Welcome Joshua Phillips (Blog) and Host Jason Leopold (Truth-Out.org)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

None Of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture

The Iraq war isn’t over.

For tens of thousands of soldiers returning from the battlefield, it never will be.

Some of these men and women will turn to alcohol and drugs to ease their mental injuries; some will end up homeless, unemployed and divorced. Some will commit suicide. Most will be forgotten.

That will be one of the lasting legacies of the nearly nine-year-long conflict.

Fortunately, there are investigative journalists like Joshua Phillips who have taken great pains to preserve the memories of veterans whose lives have been ravaged—and cut short—by the wars.

Phillips is the author of “None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture,” a harrowing book about the systematic torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and the deep psychological scars it left on some members of a tank battalion who tormented their captives.

Adam Gray was one of the soldiers traumatized by his role in detainee abuse and torture during his deployment in Iraq in 2003. On August 29, 2004, the 24-year-old Army sergeant was found dead in his barracks room in Alaska, the victim of a suicide.

Phillips was determined to find out why Gray killed himself. He spent five years researching and writing his book. What he uncovered during the course of his investigation was a tragic and heart-rending story about the other victims of torture: US soldiers.  Click here to watch a wide-ranging on-camera interview I conducted with Phillips last year.

“They’re very distressed by the legacy of torture,” Phillips told me about the soldiers and their families he’s interviewed for his book. “These people are among its victims. The detainees are as well. No one speaks of them and their condition. They’re destroyed human beings. Some of them actually perished. Some of them were actually killed as a byproduct of official government policy. But so to were brave America soldiers who enlisted precisely because they wanted to uphold and defend the Constitution and they came back completely destroyed human beings as a result of getting involved in things that were opposite of what the Constitution is about … It’s very painful for many [of the soldiers and their families] to hear defenders of torture arguing that it was necessary, it was productive, it saved lives when they know that it claimed lives, it claimed the lives of their children or their friends.”

So why did “ordinary soldiers” like Gray—“a tanker, not an interrogator”—turn to torture?

“Understanding how and why US forces have engaged in detainee abuse and torture is a difficult and uncomfortable inquiry,” Phillips writes in the introduction of “None of Us Were Like This Before.” “It forces us to examine who we are as a nation and what has compelled us to choose such a path.”

For Daniel Keller, one of the Army soldiers attached to Battalion 1-68, the unit at the center of Phillips’ book, boredom was the catalyst be.

“Several soldiers from Battalion 1-68 said they were numbed, almost dulled by their monotonous wartime routines,” Phillips wrote.

“Shifting to more mundane work, such as patrolling and detaining prisoners, could make a solider ‘bored … so eventually you start to lose those feelings,’” said Keller. “’And the only thing that really does excite you is when you get to … torture somebody.’”

Keller goes on to casually describe how he “once left a [prisoner] zip-tied to a cell door for two and a half days, suspended by his own weight.” He reveals how a non-commissioned officer disclosed details about “what they did to get information out of detainees in Vietnam,” which involved a form of torture similar to the controlled drowning technique known as waterboarding.

“Then I went ahead and tried it,” Keller said of the water torture. “This difference was that I didn’t want information, I just wanted to hurt [a prisoner].”

Finally, Keller told Phillips how he and his fellow soldiers led prisoners to believe they were about to be executed because “we thought it was fun as hell.”

Phillips still manages to make him appear sympathetic by placing him in a position in which he genuinely wonders, with a sense of remorse, what possessed him to perform such monstrous acts. It was one Keller’s remorseful comments that formed the basis for the title of Phillips’ book.

There are many other reasons US soldiers engaged in the abuse and torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, but, Phillips told me, “There is no one size fits all explanation.”

“I think, frankly, one of the main seeds for becoming involved in abuse and torture is a sense of permissiveness,” Phillips said. “This is not an abstract concept. This really generated during the war on terror, specifically through removing the Common Article III Geneva protections for prisoners of war. That sent a signal. Every military source I’ve spoken to up and down the ladder from young [privates] to military intelligence to generals and beyond all agree that lessening the protections of Geneva sent a signal that [abuse and torture] was permissive behavior.”

Yet, there were soldiers, like Tony Lagouranis, an interrogator who participated in the torture of prisoners, but, as Phillips noted, “toward the end of his tour [in Iraq] he said he had become unhappy with what he was doing; he began to sympathize with the prisoners who had been hurt and resented the officers who encouraged or ordered harsh interrogations.”

Lagouranis decided to file reports with Army criminal investigators documenting the crime of torture. But those reports were never found and the incidents never investigated.

The military claims it probed more than 800 other cases of detainee abuse and torture.

Jonathan Millantz, a medic attached to Battalion 1-68, was another solider who participated in the abuse and torture of prisoners and later attempted to report it to his superiors.

“There’s plenty of stuff out there that hasn’t been put on the media that would make Abu Ghraib look like Disneyland …” Millantz told Phillips, adding that he was told “if I made this stuff public, I would bring everyone down with me.”

It was Millantz who reached out to Phillips in 2006 and first told him about Sgt. Adam Gray’s story and the “difficulties he faced trying to report the abuse,” Phillips told me.

Millantz, who became involved in the antiwar movement when he returned home, was deeply distressed about his participation in the torture and abuse of prisoners in Iraq. He told Phillips he went to “confession,” “to counseling” but “I still can’t forgive myself for what I did to those poor people.”

Millantz got hooked on painkillers. That helped numb his pain. On April 3, 2009 he died from an overdose. He was 27 years old.

Millantz’s obituary said he “saved many people’s lives during his service to his country and enjoyed helping others.”

 


145 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Joshua E. S. Phillips, None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture”

BevW February 18th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Josh, Welcome to the Lake.

Jason, Welcome back to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Everyone – This is an emotional topic, as a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Thank you so much, Bev. I appreciate the opportunity to host today’s book salon. This is a tragic story that many more people need to familiarize themselves with. So I encourage everyone to pick up Joshua’s must-read book to better understand how the torture policies of the last administration affected—and in some cases led to the deaths—of US soldiers.

