UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Book Discussion Series @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA) September 25, 2006, 7:00 p.m. Alfred W.

McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Metropolitan Books, 2006). Themes: The history of U.S. research into, and support for, torture, especially psychological “no-touch” methods developed in research funded during the Cold War (esp. from 1950 to 1962) and spread to allies around the world, later used in the “war on terror”; the irrationality of support for torture, given what is known about its ineffectiveness and strategic costs to democracies. Introduction. A visit by the author’s mother, Marguerite Piel McCoy, in 1933, to Nuremberg’s Lochgefangnisse shocked her; later she would say: “Torture is evil, pure and simple” (1-3; cf. 209). Ch. 1: Two Thousand Years of Torture. Abu Ghraib revealed “CIA torture methods that have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half century” (5). Their roots involve “almost all of our society” (6). Summary (7-12). Five aspects of torture: 1) psychological depths involved; 2) its use tends to spread; 3) those in power find it seductive; 4) torturers are rarely prosecuted; 5) torture severely saps democratic legitimacy (13-14). Cold War pressures led U.S. to turn away from human rights commitment to embrace a “massive mind-control project” (15). In antiquity; Ulpian (3rd c. A.D.) wrote that torture was a “delicate, dangerous, and deceptive thing . . . For many persons have such strength of body and soul that they heed pain very little, so that there is no means of obtaining the truth from them, while others are so susceptible to pain that they will tell any lie rather than suffer it” (16). The Church banned torture in 866 and trial by ordeal in 1215. But it was revived in the 13th century and practiced for five centuries (16-17). Enlightenment Europe abolished it by the early 1800s (17). In 1874 Victor Hugo claimed “torture has ceased to exist” (17). Revived in authoritarian states after World War I (17-18). France tortured several hundred thousand in the Algerian war (18-20). Ch. 2: Mind Control. Cold War brought concern about Soviet mind-control techniques and spurred research (20-25). “[T]he CIA would spend several billion dollars over the next decade to probe . . . the mechanisms of mass persuasion and the effects of coercion on individual consciousness,” authorized by NSC 4-A (25-26). MKUltra (Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, chief scientist) had two phases “first, esoteric, often bizarre experiments with hypnosis and hallucinogenic drugs, from 1950 to 1956 (26-31); then, more conventional research into human psychology beginning with a secret meeting in Montreal on Jun. 1, 1951, led by Sir. Henry T. Tizard, the British Ministry of Defence’s “venerable senior scientist” (31-50) until 1963 when the agency compiled . . . a definitive interrogation manual,” the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation handbook, which “became the basis of a major agency training program that ran for about a decade” (50-53). CIA’s new methods “left none of the usual signs” of torture (53). These new methods, in which, in the words of Judge Dimitrios Evrigenis of Greece, member of the European Court of Human Rights, “torture no longer presupposes violence,” were used by the British in counterinsurgency operations, and later in Northern Ireland (54-59).

Ch. 3: Propagating Torture. The CIA disseminated the techniques in two phases during the Cold War, first in police-training programs in Asia and Latin America (60-86; 62-74 on the Phoenix program in Vietnam, 74-75 on Iran, and 75-86 on the Philippines), and later by collaborating with Army teams advising local counterinsurgency forces, esp. in Central America (86-99; 89-96 on the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual—1983 used in Honduras). U.S. response to late 20th-century anti-torture human rights campaign successfully worked to exempt the CIA methods from the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which used a narrow definition of torture (99-102). Ironically, at this time the Army “moved decisively to make its interrogation doctrine fully compliant with the Geneva Conventions” (102-04). The result: “a contradictory conclusion of the Cold War. Civil authorities had ratified the U.N. anti-torture convention in ways that legitimated psychological torture within U.S. criminal law; the Army, by contrast, was complying fully with the Geneva Conventions by making all torture, physical and psychological, crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice” (104). The long-running controversy over the School of the Americas embodied this contradiction; it led to Jan. 1997 revelations of CIA torture training in Central America, but the public reaction was “muted” (104-07). Ch. 4: War on Terror. In the 1990s, “torture had been out-sourced to U.S. allies” (109). After 9/11, “a growing public consensus emerged in favor of torture” (110-12). The administration went about setting new standards (11316), the CIA set up a “global gulag” (11620), and a quest for clearer legal standards began, involving the infamous torture memos (121-25). Bagram (12526). Guantánamo (126-29). Iraq (13042). Investigations and damage control (142-50)

