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Friday, May 13, 2005

Torture as Terrorism

It seems to be generally accepted, at least publicly, that torture is an ineffective method of interogation. However, Naomi Klein writes that getting information is not what torture is about. Torture is intimidation as a means of social control.
This is torture’s true purpose: to terrorize—not only the people in Guantánamo’s cages and Syria’s isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist—the individual prisoner’s will and the collective will.
Klein discusses the effects that the threat of arrest, deportation and possible torture have had right here in Ann Arbor:
“Obviously, intelligence agents have an incentive to hide the use of unlawful methods,” says the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer. “On the other hand, when they use rendition and torture as a threat, it’s undeniable that they benefit, in some sense, from the fact that people know that intelligence agents are willing to act unlawfully. They benefit from the fact that people understand the threat and believe it to be credible.”

And the threats have been received. In an affidavit filed with an ACLU court challenge to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Nazih Hassan, president of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor, Michigan, describes this new climate. Membership and attendance are down, donations are way down, board members have resigned—Hassan says his members fear doing anything that could get their names on lists. One member testified anonymously that he has “stopped speaking out on political and social issues” because he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.
I've met Nazih a few times--a very nice guy with a great sense of humor. He was joking around with Congressman John Dingell at our last anti-war march in March.

Klein is right--the only place torture works to get information is on Fox's show "24." But that's not why it's done.