Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation
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Many Americans have condemned the "enhanced interrogation" techniques used in the War on Terror as a transgression of human rights. But the United States has done almost nothing to prosecute past abuses or prevent future violations. Tracing this knotty contradiction from the 1950s to the present, historian Alfred W. McCoy probes the political and cultural dynamics that have made impunity for torture a bipartisan policy of the U.S. government.
During the Cold War, McCoy argues, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency covertly funded psychological experiments designed to weaken a subject's resistance to interrogation. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the CIA revived these harsh methods, while U.S. media was flooded with seductive images that normalized torture for many Americans. Ten years later, the U.S. had failed to punish the perpetrators or the powerful who commanded them, and continued to exploit intelligence extracted under torture by surrogates from Somalia to Afghanistan. Although Washington has publicly distanced itself from torture, disturbing images from the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are seared into human memory, doing lasting damage to America's moral authority as a world leader.
The book is published by University of Wisconsin Press.
psychological torture is elusive, lacking clear signs of abuse and greatly complicating any investigation, prosecution, or attempt at prohibition. With no visible marks to indicate the degree of severity, psychological torture is particularly vulnerable to the deﬁnitional challenges inherent to any ﬁnding of torture. After being trained in this doctrine by British intelligence, the Royal Ulster Constabulary applied these methods on IRA suspects at Belfast in 1971 by using the so-called ﬁve
inﬂict unimaginable pain upon hapless individuals. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, social reformers have worked to ban this ancient punishment, making torture synonymous with tyranny. After two centuries of such struggle, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously in 1948 to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated, unequivocally, in Article 3: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
Pentagon approval for this less restrictive approach. Modern Medical Ethics The past as described in this chapter, particularly its more public aspects, has some important lessons for the contemporary debate over professional ethics within the American Psychological Association that erupted in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. By the early 1960s, as the CIA’s secret drug research wound down and lucrative defense contracts thus dwindled, Dr. Beecher seems to have been freed from conﬂicts that
8,191. Vietnamese police oﬃcers selected for training in advanced interrogation techniques at the International Police Academy in Washington, a front for covert CIA torture training, readily accepted such brutality as essential for national security. After devoting four pages of his fourteen-page thesis to a history of European torture, Luu Van Huu of the National Police summarized lessons learned: “We have 4 sorts of torture: use of force as such; threats; physical suﬀering, imposed indirectly;
popular James Bond series. (MPTV Images) Agent 007 is manacled to a metal table, fully clothed while a laser beam moves slowly between his legs, burning a smoking groove in the steel sheet—until it suddenly stops just short of his crotch as Bond cleverly deceives the villainous Goldﬁnger. In Casino Royale (2006), by contrast, secret agent 007 is lashed to a chair completely naked. His shaved, muscled torso writhes in eroticized pain while an empowered terrorist pounds at his genitals with a