Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Stating the obvious with regard to torture

Via soccerdad at The Left Coaster:

A new article in Archives of General Psychiatry (vol 64, p 277)is discussed in New Scientist shows that what the Bush sadists call Torture Lite produces long term effects as bad as physical torture.

Basoglu says the findings challenge the common perception that psychological torture is less distressing than physical torture. "Implicit in this distinction is a difference in the distressing nature of the events. The evidence takes issue with that," he says. "And since psychological torture is as bad as physical torture, we shouldn’t use it."

The findings chime with previous work, say others. "The conclusions are completely consistent with what those subjected to these draconian practices have reported," Rubenstein says. He points out that US Senator John McCain, who experienced torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has said that if he were forced to make a decision between enduring psychological or physical torture, he would not hesitate to pick the latter.

America under Bush has become torture nation fueled by hate and enabled by a pervasive nihilism.

My awareness of the literature on psychological torture dating back to the 1950s would suggest that Basoglu's findings are consistent with what should now be common sense (though given the drivel that we are subjected to via our Congress critters and media pundits, a crash course in common sense is apparently in order). One difficulty faced by those of us who know the available research literature is the tendency for Americans to discount the importance of anything labeled "psychological" relative to that labeled "physical." That particular bias is pervasive in public discourse on issues such as mental health (generally taken less seriously than what is labeled physical health), etc. I'm not too surprised that the notion that placing people in conditions of sensory deprivation, extreme isolation, and so on would be viewed under euphemisms as "torture lite" or "enhanced interrogation techniques" or similar nonsense - even though these very techniques have been consistently shown to cause severe mental and physical distress (I realize this is a bit of an understatement), lasting well past the cessation of such techniques.

That said, it's nice to see some of this evidence making its way into the popular media.

It should also go without saying that America was already well on its way to being a "torture nation" long before Bush the Lesser came along. Our government has undoubtedly hit some new lows during the course of this sorry decade, but the difference is in degree rather than in kind. That point should be kept in mind as we get bombarded by next year's election propaganda.

Update: ScienceDaily has a summary of Basoglu's research that is well worth reading.

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