With that said, Josh you spent more than five years working on this book and it covers the timeframe leading up to about 2009. I am wondering if you could discuss what you have learned since then, especially now that combat troops have left Iraq. How many more US troops have you spoken with who have been affected by torture? How widespread is this? Have there been any additional US veteran suicides that were the result of US troops being traumatized by what they were involved in?

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

As I understood Abu Ghraib, only the lower level troops were held acountable. Assuming that is true, is there a path back to the ones calling the shots?

dakine01 February 18th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Good afternoon Josh and welcome to FDL this afternoon. Jason, welcome back.

Josh, I have not had a chance to read your book but do have a comment. While I was able to avoid active duty during the Vietnam War, I did spend the summer of ’73 at an ROTC basic officer camp at Ft Riley, KS. At the time, the US involvement in Vietnam was still conditioning a lot of responses so I heard a lot of discussion of “Charley” and “Gooks,” i.e., the de-humanization effects.

I never thought we would have another set of wars with a corresponding level of de-humanization of both the US troops and the “enemy.”

Did you find a lot of continued support for the two invasions in your research? Did the soldiers’ families blame, the Irakis/Afgahnis, US politicians, the Media, or just shrug their shoulders and offer a “shit happens” perspective?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Hi everyone…

yellowsnapdragon February 18th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Do you think the Military men and women are as tired of Afghanistan as the rest of us?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 5

Thanks for being here, Josh. While you’re mulling over those questions, here’s another: have you spoken with any lawmakers or anyone at the VA about these issues and if so do they understand that the trauma soldiers have suffered from participating and witnessing abuse and torture is part of the PTSD epidemic? Have they addressed it and, if so, what has been their response and how will they address it, if at all?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 2

Hello everyone,

First of all, a quick thank you to Jason Leopold who is generously offering his time to moderate this event. Jason is doing very important reporting on subjects that few journalists are covering these days. Thanks also to Bev Wright and FireDogLake for sponsoring this Book Salon.

Jason: In answer to your questions…

I have spoken to several other soldiers who have come to me and said, You are discussing my experience – an trauma experience that I haven’t been able to openly discuss with family, friends and therapists. Yes, there are plenty of other wartime experiences that traumatize and trouble soldiers, but soldiers’ exposure to and involvement in abusive violence is not a well understood source of traumatic stress.

If by “widespread” your asking how many other US service members and veterans have likewise been affected by abusive violence (such as detainee abuse), the answer is I do not know – and it’s very difficult to quantify for several reasons (which I can later discuss). As for other cases in which service members and veterans have been traumatized by similar experience, and taken their lives…I’m not sure about that.

bmaz February 18th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Why do the litany of criminal and psychological problems surrounding military bases from affected service members – such as at the Lewis-McChord Base – not get more attention from traditional media?

basilbeast February 18th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

One of my favorite bloggers on military issues posted this:

http://rangeragainstwar.blogspot.com/2012/02/www-or-world-wide-warriors.html

A bit that I think is very germane to the topic here today:

We as a society have crossed a frontier fraught with tanglefoot and minefields aplenty when we are comfortable with the concept of Long Wars and being called a “warrior” nation.

Soldiers — even Reserve Forces — have morphed into warriors, while the concept of the citizen soldier has been relegated to the dung heap of history, or so it seems. The acceptance of hatred as a basis of and motivator for war fighting was one of the first indications of the change.

Along with hatred comes the inevitable dehumanization of our adversaries, and the choice of vindictive and punitive war blithely as a first response. Soldiers need not act humanely if their opponent is not human. Opponents in past wars were seen as men; today, they are vilified and vermin-ized.

He has written many other pieces like this.

yellowsnapdragon February 18th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

How do you see other soldiers viewing Manning and what he has shown us?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 8

Thank you, Josh. And thanks for the kind words.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Hello Mr. Phillips. As a veteran of the first Persian Gulf war who still has contacts with people in the armed services, I have to say that some of the things that were/are being done in Iraq, (W’s war), would have just been unthinkable then! I was just an airframe mechanic but there is no way any of the Marines with whom I had close contact would endorse, (or allow), the kind of crimes that are apparently routinely committed these days. Ten years is all it took for this country to go off the rails to that extent.

dancewater February 18th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

“The Iraq war isn’t over. For tens of thousands of soldiers returning from the battlefield, it never will be.”

Same is true for tens of millions of Iraqis.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to RevBev @ 3

There have been efforts to hold high ranking officials – military, political, etc. – responsible for detainee abuse and torture through civil trials. So far, they’ve all failed. As I understand it, there are several human rights groups that are trying to forge ahead and find other means to hold them accountable. But even they have told me that the prospects look dim.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to dancewater @ 14

Same is true for tens of millions of Iraqis.

Indeed. And hundreds of thousands more at least for whom everything is over…

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 7

Yes, I have heard from *some* lawmakers – and they’re often shocked when they read and hear about the book. As for clinicians in the VA, some have approached me and confirmed that they have seen other cases that I’ve covered in the book, and so they feel that the book isn’t necessarily a revelation but an articulation of what they’re seeing. Sometimes they’re seeing veterans who’ve experienced trauma for committing different kinds of abusive violence. From what I understand, there are some researchers who are examining this issue. I’ll be covering this in forthcoming work…

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 15

Are there ways to become more vocal? The sensible mind realizes we are making things more dangerous for our country.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Josh, as I noted in my intro post, Jonathan Millantz, who tragically took his own life while you were working on this book, said, ““There’s plenty of stuff out there that hasn’t been put on the media that would make Abu Ghraib look like Disneyland.”

