Who are the doctors of torture? Why the torture?

Larisa Alexandrovna

I cannot stop thinking about the so called “medical doctors” and “psychiatrists” who are helping to torture prisoners in US custody at camps such as Gitmo, and secret prisons around the globe. Who are these people?

From a 2005 NYT article:

“The accounts shed light on how interrogations were conducted and raise new questions about the boundaries of medical ethics in the nation’s fight against terrorism.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, declined to address the specifics in the accounts. But he suggested that the doctors advising interrogators were not covered by ethics strictures because they were not treating patients but rather were acting as behavioral scientists.

Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as ”biscuit” teams, which advise interrogators.

”Their purpose was to help us break them,” one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year.”

Behavioral scientists? So if they are not treating the patients, are they conducting behavioral experiments? That is what I read from that DOD statement. And then I remembered something about Dr. Ewen Cameron I had read in Naomi Klein’s monumental Shock Doctrine. I had heard of Dr. Cameron before, because believe it or not he had served on the Nuremberg Medical Tribunal. His claim to fame, however, was his horrific experiments on human subjects, funded by the CIA called MKUltra. What I remember from Klein’s book is the similarities that his methods share with those we see today in our own global torture chambers.

Here is Klein discussing Dr. Cameron on Democracy Now:

“McGill in Montreal. At the time, the head of psychiatry was a man named Ewen Cameron. He was actually an American citizen. He was formerly head of the American Psychiatric Association, which I think is quite relevant to the debates going on right now about complicity in the psychiatric profession with current interrogation techniques. Ewen Cameron was head of the American Psychiatric Association. He moved to McGill to be head of psychiatry and to head up a hospital called the Allan Memorial Hospital, which was a psychiatric hospital.

He got funding from the CIA, and he turned the Allan Memorial Hospital into this extraordinary laboratory for what we now understand as alternative interrogation techniques. He dosed his patients with these odd cocktails of drugs, like LSD and PCP. He put them to sleep, sort of into a comatose state for up to a month. He put some of his patients into extreme sensory deprivation, and the point was to make them lose track of time and space.

And what Ewen Cameron believed, or at least what he said he believed, was that all mental illness was taught later in life, that these were patterns that set in later in life. He was a behavioral psychologist. And so, rather than getting at the root of those problems and trying to understand them, he believed that the way to treat mental illness was to take adult patients and reduce them to a childlike state. And it’s been well known — it was well known at the time — that one of the side effects of electroshock therapy was memory loss. And this was something that was seen, actually, by most doctors as a problem, because patients were treated, they may have reported some positive results, but they forgot all kinds of things about their life. Ewen Cameron looked at this research and thought, “Aha, this is good,” because he believed that it was the patterns that — because he believed that it was the patterns that were set in later in life, that if he could take his patients back to an infantile state, before they even had language, before they knew who they were, then he could essentially re-mother them, and he could turn them into healthy people. So this is the idea that caught the attention of the CIA, this idea of deliberately inducing extreme regression.”

In her book, Klein describes that the real interest for the CIA in funding the McGill experiments was to see if a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ could be recreated out of the regressed, “empty slate” that the Cameron technique made out of a victim.

Now, I have not finished the book yet, so Klein may actually cover this. But I have long been unable to reconcile the notion that we are torturing people in order to obtain information from them with the reality of the number of people, the majority of whom were innocent of any wrongdoing, and the opinion of most experts that torture did not work for information gathering. What then, I thought, were we torturing people for?

In Klein’s book, she describes the applications of torture as a mechanism conducted to “shock” the belief system out of the believer as simultaneous military methods are used to shock the freedom out of a nation – for example, in Chile’s bloody Pinochet coup sponsored by the CIA. Ironically, this terrorism was also a September 11 event.

The problem, however, with applying the Cameron template to Iraq and Afghanistan and to extraordinary rendition victims from all over the world, is that unlike in Chile, the effectiveness of “shock” to individual and to his/her society by extension was successful because it was done by the light of day. It was used to both shock the individual out of their political beliefs and through example, those who witnessed the horrific tactics.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and any number of prisons around the world run by the Bush-Cheney cabal, the “shocks” are delivered in secret. We, the public, only know of them because of courageous whistle-blowers, and sources who leaked to courageous reporters. These things have been so secret that it took years before we knew anything and to this day, we don’t know the half of it.

