Torture Treatment Experts Speak Out

Across the country, the reaction to the veto of a bill that would have stopped the CIA from using torture has been overwhelmingly negative. Here’s what two people involved in the treatment of torture victims have to say about the President’s veto and the votes in Congress that supported it.

From Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News:

At the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center, which I direct, we constantly hear the results of torture, ill treatment and abuse, and we know that people who are hardened by commitment to a cause are ready to be tortured, and if we torture them, they are ready to torture us back. We also know that, for those with no cause, studies show that torture is ineffective in garnering information that is accurate, since the person being tortured will say, anything, anything to stop the pain, and most of this information is just not reliable.

So, this veto only serves to deepen our vulnerability to reprisals of a similar nature in the ongoing war, putting our soldiers in the position of being tortured if captured. This is not a war unlike any other. It is a war, and there are rules that we should observe if we are truly to win the peace. Anything short of this is simply more of the same reprehensible and shadowy policy that continues to reduce our overall stature as a nation.

As a torture treatment professional, a veteran, and an American patriot, I call on this Administration and whoever follows later, to unequivocally condemn ‘enhanced interrogation’ as the torture that it is, and to bring the United States back into line with its cherished principles of due process, civil liberty — and if war is to continue — strict adherence to the rules of engagement, particular with prisoners, no matter how heinous we may think they are. We become them if we torture, plain and simple.

The Hartford Courant:

As medical director for the past 25 years of one of the oldest torture treatment programs in the United States, I have evaluated and treated hundreds of victims of torture, primarily survivors of the Pol Pot “killing fields” in Cambodia.

Cambodians who lived through the four years of the Pol Pot regime suffered multiple tortures and deprivations. Some Cambodian survivors experienced a psychological suffocation and mock execution torture similar to waterboarding, in which a plastic bag was tied over their heads until they blacked out. I know from seeing these patients that such experiences, which leave no visible external scar, can lead to serious psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression, which can persist even 30 years after the torture occurred.

. . . .

If Sen. Lieberman minimizes the psychological impact of torture, what will he say to U.S. soldiers returning from the Iraq who have post-traumatic stress and depression? Will he tell them that their suffering is “only psychological?”

And will he also fail to recognize that many survivors of war trauma have physical and psychological problems that are inseparable? Both kinds of problems must be addressed to help the survivor heal.

Our political leaders can say, “I believe in using torture to keep America safe,” but they cannot say “waterboarding is not torture,” nor can they say that “waterboarding is not dangerous.” We cannot pretend that torture is not torture just because we see no visible scars. We cannot pass torture off as “just psychological.”

Both the psychological and physical effects and outcomes of torture can be devastating and they often occur together.


Published on March 24, 2008


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