Welcome Marjorie Cohn, (Marjorie Cohn) and Host Stephen Soldz, (Psyche, Science and Society).

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse

Host Stephen Soldz:

The Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program brought the issue of torture to the forefront of American thought and attention over the last decade. As the Global War on Terror unfolded, a long-standing public consensus that “torture” is bad was destroyed as the definitional boundaries of torture were pushed back by clever government lawyers and polished pundits. Meanwhile, psychologists and other behavioral scientists designed and implemented torture techniques that, while horrifying in terms of their effect on the tortured, nonetheless had the important characteristic of being deniable as they left no visible scars.

This torture program was not created out of whole cloth. In fact, despite the public consensus that torture is bad, it could be said, to paraphrase J. Rap Brown, that torture is as American as cherry pie. Marjorie Cohn, Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, has put together this collection of 14 essays to explore facets of our country’s recent experiences with torture while placing those experiences in broader contexts – historical, legal, and moral.

Chapters explore the history of US torture, with Alfred McCoy summarizing his seminal work on the development from the 1950s of the CIA’s particular style of psychological torture. McCoy argues here that this torture style survived because it possessed five attributes. It was Elusive, Resilient, Adaptable, Seductive, and Destructive. In my chapter, I build upon McCoy’s argument by describing the role of psychologists in designing, implementing, and justifying the “enhanced interrogation” torture program. I also describe the struggle against the complicity in torture of the American Psychological Association, the largest mental health organization in the world.

Continuing the exploration of historical context, other chapters describe the propagation of torture in Latin America through the US Army’s School of the Americas (renamed WHINSEC), as well as a case study of US involvement in the civil war in El Salvador, carefully maintaining plausible deniability for the US of the nature and extent of these abuses. We have seen similar plausible deniability in the last decade’s torture, with frequent assertions by leaders who authorized torture that “the US does not torture.” This plausible deniability is also seen in the US program of rendition to torture described by Jane Mayer, accompanied as it was by “assurances” that the person being delivered for torture would not be “tortured.”

One chapter by a habeas corpus attorney describes the routine, yet deeply disturbing, bureaucratic abuse of a deeply disturbed and likely innocent Guantánamo detainee. This chapter ends with a statement that summarizes in one pithy phrase the horrors of Guantánamo : “As I prepare to leave, Adnan has one last thing to say. ‘Death,’ he tells me, ‘would be more merciful than life here.’”

Among those of us who have devoted significant time and resources to combating torture in the national security context, there has, at times, been a nagging concern. Was the tremendous amount of time and energy devoted to the abusive treatment of a relatively small number of individuals at Guantánamo and the CIA’s black site torture centers disproportionate when we have hundreds of thousands of prisoners held in extremely harsh and abusive conditions in our immense domestic prison system? Should we rather focus our energy upon changing the torturous brutality of all too much of the US penal system? Thus I was pleased to see this book contains a chapter, “Mass Torture in America: Notes from the Supermax Prisons,” reminding us that prolonged solitary confinement is brutal and soul-destroying, whatever the rationale provided for its use.

Not surprisingly for a book edited by a lawyer, half of the included authors are lawyers. The majority of the chapters written by these authors discuss the urgent need for accountability for those who authorized, provided the legal justifications for, and implemented torture. While acknowledging the uphill struggle, these authors make the case that torture unpunished will become torture repeated and routinized. Alas, the possibility of accountability today is even bleaker than it appeared two years ago when these chapters were being completed. Perhaps in today’s discussion we can discuss how, and if, this climate can be changed.

120 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Marjorie Cohn, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse”

BevW June 19th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Marjorie, Welcome back to the Lake.

Stephen, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 1:58 pm

It’s my pleasure.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thanks Bev, and thanks Marjorie, for this opportunity. I hope we have a lively discussion of some of the crucial issues facing the country.

