Monday, December 15, 2014

The Torture Report Doesn't Appear to Actually Describe Torture

The recent "torture" report from the House Democrats was issued to (a) draw attention away from Jonathan Gruber's recent testimony regarding Obama Care (pathetically, the same information was made public in 2009); and (b) a last attempt to paint Republicans as evil. Unfortunately, at least for the Democrats, is that about half of Americans seem okay with it.  More Americans would probably not care if they knew what was being considered torture.

Rolling Stone Magazine (not exactly known for objective or even accurate reporting, especially after the completely made up story about a gang rape at a UVa fraternity) lists the so-called tortures: (1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard.

So what are these? From a Wall Street Journal article:
“Attention grasp” – Grabbing a detainee forcibly by the collar. 
Cramped confinement – Place the detainee in a dark, tight space for hours at a time. 
Cramped confinement “with an insect” - Developed for Abu Zubaydah, a militant commander allegedly allied with Osama bin Laden. CIA officers learned Mr. Zubaydah was afraid of insects, so they sought permission to place him in a box with a harmless bug such as a caterpillar, while telling him it was a stinging insect. People familiar with the matter say this technique was approved but not used. 
Facial hold – Holding the detainee’s head immobile during questioning. 
Facial slap or “Insult Slap” – Slapping a detainee in the face “with fingers slightly spread.” “The goal of the facial slap is not to inflict physical pain” but “to induce shock, surprise, and/or humiliation,” Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote. 
Sleep deprivation – A detainee is forced to go without sleep for more than 48 hours. “You have orally informed us that you would not deprive Zubaydah of sleep for more than 11 days at a time and that you have previously kept him awake for 72 hours,” Mr. Bybee wrote. 
Stress positions – Requiring the detainee to stay in uncomfortable positions to induce muscle fatigue. 
“Walling” – Pushing a detainee “quick and forcefully” against a flexible wall. “The false wall is in part constructed to create a loud sound when the individual hits it, which will further shock or surprise… the individual,” Mr. Bybee wrote for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002. 
Wall standing – “Used to induce muscle fatigue.” The detainee is forced to stand about four feet from a wall, leaning so that his arms resting against the wall carry some of his weight. “The individual is not permitted to move or reposition his hands or feet,” Mr. Bybee wrote. 
Waterboarding – A detainee lying on a gurney has a cloth placed over his face. Water is poured on the cloth, simulating the experience of drowning.
Ann Coulter wrote a scathingly sarcastic article about these techniques in 2009. However, I would note that I suffered many of these growing up and none the worse for the wear: my father seemed fond of the attention grasp, facial hold, facial slap and walling, depending on the offense. And, of course, every police drama on TV features these "torture" techniques. My mother preferred the "cramped confinement"--"go to bed and don't get up 'til I tell you." I had some teachers sadistically use "wall standing" and "stress positions": e.g., "stand with your nose in the corner" or the worse "sit at your desk with your head down." The sleep deprivation, unfortunately, was generally self-induced, especially around the time term papers were due. Worse than the detainees, I was subjected to spankings at home and at school (the latter of which was so pitiful that, instead of causing pain, I almost burst out laughing).

A lot of attention is focused on water boarding, which apparently was only used on three individuals. describes the technique:
Restrain the interrogation subject on a board. Incline the board about 15-20 degrees so that the feet are above the head. Optionally, put a damp cloth over the face to keep the water clinging to the face (Khmer Rouge technique), or put plastic wrap over the mouth but not the eyes or nose to prevent water from escaping the throat and sinuses (CIA technique). Pour water onto the inclined face so that the water runs into the upturned mouth and nose. The water stays in the head, filling the throat, mouth, and sinuses with water. The lungs don't fill up with water so your prisoner doesn't asphyxiate, but they *do* feel their entire upper respiratory system from sinuses to trachea filled with water, "simulating drowning". You're drowning your subject from the inside, filling their head and neck. The lungs stay out of the water, keeping oxygen in the blood and prolonging the glubbing. "His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown." Key points:
  • Keep the chest elevated above the head and neck to keep the lungs "above the waterline".
  • Incline the head, both to keep the throat open and to present the nostrils for easier filling.
  • Force the mouth open so that water can be poured into both the nose and mouth.
Saran wrap, damp cloth, or any facial covering is not essential, but sometimes used as a bonus multiplier. If someone coughs to try to blow the water out of their throat or mouth the plastic catches the water and keeps it in. The cloth or plastic also acts as a one-way valve, opening to let more air out and then closing again to prevent inhalation. Eventually you end up with collapsed, empty lungs, no ability to inhale more air, a throat, mouth, and nose that's still full of water, and no capacity to get the water out since you're already fully exhaled. 
Another issue that seems to have caught the attention of reporters is the rectal rehydration techniques, which has handedly been demonstrated by Bear Grylls:

So what is real torture? This piece from the Daily Mail describes some of ISIS' favorite techniques:

  • The ghost: The hands are tied behind their back with handcuffs, which are then used to suspend their bodies in the air. (aka, strappado)
  • The German chair: Victims are strapped to a chair whose back is adjusted abruptly at will to cause extreme spinal damage.
  • The flying carpet: Victims are strapped down to a hinged board. The ends are then brought towards each other to bend the spine.
  • The tyre: Victims are placed inside a large tyre - rendering them immobile - before they're mercilessly beaten

Don't forget the rapes. Muslims love to rape prisoners--men or women. I'm sure it more humiliating than forcing the prisoner to wear a diaper.

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