Could you elaborate on what exactly Jonathan was referring to or speak in general terms about what else still needs to be revealed? Do you think the release of photos or videos documenting the abuse, ala Abu Ghraib, would get more people to pay attention and result in investigations that have thus far been thwarted?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

Good question, and hard to answer. I’d say that among the veterans that I interview, many of them felt less supportive of the war in Iraq as it wore on. Afghanistan is tricky to answer. I was there in 2007, and many of the troops I met there were committed to seeing the war through. But a lot has changed since then… As for blame, well, this also depends… I don’t mean to be vague, but rather precise in answering your question. In a general sense, most of the veterans, along with their family and friends, were upset by the level of care that vets were getting. But others were gravely upset by the wartime situations that traumatizing so many veterans.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to bmaz @ 9

Don’t know, I’m afraid. Naturally, we would like these issues to get the level of coverage that they deserve. Sadly, they do not. It’s hard to explain why certain cases don’t garner the attention they deserve.

yellowsnapdragon February 18th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 20

What to do about those coming home and how best to support them?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to basilbeast @ 10

Thank you for your comment…

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Good question. I haven’t spoken to any active duty soldiers about Manning’s story, so I don’t know. It has, however, resulted with some of the veterans I know. Keep in mind, the have been several military whistle-blowers who tried to speak out about abuse and other misconduct – and many were ignored, harassed, and threatened. Remember what happened to Joseph Darby – the Abu Ghraib whistle-blower. After Rumsfeld announced that he gave CID investigators copies of the photos, his house was vandalized, he slept with a loaded pistol under his bed, and he got the military equivalent of witness protection.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Hi Josh. Hi Jason. Hi Bev.

So glad to see this Book Salon, and so grateful for your work here.

Josh, you wrote a fantastic book, and I don’t think people understand the personal risks you took in your investigation.

One overlooked aspect of your research was to note the migration of the SERE/Abu Ghraib torture techniques to other countries, from Egypt to Slovakia, as documented in your book.

One very important problem in pursuing these investigations is getting people to speak on the record about the torture. I know you had great difficult in particular in getting former detainees to talk about their experiences. Have you, with some passage of time, any other ideas about how investigations could go forward? Do you have any thoughts about the tragicomedy that was the now defunct UK attempt to have a torture inquiry?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Margaret @ 13

First of all, thank you for your service. And thank you for your observation. Yes, there are many things that are different about that war and today’s wars. One of the biggest problems that Jason Leopold cited in his article, is the Bush administration’s decision to undo the Common Article III Geneva protections for prisoners of war. According to my sources, and other reports on abuse and torture, that decision set the ball in motion.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Josh, has there been any further development on this Detainee Abuse Task Force you wrote about in your book, which was also the subject of this excellent report in The Nation? You tried to obtain documents under FOIA but were told none existed. Where do things stand at this point?

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Josh, one other question. Were there interrogators you spoke to, off the record, who knew info but would not go public? Are there things, in your opinion, that still aren’t discussed because we can’t get anyone to go on the record, and there is a lack of available documentary evidence? In other words, are there things you can’t or won’t discuss on this issue because it can’t be backed up officially at this time, but which you believe to be true about what went on behind the scenes regarding the torture scandal?

elisemattu February 18th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to basilbeast @ 10

Thank you for posting this. As a child growing up in the fifties, my dad used me as a confidant, and as a therapist. He needed someone to talk to about some of the things he experienced in WWII.

Once I spent the day in the fourth grade classroom, where the nun who taught us was remarking on how heroic every American involved with WWII was. About how our American soldiers fought the detestable Nazis, and how they were heroes.

So that evening, I went to the train station that my dad came home through after his work-a-day commute, and I ran up to him and said, “Daddy! Daddy! You are my hero.”

He was perplexed so I explained about what the nun had told us. He got very quiet and then a strange look came across his face. “The German people were at war in Europe at least some six and a half years before we were. There are days on the battlefield when your best friend gets killed, and you’d be willing to tear apart a town of innocent people, if your friends in the service would help you. War is de-humanizing. The Germans were simply at it a lot, lot longer than we were.”
Again he got very quiet. Then he added softly, “If our country ever gets taken over by a group of thugs, we could have the same thing happening here that happened in Nazi Germany. All it takes is having your country stolen out from under you.”

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Jeff Kaye @25……

your statement: “I don’t think people undeerstand the personal risks you took in your investigation.” is, shall we say, chilling. Would you elaborate on those risks…….and what that means for the future of our democracy.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to dancewater @ 14

Agreed. As you will see when you read the book, I made sure to include many detainees’ accounts as well. Many of my discussion about the book relate to the stories of soldiers and veterans. But I’ve been very careful to include, and underscore, what the detainees experienced as well. That should not be ignored or forgotten.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Dearie @ 30

Indeed. That’s a great question.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 26

…..the Bush administration’s decision to undo the Common Article III Geneva protections for prisoners of war.

Yes. It told the service members it was okay to treat their prisoners as animals. Ugly how quickly humanity can revert to barbarism yet we see it over and over through history. Thanks for the response and I look forward to the read.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Jason, I hadn’t realized Lagouranis’ reports had gone “missing.” In fact, missing documentation of crimes is precisely why I believe Wikileaks has done a journalistic service for us, in providing raw data that otherwise would have gone unknown, perhaps forever.

bmaz February 18th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

What is the estimated cost in dollars to society over say a ten to twenty year period – or whatever has been studied – for the medical, psychological and damages that will result from the effects you chronicle? At some point does it not start to rival the actual cost of fighting the wars themselves?

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Dearie @ 30

You should really get a copy of Phillips’ book, where such things are explained. I was referring to the intelligence agents of foreign countries trailing him, threatening his sources, not to mention the proximity to Taliban offensive attacks in Afghanistan.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to RevBev @ 18

Well, the strange thing is there’s actually been a sizable outcry. But I suppose you’re asking for how does one get an outcry to stick. Do I understand you correctly?

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 2:38 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 37

To stick, have power, a very loud voice….I think some of these things are known, but not widely or with enough power & outrage. Thanks for clarifying….PS. Like what hope is there for accountability when we can so obviously conceal the Tillman story. Where is the power of truth?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 31

To further highlight this point, I want to point out to everyone that you conducted a wrenching interview with a detainee in Afghanistan who told you about the death of the prisoner, Dilawar, who was the subject of the documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” and how he just could not bring himself to tell Dilawar’s family about the torture he endured at the hands of Americans. Dilawar was essentially tortured to death, his leg beaten so badly it was pulpified.

You really did an outstanding job, Josh, humanizing these prisoners.

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Jeff @36.

Thanks for clarifying. Seeing what is happening with Bradley Manning and Assange and such, one can get a touch of paranoia now and then.

