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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 12:48 AM
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Torture and the Bush-Cheney Dream of a Totalitarian State
The techniques that the military has used to date come nowhere near torture.

Heather MacDonald, The Wall Street Journal 2005

The number one criterion for American torture is that it must leave no physical marks.

American Torture Techniques

I do not believe that Bush tortured in secret and was found out by accident. I believe that the Bush-Cheney administration deliberately set out to use torture---and other infringements of civil liberties---to terrorize the American public into submission to a totalitarian state. Torture can deter political activism. Torture can also soften a people to the imposition of a fascist state. For, when people see their own government committing human rights violations and they do nothing---from laziness, apathy or fear---they are either forced to accept a measure of guilt upon themselves---

Or, they must conclude that those who tortured were doing the right thing.

Every American who did not stand up and protest the abuses at Abu Ghraib is complicit. And each of these people will carry a sense of guilt which will lead them to seek reassurance that what they tolerated was really all for the best. When the next would be fascist dictator is installed in the White House, this desperate need for self vindication will lead them to embrace the new Bush. He will make them "feel good" about America again.

And the abuses will start up where they left off, only worse, because the public will have been programmed to accept inhumanity as inevitable.

I. Torture Is Torture Is Torture.

Bush-Cheney apologists are in denial. People use denial when they have experienced a loss---such as the loss of faith in the American system of justice. They want to believe that nothing bad has happened. They want the false security of being able to say to themselves "America is always a champion of democracy." And so, they deceive themselves and others. They insist that the techniques described in the second link above do not amount to torture. Sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, forced standing, death threats, starvation, sexual humiliation, waterboarding, even cruxifiction are a sign of our strength according to Heather MacDonald, since failure to brutalize our captives is perceived by them as weakness (her word).

However, the torture techniques ordered by officials in the Bush administration---people like Cheney and Rumsfeld----have been shown to cause the same long term psychological effects as interrogation methods that leave physical scars.

From an article entitled Torture vs. Other Cruel Inhumane and Degrading Treatment published in 2007 in the Archives of General Psychiatry

In conclusion, aggressive interrogation techniques or detention procedures involving deprivation of basic needs, exposure to aversive environmental conditions, forced stress positions, hooding or blindfolding, isolation, restriction of movement, forced nudity, threats, humiliating treatment, and other psychological manipulations conducive to anxiety, fear, and helplessness in the detainee do not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the extent of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanisms of traumatic stress, and their long-term traumatic effects.

The researchers base their conclusion on a survey study of 274 survivors of the Balkan Wars. These individuals were evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and other long term effects of torture. Their varying experiences were analyzed to see what types of abuse was associated with psychological scars. The results showed that so called torture-lite----the same methods approved for use by our soldiers and CIA by the last administration---has the same effect as more widely condemned physical torture techniques.

Psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, exposure to aversive environmental conditions, and forced stress positions showed considerable overlap with physical torture stressors in terms of associated distress and uncontrollability. In regression analyses, physical torture did not significantly relate to posttraumatic stress disorder (odds ratio, 1.41, 95% confidence interval, 0.89-2.25) or depression (odds ratio, 1.41, 95% confidence interval, 0.71-2.78). The traumatic stress impact of torture (physical or nonphysical torture and ill treatment) seemed to be determined by perceived uncontrollability and distress associated with the stressors.

The last part is important. Since long term psychiatric dysfunction is related to two subjective factors---how distressing the victim found the particular torture technique which was used against him and how little control he felt that he had over what was happening to him---it is impossible to set up a universal guideline for safe torture. The sexual humiliation which one person may laugh off could cause a profound, crippling depression in another. Different people have different abilities to create a sense of control in stressful situations. For example, women were more resilient than men in this study, and those with higher education also faired better. The authors cite previous work which has showed that political prisoners----the very ones that torture is supposed to get information from---resist the effects.

Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D, who lived through the Nazi occupation of his home country, confirms these clinical findings in Rape of the Mind .

Even at that time we knew, as did the Nazis themselves, that it was not the direct physical pain that broke people, but the continuous humiliation and mental torture. One of my patients, who was subjected to such an interrogation, managed to remain silent. He refused to answer a single question, and finally the Nazis dismissed him. But he never recovered from this terrifying experience. He hardly spoken even when he returned home. He simply sat bitter, full of indignation and in a few weeks he died. It was not his physical wounds that had killed him; it was the combination of fear and wounded pride.

