What the photos show: sexual humiliation, prisoners kept naked, hooding, beatings, stress positions, deaths, stitching of wounds. Abuses chronicled in Taguba Report on Abu Ghraib: breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees, pouring cold water on naked detainees, beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair, threatening male detainees with rape, allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell, sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
Abuses in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay: beatings, hypothermia, extreme heat, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, dogs, prolonged isolation The ordeal of Omar Khadr The ordeal of Mohamed al-Qahtani Other accounts….
Guantanamo detainee: “ Our interrogations … were conducted with us chained to the floor for hours on end in circumstances so prolonged that it was practice to have plastic chairs… that could be easily hosed off because prisoners would be forced to urinate during the course of them and were not allowed to go to the toilet……One practice … was ‘short shackling’ where we were forced to squat without a chair with our hands chained between our legs and chained to the floor. If we fell over, the chains would cut into our hands. We would be left in this position for hours before an interrogation, during the interrogations (which could last as long as 12 hours), and sometimes for hours while the interrogators left the room. The air conditioning was turned up so high that within minutes we would be freezing. There was strobe lighting and loud music played that was itself a form of torture. Sometimes dogs were brought in to frighten us… Sometimes detainees would be taken to the interrogation room day after day and kept short-shackled without interrogation ever happening, sometimes for weeks on end.”
Guard testimony, as reported by New York Times: “ One regular procedure … was [to make] uncooperative prisoners strip to their underwear, having them sit in a chair while shackled hand and foot to a bolt in the floor, and forcing them to endure strobe lights and screamingly loud rock and rap music played through two close loudspeakers, while the air-conditioning was turned up to maximum levels… Such sessions could last up to 14 hours with breaks.”
FBI Agent’s email: “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.”
“ Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”: Authorized for use by the CIA, many have been adopted by the military as well. Stress positions, longtime standing, hypothermia, sleep deprivation, loud music, controlled drowning aka “water-boarding” The misleading quality of these labels What do these techniques entail?
Longtime standing : Cornell medical study, studying Stalinist practices, reported: making a victim stand for 18 to 24 hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”
Stress positions: Cause swelling, pain, sleep deprivation. Have led to death. Often combined with beatings. Adam Hochschild: “What is a stress position? Mike Xego, a former political prisoner in South Africa, once demonstrated one for me. He bent down and clasped his hands in front of him as if they were handcuffed, and then, using a rolled-up newspaper, showed me how apartheid-era police officers would pin his elbows behind his knees with a stick, forcing him into a permanent crouch. ‘You'd be passed from one hand to another. Kicked. Tipped over,’ he explained. ‘The blood stops moving. You scream and scream and scream until there is no voice’”
Sleep deprivation: Darius Rejali, torture scholar: “Sleep deprivation reduces a body's tolerance for physical pain, causing deep aches first in the lower part of the body, followed by similar pains in the upper body. Sleep-deprived people are also highly suggestible (a condition not unlike drunkenness or hypnosis), making sleep deprivation ideal for inducing false confessions.” Menachem Begin (former Israeli prime minister) on his own experience of sleep deprivation in Stalinist Russia: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it."
Waterboarding , as described by Malcolm Nance, a retired navy officer and counter-intelligence expert: “Waterboarding is a torture technique, period…. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Nance, cont. “Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.”
Nance, cont. “Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.” Used by Spanish and Italian Inquisition, Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Called “torture” by the US tribunals that judged Japanese officers following WWII. Called “torture” by the Mississippi State Supreme Court in the 1920s. Rear Adm. John D. Hutson: "Other than perhaps the rack and thumbscrews, waterboarding is the most iconic example of torture in history. It has been repudiated for centuries.”
Why these methods are properly called “torture.”
They fit the legal definition of torture: the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, mental or physical.
These methods have considered torture for centuries.
The US government has referred to these methods as “torture” when used by other governments.
Even methods that do not rise to the level of torture are absolutely prohibited by international and US law if they constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.