And, yes, I look forward to reading the book. Though I know it will make me very sad and very mad.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 19

In that instance, he was referring to the range of abuses that most people have seen in the Abu Ghraib photos. Consider some of the responses by pundits – many chalked it up to being frat house stuff. If that’s the common perception, than Millantz and others are absolutely right. Do most people know about some of the other violent forms of abuse and torture that US forces employed? Do they know about cases of chaining detainees to ceilings and beating them until they died? Or that human rights groups have found that at least 184 detainees have died while in the custody of US forces since the launch of the “war on terror”?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 34

Yes, when he was finally approached by CID after his interview with Frontline he said he had filed several reports and CID said they had absolutely no record of anything he filed or complained about.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 25

Hi Jeff, Thank you for the very kind words – I greatly appreciate it (along with your important work as well).

Ah yes, the migration or influence of torture techniques. It’s funny, I’ve often wondered why that story hasn’t gained more traction as well. In general, I’ve found that different readers respond to different parts of the book – and much of this has been informed by different backgrounds. But yes, there were cases in which other security forces were influent by, or appropriated, some US torture techniques. In Egypt, for example, the security forces there actually referred to a regime of torture as “the Abu Ghraib.”

As to your question… It’s hard to say how other investigations could go forward. You mean official investigations or those that reporting and human rights researchers could do?

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

One thing that struck me about Josh’s book, is how the torture techniques are transmitted in a cultural fashion. While some of the torture was no doubt manufactured as a group of techniques in Langley, JPRA, Ft. Huachuca, etc., for the large bulk of prisoner abuse in, for instance, Iraq, it appears to have been the result of seeing torture done, of statements by officers, of the relating of stories within the ranks. Such cultural transmission of torture (which includes the much-discussed interest in the TV show 24 among some in the military) is consistent with the scholarly presentation of Darius Rejali in his book Torture and Democracy.

In the end, however, the responsibility for such criminal behavior, lies with those higher up. The active solicitation and approval of such techniques of generals and admirals, all the way up to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was documented by the Senate Armed Services Committee and other investigations. The leadership of civilian members of the government is also, of course, key.

Josh, how can we as a society stop the spread of such barbarism if those higher ups are not identified and punished?

Do you also believe the presence of abusive interrogation techniques still current, such as those in the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M, continue the process of degradation, including among US military personnel, that you documented in your book?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 27

I hope I’m keep up with you guys – trying to answer all of your questions!

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 41

Thank you, Josh. The cases in which the deaths of prisoners were determined to be homicides is a fact that much of the public has not embraced.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 43

You mean official investigations or those that reporting and human rights researchers could do?

Well, I guess I mean both, but to keep things simple, and perhaps more pertinent, how can we ever get official investigations to move forward?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 45

You’re doing great!

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 46

And is that because the violence seems so acceptable? It’s the outrage that I seem not to hear.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 27

So, with respect to the Nation article about the Detainee Abuse Task Force, we (i.e., the Nation staff and I) have been contacting member of the House and Senate to see what they plan to do – what follow up action they plan to take – on investigating what occurred. We’re still waiting for a response. We’ll keep asking until we get one.

tuezday February 18th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

One of the things I can’t wrap my head around is what causes people to resort to torture? We all get bored but don’t torture the nearest cat. Pets aren’t human but we don’t torture them for the fun of it. If my employer told me to engage in an activity I considered immoral, let alone illegal, I’d refuse. What allows these people to cross that line? Do they, themselves, feel victimized and are just releasing pent up anger? What causes interrogators to feel the need to torture? What sticks are their superiors welding to make them cross that line?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 28

Well, there were allegations that various military personnel made about torture. Some were willing to go on the record, some were not. And in some instances I wasn’t able to get the necessary level of corroboration. So, yes, I erred on the side of being conservative about certain things – and couldn’t include the full scope of what I learned through my reporting. But that’s what follow up reporting is all about.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

That whole “thank you for your service” thing is also new in this current paradigm and not something I’m sure I’m comfortable with. To me it was more like something I did and not as noble as it was expedient. I got that sort of gratitude in spades when I returned from the Gulf, with strangers actually giving me gifts! It’s very much appreciated but I don’t feel like I deserved such praise for keeping F-14As flying.

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

tuezday @51:

Your question is right on.

Were those who became torturers most like to have been bullies in their youth? Did they just feel they’d gotten a pass to act out their aggression? Or were they ‘just boys’ who found themselves in some kind of hell?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to RevBev @ 49

Unfortunately, it’s just not covered by the much of the mainstream media. I mean, the ACLU has the government’s own autopsy reports posted on their website, which they obtained under FOIA. Those reports clearly state the cause of death of detainess, in some cases, were homicides. But the majority of the public and the media has no idea those documents are even there. The one time I recall this being covered, CNN invited Donald Rumsfeld on to offer a counter argument and he disputed the conclusions.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

This is a very tough question to answer, in the context of those who were traumatized from abusive violence (e.g., detain abuse) and are seeking help. I’ve interviewed many clinicians, and they all say that these are among the toughest cases to treat – and for a variety of reasons. But even before treatment, you have to consider the reasons why few seek out help in the first place. Many worry that they will be betraying their fellow soldiers by discussing experiences like detainee abuse, some fear getting in trouble themselves (not an unreasonable response). There are many other reasons as well, and I’m happy to discuss them as well.

maa8722 February 18th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I don’t think this is limited to as recent a phenomenon as the title suggests.

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to tuezday @ 51

But some people do torture the cat and that behavior is considered very pathological. Is it those people, for some reason, the ones we are empowering? Then end up punishing some lower rank like Lyndie England…it’s all so sick, imo.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to RevBev @ 49

Additionally, look at this latest polling data. A majority of people who identify as liberal Democrats support some of these violent policies.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to elisemattu @ 29

Thank you for your comment. Yes, even in the so-called “good wars” soldiers were traumatized by horrific violence. Few escape unscathed.

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Thank you, Josh, for being here.

Thank you Jason, as well.

And, Jeff Kaye, it is a true pleasure to “see” you. I have missed your words and thoughts, here, very much indeed.

DW

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 50

That’s great to hear, thanks, Josh.

tuezday February 18th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Dearie @ 54

That’s just it. I’m going on the assumption there are only a small percentage of psychotics in the military. Probably mirroring civilian life, so what is it?