Moreover, the number of victims in unknown for sure, despite estimates, and the victims have come from a number of countries, including those we are not at war with, like Italy, Germany, and Canada. In other words, although the methods are clearly the same as Dr. Cameron’s torture methods (and also those of Nazi scientists that the US helped bring to safety post WWII in Operation Paperclip), the motive here appears to be different.

The selection of victims is based entirely on their religion and ethnicity. Most of the victims selected by the cabal are either Muslims or resembling Middle Easterners. Yet the victims selected for the torture chambers appear from Europe as well as the Middle East, Canada, as well as the US.

In a document leaked to me in 2005, we learned that at the very least (and these are only the ones known about and documented), the US had detained roughly 70 thousand people since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars:

“U.S. forces have held 35,000 detainees in Iraq since the onset of war. Of those, only 1,300 have been tried, and only half of those tried have been convicted, averaging roughly two percent of the detainee population.

The combined figures of those detainee in both Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is upwards of 70,000.

According to CENTCOM sources, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq has so far held 684 ‘Coalition trials’ involving 1,259 security detainees, in which a total of only 636 detainees were convicted. Sources say that in total more than 21,000 detainees have been released from Iraq internment facilities.

The CENTCOM slide contains a graphical breakdown of each camp and its detainee population. Included in this count are Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca, Camp Cropper, Fort Suse and Camp Ashraf. Other, less known camps are not included in this count, including Al-Kazimiyah and Al-Nasiriyah. Sources familiar with US detention camps also point to an alleged facility at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as well as an installation on the USS Baton.”

Now, for collecting information, 70 thousand of men, women, and children are exactly why I do not believe that the torture has anything to do with intelligence gathering. Think about it, 70k people arrested and held without charge, tortured, all for identifying what? How many of these people could actually know anything of value? And even if they did, how many of these people could provides leads that the US could follow up? Where would we even get the manpower?

But let’s also consider, that many of the detainees were held for years, long after they were broken by torture and long after any information they could have provided would have been of use to anyone. Then they were quietly let go.

Whatever the torture is for, it does not appear to be for the shock element as described by Klein, although it has served that purpose in limited form (for example, Fallujah). The torture is also absolutely not part of intelligence gathering, because the numbers of people, their demographics in terms of age and gender, their unlikely access to actual terrorists (that would require something of a connection with Pakistani ISI and the Taliban) would make it a fruitless experiment in the already well known pointlessness horror of torture as a tool of good intelligence gathering .

Now for the speculation, which is all this can be with the limited amount of evidence there is in any direction.

Fake war on terror needs fake enemy soldiers?

We are very much in real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and with very real American casualties to prove it. What we are not, however, is in this thing called The War on Terror. That is a slogan, a label on a product line that does not exist in reality.

Because, if we were really fighting a war on terror, then why are we in Iraq? Why are the two major nations who train terrorists and fund terrorists our allies in a war against Iraq? I am speaking obviously of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Indeed, we have waged a war in Iraq at expense of any real or meaningful progress towards a fight against real terrorism. The War on Terror is a lie, that is something we already know. We also know that the lie has been pushed by people who believe in endless war and creative destruction. But if the incidents of terrorism were – as we know – rather limited on the world level prior to our invasion of Iraq (in comparison with post Iraq invasion numbers), how would an endless war be justified?

Remember, al Qaeda prior to the Iraq war was at its height maybe several hundred strong. Hezbollah had not targeted American interests in years. And all of the limited anti-American terrorism around the world pre-911, was aimed at our embassies, not at generating massive casualties of American civilians, which is what we saw on 9/11.

The only thing that I can conclude given that the mechanisms and methods of torture are almost exactly what Cameron and others were doing in order to create the perfect robot, is that the Bush-Cheney cabal needed an enemy army, a terrorist army that could be used to justify the war on terror as an endless necessary war for the safety of our nation.

Again, I am just speculating, so please do not take this to be anything more than a theory cobbled together out of a few shreds here and a few shreds there. But it is nevertheless an interesting possibility to consider.