What torture is

Abu Graib photo

I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will provide more bad than good intelligence. Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”  Former Senator and POW John McCain

Despite Senator McCain’s reaction to yesterday’s release of the Senate Select Committee’s study regarding a detention and interrogation program implemented by the CIA over a decade ago, other responses to the report and its release remind me of Bill Clinton’s rationalization before a grand jury about why he wasn’t lying about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky.

Just like Bill, naysayers would have us believe that whether the United States government sanctioned and conducted torture “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Let’s cut through all the hyperbole and apply a simple litmus test for determining whether the CIA conducted torture: Imagine your son or daughter—regardless of the accusation or alleged crime—being detained in a foreign country and subjected to any of the following “techniques” as detailed in the Senate committee study (http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014/sscistudy1.pdf):

• Deprivation of sleep continuing for up to 180 hours (over seven days)
• Stripped naked and shackled to a wall in a standing position with arms above the head for over 50 hours
• Beaten while being dragged mostly unclothed down a cold, dank hallway
• Told that your mother would be brought before you and sexually abused
• Forced ingestion of food or water via an IV tube inserted through the anal captivity. In one case, “lunch” consisted of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins “pureed and rectally infused”
• Manipulated stress positions and slapping of the face, back of head, and stomach multiple times resulting in cuts and bruises
• Water dousing with 44-degree water for up to 18 minutes at a time.
• Denial of bathroom facilities while being attired in only a diaper.
• Denial of medical care
• Baths with stiff brushes

Taken in the context of an American citizen being subjected to such systematic abuse and stripping away any of the naysayers’ Clintonesque-convoluted logic, I believe this list clearly defines what torture “is.”


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