Interrogators used Chinese techniques

Freedom New Mexico

For some years the story gradually emerging from investigations into the history of how the United States after 9/11 came to embrace what apologists call “enhanced interrogation techniques” and realists call torture has resembled what people in manufacturing call reverse engineering.

The United States had signed international conventions and passed domestic laws outlawing the use of torture. Studies at military educational institutions showed that the use of torture almost never elicits reliable information. The U.S. had no experience inflicting torture. So when word came down from the upper reaches of the administration – and it did come down rather than bubbling up from frustrated keepers of detainees on the ground – that it was time to go toward increasingly cruel forms of interrogation, there was a knowledge gap.

However, while the U.S. had not been using torture, it had been training people in the military and the CIA how to resist various forms of torture encountered in previous conflicts. So those tasked with training interrogators adopted or adapted the techniques used by our enemies.

Now comes the most direct evidence. The New York Times unearthed a 1957 document, an article from the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine titled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions from the Air Force Prisoners of War” by a sociologist working for the Air Force. The article included a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” such as sleep deprivation, stress positions, prolonged constraint and “exposure.”

And sure enough, interrogation trainers at Guantanamo in December 2002 used exactly that chart, with nothing changed except that the original title was removed. So the U.S. was using techniques developed and refined by the Chinese communists.

Make you feel proud?

The precise origin of the techniques is not of paramount importance. After all, torture has been used by people acting for institutions ranging from the Roman Empire to the Roman Catholic Church down through history. The point is that the “war on terror” after 9/11 was cast, with some accuracy, as a struggle between civilization and barbarism. By purposely adopting torture, which only “works” on TV shows and the movies, as an acceptable practice, the U.S. government was reverting to barbarism and blurring the moral distinctions between us and the terrorists. Predictably that weakened the U.S. cause.