Manual Alternatives to Torture

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In both cases, too, government actions reflected hidden motives. Top decision-makers in , for instance, viewed the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an opening shot in the Cold War. Understandably, most hoped to end the war before the Soviet Union could enter and lay claim to any role in the occupation of Japan and in the postwar order in Asia.

Furthermore, Byrnes was already envisioning an aggressive role for nuclear weapons in anti-Soviet strategy. There were hidden motives in the torture story as well. Getting at the truth was not necessarily the point, any more than it was when China tortured U. Just a few years before the atomic bombings, using even conventional weapons to annihilate cities would have been unthinkable.

In , President Roosevelt had declared:. The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population…which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity. Decades later, the US stand on torture was just as unequivocal, with the State Department regularly condemning other countries for the practice. Of course, the US had violated these principles before.

In , before the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States used conventional bombs to destroy German and then Japanese cities, infamously taking the lives of over , Tokyo residents on the night of March 9. But the decisions by Truman and Bush to use atomic weapons and torture were further descents into savagery as state policy.

Helping to make this transformation possible were acts widely regarded as wicked beyond measure. Time and again, righteous anger gives rise to dehumanizing the enemy and the impulse for vengeance. So in the wake of the December 7, attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese were characterized as subhuman or as rats to be exterminated.

The terror attacks of September 11, , meanwhile, were often spoken of as a new Pearl Harbor, steeling the nation for a new fight. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. Other powerful psychological dynamics were at work. Criticism of U. An easily digestible myth was put forth that the only alternative to the bomb was an invasion of Japan, which, it was claimed, would have cost upwards of a million U. When the Bush administration faced criticism of its interrogation policies, it followed a similar playbook.

Officials insisted that their policies alone stood between Americans and more terrorist attacks. Both of these stories are myths. Altering the surrender terms alone might have brought an end to the war before the Soviets attacked. At any rate, an invasion — not to begin until November — would likely have been moot. But these stories saved officials from having to acknowledge that over , Japanese had been sacrificed at the altar of power politics, many of them suffering the torture of radiation disease.

They allow columnists like Charles Krauthammer to construct apologia for torture as a means of obtaining lifesaving information without a word about the use of false torture-extracted statements to sell a war that has cost the lives of over 4, Americans and countless others. In order to propagate these myths, officials strove to keep certain facts out of the public record. For example, in the summer of , policymakers were well aware of Japanese efforts to enlist the Soviets as an intermediary in peace negotiations. To do so would have spoiled the picture of an absolutely good America fighting against an absolute evil.

The Atlantic Crossword

But despite assertions that national security required utmost secrecy, officials readily violated this principle whenever it suited their purposes. When it came to light that some scientists had resisted using the bomb without warning on cities, it was decided to reveal the classified information that other scientists had given their approval. Government officials have employed even blander language. Such recourse to euphemism was less in evidence in the bomb story. Government officials used other linguistic manipulations instead.

It was developed over four decades ago by John Reid, a former police officer and polygraph expert. Instead of intimidation and physical threats, the process relies on an initial non-accusatory interview and progresses to a formal interrogation.

Selected Universal Legal Provisions Related to Detention and Freedom of Movement

The Reid technique has been praised for its success at eliciting confessions from criminals, but has also drawn criticism for seeming to assume that a subject is guilty, which could lead to false confessions. During the war, Scharff interviewed roughly American and British pilots who were highly trained in keeping secrets from the enemy. And it paid off, as Eric Horowitz writes in Pacific Standard :.

No, there was no chemical shortage; the white smoke was supposed to signal to pilots that they would soon be out of ammunition. Of the pilots Scharff interviewed, he failed to get the information he desired out of just But even they exhibited a remarkable deterioration in memory as a result of these stressful conditions.

According to Carle, enhanced interrogation techniques have similar effects. It is simply shocking one could be so stupid as to argue the opposite. Waterboarding was the CIA's most notorious interrogation technique. In this procedure, a prisoner is strapped to a board, his face covered with a cloth. Water is gradually poured over the cloth until it fills the prisoner's mouth and nasal cavity, preventing him from breathing. As he suffocates, panic and terror take hold, and it is assumed the prisoner will "talk" and tell the truth to be allowed to breathe.


An Alternative Set of Interrogation Procedures

Like other enhanced measures, waterboarding cannot be tested in a laboratory for ethical reasons, but there is a sizable amount of relevant scientific literature on it. As O'Mara shows in his book, studies of the "diving reflex" a set of physiological responses that occur when mammals, including humans, are submerged in water have demonstrated that immersion in cold water moves brain activity away from areas supporting memory to those "principally concerned with survival," such as the brainstem and amygdala, which regulate fear, pain and stress.

By occluding the airways, waterboarding starves people of air, and there is a "huge literature" showing that lack of oxygen hypoxia harms cognition, O'Mara tells Newsweek. He highlights one recent study , which found that hypoxia "severely impairs" a person's cognitive abilities. Furthermore, waterboarding causes carbon dioxide to accumulate in the body hypercapnia , which induces fear and panic.

In this situation, the ability to think and recall information will be "markedly reduced," he says. Despite the abundance of evidence relevant to torture, O'Mara is the first brain scientist to write such a book.

Scientists to Trump: Torture doesn’t work | Science | AAAS

O'Mara and his colleagues at Trinity College Dublin are completing a research project that examines the effects of water immersion and breath-holding on memory. Participants are asked to lie down with a wet cloth over their face and hold their breath while their physiology is monitored; then they are asked to recall bits of previously learned information. The study is in its third round of experiments and must still undergo peer review, but the results so far seem to indicate that the process impairs memory.

It does, on the other hand, generate false confessions. Most of those subjected to waterboarding, he says, confess as a result—and their distress is so intense, they do not even remember confessing. In a recent BBC documentary , for which Nance served as a consultant, a volunteer underwent waterboarding and confessed to "being born a bunny rabbit.

Depriving detainees of sleep is also unlikely to help those trying to gather intelligence. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year examined the effects of sleep deprivation on false confessions.