To begin, I’d like to ask Marjorie how she selected the topics to be covered in the book.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 3

I thought it would be useful to readers to have a wide array of angles on the torture issue. So I set out to find a psychologist, a philosopher, a historian, a political scientist, a sociologist, journalists and lawyers to give different perspectives on torture. I selected folks based on my knowledge of their work in this and related areas.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 4

And I should add that Sister Dianna Ortiz, who wrote the preface, is a Catholic nun who was viciously tortured in Guatemala in the 1980s when the United States was supporting the dictatorship there. She brings still another perspective – a very personal one – to the book.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

If you had to briefly sum up the message of the book, how would you do so?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The program of torture and abuse that became so notorious during the Bush administration was not new. It was the continuation of a U.S. policy that dates back at least to the 19th Century, when slaves were whipped and tortured in other ways. It also covers the CIA’s involvement in torture and training torturers, and parallels U.S. foreign policy that has as its aim the domination of other peoples.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

As you indicate, the book demonstrates that torture is pretty prevalent in our government’s functioning and its history – detainees, prisons, counterinsurgency. Given this, is it really realistic for us to abolish torture?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 8

You could say the same thing about the death penalty, and yet, Europe has abolished it and several other countries have outlawed it as well. Capital punishment was carried out at the Nuremberg Tribunal, but the International Criminal Court and the regional criminal tribunals (Yugoslavia, Rwanda) don’t allow it for the worst crimes – war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Individual US states are abolishing the death penalty and hopefully, eventually, our federal government will as well.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 7

So in a way you are answering the question;

“Why do they hate us?”

Most of us haven’t a clue.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 9

Good analogy. How can we bring about the same result for torture?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 10

Good point. When people in other countries see us occupying the lands of Arab and Muslim peoples and killing and torturing people like them, it makes them hate us more, not less. It makes us more vulnerable to terrorism. US Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified before Congress that the 2 leading factors that endangered our soldiers in Iraq were Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

TomThumb June 19th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hi Marjorie Cohn!
Your background in International Law and Humanitarian law is unique. Can you share your a bit of your history with this kind of law with the readers? To give your work a larger context.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 12

Matthew Alexander, an Air Force Major and interrogator (author of How to Catch a Terrorist) often makes the same point.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 11

By educating the American people about exactly what is being done in our name. If folks saw graphic pictures of people being tortured – not just by a few bad apples – but the widespread torture and cruel treatment, they would be appalled. And if they were educated about how torture doesn’t work, it’s illegal, and actually counter-productive because of the blowback, opposition to torture would grow.

Jeff Kaye June 19th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Hi Marjorie. Hi Stephen. Hi Bev.

Thanks to all of you for today’s interesting and timely subject.

This coming week, the Senate Intelligence Comnmittee will be holding hearings on the nomination of Gen. Petraeus to head the CIA. Petraeus was, as the man in charge of training Iraqi security forces from mid-2003 and for the next couple of years, deeply implicated in the FRAGO 242 order that made U.S. forces unable to intervene in torture by their Iraqi allies, and at most, file a report with their own people about torture, even as they were ordered to hand captured “insurgents” over to forces they knew would torture.

Do you know of anyone involved in bringing up this crucial issue when Petraeus stands before the Intel Committee this Thursday? I believe each of you have contacts in Congress. Will you talk to them and see that someone makes this a public issue (at least to the ability you can)?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to TomThumb @ 13

I have taught, written and lectured about human rights and humanitarian law for many years. My first experience was as a human rights observer for the International Association of Democratic Lawyers in Iran one year before the fall of the Shah. I have participated in many delegations, including in Yugoslavia, China, Cuba, and countries in Europe and Latin American, where I have lectured about human rights. And my books cover these topics as well.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 11

If I may;

It also covers the CIA’s involvement in torture and training torturers, and parallels U.S. foreign policy that has as its aim the domination of other peoples.

One place I’d start is teaching our children that indulging in the will to dominate, is evidence of a very low level of spiritual development.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 14

Yes, as does Ali Soufan, former high level FBI interrogator who interrogated Abu Zubaydah. Soufan wrote in the New York Times that the most useful information was gotten from Zubaydah before he was tortured (waterboarded, etc.)

