Thursday, June 26, 2003

We are torturing some of our captives. 

It is interesting how this information on the torture of captives in Afghanistan and other sites by the CIA, came to light. It seems that national-security officials felt a need to justify the torture, so came forward and reported it to the Washington Post. This goes beyond Freudian slip into the area of the German decision to invade Russia kind of self-defeatism. The Independent.co.uk examines the revelations:

Privately, the Americans admit that torture, or something very like it, is going on at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where they are holding an unknown number of suspected terrorists.

Al-Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners inside this secret CIA interrogation centre - in a cluster of metal shipping-containers protected by a triple layer of concertinaed wire - are subjected to a variety of practices. They are kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles. They are bound in awkward, painful positions. They are deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights. They are sometimes beaten on capture, and painkillers are withheld.

The interrogators call these "stress and duress" techniques, which one former US intelligence officer has dubbed "torture-lite". Sometimes there is nothing "lite" about the end results. The US military has announced that a criminal investigation has begun into the case of two prisoners who died after beatings at Bagram. More covertly, other terrorist suspects have been "rendered" into the hands of various foreign intelligence services known to have less fastidious records on the use of torture.

What is perhaps most disturbing about all this is that the US officials who have leaked the information have not done so out of a need to expose something that they see as shameful. On the contrary, they have made it clear that they wanted the world to know what is going on because they feel it is justified.

No fewer than 10 serving US national- security officials - including several people who have been witnesses to the handling of prisoners - came forward to speak to The Washington Post, which has published the most graphic account of what is going on in Bagram, and in several other unnamed US interrogation centres across the world. "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, one told the paper, "you probably aren't doing your job". He and the others involved are, in effect, saying: we are doing these things because we have to, and we want the world to know.