[Marxism] Learning from history
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 7 08:37:00 MDT 2009
Doctors attached to various torture centers intervene after every
session to put the tortured back into condition for new sessions. Under
the circumstances, the important thing is for the prisoner…to remain
alive. Everything – heart stimulants, massive doses of vitamins—is used
before, during, and after sessions to keep the Algerian hovering between
life and death. Ten times the doctor intervenes, ten times he gives the
prisoner back to the pack of torturers.
--Frantz Fanon, “A Dying Colonialism”, p. 138
Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the
Pentagon recently held a screening of "The Battle of Algiers," the film
that in the late 1960's was required viewing and something of a teaching
tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the
Back in those days the young audiences that often sat through several
showings of Gillo Pontecorvo's 1965 re-enactment of the urban struggle
between French troops and Algerian nationalists, shared the director's
sympathies for the guerrillas of the F.L.N., Algeria's National
Liberation Front. Those viewers identified with and even cheered for Ali
La Pointe, the streetwise operator who drew on his underworld
connections to organize a network of terrorist cells and entrenched it
within the Casbah, the city's old Muslim section. In the same way they
would hiss Colonel Mathieu, the character based on Jacques Massu, the
actual commander of the French forces.
The Pentagon's showing drew a more professionally detached audience of
about 40 officers and civilian experts who were urged to consider and
discuss the implicit issues at the core of the film -- the problematic
but alluring efficacy of brutal and repressive means in fighting
clandestine terrorists in places like Algeria and Iraq. Or more
specifically, the advantages and costs of resorting to torture and
intimidation in seeking vital human intelligence about enemy plans.
Michael T. Kaufman, "What Does the Pentagon See in 'Battle of Algiers'?"
(The New York Times, September 7, 2003)
Bush's favorite historian British author Alistair Horne explains what
Pinochet, Sharon and Bush have all taken from his work, why peace means
getting rid of the priests, and why Iraq is the wrong war in the wrong
By Gary Kamiya
May. 08, 2007 | Sir Alistair Horne may be the only author in the world
whose books have been read and praised by George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon
and Robert Fisk. Not to mention by much of the senior military staff of
the U.S. Army, Middle East scholars, State Department policy wonks, and
realpolitik statesmen. The distinguished British historian, author of 18
books, became the talk of the U.S. chattering classes when it was
revealed that President Bush was reading his classic account of the
1954-1962 Algerian War, "A Savage War of Peace." Indeed, Bush was so
impressed with "A Savage War of Peace" that he invited Horne to come to
the White House for tea and a talk last Thursday.
"He wrote me the most charming handwritten letter, said he was very
interested in my books, and wanted to know more. He said 'A Savage War
of Peace' has been most useful. I was quite stunned," said Horne.
NY Times, April 7, 2009
Report Outlines Medical Workers’ Role in Torture
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON — Medical personnel were deeply involved in the abusive
interrogation of terrorist suspects held overseas by the Central
Intelligence Agency, including torture, and their participation was a
“gross breach of medical ethics,” a long-secret report by the
International Committee of the Red Cross concluded.
Based on statements by 14 prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda and were
moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in late 2006, Red Cross investigators
concluded that medical professionals working for the C.I.A. monitored
prisoners undergoing waterboarding, apparently to make sure they did not
drown. Medical workers were also present when guards confined prisoners
in small boxes, shackled their arms to the ceiling, kept them in frigid
cells and slammed them repeatedly into walls, the report said.
Facilitating such practices, which the Red Cross described as torture,
was a violation of medical ethics even if the medical workers’
intentions had been to prevent death or permanent injury, the report
said. But it found that the medical professionals’ role was primarily to
support the interrogators, not to protect the prisoners, and that the
professionals had “condoned and participated in ill treatment.”
At times, according to the detainees’ accounts, medical workers “gave
instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop
The Red Cross report was completed in 2007. It was obtained by Mark
Danner, a journalist who has written extensively about torture, and
posted Monday night with an article by Mr. Danner on the Web site of The
New York Review of Books. Much of its contents were revealed in a March
article by Mr. Danner and in a 2008 book, “The Dark Side,” by Jane Mayer
of The New Yorker, but the reporting of the Red Cross investigators’
conclusions on medical ethics and other issues are new.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, told
investigators that when he was waterboarded, his pulse and oxygen level
were monitored, and that a medical attendant stopped the procedure on
Another prisoner, Walid bin Attash, who had previously had a leg
amputated, said that when he was forced for days to stand with his arms
shackled above his head, a health worker periodically measured the
swelling in his intact leg and eventually ordered that he be allowed to sit.
The report does not indicate whether the medical workers at the C.I.A.
sites were physicians, other professionals or both. Other sources have
said that psychologists helped design and run the C.I.A. interrogation
program, that physicians’ assistants and former military paramedics
worked regularly in it, and that physicians were involved at times.
By policy, the Red Cross, the chief independent monitor of detention
conditions around the world, keeps its reports to governments
confidential to encourage officials to grant access to prisoners.
Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization in Washington,
declined on Monday to comment on the report, adding, “We deplore that
confidential material attributed to the I.C.R.C. was made public.”
Mark Mansfield, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that because of the Red Cross’s
confidentiality policy, he would not comment on the report. He said that
President Obama had prohibited all government interrogators from using
techniques apart from the noncoercive methods in the Army Field Manual,
and that the new C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, “has taken decisive
steps to ensure that the C.I.A. abides by the president’s executive orders.”
Mr. Mansfield added, however, that Mr. Panetta “has stated repeatedly
that no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department
of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.” The
C.I.A.’s interrogation methods were declared legal by the Justice
Department under President George W. Bush.
In its 40-page report, the Red Cross roundly condemned the C.I.A.
detention program not only for using torture and other cruel treatment,
but also for holding prisoners without notice to governments or families.
“The totality of the circumstances in which the 14 were held effectively
amounted to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and enforced
disappearance, in contravention of international law,” said the report,
which was provided to the C.I.A. acting general counsel, John Rizzo, in
Shortly after taking office in January, Mr. Obama ordered the C.I.A.
secret detention program closed and directed that the Red Cross be
promptly informed of every person detained by the C.I.A. or any other
The report also provided new details of the Bush administration’s
failure to cooperate for several years with the Red Cross’s inquiries
and investigations of American detention programs. Repeated inquiries
and reports from the organization beginning in 2002 received no response
from American officials, the report said, though the United States sent
a diplomatic message addressing some inquiries in 2005.
M. Gregg Bloche, a Georgetown University law professor, who also trained
as a psychiatrist and is now a visiting professor at the University of
Chicago law school, called the report’s findings “a disturbing
confirmation of our worst fears about medical professionals’ involvement
in directing and modulating cruel treatment and torture.”
Another critic of medical involvement in harsh interrogation, Dr. Steven
H. Miles, a physician at the Center for Bioethics of the University of
Minnesota, said he had counted about 70 cases worldwide after World War
II in which physicians were punished for participating in torture or
related crimes. Most were in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, he
said. None have been in the United States.
Dr. Miles said that in recent decades, torture had almost always
involved medical professionals, and that to deter future misconduct, the
medical role in the C.I.A. program should be fully disclosed.
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