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 16

Good point, Jeff. I will contact folks through the National Lawyers Guild and other groups.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 18

Yes, and you could also say that they should do to others what they would want done to them.

William Newbill June 19th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

This sounds like an interesting book and a contribution to some of the other earlier works like Torture Team, by the noted legal scholar Philippe Sands. I hope to read this one. The use of torture has discredited every principle we supposedly stand for in the U.S. It has had a devastating impact on our credibility, and I fear that it is continuing under Obama.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 18

One of the remarkable things about the torture memos is the dearth of discussion about what torture and abuse really does to human beings.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 21

I wish I felt so sanguine. It seems to me that much of our current TV shows the brutality in our domestic prisons and the response of much of the public’s is “More! More! Make them suffer more!” And Congress forbade the closing of Guantánamo , not, because the people would only be transferred elsewhere, but because the public largely dosn’t want them ever released.

It seems hard to figure out how to change what I perceive as a public acceptance of brutality.

Jeff Kaye June 19th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 20

Thanks, Marjorie. The torture scandal runs so deep that there are many areas that touch upon it that cannot be tortured in the space of a book, even a book with chapters written by individuals from different disciplines.

I recommend your book as an excellent introduction to the topic for readers looking to understand more of why torture is such an important topic, and not just about, say, whether the CIA waterboarded or not.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Philippe Sands is the author of one of the book chapters, discussing how the Bush lawyers gave the administration “legal cover” for their torture program. Richard Falk (who authored another chapter) calls them “legal mercenaries.” The treatment of Bradley Manning can be called torture. Lance Tapley’s chapter discusses how solitary confinement can cause hallucinations, catatonia and suicide. And stripping Manning naked and displaying his naked body to other inmates is humiliating and degrading treatment, which also violates US and international law.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 24

If people had ready access to an analysis that shows how torture makes us less safe, that might resonate with many.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 25

Thanks, Jeff. And thanks for your groundbreaking work in this area, which I highly recommend to readers.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 23

I know this starts to get complicated, but I’d even point out the things it does to the torturers and their apologists.

Alan Dershowitz comes to mind.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

How are we to understand the post-9/11 turn toward torture, especially toward officially sanctioned torture, given that most interrogation and intelligence professionals assert that it is ineffective at best, and a great recruiting tool for our government’s enemies at worst?

Jeff Kaye June 19th, 2011 at 2:35 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 23

I think the dearth of discussion can be laid at the feet of the Obama administration, who has censored the discussion by withholding documents and photos, by going after whistleblowers who might have more to say, and by openly proclaiming that it does not wish to “look backwards”.

I think bloggers and writers should make the point that torture does happen today, and that Obama did not end rendition and torture. But it is very difficult to get that message out there.

As such, the biggest obstacle to getting this information talked about more is the electoralism that infects the political class, best known as “lesser evilism”, which has “pundits” and activists censor themselves regarding the crimes of current party or state actors, out of fear that it would hurt their electoral chances and we might get someone “worse.”

That means, don’t challenge Obama on torture, because we might get Palin or Romney. Don’t challenge Obama on Libya, because… well, why isn’t everyone condemning Obama for this? Suddenly we’re supposed to be aware of all the torture Qadaffi has done, but of U.S. torture, or that of its allies, nothing is reported in the U.S.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 29

Jane Mayer, in her chapter, quotes a former FBI agent who says that torturers “lose their souls.” Dershowitz advocates torture warrants where a judge could approve a government request to torture. He has evidently not read the Convention Against Torture (a treaty the US has ratified, which makes it part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution). It says that no exceptional circumstances, including a state war, can be used as a justification for torture. That means that torture is always illegal – no exceptions.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 30

I think it has to do with the abuse of power – and deep-seated racism as well. Most of the torture victims are not white.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 31

