Bush’s Intellectual Torturers

Todorov Tzvetan Todorov in Project Syndicate:

The newly published documents do not disclose the very facts of torture, which were already well known by whomever wanted to know them. But they do reveal a great deal of information about how the torture sessions unfolded and how the agents involved perceived them.

What is most striking is the discovery of niggling little rules, outlined in CIA manuals and co-opted by the government’s legal executives. One would have thought that torture was the result of blunders or unintentional excesses committed on the spur of the moment. On the contrary, these memos make clear that torture was a tactic formulated in minute detail.

In the Bush administration’s “guidelines,” torture can be divided into three categories, of varying levels of intensity: “baseline” (nudity, dietary manipulation, sleep deprivation); “corrective” (hitting); and “coercive” (water-dousing, box confinement, water-boarding).

For a facial slap, the interrogator was supposed to hit with fingers slightly spread, at equal length between the tip of the chin and the bottom of the corresponding earlobe. Dousing a naked detainee with water was to last 20 minutes if the water’s temperature measured 5 °C, 40 minutes at 10 °C, and up to 60 minutes at 15 °C. Sleep deprivation could not exceed 180 hours, but could start over again after eight hours rest.