Wednesday, July 2, 2008

US Culls Its Gitmo Interrogation Policy From Mao's China

The phrase "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" has taken a new twist, as it has emerged that the interrogators at Guantanamo Bay were trained to use the techniques used against American soldiers by Communist China during the Korean War.

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

By now, the question of whether the US has violated every torture agreement to which it is a signatory has been answered several times over, but the avalanche of evidence to that point shows no signs of slowing. America's foreign policy is, and always has been, that it has the absolute moral authority to lead the rest of the word. What should be, but isn't, implied by such a position is that the country must then exhibit some moral qualities before forcing them on others.

If engaging in the precise techniques it decried, rightfully, when used against its own soldiers does not contradict the very idea of moral superiority, then I cannot conceive of anything that would convince anyone otherwise.

Nearly all defense of the torturous interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and elsewhere by the US has centered on the supposed ability of those interrogations to save American lives. The idea being, of course, that no one could in good conscience oppose anything that could produce information that prevents another attack. Mind you, the only proof anyone has of such a relationship is the government's word, which should speak for itself at this point.

But the title of the 1957 article from which the class was copied verbatim should shed some light on that particular fallacy: "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War." From the concerns over the false confessions sprang SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape], a program designed to help American soldiers avoid falling for the tactics used to elicit propagandistic or false confessions.

The gall boggles the mind. While the propensity of interrogations to bring forth anything of value was already in doubt, the fact that the entire program was modeled on a program designed explicitly to elicit nothing of any use should close the book.

There is no exchange rate on human life. If it's torture when used on American soldiers, it's torture when Americans use it on others.


Tortured Logic, April 14
Trickle-Down Responsibility, May 9
Down is the New Up, April 25

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