Yes. Now we see many Republicans leading the charge to end the US wars in Libya and Afghanistan. And the ACLU did a report last year that concluded that Obama’s record on civil liberties is worse than Bush’s. Bush never signed an executive order authorizing indefinite detention or the assassination of US citizens. And Obama continues to assert the Bush argument that state secrets would be revealed if torture victims got their days in court.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

You, and I and many others in on this discussion as well, have long histories of involvement in various forms of social change, including human rights, Given that, how does human rights, such as torture abolition, intersect with other forms of social change work?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 35

Richard Falk wrote a provocative chapter in the book that compares the liberal revulsion against torture with the acceptance of one-sided warfare – where the US uses overwhelming military force against small, less powerful countries (usually non-white) but liberals remain silent about this. He cites Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to make these connections. And we need to equate the costs of the wars (in money as well as loss of human life) with the economic situation at home. The dollars spent on the wars could be used for education, healthcare and job creation in the US.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 32

The singular point that I can’t get past is that there are no exceptional circumstances, the fact is, that the people we are torturing are the same people we are stealing from.

People naturally resent having their nation’s resources stolen and once they collectively reach a certain level of awareness as concerns our domination of their lives, their resistance is natural and righteous.

To ruthlessly put down that resistance seems the absolute ultimate un-American behavior.

William Newbill June 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 26

I agree with your characterization of Manning’s treatment as torture. Thanks for the further explanation of what’s in the new book. When Obama plainly deferred, with no apparent interest, in the obviously illegal treatment of Manning, I realized that torture was almost certainly still a widespread activity under the Obama Administration. How else could we explain the open and notorious endorsement by the President of torture?

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I’ve wondered a number of times over the last several years whether we human rights advocates were making a mistake in focusing so much energy and attention on national security detainees, numbering in the thousands, when domestic prisoners suffering harsh abuse or even torture likely number in the hundreds of thousands.

On the one hand, Guantánamo, the CIA, and the national security context seemed to have an extraordinary importance in changing the legal and cultural climate, as in the “torture memos.” On the other hand, could we have done more good by spending at energy on our horrific penal system. What do you think about this question?

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 36

Not to mention the dollars spent on war could have meant the difference between stealing, and paying the fair price of the resources we so covet.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 37

And they are the same people whose lands we are occupying or supporting the occupiers. This is not the way to win hearts and minds.

eCAHNomics June 19th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 7

My fave example of U.S. water torture was during the Philippine insurgency, turn of 20th C. U.S. troops would force bamboo down prisoners throats, pour water in until their stomachs swelled, then jump on their stomachs. (Don’t know whether you covered that in your book; I got it from Overthrow by Kinsser.)

How does quantity & quality of U.S. torture compare with other developed countries’ use of it.

Dearie June 19th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I recently saw a special on public television about Medal of Honor winners. There was one segment which showed ‘stress positions’ that our soldiers underwent in Vietnamese prisons. The sketches could have been from AbuGahreb. How can ordinary Americans fail to see what our government is doing….and fail to be outraged?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

When Obama was asked about Manning’s treatment, he said that he asked the Pentagon and they told him it was alright. Very much like what Bush said in his book – he asked the lawyers if the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ amounted to torture and they said no.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 39

We need to do both. Many people probably have no idea that torture is occurring daily in US supermax prisons – as Lance Tapley discusses in his chapter. This is another area where we should be making the connections.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 37

“People naturally resent having their nation’s resources stolen and once they collectively reach a certain level of awareness as concerns our domination of their lives, their resistance is natural and righteous.” I’ve tried to discuss with my military friends, strong opponents of torture, whether torture isn’t much more likely in counterinsurgency, where the “enemy” and the population cannot be clearly distinguished.

War unleashes brutal passions. War against an unseen enemy who doesn’t want you in their country arouses great guilt as well. One response is blind hatred that can be unfocused. Surely, accounts of soldiers in Iraq reflect these dynamics.

EdwardTeller June 19th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Marjorie,

There is ample evidence that during the Bush administration, several detainees were tortured to the point that they died. I suspect most of these homicides were unintentional. Do you cover this in the book?