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 52

Thanks, Josh. You may have already seen this, but last year DoD released over 1000 pages of detainee autopsy reports, most from Iraq. Many of them are of homicides. Readers may be interested in downloading from the DoD site and reading or researching. The release includes autopsy material for Iraqi General Abid Hamed Mowhoush and Manadel al-Jamadi. Al Jamadi is, of course, one of the two detainees, along with Gul Rahman, whose murder is supposedly being investigated by John Durham. They are the first two autopsies in the DoD release.

http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/operation_and_plans/Detainee/ACLU_DD_II_Detainee_Autopsy_Reports_2003-2009.pdf

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to tuezday @ 51

Broadly put, social scientist say that situations, not dispositions, lead to torture – not who you are and your make up. So, I’ve written about the particular wartime situations and underlying beliefs that led people to engage in – and order, codify, etc. – detainee abuse and torture.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to Dearie @ 54

It’s useful to read about the Stanford Prison Experiment in this context I think. Phillip Zimbardo and his students gone wild.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 65

Spot on! See mine @66.

The experiment ended on August 20, 1971, only six days after it began, instead of the originally scheduled fourteen. That day, Zimbardo called both the guards and inmates to a meeting and announced that the prison was closing down. The experiment’s result has been argued to demonstrate the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support. It is also used to illustrate cognitive dissonance theory and the power of authority.

(my bold)

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Dearie @ 30

Well, I did a bunch of reporting in Afghanistan and the Middle East for my reporting. I think that’s what @Jeff Kaye is referring to. But I also spent 5+ years reporting on the story, at great expenses. It’s an important story, though – one I felt needed to be told on a number of planes, for several reasons.

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

This may be too broad a brush, but it seems to me that the last/W administration approved all this stuff with waterboarding, the memos, Cheney, Rummy, et al….How to step back is a different question, but the lies and cruelty seem pervasive with “everyone” turning a blind eye. (Sorry this stuff makes me sick.)

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Dearie @ 54

I think I’ve answered this one already… Happy to further discuss it if you’d like.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 55

Excellent point, Jason. Couldn’t have said it better. I was just interviewed by a journalist in Boston who was shocked to hear about detainee deaths – and the lack of accountability for them. Consider this: out of the 184 detainee deaths, no one has served more than six months of jail time.

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Josh@70:

Thanks. You’re doing great in respoinding to us. We’re just overlapping at points. I really appreciate your responsiveness. Carry on!

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 42

Actually, it’s almost worse than that… We we sent FOIAs to the military, they said “No documents of the kind you described could be located. No official ‘Detainee Abuse Task Force’ was ever established by the USACIDC.”

From the Nation article…

After a lengthy appeals process, during which we provided several samples of DATF communications on DATF letterhead, this finding was reaffirmed: CID “never created an official ‘Detainee Abuse Task Force,’” the denial letter read. “Individual criminal investigation units may have set up informal, ad hoc task forces while deployed to emphasize detainee abuse investigations. In turn, they may have labeled certain investigations as being subject to a ‘Detainee Abuse Task Force.’” But “there was no official organization for such a task force.”

Incredible.

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 65

The question of underlying “beliefs”, Josh, is very critical to understanding why and how some, or even many individuals, may be willing to engage in torture.

For it immediately raises a question about the role of myths, ideas of “exceptionalism”, of “superiority”, of being among “Gawd’s chosen”, in other words, inculcated “belief” … bringing the reality of long-term cultural conditioning, of widely held notions of group “rightfulness” and “destiny” into play.

As you mention, many self-identified “liberals” support torture and many Americans subscribed to, “Kill ‘em all and let Gawd sort ‘em out”, in the run-up to and subsequent engagement in the “sexed-up” wars this nation was lied into in Irak and Vietnam, for example.

DW

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Josh, Sgt. Adam Gray, the central figure in your book, tried to commit suicide the first time three weeks before he ultimately succeeded. Why didn’t the military do more to intervene after his first attempt? Is the military acting differently now? Are there new policies in place?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to maa8722 @ 57

You’re absolutely right. The title is a double entendre. It’s actually a quote from a soldier who, upon reflecting on the transformative experience of engaging in torture said, “None of use were like this before.” But it also reflects a wider sense of the transformation we as a nation we experienced. But you’re absolutely right: this is, unfortunately, not a new experience – US police and military forces have engaged in detainee abuse and torture elsewhere.

realitychecker February 18th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 60

It seems just simply commonsensical to me that the human animal tailors and conforms behavior to perceived real-time comparative norms. Thus, if a war is underway, we know masses of humans are dying under pretty indiscriminate circumstances, so it becomes easier to devalue and brutalize any individual life. This is the best reason, IMO, to oppose any war, because I would ALWAYS assume that the battlefield mentality will spill over into other tertiary contexts and result in barbarities and atrocities. Likewise, it is reasonable to expect that when that same human animal returns to a context of relative stability and normalcy, he will be plagued by the memories of what was done in the abnormal situation he has returned from. The real mystery is, why do we treat these very predictable patterns as mysterious each and every time?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 73

That is incredible, Josh. I would suggest you file a FOIA for the processing notes to your FOIA and see if that provides you with any insight as to how they conducted the search.

basilbeast February 18th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 23

And thank you for your book and giving voice to those who can’t express their experience in our foreign wars in words or can’t get published. There have been several veteran authors on our ME wars, Colby Buzzell, Crawford’s “Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell”, Williams ( a female soldier’s voice ) “Love My Rifle More Than You” that are still worth a read.

I intend to spread this link around and give your book as much publicity as I can.

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 73

This is the power of lies and/or denial. We could fall in line behind the Tillman coverup even with Congressional committee hearings that found nothing, if I recall. The scary part is that this is who we have become…

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 76

That soldier is Daniel Keller, as I noted in my intro post. Have you spoken to him? What was his reaction to the book and I am wondering, on that note, if any of the soldiers who spoke to you on the record and revealed what they were involved in were subject to investigation by Army CID?

bluewombat February 18th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Josh, do you believe that there really is no more torture going on now that Obama is President?