Ch. 5: Impunity in America. Stages of response in a culture of impunity: minimizing abuse while using euphemism to describe it, justifying it by claiming effectiveness, and burying it by blaming “bad apples” (152). They Fay report contained “stunning revelations” and traced methods to CIA (154-56). The Red Cross concluded in June 2004 that treatment “tantamount to torture” was systematically used by U.S. (156-57). U.S. rejection of this conclusion marked an important moment, signifying open embrace of psychological torture (15758). FBI objections to CIA techniques came out in e-mails published by the New York Times in Dec. 2004 (158-60). Authors of the war on terror policies were protected and even promoted; only lowlevel personnel punished (160-71). “[S]ome sustained resistance” from NGOs, journalists, judges (171-77). “[S]urprisingly widespread advocacy of state-sanctioned torture among American academics” (177-79). Amnesty International criticism of Guantanamo as “the gulag of our times” has some effect (179-81). Resistance from military prosecutors (181-82). Inquiries into role of medical personnel (182-84). Senate Armed Services Committee (184-85). McCain’s campaign for legislation (18587). Ch. 6: The Question of Torture. Since the fact that the U.S. has engaged in systematic torture is beyond dispute, Americans need to ask hard questions (188-90). Fictionalized rationales justifying torture are flawed, and fables untrue (190-95). “In the real world, the impossibility of perfect prescience makes the plea to torture the few an opening to the torture of the many,” also leading to extrajudicial executions (195-96). “Mass torture of thousands of suspects, some guilty, most innocent” can produce some useful information (Algeria, war on terror) (196-98). But the strategic harm it causes outweighs the value of that information (199-202). Contrast this with

interrogation successes from establishing rapport, as by WWII “legendary” Marine interrogator Maj. Sherwood F. Moran (202-03). Dedicated individuals can resist all torture (203-06). Given the irrationality of support for torture, it can be explained only by the insecurity of those in power (206-07). “Torture will not and cannot serve as a bargain-price shortcut to security. It is a deal with the devil that will leave Satan holding a balloon mortgage on the American birthright of liberty” (207). Pessimistic conclusion: “the United States seems to suffer from a culture of impunity over this sensitive topic” (208). Foresees a spread of torture “in a downward spiral of fear and self-empowerment” in coming years, and after future revelations “the public’s moral concern and Washington’s apologies will ring hollow, producing even greater damage to the country’s prestige” (209). Notes. 38 pp. Note on “Armen Victorian” (218-19 n. 46). Note on Donald O. Hebb (220 n. 52). Note on John C. Lilly (221 n. 55). Note on Col. Hernani F. Figueroa’s libel suit against McCoy (228-30 n. 67). Note on the rhetorical effectiveness of the “ticking bomb scenario” (245 n. 1).

Bibliography. 105 articles, 116 books, 13 NGO reports, 6 foreign government documents, 43 U.S. government documents, 66 U.S. government memoranda, 4 U.N. documents, 9 dissertations, papers, or manuscripts, 3 collections of private papers, 6 films or TV broadcasts, 36 mass media sources, 15 interviews. Acronyms. 2-page list of 55 acronyms. Acknowledgments. Study of torture’s impact on the military in the Philippines being the point of departure for this book, thanks to Philippine sources (many officers worked as torturers in their formative years). Subject abandoned after the end of the Cold War, taken up again after Abu Ghraib. Tom Engelhardt. Influence of public lectures and responses. Index. 12 pp. About the Author. J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia and Closer Than Brothers.

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