Also, do you cover continuing torture and other intense physical and psychological abuse of detainees under the Obama administration? Is there evidence of more homicides of tortured detainees under the current president?

eCAHNomics June 19th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 32

Dershowitz’s ticking bomb excuse actually works in exactly the opposite direction. If there really is a ticking bomb, then every incentive is for the torturee to lie, sending torturer off on a wild goose chase that lasts long enough for the bomb to explode.

Dershowitz, who I used to think of as a solid citizen has proven himself to be a stupid flake. No brains, no morals, no knowledge.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 42

The book covers both torture by US forces (and mercenaries) as well as US client states – such as Iran and Guatemala. As Bill Quigley discusses in his chapter, many Latin American dictators and military leaders were trained in torture techniques at the US School of the Americas (now renamed WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to Dearie @ 43

The corporate media doesn’t show these things. Folks have to rely on the alternative media to cover it.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 46

And when we use unmanned drones to drop bombs on ‘suspected militants’ that kill many civilians, we don’t lose US pilots. It’s like a video game, inuring pilots and the public to this incredible violence. Although I read that even some pilots in the US who run the drones have suffered from PTSD.

eCAHNomics June 19th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

How does U.S. use of torture compare to that of other developed countries? More, less, same, harsher, less harsh, same?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 47

Yes, we cite the figure of 100 deaths of prisoners in US custody, many from torture. Manfred Nowak, former UN Rapporteur on Torture, said he received almost daily complaints about torture during the Bush administration and not so under Obama. But he criticizes Obama for turning over more than 9000 prisoners to the Iraqi government knowing they are torturing prisoners (Wikileaks proves this); that also violates the Convention Against Torture. And Nowak also criticizes Obama for refusing to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the US torture program. Impunity now will send a message to future administrations that torture is permissible.

eCAHNomics June 19th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Do any of the essays in the book draw the link between how U.S. prisoners are tortured in U.S. jails before torture even began abroad. I’m thinking about prison officials either looking the other way or engaging in jailhouse rape, of 24/7 solitary confinement, and many other practices that we prolly don’t even know about.

The fact is, the U.S. society has looked the other way for decades as the domestic criminal population has been treated worse & worse.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 48

The program ’24′ tried to teach us that we know who the terrorist is who knows where the ticking bomb is and if tortured, he will tell us and save millions of lives. Philosopher John Lango shows in his chapter why this scenario is a fantasy.

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Torture/ Murder/ Treason.

I Think we’ve slipped further into the dark side with the acceptability of a few deaths, 108, are necessary in carrying out torture. I think this country literally ripped out the throats of 1-3 of the Gitmo suicides while they were still ALIVE. With no accountability why not what’s to stop the military madmen ?

We are suffering a type of battered wife sickness and I think we need a Nuremburg 2.0 when we regain our senses.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 52

The British have used torture and cruel treatment in Iraq too. And the history of colonial domination would reveal that European colonial powers carried out plenty of torture and abuse against the colonized.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 53

Additionally, there have been reports of abuses at the “Black Jail” in the outskirts of the Bagram Air Base, where, until the NYT, WaPo and BBC published accounts, the Red Cross was denied access.

Also, as Jeff Kaye reminds us (and Matthew Alexander), Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, still in effect, allows for a number of very abusive techniques.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 54

I don’t know that torture in US prisons predated that done by the US in other countries. But I do discuss cases in my Introduction such as that of John Burge, the Chicago Police Chief who ordered the torture of many African American men in the jails there. He just lost a criminal case for perjury. The statute of limitations on torture had run, thanks to corrupt prosecutors.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to tjbs @ 56

Curious how the US government refuses to ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court and yet led the pack to have Qaddafi referred to the ICC for his atrocities.

EdwardTeller June 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 53

Impunity now will send a message to future administrations that torture is permissible.

…. and to Wall Street, and to union busters, and to the banksters, and to law enforcement involved in over-reach. At least Obama is consistent – clear, unambiguous OKs to those in power who want to work outside the rule of law.