The authors of the Archive of General Psychiatry study conclude:

Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome. Thus, these procedures do amount to torture, thereby lending support to their prohibition by international law.

II. It was a means of making very clear in whose hands power was concentrated.

If you can prove statistically that torture is torture is torture and that by any other name it still stinks, why was the Bush administration so eager to use it? Ruxandra Cesereanu speculates that officially sanctioned torture (which had been mostly banned during the Enlightenment in Europe) made a come back because of the rise of the totalitarian state. The Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Communist China and fascist governments in South America and other places made a scientific study of the uses of inhumane interrogation techniques.

The "red terror", conceived by Lenin and carried out
by Stalin, was a prophylactic measure designed to maintain the revolutionary "purity".
It was a means of making very clear in whose hands power was concentrated

Though the new Soviet government used a variety of techniques

What broke down, however, any resistance
from the victim was ceaseless interrogation combined with sleep deprivation.

Nazi Germany had its own methods.

In the Nazi concentration camps torture
almost invariably began with the beatings that accompanied the victims' internment:
they would have been slapped, poked with bayonets, forced by the guards to hit one
another, and would have had their entire life's beliefs and principles trampled over. No
convict who entered these camps would have been exempt from such a treatment,
which, lasting for half a day, was meant to traumatize them, by forcing them into all
sorts of humiliating or absurd postures.

Sound familiar?

The abuses practiced at Abu Ghraib---which we now know were directly ordered by people like Rumsfeld and not an anomaly as they have attempted to claim---could have come right out of the Nazi torture handbook. Not too surprising, considering the Bush familys ties to Hitler and Nazi Germany.

In the beginning, torture was used for extracting information,
but in time, what was aimed at was intimidating the population and terrorising the
student movements.

The author is describing Greece under the late sixties early seventies U.S. supported dictatorship. However, this is an accurate assessment of the purpose of torture in any one of a number of totalitarian countries. Even so called democracies have used it----generally against people who object to their colonial activities. France in Algeria, the British in Northern Ireland and the U.S. around the globe, most recently in Iraq have all treated their vassals in a way that they would never tolerate back home.

In order to have the intended effect of terrorizing people into docility, such officially sanctioned acts of barbarism can not be kept secret. Every potential enemy of the state must know that he or she can be attacked at any moment.

That is why Bush-Cheney needed Jose Padilla.

. III. When Jose Padilla Was Tortured, We All Were Tortured

The federal government arrested Padilla and stripped him of his rights, in order to terrorize the American people. If the feds could incarcerate a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant, depriving him of his right to trial and other Constitutional protections, then no one in the United States was safe. His case was meant to serve as a legal precedent, but just as importantly, Padilla was an object lesson.

Our government has engaged in domestic torture before. Rebecca Lemov, writing for Slate described the CIAs experiments in mind control.

One of the most extreme 1950s experiments that the CIA sponsored was conducted at a McGill University hospital, where the world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron had been pioneering a technique he called "psychic driving." Dr. Cameron was widely considered the most able psychiatrist in Canadahis honors included the presidency of the World Psychiatric Associationand his patients were referred to him from all over.
Cameron's goal was to wipe out the stable "self," eliminating deep-seated psychological problems in order to rebuild it. He grandiosely hoped to transform human existence by opening a new gateway to the understanding of consciousness. The CIA wanted to know what his experiments suggested about interrogating people with the help of sensory deprivation, environmental manipulation, and psychic disorientation. /

Most people did not learn about these types of programs at the time that they were occurring, because the CIA kept its mouth shut (until the open records laws and federal government housecleaning of the mid 1970s forced them to talk.) The Bush administration, in contrast, was more than eager to let America know that it was doing the unthinkable to a citizen, on the thinnest of legal grounds. Almost as if they wanted to give defense attorneys a chance to reveal that

Padilla "was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla's torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity."
Among other things, the defense alleges that Padilla was held for 1,307 days in a 9-foot-by-7-foot cell, isolated for days or weeks at a time, physically assaulted and threatened with execution and other violence, kept awake with lights and noises, and forced to take mind-altering drugs, possibly PCP or LSD.