In light of the fact that the Obama admin. pressured Spain to drop at least one investigation into torture at Guantanamo, do you feel Obama and Holder have legal exposure for war crimes as accessories after the fact?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 59

Actually, I highly I recommend this polling data on torture by Darius Rejali and Paul Gronke:

http://academic.reed.edu/poli_sci/faculty/rejali/articles/US_Public_Opinion_Torture_Gronke_Rejali.pdf

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 83

Ah, thank you for that!

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 74

Yes, but beliefs alone do not enable torture – one also has to look at the particular situations.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to Margaret @ 66

Interesting re the Zimbardo project. It was funded by the Navy, which most people don’t know. In addition, the prison consultant on the study, Carlo Prescott, has said that the supposedly spontaneous abuse that originated from the prison context was actually the result of instructions by the Zimbardo study leaders, based on Prescott’s descriptions of abuse he witnessed or endured at San Quentin prison.

Regrettably, the gulf between verisimilitude and real prison life is a huge leap of faith that still raises serious issues of validity from the get-go. Nevertheless,ideas such as bags being placed over the heads of prisoners, inmates being bound together with chains and buckets being used in place of toilets in their cells were all experiences of mine at the old “Spanish Jail” section of San Quentin and which I dutifully shared with the Stanford Prison Experiment braintrust months before the experiment started. To allege that all these carefully tested, psychologically solid, upper-middle-class Caucasian “guards” dreamed this up on their own is absurd.

How can Zimbardo and, by proxy, Maverick Entertainment express horror at the behavior of the “guards” when they were merely doing what Zimbardo and others, myself included, encouraged them to do at the outset or frankly established as ground rules? At the time, I had hoped that I would help create a valid, intellectually honest indictment of the prison system.[Emphasis added]

Zimbardo has written that he spent “hundreds of hours” of consultation with Prescott and other penal specialists.

emptywheel February 18th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 17

Coming in late, but … really? Legislators are shocked by the book? Are these ones that would otherwise be concerned with torture, or Armed Services Committee types who haven’t thought about the humans whose lives they’re overseeing?

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 73

“Incredible”, yes … intentional and deliberate, as well, Josh.

If the Rule of Law is under wide-spread assault, as it most certainly is, then “prudence”, at the “highest” levels, would dictate that reason, and basic, common sense, would be replaced by deception, manipulation, deceit, and corruption.

DW

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 73

That is incredible. (And to DW, a big “hi”!)

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 64

Thanks for sending this, Jeff. I’ve seen some of these reports coming over the transom. I know that there are at least two human right organization that are combing through this data for more quantitive information about how many detainee deaths (and homicides) there really were. Who knows if there’ll ever be accountability for them…

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 75

Why indeed… It’s a question that I’ve puzzled over many times. I’ve talked with military and VA clinicians, and they’ve said that interventions are very tough in situations were soldiers need treatment but are disinclined to seek it out. They’ve further said that this is not a problem that’s particular to the military or VA system. Regardless of what one makes of this, the fact is that we have a long-term situation where will be treating thousands of damaged veterans. That’s a cost that needs to be built into every war – an one that is often glossed over by leaders too quick to put our service members in harms way, on and off the battlefield.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 78

Not a bad idea.

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 86

Yeah. Zimbardo skated in my opinion. It was before the Belmont Report and the principles for human subject research that were consequently established but the Stanford Prison Experiment was one of the cited reasons they were established seven years later. Zimbardo needed a leash in the form of an Independent Review Board.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to basilbeast @ 79

Thanks so much. That’s very kind of you, and I greatly appreciate it. Yes, I know those books as well. Thanks again.

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 85

Agreed, and when those “situations” are such that “authority” permits and encourages excess, then cultural “conditioning”, both civilian and military, may be manipulated to the “ends” desired by those at the “top”.

“Torture” was “policy”, straight from the White House … right from the beginning, that was why Yoo, Bybee and Addington, were put to the task of “making” torture a “legal” and protected activity, except for those, at the very bottom, who were made out to be “bad apples”.

Those who tortured were encouraged and “authorized” to do so.

DW

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 84

You’re quite welcome. By the way, I highly recommend Darius Rejali’s book, Torture & Democracy – it’s easily one of the most important books on torture.

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 95

Exactly, it’s all been sanctioned….where does that leave us?

Margaret February 18th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

That’s a wrap for me. Thanks Mr. Leopold and Mr. Phillips. I look forward to reading the book. Thank you Josh for all you’ve done to bring this into the light and good luck in future endeavors.

emptywheel February 18th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 50

It seems to me the big thing left to do is make sure DiFi’s report gets liberated. At the very least it would get people thinking about how widespread this was (though granted that is presumably most the IC torture).

rikkidoglake February 18th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Margaret @ 53

Margaret — no irony intended, THANK YOU for that response to the “thank you for your service” meme.

I agree totally (from a much earlier generation).

If the server needs to be constantly stroked, where is the service?

The whole reflexive “thank you” shtick is just one more means of mind control, like replacing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” for the 7th inning stretch. I change channels for that brief minute.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Margaret @ 98

Thanks for your excellent questions, Margaret and for being here today!

otchmoson February 18th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to realitychecker @ 77

It seems that many turn a blind eye to the atrocities of war, either because they don’t know, don’t understand, or can ‘justify’ crimes as warm-time behavior. The individual pain of both the givers and receivers of torture don’t have the good fortune of saying “game over, back to normal.” My worry, now, becomes that the spill-over of which you speak, occurs and grows in a civilian society. One might expect (some) law enforcement to abuse the power of authority, using tasers and other unjustified force against non-violent citizens. BUT WHEN the masses cheer the behavior, when reporters blame the victims and justify brutish, thuggish behavior, hasn’t the war–and its tragedies–truly spilled over to all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 87

They’re shocked in the sense that the book conveys a story that’s unfamiliar to them. Consider the contour of the torture “debate” – Did torture work – yes or no? Do US techniques really constitute torture? I think I’ve described how US forces turned to torture (some of which is pretty shocking when you consider the inspiration in certain circumstances – e.g., myths, folklore and pseudo-science), and then the full costs of that experience on detainees, counter-insurgency policy and then the soldiers themselves. That last part – the damaging effect on soldiers – is one that almost always gives people pause. It’s also the source of a lot of surprise.

bluewombat February 18th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Resubmitting questions:

Josh, do you believe that there really is no more torture going on now that Obama is President?