The book looks quite fascinating.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 58

Yes and Obama ordered that the treatment of US prisoners comply with the Army Field Manual, notwithstanding Appendix M (thanks, Jeff, for your critical work on this).

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 57

The case of the British in Iraq shows how difficult it is to judge events contemporaneously. In the first two years of the Iraq war, there were numerous accounts in the British press that the British military was disgusted by the brutality of the Americans, that the British ad long ago learned that abuse was counterproductive. Then I believe it was the Guardian that reported on systematic training of British troops in abusive techniques during those same years. Many, and I was among them, had fallen for British propaganda.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 46

I’m sorry to have to point out that what we’re discussing here is not the ‘brutal passions unleashed by war’, but the willful, systematic use of torture.

General Miller was sent to Abu Graib in order to impliment the torture techniques that had ‘performed well’ at Guantanamo Bay.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/october2005/251005Karpinski.htm

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 48

Dershowitz, who I used to think of as a solid citizen has proven himself to be a stupid flake. No brains, no morals, no knowledge.

Precisely!

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 61

Obama seems to be beholden to the military, intelligence, and corporate interests. Bob Woodward, in ‘Obama’s Wars,’ discusses how Obama asked his generals for an exit plan for Afghanistan and they said, ‘no, we need 40,000 more troops.’ So Obama gave them 30,000. Only a unified people’s movement will move Obama to the left (from the right of center, where he seems most comfortable now).

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 63

When Philippe Sands and I testified before Congress on the Bush torture policy, one of the GOP congressmen asked me how I would craft an interrogation statute. I said it would require that those being interrogated be treated kindly, with respect and develop a relationship of trust. As the congressman laughed, Philippe said I was right, that the British got much better results when they treated the IRA humanely than with brutal force. They seem to have forgotten that, Stephen.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 64

Yes, the torture memos reveal the torture lawyers carefully premeditated the aiding and abetting of a common plan to violate the Geneva Conventions and the Torture Convention.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 64

I partly agree. But I think there were many different facets to torture. There was official torture, at GTMO, at Abu Ghraib, at the Black Sites, in the rendition program. But there was also torture at the tactical level which occurred where leadership allowed it and not where leadership opposed it. Tony Lagoranis, in Fear Up Harsh, give a good sense of the development of this torture at the tactical level. The ledership did nothing to stop it, and covered it up. But I think that this torture, as opposed to the officially planned, was not always ordered at the top. I think many in the military would have tried to stop it, and some did, but those at the top, the Rumsfelds and Cheneys, were too arrogant to allow them to.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 69

Right, but no official or lawyer has been held accountable for any of it. Eric Holder gave federal prosecutor John Durham a limited mandate to investigate only those interrogators who went BEYOND what was authorized in the torture memos. After 2 years, TIME reported that Durham is zeroing in on suspects in the death of Manadel al Jamadi, the Iraqi general who was tortured, killed and frozen (from the Abu Ghraib photos). But by saying Durham is only to investigate those who didn’t follow the torture memos, Holder is implicitly sanctioning the advice in the torture memos.

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 67

Maybe it would be better not to invade countries and engage in aggressive wars of choice. That would cut down on the need for ” actionable intelligence.”

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

What do you think are the prospects for accountability in the near and far future?

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 66

Obama provides a perfect illustration of the devolution of the human spirit inherent in capitulation to evil.

He is fast becoming a Golem as his humanity is erroded by his submission.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to tjbs @ 71

I suspect everyone here agrees with this!

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to tjbs @ 71

Amen.

