Tell Me Again What Durbin Apologized For?

1 comment November 14th, 2005at 11:40am Posted by Eli

Interesting Op-Ed piece in the NYT today:

Fearful of future terrorist attacks and frustrated by the slow progress of intelligence-gathering from prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Pentagon officials turned to the closest thing on their organizational charts to a school for torture. That was a classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody.

The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE’s teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantanamo went “up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques” for “high-profile, high-value” detainees. General Hill had sent this list – which included prolonged isolation and sleep deprivation, stress positions, physical assault and the exploitation of detainees’ phobias – to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who approved most of the tactics in December 2002.

Some within the Pentagon warned that these tactics constituted torture, but a top adviser to Secretary Rumsfeld justified them by pointing to their use in SERE training, a senior Pentagon official told us last month.


SERE methods are classified, but the program’s principles are known. It sought to recreate the brutal conditions American prisoners of war experienced in Korea and Vietnam, where Communist interrogators forced false confessions from some detainees, and broke the spirits of many more, through Pavlovian and other conditioning. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, painful body positions and punitive control over life’s most intimate functions produced overwhelming stress in these prisoners. Stress led in turn to despair, uncontrollable anxiety and a collapse of self-esteem. Sometimes hallucinations and delusions ensued. Prisoners who had been through this treatment became pliable and craved companionship, easing the way for captors to obtain the “confessions” they sought.

…At Guantanamo, SERE-trained mental health professionals [worked] with guards and medical personnel to uncover resistant prisoners’ vulnerabilities. “We know if you’ve been despondent; we know if you’ve been homesick,” General Hill said. “That is given to interrogators and that helps the interrogators’ make their plans.”


A full account of how our leaders reacted to terrorism by re-engineering Red Army methods must await an independent inquiry. But the SERE model’s embrace by the Pentagon’s civilian leaders is further evidence that abuse tantamount to torture was national policy, not merely the product of rogue freelancers. After the shock of 9/11 – when Americans desperately wanted mastery over a world that suddenly seemed terrifying – this policy had visceral appeal. But it’s the task of command authority to connect means and ends rationally. The Bush administration has too frequently failed to do this. And so it is urgent that Congress step in to tie our detainee policy to our national interest.

So when Dick Durbin compared our treatment of detainees to that of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union and was subsequently vilified to the point of tearful apology for it, it was not hyperbole – it was quite literally true. We have become the enemy.

Also note that this utterly obliterates the “few bad apples” defense that the military and the administration shamefully and successfully deployed when the Abu Ghraib torture photos first surfaced. There are some other interesting nuggets as well, such as an observation that the primary goal of the Communist torturers SERE emulated was false confessions, not actionable intelligence.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Prisoners,Republicans,Terrorism,Torture

1 Comment

  • 1. Anonymous  |  November 30th, 2005 at 12:54 am

    The reason, as any sane person would admit, is the Clenis(TM). Billl Clinton got a blowjob, for fuck’s sake, he got a BLOWJOB in the Oval Office! He got a fucking BLOWJOB in the fucking OVAL OFFICE!


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