In light of the fact that the Obama admin. pressured Spain to drop at least one investigation into torture at Guantanamo, do you feel Obama and Holder have legal exposure for war crimes as accessories after the fact?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Margaret @ 93

@ Jeff Kaye would know better than me.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 91

The VA does a poor job of treating PTSD because the only real treatment for PTSD is a humanistic one. I know, I’ve worked with some of those who “flunked out” of the VA programs. The VA is too tied up in the research field, so they tend to see the vets as objects, the subject of different kinds of intervention to be studied. A person whose life has been shattered by trauma, particularly war trauma, and especially torture (and I mean both the victim and the torturer) can only slowly rebuild a sense of faith and trust in their own humanity and the humanity of others in a long, slow therapeutic process.

In any case, treatment is nowhere as well funded as research, and that perpetuates the problem. Let me note here, as well, that historically research into torture techniques were conducted as well at VA facilities. Once again, we see the rot begins at high levels and seeps down to the lower organizational realms.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 104

No more torture? There have been some reports of certain incidents, but even human rights groups have said they’re finding far few reports. Far less torture than under Bush? Absolutely. As for your question about “legal exposure for war crimes as accessories after the fact”…I couldn’t speak to that with enough authority. That’s something that an attorney could answer with better certainty.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 99

Yes, that report deals specifically with the treatment of detainees in CIA custody from what they said. And on this somewhat related note, further underscoring some of Josh’s earlier points as well as Jeff’s, Eric Holder says the John Durham’s probe into the two CIA-related deaths of detainees “has run its course.” Charges (no surprise here) is unlikely. This news was somewhat buried:

The Justice Department’s ­investigation into the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody, including one who died at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, is winding down, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. signaled Thursday.

In testimony before a House committee, Holder said the controversial probe “has run its course. We are at a point where we are about to close those investigations.’’ He did not say whether CIA operatives would face criminal charges, and ­Justice Department officials declined to elaborate.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Margaret @ 93

Margaret, you may not see this, but new DoD rules on research on human subjects have a loophole allowing for research on circumscribed groups if the research is not conducted for the good of the society, but for the needs of a particular department within DoD. This can allow all kinds of abuses to occur, by simply classifying “research” as something else, e.g., efficacy studies. I think Jason and I will be updating our work which we previously did on the Wolfowitz memorandum on DoD human subjects research quite soon.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Margaret @ 98

Thanks so much! I greatly appreciate it.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Josh, can you talk about what you’re currently working on as it relates to your book? What can we expect to see from you down the road? Additionally, I understand CNN is planning a special on your book in April as well. What will that entail?

realitychecker February 18th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 102

Absolutely. The wars continue, the comparative norm spreads out. Of course it eventually manifests back in the civilian society. We’re seeing that now, and will see a lot more in coming months. I’m certain of it.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 39

Thanks so much, Jason. Really appreciate it.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 109

Indeed, that is a story we must publish soon.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 108

“…John Durham’s probe into the two CIA-related deaths of detainees “has run its course.”

Damn, I hadn’t seen that. Not surprising, though.

To @emptywheel @99… “liberated”… yes, that is the word for what is needed.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 95

Yes, but – and this is an important point in the book – in some situations some US forces tortured before there was authorization – and before the memos and directive were written and disseminated. Remember, as Jane Mayer notes, that John Walker Lindh was the first torture victim of the war on terror.

Kevin Gosztola February 18th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Hello, Josh. Glad FDL gave you an opportunity to do a Book Salon.

I talked to you and did a couple interviews after you did the Detainee Task Force story for The Nation and they went up here.

I thought of your book when I was doing a recent story on Ethan McCord receiving death threats from soldiers he had served with in 2-16. He is now going around telling his story and condemns what is now known as the “Collateral Murder” incident. These soldiers think he is a liar and don’t like that he is talking and getting attention. Now, he is in a short documentary nominated for an Academy Award where he shares his story and thoughts on the Apache helicopter attack and how he saved two children.

I wonder if any of your subjects that you have followed in your work have run into anything like this. Do you find sharp battles between soldiers over the truth of what they experienced? And how profoundly does this impact their struggle to resume what I will term a normal existence in society (for lack of a better phrase)?

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I also wonder what the next decades will yield as those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan recognize how they were used and to what purpose. Not just the soldiers themselves but also their extended families. Fodder, indeed.

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 106

Your first paragraph suggests that the consequential “fallout” of America’s most recent willingness to torture (which first became very evident at the very beginning of the “American Century”, during the war with the Philippine people) will long endure at a cost the which surprised Congress and the unrepentant, and “looking forward”, Unitary Executive have either not yet begun to consider or intend to ignore for as long as is possible.

The societal cost, beyond mere money, is essentially unimaginable, although you have given us clear measures, Jeff, by which to consider it.

DW

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 102

Yes, and even if there has been less US torture since Obama took power, the legacy of detainee abuse and torture is living out today. That’s one of the important points that I emphasize.

RevBev February 18th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 120

Do we know it’s been less? Or just less public?

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 120

Adding to this point, I think the fact that we have not seen any accountability and that Obama has told everyone to “look forward, not backwards” is what makes your book so timeless, if that makes sense. While these incidents you discuss in your book took place beginning in 2002, we have yet to truly confront and deal with these crimes.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Hi Kevin, Great to hear from you as well. Kevin also does great, important work at FDL and beyond.

In answer to your question, yes, I have followed some of the subjects from my book. I wouldn’t say that many have had the same experience as Ethan McCord. Some of the service members I interviewed were threatened, and that’s a big problem for a number of reasons. There have been many officers and soldiers who bravely spoke out against torture and other abuses. Many of them are no longer in the military, which brings me to another part of this to consider… As a result of this whole episode, and those that are similar to it (like the one you’ve mention) there has been a loss of important institutional knowledge and experience in the military. We lost a number of very good, serious, committed professionals because of our experience with torture.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Dearie @ 118

Thank you for raising that point. That’s part of what I’ve covered as well – that is, torture hasn’t just affected detainees and returning soldiers, but also the families to whom they belong. It’s a tragic story of toxic dividends that keeps playing out today.

