[Marxism] NYT: China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 2 09:22:00 MDT 2008

(It's a funny thing, isn't it, that they're trying to fob the blame
off on China for what WASHINGTON and its torturers have been doing
to its captives in Guantanamo? Torture is a terrible thing, and yet
Washington maintains normal diplomatic and trading relations with
the People's Republic of China, despite this. Well, China-bashing
is all the rage in certain circles and presumably they think this
will divert attention from WASHINGTON's responsibility for torture.
It's like Malcolm X said about the role of the media: They try to
turn the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim.
Poor innocent Washington, seduced by those Communist Svangalis in
Red China.)

July 2, 2008
China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December
2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of
“coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including
“sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart
had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist
techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them
false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way
Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as
torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base
at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo
before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The
C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret
“alternative” interrogation methods.

Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive
methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June
17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.

But committee investigators were not aware of the chart’s source in the
half-century-old journal article, a connection pointed out to The New York
Times by an independent expert on interrogation who spoke on condition of

The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist
Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and
written by Alfred D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force,
who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning
from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese
interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

Those orchestrated confessions led to allegations that the American
prisoners had been “brainwashed,” and provoked the military to revamp its
training to give some military personnel a taste of the enemies’ harsh
methods to inoculate them against quick capitulation if captured.

In 2002, the training program, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion,
Resistance, Escape, became a source of interrogation methods both for the
C.I.A. and the military. In what critics describe as a remarkable case of
historical amnesia, officials who drew on the SERE program appear to have
been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false
confessions by American prisoners.

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, said after reviewing the 1957 article that “every
American would be shocked” by the origin of the training document.

“What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to
get false confessions,” Mr. Levin said. “People say we need intelligence,
and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence.”

A Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col Patrick Ryder, said he could not
comment on the Guantánamo training chart. “I can’t speculate on previous
decisions that may have been made prior to current D.O.D. policy on
interrogations,” Colonel Ryder said. “I can tell you that current D.O.D.
policy is clear — we treat all detainees humanely.”

Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article described “one form of torture” used by the
Chinese as forcing American prisoners to stand “for exceedingly long
periods,” sometimes in conditions of “extreme cold.” Such passive methods,
he wrote, were more common than outright physical violence. Prolonged
standing and exposure to cold have both been used by American military and
C.I.A. interrogators against terrorist suspects.

The chart also listed other techniques used by the Chinese, including
“Semi-Starvation,” “Exploitation of Wounds,” and “Filthy, Infested
Surroundings,” and with their effects: “Makes Victim Dependent on
Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” and “Reduces
Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns.”

The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its
original title: “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual

The documents released last month include an e-mail message from two SERE
trainers reporting on a trip to Guantánamo from Dec. 29, 2002, to Jan. 4,
2003. Their purpose, the message said, was to present to interrogators “the
theory and application of the physical pressures utilized during our

The sessions included “an in-depth class on Biderman’s Principles,” the
message said, referring to the chart from Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article.
Versions of the same chart, often identified as “Biderman’s Chart of
Coercion,” have circulated on anti-cult sites on the Web, where the methods
are used to describe how cults control their members.

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist who also studied the returning
prisoners of war and wrote an accompanying article in the same 1957 issue of
The Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, said in an interview that
he was disturbed to learn that the Chinese methods had been recycled and
taught at Guantánamo.

“It saddens me,” said Dr. Lifton, who wrote a 1961 book on what the Chinese
called “thought reform” and became known in popular American parlance as
brainwashing. He called the use of the Chinese techniques by American
interrogators at Guantánamo a “180-degree turn.”

The harshest known interrogation at Guantánamo was that of Mohammed
al-Qahtani, a member of Al Qaeda suspected of being the intended 20th
hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Qahtani’s interrogation involved sleep
deprivation, stress positions, exposure to cold and other methods also used
by the Chinese.

Terror charges against Mr. Qahtani were dropped unexpectedly in May.
Officials said the charges could be reinstated later and declined to say
whether the decision was influenced by concern about Mr. Qahtani’s

Mr. Bush has defended the use the interrogation methods, saying they helped
provide critical intelligence and prevented new terrorist attacks. But the
issue continues to complicate the long-delayed prosecutions now proceeding
at Guantánamo.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Qaeda member accused of playing a major role in
the bombing of the American destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000, was charged
with murder and other crimes on Monday. In previous hearings, Mr. Nashiri,
who was subjected to waterboarding, has said he confessed to participating
in the bombing falsely only because he was tortured.

     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

More information about the Marxism mailing list