As a result of this treatment, Padilla was unable to assist his defense attorneys.

He showed evidence of severe mental illness when brought to trial, leading to the question how a man who is alleged to have engaged in elaborate anti-government plots now acts, in the words of brig staff, "like a piece of furniture".

The administration knew that the truth would be revealed when they tried him in open court---and in a fledgling totalitarian state what better way to terrorize citizens than to show them one of their own, driven insane by years of torture that could be handed out to anyone at the whim of the president?

IV. Totalitaria

Totalitaria -- the Leviathan state -- is the home of the political system we call, euphemistically, totalitarianism, of which systematized tyranny is a part. This system does not derive from any honest political philosophy, either socialist or capitalist. Totalitaria's leaders may mouth ideologies, but these are in fact mainly catch-words used to justify the regime. If necessary, totalitarianism can change its slogans and its behavior overnight. For totalitarianism embodies, to me, the quest for total power, the quest of a dictator to rule the world. The words and concepts of "socialism" and "communism" may serve, like "democracy," as a disguise for the megalomaniac intention of the tyrant.
Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D from The Rape of the Mind

Dr. Meerloo created the fictional state of Totalitaria so that he could describe the techniques used by would be totalitarian governments to force the people to submit to tyranny.

In Totalitaria, there is no faith in fellow men, no "caritas," no love, because real relationships between men do not exist, just as they do not exist between schizophrenics. There is only faith in and subjection to the feeding system, and there is in every citizen a tremendous fear of being expelled from that system, a fear of being totally lost, comparable with the schizophrenic's feeling of rejection and fear of reality. In the midst of spiritual loneliness and isolation, there is the fear of still greater loneliness, of more painful isolation.

The engineered recession/depression is another tactic which Bush-Cheney employed to make us all afraid, so that we would cling to (and obey) anyone who offered a semblance of order.

About political trials (like that of Padilla and the Gitmo detainees), Dr. Merloo wrote

Indeed, any trial can be used as a weapon of intimidation; it can, in a subtle way, intimidate the jurors, the witnesses, the entire public. In Totalitaria, some higher courts exist only to carry out this function of intimidation; their purpose is to prove to their own citizens and to the world at large that there is a punishing and threatening force controlling the government and that this force can use the judiciary for its own purposes.

An apparent objective official investigation may become a weapon of political control simply through the suggestions that inevitably accompany it. The man who is under investigation is almost automatically stigmatized and blamed because our suspicions are thrust on him. The very fact that he is under scrutiny makes him suspect. Thus, even the so-called "democratic power to investigate" may become the power to destroy. We must beware of this danger! Already the approving or disapproving way of interrogation changes man's thinking about facts.

Did the doctor have a time machine? He just described Padilla and every other victim of Bush-Cheney show trials.

Any judicial action, whether legal or investigative, which receives widespread publicity, exerts some mental pressure on the entire public. It is not only the participants in the action who have a stake in its eventual outcome, the citizens as a whole may well become emotionally involved in the proceedings. Any official investigation can be either a mere show of power or an act of truth. As a show of power, by a totalitarian government or by an unscrupulous demagogue, it can have frightening consequences. The German Reichstag fire case, the Moscow purge trials, and the court actions against our P.O.W.s in China are prime examples of "legal" action which served to consolidate the political power of ruthless men and had for their object confusion of a helpless citizenry.

No trial can be more intimidating to the citizens of a democracy, like the United States, than one in which a fellow citizen has been tortured and driven mad in defiance of the law---and absolutely nothing is done to those criminal elements in the government who committed the atrocities.

Menticide is an old crime against the human mind and spirit but systematized anew. It is an organized system of psychological intervention and judicial perversion through which a powerful dictator can imprint his own opportunistic thoughts upon the minds of those he plans to use and destroy. The terrorized victims finally find themselves compelled to express complete conformity to the tyrant's wishes. Through court procedures, at which the victim mechanically reels off an inner record which has been prepared by his inquisitors during a preceding period, public opinion is lulled and thrown off guard. "A real traitor has been punished," people think. "The man has confessed!" His confession can be used for propaganda, for the cold war, to instill fear and terror, to accuse the enemy falsely, or to exercise a constant mental pressure upon others.
One important result of this procedure is the great confusion it creates in the mind of every observer, friend or foe. In the end no one knows how to distinguish truth from falsehood. The totalitarian potentate, in order to break down the minds of men, first needs widespread mental chaos and verbal confusion, because both paralyze his opposition and cause the morale of the enemy to deteriorate unless his adversaries are aware of the dictator's real aim. From then on he can start to build up his system of conformity.

