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Tortuous

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  • William T Goodall
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/wormseyeview The Wrap: A worm s eye view 28 November 2005 Andrew Brown on the CIA s tortuous distinctions Most people know that
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 28, 2005
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/wormseyeview

      "The Wrap: A worm's eye view

      28 November 2005

      Andrew Brown on the CIA's tortuous distinctions

      Most people know that millions of people died after various forms of
      torture during Stalin's purges between 1935 and 1940. Fewer are aware
      that throughout this Terror the Russian secret police - initially
      known as the NKVD, and then as the KGB - were directed by men who
      confessed, at their trials, to being agents of the British
      government.

      This was felt by many western observers to be completely ridiculous.
      After all, by the time the purges were over, it appeared that
      practically everyone in the Soviet government in 1934, and not just
      the men who ran the secret police, had been taking their orders from
      foreign governments (and from Trotsky in Mexico too). This couldn't,
      surely, be true.

      Yet it is true that while millions died in silence or even defiance,
      hundreds of thousands of wreckers and saboteurs went to their graves
      protesting their own guilt. In the dock, in front of the horrified
      and astounded observers, some from the western press, they proclaimed
      themselves guilty on every unimaginable charge.

      Some contemporary journalists believed them - most notably the New
      York Times' Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer for his reporting, and
      wrote that "the future historian will probably accept the Stalinist
      version". The American ambassador to Moscow, Joseph Davies, reported
      to his superiors from the show trial that there was "proof ... beyond
      reasonable doubt to justify the verdict of treason."

      The only evidence for these confident verdicts was confession. As
      Robert Conquest, the great historian of the Terror, wrote: "A case in
      which there was not only no evidence against the accused, but they
      also denied the charges, would clearly be rather a weak one by any
      standards. In fact, confession is the logical thing to go for when
      the accused are not guilty and there is no genuine evidence."

      So how were the confessions obtained? For years we have believed that
      the answer was "torture". But reading Conquest or Solzhenitsyn today,
      this seems less certain. Both of them list the methods used by the
      KGB - Solzhenitsyn has 28 in his, yet both say that few of these were
      in themselves torture. Here are five methods used by the KGB to
      extract their confessions:

      "1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt
      front of the prisoner and shakes him.

      2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and
      triggering fear.

      3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is
      to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised
      against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

      4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most
      effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their
      feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours.
      Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding
      confessions.

      5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept
      near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is
      doused with cold water."

      If the translation sounds unfamiliar, this is because it is indirect.
      Though all of these methods are listed by both Conquest and
      Solzhenitsyn, I took this particular list from the CIA. They are -
      according to ABC News - five of the "enhanced interrogation
      techniques" used by the CIA in secret camps on prisoners detained
      without trial or any other contact with the outside world. There is a
      sixth method of simulated drowning which even the KGB did not use.

      These are the methods described last week by Mr Bush's appointed head
      of the CIA as "a variety of unique and innovative [techniques], all
      of which are legal and none of which are torture".

      Solzhenitsyn, reviewing their effect of these tortures - wholly
      unoriginal and completely illegal even when practised by the KGB -
      asks mercy for their victims. He, who suffered terribly himself, does
      not condemn anyone who cracked: "Brother mine! Do not condemn those
      who, finding themselves in such a situation, turned out to be weak
      and confessed to more than they should have. ... Do not be the first
      to cast a stone at them."

      Neither should we. But there is one small point of justice here. The
      purpose of these tortures is to extract confessions, or, as the CIA
      calls them, "vital information". And if they are effective then we
      owe Stalin's ghost a huge apology. Orwell, Koestler, Conquest,
      Solzhenitsyn, and all the other enemies of Communism were slanderers.
      If torture works, the truth means nothing and all the heads of the
      KGB under Stalin were really working for British intelligence and
      Leon Trotsky too.

      And if you find that hard to believe, consider the only alternative:
      that the men currently directing the American government in its fight
      against evil are themselves now taking their instructions from the
      other side.

      * Andrew Brown maintains a weblog, the Helmintholog
      (http://www.thewormbook.com/helmintholog).
      "
      --
      William T Goodall
      Mail : wtg@...
      Web : http://www.wtgab.demon.co.uk
      Blog : http://radio.weblogs.com/0111221/

      'The true sausage buff will sooner or later want his own meat
      grinder.' -- Jack Schmidling

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