Torture: Struggling with Our Inhumanity



Torture is currently enjoying its 15 minutes of fame, courtesy of the war
on terrorism. But, as we are all unfortunately learning, torture
American-style is refusing to make a graceful exit from the public stage.

According to the Bush administration -- in the words of Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the president
himself -- the Abu Ghraib horrors were an anomaly, a deplorable and
isolated case of misconduct among a few in the lower ranks.

Yet, as that scandal fades from view, we are confronted with new
revelations. Writing last month in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer reports on a
secretive U.S. government program in which U.S. agents kidnap terror
suspects and then turn them over to foreign nations so that they may be
interrogated with methods that would be prohibited in the United States,
including torture. A Pentagon investigation has confirmed that U.S.
interrogators at Guantanamo Bay have used sexual humiliation to coerce
information from prisoners. Women interrogators fondled prisoners, flaunted
their breasts, teased them about sex. Using dye, they pretended to smear
menstrual blood on the Muslim men, a profound cultural violation…

The techniques employed by the American torturers in Iraq and Guantanamo
Bay are among the most insidious and effective. Sexual abuse, whatever form
it takes, is an extremely damaging form of torture. For tormentors to
penetrate this most private realm produces deep feelings of despair and
self-loathing; I have heard survivors say they would have preferred to be
beaten. When they are forced into humiliating acts, they can feel
responsible for participating in their own degradation. The shame they feel
eats away at them forever

 


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