Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A letter to Robert Scheer on torture

Dear Robert Scheer,

I am writing to thank you for your comments on torture last Friday, 10/19/07, on Left, Right & Center (LR&C)....

You mentioned the "Fort Hunt Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII" 10/6 article in the Washington Post. These state-side WWII interrogators seem convincing when they claim not to have done anything to unsettle the American myth that "we do not torture."

With respect to the issue of the use of torture by Americans in WWII, I wanted to draw your attention to a book review I read yesterday in the NY Review of Books. The book is After the Reich: The Brutal History of Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh and the article is "Cruel Allied Occupiers" by Patricia Meehan. It seems the Fort Hunt interrogators were the state-side exception when it came to US interrogators of WWII. From the book:

The Americans had used methods similar to those employed by the SS in Dachau. One of these was keeping the prisoner for long periods in solitary confinement.... Worse still were the mock executions.... More conventional methods of torture included kicks to the groin, deprivation of sleep and food, and savage beatings. When the Americans set up a commission of inquiry into the methods used by their investigators, the found that, of the 139 cases they examined, 137 had "had their testicles permanently destroyed by kicks received from the American War Crimes Investigation team."

In America's Anti-Torture Tradition, Robert Kennedy Jr makes the point that an anti-torture stance goes to the root of the American tradition, connecting it to George Washington and the American Revolution. But you have to wonder how complete his research is when he argues that Ike guaranteed the fair treatment of Germans. Perhaps he should read MacDonogh's book?

I'd be interested in what you think about these points on torture. I will be speaking on torture at Stanford's Center on Ethics in January. I know you are busy, but it would be great if you could make it. The time is yet to be determined. Thanks for your time.

Best wishes, Baggage Handler

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