[Marxism] The U.S. Has a History of Using Torture

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 4 14:32:28 MST 2006

The U.S. Has a History of Using Torture
By Alfred W. McCoy

Mr. McCoy is J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of 
Wisconsin-Madison and the author of A Question of Torture: CIA 
Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: 
Metropolitan Books, 2006).

In April 2004, Americans were stunned when CBS broadcast those 
now-notorious photographs from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, showing hooded 
Iraqis stripped naked while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling.  As this 
scandal grabbed headlines around the globe, Defense Secretary Donald 
Rumsfeld insisted that the abuses were "perpetrated by a small number of 
U.S. military," whom New York Times' columnist William Safire soon branded 
"creeps"--a line that few in the press had reason to challenge.

When I looked at these photos, I did not see snapshots of simple brutality 
or a breakdown in military discipline. After more than a decade of studying 
the Philippine military's torture techniques for a monograph published by 
Yale back 1999, I could see the tell-tale signs of the CIA's psychological 
methods. For example, that iconic photo of a hooded Iraqi with fake 
electrical wires hanging from his extended arms  shows, not the sadism of a 
few "creeps," but instead the two key trademark's of the CIA's 
psychological torture. The hood was for sensory disorientation. The arms 
were extended for self-inflicted pain. It was that simple; it was that obvious.

After making that argument in an op-ed for the Boston Globe two weeks after 
CBS published the photos, I began exploring the historical continuity, the 
connections, between the CIA torture research back in the 1950s and Abu 
Ghraib in 2004. By using the past to interrogate the present, I published a 
book titled A Question of Torture last January that tracks the trail of an 
extraordinary historical and institutional continuity through countless 
pages of declassified documents. The findings are disturbing and bear 
directly upon the ongoing bitter debate over torture that culminated in the 
enactment of the Military Commissions law just last October.

full: http://hnn.us/articles/32497.html



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