September 21, 2009
Torture Works, and Here’s How

From the Associated Press:

“The assumption is that the (methods) are without effect on memory, or indeed facilitate the retrieval of information from memory,” O’Mara said.

But overwhelmingly, scientific literature shows the opposite: Chronic stress and trauma — the likely result of the CIA’s methods, particularly for long-term prisoners, according to O’Mara — can damage the hippocampus, the part of the brain that integrates memory.

The list of techniques the CIA used included prolonged sleep deprivation — six days in at least one instance — being chained in painful positions, exploitation of prisoners’ phobias, and waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama has called torture. Three CIA prisoners were waterboarded, two of them extensively.

Those methods cause the brain to release stress hormones that, if their release is repeated and prolonged, may result in compromised brain function and even tissue loss, O’Mara wrote.

He warned that this could lead to brain lobe disorders, making the prisoners vulnerable to confabulation — in this case, the pathological production of false memories based on suggestions from an interrogator. Those false memories mix with true information in the interrogation, making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fabricated.

Waterboarding is especially stressful “with the potential to cause widespread stress-induced changes in the brain, especially when these are repeated frequently and intensively,” O’Mara wrote.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at September 21, 2009 04:04 PM
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And if that is so, and I have no doubt that what you say is true, then the whole body of work of millions of social scientists and social physchologists and others who toil to create a body of literature to explain human behavior in our nation and in our world will have to be revisited.

And for what? For the convenience of a moment that has already come and gone?

I am deficient in knowledge in this area, which I gleefully acknowledge and work to change constantly, as my wife tells me that I often lack insight into many issues due to my lack of a good "liberal arts education" which I have no doubt is true as I only have a business education and am still struggling to gain the knowledge needed to interpret the world properly. But when the irresponsible behavior of our political elite and a few policy wonks and those who carry out such policy can change the lifetime work of a nation to understand the world, then I question whether I can know anything as the world changes beneath my feet and I now question the value of learning anything. Tomorrow may be already inalienably be altered by yesterday. And the books of yesterday may be not worth reading because all of them need to now be revisited.

Not to mention the effects upon the brains of those who experience frustration and anxiety in watching how such behavior is changing the behavior of the people of the nation in which I live, myself included.

I don't count myself as immune from the effects of such stress and I don't think anyone else is either. And thus we walk into each new day not knowing what new effects may come from what was previously virtually universally acknowledged as behavior that our nation did not and would never engage in. And I mutter under my breath the Latin phrase that was taught to me as a motto to live under in the place of my birth. Dum Spiro Spero. "While I breath I hope". And I don’t even know if that applies anymore because even simple rules such as that one have been so inalienably altered and I battle not to lose it.

The only respite from that fear is my daily visit to Scott Horton's blog " Harper's No Comment" and occasional flashes in my mind of the speech of FDR in which he reminds me of the only thing of which I have to fear. And I now even sometimes wonder if that is so.

Fortunately my wife and I can discuss these things and she is obviously much further along the pathway than I am and I am thus able to keep my sanity ( most of the time) and my eye on the road and my feet can keep pushing on the road to keep the bus going to wherever it is we eventually end up. I just hope the people voting to decide where our nation's bus goes can retain some insight into all of this so that we don't end up going over the cliff.

Posted by: Buck on September 21, 2009 6:49 PM

I only want to see that sorry MoFo behind the bars. That would give me hope.

Posted by: knowdoubt on September 22, 2009 5:13 AM

The fascinating thing in all this is the progress being made in the whole field of human cognition. Memory, rationalization, reality denial, conditioning, risk assessment, the brain's built-in illogic. Cheney is the best known living example of many of these things, and of course W is up there, too. (Not that we progressives are immune to all these things...)

Posted by: Duff Orben on September 22, 2009 11:04 AM

Torture didn't work when it was still called the "third degree". So this is nothing new. But torturers never like to be called torturers. They like to have good reason to act out their psychopathic needs.

Posted by: Peter on September 22, 2009 11:30 AM
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