What could be more mentally chaotic and verbally confused than a country in which the Wall Street Journal advocates torture, Congress legitimizes it (through the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which stripped prisoners of their Geneva Rights) and the former Vice President boasts about it?

The only sane way to clear the confusion is to investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity which have occurred at the hands of Bush officials in the last eight years. If this is not done, Americans will be left with a lingering sense of worry that officials in Washington are not prosecuting, because they want to reserve the right to illegally detain and torture in the future. Even if the present government is well trusted, a sense of fatalism will creep into our mass consciousness. It is only a matter of time before it happens again. This will prevent people from ever feeling completely safe---for who knows where or when the would be dictators will strike from the shadows?

For proof of how a general amnesty or a policy of lets move on can fail, read this article about recent attempts to prosecute Franco era crimes against humanity in Spain. Over twenty years have passed since the dictator died. Spain has had two decades in which to move on. And yet, the wounds are not healed. A Spanish judge recently attempted (unsuccessfully) to open an investigation into the victims of Francos death squads, many of whom are buried in mass graves which are finally being exhumed.

Garzons move came at a time when public debate in Spain has recently begun to challenge the unwritten pact of forgetting through which the country agreed to overlook the crimes of the Civil War era.

Just what has the Spanish so irate?

"... There can be no just and lasting reconciliation without an effective response to the need for justice; as a factor of reconciliation, forgiveness, insofar as it is a private act, implies that the victim must know the perpetrator of the violations and that the latter has been in a position to show repentance. For forgiveness to be granted, it must first have been sought.

Germany was able to move on after WWII and the Nuremberg Trials. Today, they are a model western Democracy. Twenty years from now, will we be a better, stronger country as Germany has become? Or, will we still be haunted by the specter of home grown totalitarian regimes, like a PTSD sufferer who can never forget what was done to him?

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bleever Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 01:04 AM
Response to Original message
1. K&R.
It's a long way back from here.

Thank you for your ability to synthesize all this.
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 02:48 AM
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2. Hats off, McCamu Taylor, Excellent post.
Your analysis is so right, in my opinion.
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Beam Me Up Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 03:14 AM
Response to Original message
3. Everything you say is right on the money.
Unfortunately, torture isn't the worst of it and it isn't only "Bush-Cheney apologists" who are in denial.
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Kitty Herder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 04:57 AM
Response to Original message
4. Amazing post, McCamy. As usual.
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Psychic Consortium Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 05:05 AM
Response to Original message
5. Yes and to terrorize the entire world into submission.
Cheney is furious that Obama didn't waterboard Chavez
when they met recently. Cheney wants the world to be beaten into submission.
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Hubert Flottz Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 05:10 AM
Response to Original message
6. Karl promised the GOPers a Thousand Year Reich Vol II.
They(BushCo)never intended to leave Washington.
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 05:12 AM
Response to Original message
7. Orwell:
(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

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McCamy Taylor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 04:52 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Roland Barthes from "Blind and Dumb Criticism"
Edited on Fri Apr-24-09 05:03 PM by McCamy Taylor
"Why do critics thus periodically proclaim their helplessness or their lack of understanding? It is certainly not out of modesty: no one is more at ease than one critic confessing that he understands nothing about existentialism; no one more ironic and therefore more self-assured than another admitting shamefacedly that he does not have the luck to have been initiated into the philosophy of the Extraordinary; and no one more soldierlike than a third pleading for poetic ineffability.