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 116

What you say is correct, Josh; actual “authorization” did not come until after the fact, but it was, nonetheless, “official policy” … with a wink and a nod … and it was directly from the White House that this encouragement came, whether the idea fully originated there is still open to question, but none of what occurred was done free-lance, or without official and direct “authorization”.

DW

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 119

Agreed. The costs are incalculable. And to what end?

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to RevBev @ 121

Let me put it this way: We know of far less torture that is occurring. There could indeed be other cases that we’re not yet aware of.

BevW February 18th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

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

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

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

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Josh’s website and book (NoneOfUsWereLikeThis Before.com) Watch for Josh’s part of the upcoming CNN Special on Torture in April.

Jason’s website (Truth-Out.org)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Thomas Frank / Pity The Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle And The Unlikely Comeback of the Right; Hosted by Charles Pierce

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

(The comments will stay open for a while)

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 122

Agreed. Sadly, this is not just a consequence of our recent wars. Torture historians have noted that we’ve followed a common history of torture, and the patterns of costs that follow from it.

Dearie February 18th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Josh, thanks for pursuing this story and writing this book. I’ll read it with a box of tissues nearby, as I read the Tillman story……weeping along the way. We have to stay open to information about what is really going on….. and we have to keep open to the idea that the citizenry might actually come together at some point to speak truth to outrageous power. Thank you.

Mauimom February 18th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 120

the legacy of detainee abuse and torture is living out today.

It used to be that Americans prided themselves on their resistance to utilizing torture. Even if we now know it went on behind the scenes, the general statements were about support for Nuremberg, etc.

What Bush, Yoo, Rumsfeld et al. [now including Obama] did was to change this from the old “recoiling in horror”/ there are some things we just don’t do to the nit-picking and justification: “well, we don’t do it EXCEPT . . . [inset nationality or circumstance here].”

There’s a huge portion of America’s soul that has been lost.

bigbrother February 18th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 120

Repeated tours, under fire, seeing your unit members blown to bits is not a mental health model. Many interrogations that were progressive torture sessions took place at the hands and locations of USA MIC allies. Torture is more widespread worldwide than reported.
Resentment, hatred and fear drive people to bad behavior. Hollywood has glorified torture.
Our institution: churches, synagoues, Mosques, Schools, Universities and press has not villianized torture. We live in an immoral “civilization”.
Thank you for vetting these coverups.
Peace

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Dearie @ 130

When you get to page 198 make sure your tissue box is filled. Heartbreaking.

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 116

Agreed, Josh. Much about the torture situation will be understood by looking at these very early days, before the authorizations. I believe that Special Forces used torture prior to 9/11, and gave some indications of this in an article I wrote here at FDL in June 2009, except they called it “debriefing targets of opportunity”.

The lingering culture of torture, from the KUBARK days, and the Human Exploitation Manuals, and the material used as part of the Army’s Project X, were still alive in command levels, including at the interrogation schools, for those picked out for such special black ops.

See this page at the National Security Archive, especially re the off and on struggle within governmental bureaucracies in regards to this material.

DOD, USSOUTHCOM CI Training-Supplemental Information, CONFIDENTIAL, 31 July, 1991

This document records a phone conversation with Major Victor Tise, who served in 1982 as a counterintelligence instructor at the School of the Americas. Tise relates the history of the “objectionable material” in the manuals and the training courses at SOA. A decade of training between 1966 and 1976 was suspended after a Congressional panel witnessed the teaching program. The Carter administration then halted the counterintelligence training courses “for fear training would contribute to Human Rights violations in other countries,” Tise said, but the program was restored by the Reagan administration in 1982. He then obtained training materials from the archives of the Army’s “Project X” program which he described as a “training package to provide counterinsurgency techniques learned in Vietnam to Latin American countries.” The course materials he put together, including the manuals that became the subject of the investigations, were sent to Defense Department headquarters “for clearance” in 1982 and “came back approved but UNCHANGED.” Although Tise stated he removed parts he believed to be objectionable, hundreds of unaltered manuals were used throughout Latin America over the next nine years.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Over already? That was fast!

Well, thank you to all… Again, I’m grateful that FDL for putting together the discussion, and am grateful that Jason Leopold moderated the discussion.

Thanks also for your great questions. I’m sorry I didn’t get to answer all of them, but I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion.

Thank you again.

Mauimom February 18th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 132

Hollywood has glorified torture.

Boy, when you see the ads on tv for video games or movies glorifying torture, it makes you sick.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to BevW @ 128

Thank you, Bev! I really appreciate being afforded the opportunity to host the salon today.

tuezday February 18th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks for being here Josh. And you’ve sold another book.

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
In response to Josh Phillips @ 135

Thank you, Josh, for all of your reporting and for this book, which is now an important part of the historical record.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to Dearie @ 130

Thank you so much, @Dearie. I greatly appreciate the kind words.

Thanks everyone. Hope to do it again sometime…

Jeff Kaye February 18th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks, Josh, Jason, and everyone at FDL.

Josh Phillips February 18th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 139

Thanks so much, Jason.

I encourage everyone to follow Jason Leopold’s important work. There aren’t many journalists doing this work, and they need the support.

Thank you again, all. We’ll have another chat here in the future…

DWBartoo February 18th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Thank you Josh, Jason, and Bev.

Great and insightful comments, all around.

A most superb and important Book Salon.

DW

Jason Leopold February 18th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

@DWBartoo Great to see you, DW! Thanks for being here today!

dancewater February 18th, 2012 at 6:39 pm

War damages everyone who comes in contact with it, especially the children.

It is so hideous, I don’t know how we allow it to happen again and again and again.

There was a discussion above about torture going down under Obama. That is true, and there is less kidnapping, and less secret prisons under Obama. But that is mainly due to a change in tactics – Obama is just assassinating people, usually by drone strikes, rather than capturing them, kidnapping them, and then taking them somewhere to be disappeared and tortured.

This is not an improvement.

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