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 68

Our constitution , in other words systematic treason.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 72

I don’t see US courts holding these war criminals (torture is a war crime under the Geneva Convention and the War Crimes Act) accountable. It will fall to other countries to prosecute them under ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Many countries, including the US and Israel, have used U.J. to prosecute foreign nationals for crimes so heinous they are crimes against all of humanity. A case was pending in Spain against 6 of the Bush torture lawyers – including John Yoo and Jay Bybee. But a country won’t prosecute a foreign national under U.J. if the person’s home country is doing it. Spain asked Obama whether these 6 were being investigated here. Obama, in a non-responsive answer, cited an ethics investigation that found they had only used ‘poor judgment’ (a conclusion that overturned a prior finding of ‘professional misconduct’). But Obama said nothing about criminal investigation of the 6. Spain’s dismissal was political. But I think other countries will eventually hold Bush officials and lawyers liable.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 77

What can we do to make accountability more likely?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to tjbs @ 76

The ‘take care’ clause of the Constitution requires that the President take care that laws are faithfully enforced. By preventing the Attorney General from investigating and prosecuting those who committed horrific crimes, Obama is violating the Constitution.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 78

First, we must educate the public about the lawbreaking. Since the corporate media has dropped the ball, it is up to us in the alternative media to get the word out. Folks should pressure their congressional representatives and the White House – by email, phone calls, letters, and demonstrations. They are elected officials who respond only to pressure.

Jeff Kaye June 19th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Marjorie,

Have you been following the campaign against Scott Horton and Harper’s after they won the ASME award for investigative journalism for the story breaking open the Guantanamo 1996 “suicides” case, which you alluded to above?

Any idea why there is such vehemence against Horton and Harpers for this story? (I recently wrote about the Alex Koppelman piece in Adweek attacking it.) Unaccountably, even Mark Benjamin, who has written about the CIA-SERE torture program and use of psychologists in the BSCTs, has unaccountably jumped on the anti-Horton bandwagon, applauding Koppelman’s hit piece, which totally misrepresented, for instance, the autopsy questions.

Any idea what’s going on with this controversy?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 73

I don’t think Obama is evil – just weak, and beholden to a system more powerful than he is. He is not a liberal; he is a centrist (clear from his book as well as his actions). He is a politician and politicians respond to pressure. If all the pressure comes from the Right, he will move further to the Right. We must pressure him to move to the Left.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 80

To push this a bit, haven’t we been doing this for years, with little success? In fact, attitudes are less against torture than they were several years ago. People are no longer shocked. How will continuing to do the same thing lead to a different result?

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I have contacted my congressman about KSM’s missing Children and the three missing thoraxes from camp “No”.

Th lame ass response was From Mike Fitzpatrick Pa-8″The United States Department of Defense has proven it’s commitment to ensuring ALL detainees are kept safe, secure, and Humane environment and states the terms of treatment are to provide a safe , Humane, legal, and transparent custody of the detainee”

That is an outrageous God Damn Lie, Mikey.

Notice no answers to the specific questions?

I wrote back that ” Your response troubles me” and repeated the demand to know what the hell is being done with my hard earned tax dollars.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 81

I don’t know except that people are attacked when they are effectively challenging the system. Scott Horton’s work in exposing the torture and abuse has been exemplary. We must support him.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 79

Not to mention the fact that the USA is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Convention_Against_Torture

This convention clearly states there is no excuse for torture.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 83

People don’t really understand the depth and scale of the torture our government has perpetrated in our name. If they had, and if they understood that it’s not just immoral and illegal but also counterproductive, I would hope they would be outraged.

EdwardTeller June 19th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Have you approached or been approached by any universities about including this text in their supplemental reading for existing courses?

How has the response been from the legal education academic community?

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 79

A man with a spine would ride Holder hard to get with the program.

But you did catch that drive yesterday on the Golf course?, No ?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to tjbs @ 84

If people keep the pressure on, they will have to respond. After 250 law profs (including me) wrote to the White House about Bradley Manning’s mistreatment, they moved him to Kansas where is no longer in solitary confinement or being abused.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 88

If you mean the unequivocal language in the Torture Convention about no torture ever, I include it in my human rights course and other profs do as well.

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

It’s quite a heavy straw, the one that breaks the back of the torture machine.

