Putting Torture In Perspective

Here’s a great post from GregNews (which you should be reading everyday) comparing the US policies in Iraq towards prisoners (re: Abu Gharib) versus Saddam Hussein’s policy.


What is torture? It’s different things to different people. But, one does not have to be an apologist of torture to note that while the abuses in Abu Ghraib were offensive, wrong and punishable, they seem to be far from the torture that runs rampant in other societies. Likewise, the a set of 24 methods which Donald Rumsfeld approved for interrogating Iraqi prisoners – and not to be confused with the abusive actions of seven soldiers at Abu Ghraib – cannot be considered torture. To understand this one should compare American “torture” to the torture of Saddam Hussein.

Rumsfeld: approved of “removing a detainee from the standard interrogation setting and putting him in a less comfortable room.”

Saddam era: “There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food … on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Hussein’s youngest son] personally supervise these murders.” [Iraqi witness]

Rumsfeld: approved of “replacing hot rations with cold food or military Meals Ready to Eat.”

Saddam era: “The star witness against the government of Iraq hobbled into the room, her legs braced with clumsy metal callipers. “Anna” had been tortured two years ago. She is now four years old. Her father, Ali, is a thick-set Iraqi who used to work for Saddam’s psychopathic son, Uday. Some time after the bungled assassination of Uday, Ali fell under suspicion… So the secret police came for his wife. Where is he? They tortured her. And when she didn’t break, they tortured his daughter. “When did you last see your father? Has he phoned? Has he been in contact?” They half-crushed the toddler’s feet. Now, she doesn’t walk, she hobbles, and Ali fears that Saddam’s men have crippled his daughter for life.”

Rumsfeld: approved of “adjusting the temperature to uncomfortable levels or introducing an unpleasant smell.”

Saddam era: “When I attended fourth grade in 1981, my teacher called me to the front of the class and asked: “Do your parents say anything bad about the government?” The whole class was staring at me. Stunned and scared, I answered, “No.” But when one of my classmates said in passing that Iran was not so bad, she disappeared the next day, along with her family.” [Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress]

Rumsfeld: approved of “reversing sleep cycles from night to day.”

Saddam era: “I was greeted at al-Radwaniya [prison] with what is known as “The Reception.” They took my clothes off, laid me down on my back and dragged me by my legs across hot pavement until my back was a bloody mess. Then they made me roll in the sand. And just to make sure that the wounds got infected, I had to climb a 15-foot ladder and jump repeatedly into a pit of sewage water filled with blood and who knows what else. All because I wanted to stop playing soccer.” [Former Iraqi national soccer player Sharar Haydar]

Rumsfeld: approved of “deceiving detainees into thinking they were being questioned by people from a country other than the United States.”

Saddam era: “At one point, the interior minister becomes angry that a car apparently belonging to Uday Hussein, elder son of Saddam, gets precedence over his own vehicle in entering a security area. One of two guards at the gate begs forgiveness from Hasan, pleading: “Sir, I did not realize that you were with Mr. Uday. … I didn’t realize. Please, please, in the name of Saddam Hussein, please.” The guard, continuing wherever possible with his appeals, is stripped of his epaulet, then his shirt and his beret, and the beatings begin — with wooden poles, sticks and cables. After about 15 minutes, as he lies prone, the attention of the police officers and the cameraman switches to another victim… The man, who gave his name as Ali, said, “We were beaten everyday like this for a month.”… Police, Ali said, would show films of the beatings to Hasan, and if he thought a prisoner had escaped too lightly, that man would be pulled out of his crowded cell and beaten again.”

And Saddam era: “Farris Salman is one of the last victims of Mr. Hussein’s rule. His speech is slurred because he is missing part of his tongue. Black-hooded paramilitary troops, the Fedayeen Saddam, run by Mr. Hussein’s eldest son, Uday, pulled it out of his mouth with pliers last month, he said, and sliced it off with a box cutter. They made his family and dozens of his neighbors watch.”

And Saddam era: “This is a regime that will gouge out the eyes of children to force confessions from their parents and grandparents. This is a regime that will crush all of the bones in the feet of a two-year-old-girl to force her mother to divulge her father’s whereabouts. This is a regime that will hold a nursing baby at arm’s length from its mother and allow the child to starve to death to force the mother to confess. This is a regime that will burn a person’s limbs off to force him to confess or comply. This is a regime that will slowly lower its victims into huge vats of acid, either to break their will or simply as a means of execution. This is a regime that applies electric shocks to the bodies of its victims, particularly their genitals, with great creativity. This is a regime that in [the year] 2000 decreed that the crime of criticizing the regime (which can be as harmless as suggesting that Saddam’s clothing does not match) would be punished by cutting out the offender’s tongue. This is a regime that practices systematic rape against its female victims. This is a regime that will drag in a man’s wife, daughter, or other female relative and repeatedly rape her in front of him. This is a regime that will force a white-hot metal rod into a person’s anus or other orifices. This is a regime that employs thalium poisoning, widely considered one of the most excruciating ways to die. This is a regime that will behead a young mother in the street in front of her house and children because her husband was suspected of opposing the regime. This is a regime that used chemical warfare on its own Kurdish citizens – not just on the fifteen thousand killed and maimed at Halabja but on scores of other villages all across Kurdistan. This is a regime that tested chemical and biological warfare agents on Iranian prisoners of war, using the POWs in controlled experiments to determine the best ways to disperse the agents to inflict the greatest damage.”

Can we have some context now?

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