anything that made you angry?’”

Explaining would mean saying that the Americans kept him shackled in painful contortions, or that they locked him in boxes — one the size of a coffin, the other even smaller, he said in a phone interview from his home in Misurata, Libya. They slammed him against the wall and chained him from the ceiling as the prison echoed with the sounds of rock music.

When reading the article, we should keep in mind that the things that were done were deliberate, vicious, war crimes and it is to president Obama’s lasting shame that he took absolutely no action to punish those who perpetrated it and even excused their actions.

The New York Times is not without blame either. They are very good at this kind of reporting long after the fact. During the time these things were going on, the paper (like many mainstream US media) provided cover for the Bush-Cheney regime and even refused to use the word ‘torture’ because Bush-Cheney told them not to (because under international law torture is a war crime that requires prosecution of its perpetrators) and they resorted to government approved euphemisms like ‘enhanced interrogation’ for torture and ‘extraordinary rendition’ for sending people to be tortured elsewhere. The NYT is an establishment paper and provided cover for the illegal wars and condoned and covered up the torture while it was going on, when this kind of reporting could have made a difference. They were willing accomplices in the government’s propaganda effort.

In the article, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes says, “There is no question that these tactics were entirely inconsistent with our values as Americans, and their consequences present lasting challenges for us as a country and for the individuals involved.” This is typical self-serving, disingenuous, rubbish, trying to imply that all of us were complicit in these atrocities when in reality it was a cabal of government officials that did these things. How long and repeatedly can you do things like this and say that they are “inconsistent with our values”? It is like Donald Trump saying about the appalling things that were revealed, “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am”. They accurately reflect who he is.

The torture practices reported in the article are of course inconsistent with basic human decency and civilized values but they are entirely consistent with US government values. The US does not hesitate to sanctimoniously lecture other countries on human rights while violating them themselves.


  1. Siobhan says


    Perhaps this news hasn’t had the sort of torque it ought to because it is the nebulous “Other” that has been abused by the US Government. Odd that most folks are capable of grasping the horror of these actions when they’re carried out by foreign entities against American citizens but won’t grasp the fact that the United States has been doing the same for just as long. I don’t think it’s a good thing when anyone’s in the running to outcompete Pinochet for “Crimes Against Humanity.”

  2. jrkrideau says

    The US does not hesitate to sanctimoniously lecture other countries on human rights

    Every time I hear a US spokesperson saying something on the topic I sneer.

    @ 2 Siobhan
    Pinochet is not even in the running.

  3. says

    trying to imply that all of us were complicit in these atrocities when in reality it was a cabal of government officials that did these things

    There were a lot of rank and file at CIA, as well as tons of middle management, who knew EXACTLY what was going on, and kept quiet about it.

    The account of a CIA officer throwing water on the guy, and others holding up the edges of the tarp… Right there, that’s at least 5 war criminals, plus the people who cleaned up after them, lodged them, paid their expenses, arranged their travel, bought the tarps…

  4. says

    they are entirely consistent with US government values

    When you make that point, they usually flip around to Plan B, which is arguing, “at least we didn’t BOMB THEM.”

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