Response to Mr. Kaye @81

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to tjbs @ 89

I don’t think Holder is calling the shots.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 91

I think he meant the book. What has been the response of legal academic community to the book?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to tjbs @ 92

Yes but thousands of folks converge on Ft. Benning, GA every year to protest the (formerly named) School of the Americas. We have to keep getting the word out on blogs such as FDL and in books and articles such as ‘The United States and Torture’ and those by Stephen Soldz and Jeff Kaye. Also see my blog, http://www.marjoriecohn.com.

Watt4Bob June 19th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 82

Sorry, I’m with Hannah Arendt;

Arendt’s essay On Violence distinguishes between the concepts of violence and power. Arendt maintains that theorists of both the left and the right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power.

Arendt defines power as the ability of people to act in concert.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt

Obama’s lack of understanding does not absolve him of the consequences of his actions, or lack of action.

My hope is that the American people will discover their natural power, and put an end to the violence done in our name.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 93

Before his leaving, it was reported that Rahm Emanuel was calling the shots. Any sense of who’s in charge now? Is it Daley? Or someone else? Or actually Obama himself?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 94

The book has sold out and they’re printing more copies which should be ready soon. We have had great response to it in many quarters.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 97

I trust that Obama makes all final decisions. But he has surrounded himself with many holdovers from the Bush administration as well as Hillary Clinton, who is a super hawk. Interesting that Robert Gates, outgoing Defense Secretary, was quoted as saying he opposes ‘wars of choice’ – a heavy indictment of the Iraq, Afghan and Libyan wars.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Watt4Bob @ 96

Yes but I don’t think he is evil.

tjbs June 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 93

We know exactly where the buck stops, no question.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to tjbs @ 101

I agree.

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

The current situation seems unusual in that the pro-torture officials and pundits no longer try very hard to deny that the US engaged in torture. Rather, they seem to celebrate it. How can we understand this?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 103

There has been no accountability for the torturers.

PeasantParty June 19th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Just getting in here, running late. Majorie, I want you to know I support you and anyone that keeps this in the forefront and do not let the Administration off the hook. Americans are better than this and it is a shameful time for our country!

Stephen Soldz June 19th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

This seems like a good time to thank Marjorie, and everyone else, for this very interesting discussion. Let’s hope that when we discuss this issue in future years we can end on an optimistic note that the country has really learned that torture and abuse are always and everywhere wrong. Meanwhile, please read and recommend the book to others. Let’s sell out the new printing.

Good afternoon/evening everyone.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 103

Bush, Cheney and Yoo have all admitted authorizing waterboarding and say they would do it again. US cases have held it to be torture and the US prosecuted Japanese military leaders for it after WWII. Yet the Bush team knows it will face no consequences for having done it. And they really believe it helped in the ‘War on Terror.’

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 105

Thanks!

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 106

Thanks for hosting this book salon, Stephen, and for all who participated.

PeasantParty June 19th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Marjorie,

If this question has already been asked you may skip:

Have you had any trouble or blowback from NSA, CIA, or others in writing your book?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 110

Not that I know of.

BevW June 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Marjorie, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and torture.

Stephen, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Marjorie’s website and book.

Stephen’s website

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Happy Father’s Day.

veganrevolution June 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

We’ve always tortured. It’s American as apple pie.

PeasantParty June 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

One more quick question:

Has any member of Congress approached you about your book?

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 114

Not yet.

PeasantParty June 19th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thank you! Thanks for being here and sharing with us.

Marjorie Cohn June 19th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 116

Thanks. I hope you find the book useful.

PeasantParty June 19th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Marjorie, Stephen, and Bev,

Thank you for your time and this Book Salon. Best wishes to the Author and hopes that you sell 400 million!

EdwardTeller June 19th, 2011 at 4:16 pm
In response to Stephen Soldz @ 94

I did. had to go away for a while – sorry.

psalongo June 19th, 2011 at 8:15 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 82

Hi Marjorie,
Great to see ya here. Been a fan for some time.
As for Obama, pressuring him from the left would be a fool’s errand. He considers us sanctimonious, retarded, etc! He has embraced reaganism wholeheartedly and the quicker we accept that reality the better. We can then devote more time in supporting true liberals and our agenda!

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post