"All this means in fact that one believes oneself to have such sureness of intelligence that acknowledging an inability to understand calls in question the clarity of the author and not that of one's own mind. One mimics silliness in order to make the public protest in one's flavour, and thus carry it along advantageously from complicity in helplessness to complicity in intellegence. It is an operation well known to salons like Madame Verdurin's
The reality behind this seasonally professed lack of culture is the old obscrurantist myth according to which ideas are noxious if they are not controlled by 'common sense' and 'feeling': Knowledge is Evil, they both grew on the same tree. Culture is allowed on condition that it periodically proclaims the vanity of its ends and limits of its power (see on this subject the ideas of Mr Graham Greene on psychologists and psychiatrists); ideally, culture should be nothing but a sweet rhetorical effusion, an art of using words to bear witness to a transient moistening of the soul. Yet this old romantic couple, the heart and the head, has no reality except in an imagery of vaguely Gnostic origin, in these opiate-like philosophies which have always, in the end, constituted the mainstay of strong regimes, and in which ones gets rid of intellectuals by telling them to run along and get on with the emotions and the ineffable. In fact, any reservation about culture means a terrorist position. To be a critic by profession and to proclaim that one understands nothing about existentialism or Marxism (for as it happens, it is these two philosophies particularly that one confesses to be unable to understand) is to elevate one's blindness or dumbness to universal of perception, and to reject from the world Marxism and existentialism: 'I don't understand, therefore you are idiots.'

Barthes Mythologies

A great read.

In England, the way one speaks determines one's class. The British are very preoccupied with "correct" language---in the exact same way that people in the U.S. are preoccupied with money, which determines one's class here. It seems to me that there is a bit of elitism creeping around the corner in the passage quoted by Cali. You can hear a similar argument in the U.S. that some dialects---especially the southern ones and most especially those used by Blacks---is not "proper" English. And yet, the people who speak to each other in these dialects have no trouble communicating their ideas to one another. Which raises the possibility that those who want to change the way that others write or speak are simply unwilling to expend the effort to broaden their own ways of listening. The most humanist way to approach language is to acknowledge its many variations. If we take the time to acquire an understanding of other dialects, we broaden our own horizons, the way that learning a new language (such as a romance language if one is an English speaker) teaches one new ways to think.
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Echo In Light Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 05:12 AM
Response to Original message
8. An interesting take on it, given their overall tendencies. However, think PNAC
I still think it had more to do w/the PNACers wanting to ensure and create as much resentment and conflict as possible in order to sufficiently bolster the backlash that would justify and be in keeping w/their militant worldview. They NEEDED chaos/conflict.
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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 10:15 AM
Response to Original message
9. It Was Also the Sadism
Edited on Fri Apr-24-09 10:17 AM by Demeter
There was more than a search for incriminating speech and general intimidation. There was somebody getting great pleasure out of it. Maybe many somebodies. After all, we know how a few registered their disgust by their suicides and resignations and AWOLS and whistleblowing and blogging, ETC.

You know those taped torture sessions probably got Cheney off more than once, and I wouldn't be surprised if he had the gang over for popcorn and snuff movies. these people were evil, and that cannot be stressed enough.
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AlBrattOnline Donating Member (23 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 05:39 PM
Response to Original message
11. torture
cheney and bush america's real beevis and butthead. 
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undergroundpanther Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 07:59 PM
Response to Original message
12. Torture
Edited on Fri Apr-24-09 08:15 PM by undergroundpanther
Is not only in secret or in prisons
It is in families,at jobs, in schools,on the street.

Psychological distress,humiliation,emotional wounding betrayals,they happen everywhere a bad personality dominates a social grouping.Sometimes I think bullying humans should be known as the species that does not care,that tortures anyone it can get away with..just because they like inflicting suffering on other people and they can do it,so they do it.

I think the biggest threat to humanity's survival is the question of what to do with people with bad personalities that advocate,tolerate,rationalize,permit,order ,enjoy and do torture.We have to also consider the effects of being tortured too. Not just ,PSTD but Stockholm syndrome,bystander effect,addictions,obesity,sexual predation,triggers,re-traumatization, depression,mental illness..etc.. The effects of torture is affecting a significant number of humanity on a mass scale,but in varying degrees.

I have complex pstd,from what happened to me that haunts me.Being tortured doesn't hurt just one time.It becomes a memory as it burns itself into your mind,it literally scars the brain and the person's future life. /

If a person tries to avoid facing it, it wears down the body with stress and unrelenting stress hurts the soul inside that knows. If one refuses to try to deal with the scars ,say the truth somehow, and understand it the torture never stops.There is no who deserves to be tortured.NO ONE deserves torture.EVER.

Death,on the other hand is NOT torture,and a swift and as painless as possible death may very well be what is required to stop some people who torture other people. /
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ShortnFiery Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-24-09 08:02 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Well put.
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