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It seems like every week brings more horrible details about the use of torture on “high-value” US detainees (and a corresponding paucity of coverage of our treatment of run-of-the-mill prisoners). This Washington Post piece has a good roundup of the travesty of the torture of Abu Zubaida.

Detainee’s Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots

The application of techniques such as waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning that U.S. officials had previously deemed a crime — prompted a sudden torrent of names and facts. Abu Zubaida began unspooling the details of various al-Qaeda plots, including plans to unleash weapons of mass destruction.

This paragraph perpetuates the infuriating usage of “simulation” and
other theatrical language to describe waterboarding (my preferred
description is probably “controlled drowning,” which may imply that interrrogators have more “control” over violence than they do, but it at least doesn’t negate the drowning part). On the other hand, the piece is pretty clear about the clusterfuck this technique produced, as the prisoner stopped providing useful information and more or less broke down in multiple senses, both going crazy and making up ever more incredible stories to make it stop.

The blogger Digby has a good take on this in a discussion of “torture metrics” in which he compares Rumsfeld’s pressure for torture-based intelligence with the obsession with “body counts” of the military under Robert McNamara.

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