Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Test your gag reflex 

I just finished watching Torture: The Guantanamo Guidebook on our History channel.
I wonder if there is an American network which would dare to broadcast this show.
It made me sick.
This show was one of a series produced by Britain's Channel 4. It showed seven British volunteers who tried to withstand 48 hours with ex-Army interrogators giving them the kind of treatment that the hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo have been subjected to for the last three years.
Four of the "prisoners" actually lasted for the full two days. One older man, 49 years old, was pulled out after 10 hours by a doctor because his body temperature was dropping too low. Two others asked to get out early -- they just couldn't stand it.
Here is what happened to them:
At the beginning of the show, when the volunteers showed up at the studio thinking they were just supposed to fill out some forms, the Army people grabbed them, hooded, stipped and shackled them, and took them to the cells. The Army interrogators had been told that one of the prisoners actually did have some terrorist connections, and their goal was to find out which one it was. So they were pretty motivated.
The "officially approved" tortures they used were all of these --
Environmental manipulation: Subjecting prisoners to extremes of hot and cold.
Sensory deprivation: Depriving prisoners of both sight and hearing, for example, by hooding combined with white noise.
Sleep adjustment: Repeatedly interrupting a prisoner’s sleep, while allowing them inadequate sleep overall.
Stress positions: Position which a prisoner is ordered to maintain, causing discomfort or pain without physical contact.
Forced grooming: Forcible shaving. Deeply humiliating for some Muslims. (in the show, they shaved the hair from a non-Muslim "prisoner", but with the Muslim "prisoners" watching)
Pride and ego down: Label for techniques used to undermine prisoners’ self-esteem and dignity.
They did not use "waterboarding" (in which the victim is smothered with a wet cloth, creating the sensation of drowning) nor "TheVietnam" (in which electrodes (real or fake) are attached to the victim's body.)
But seeing what they did do made me sick. Not only was it upsetting to watch these men being treated this way, it was the look of despair in their eyes that was most disturbing. Its not surprising that the real Guantanamo prisoners have attempted suicide in substantial numbers.
Or, at least, it used to be called suicide.
There is a frighteningly Orwellian approach to language here. I've been reading recently about how the Bush administration is now using the term "constitutional option" instead of "nuclear option" to describe the Republican attempt to end the judicial fillibuster, just like they tried to change the term "private" accounts to "personal" accounts to describe Bush's attempt to destroy Social Security. And I was thinking that all this arguing over terminology wasn't really very important.
But as this show pointed out, the Pentagon has a new name for it when a prisoner attempts suicide. It is now called "manipulative self-injurious behaviour". And after they started using this terminology, they could report that the number of "suicide" attempts had declined substantially.
Is there a euphemism for "totally disgusting"?

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