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When the STASI did it, we called it torture, and we condemned it.

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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 10:13 PM
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When the STASI did it, we called it torture, and we condemned it.
The prison population consisted of people who had tried to flee the GDR or were considered to have offered resistance to the regime. Prisoners were held until they signed a confession and/or provided information useful to the regime, and the techniques employed by the Stasi ensured that pretty much everyone complied in the end. In the early days of the prison, the Stasi employed mostly physical methods - prisoners were held in damp, cold cells and subjected to various types of torture, including sleep deprivation, standing upright for several hours and water torture. From about 1960, however, the Stasi began employing psychological methods to break prisoners' resistance. The East German government was concerned about its international image, and it was preferable if information could be coerced from prisoners without leaving marks on their bodies.

The aim of this 'psycho-terror' was to evoke in the prisoners a feeling of complete helplessness, of losing control over thier lives and being at the mercy of an almighty authority. Instead of being crammed into a cell with 20 other people, prisoners now had their own cells and were isolated from the rest of the prison population. Attempts to communicate with the guards or other prisoners were severely punished. Very occasionally prisoners were held two to a cell, but often one of the pair was a spy tasked with gaining the other's trust and eliciting incriminating information. It was forbidden to lie on the bed during the day, so the only alternative was to walk up and down the cell or sit in a hard chair against the wall. The monotony of incarceration was broken only by interrogation. Prisoners were subjected to months of questioning by interrogators expertly trained in coercing incriminating statements. Even the drawing of a curtain during interrogation - giving the prisoner a rare but useless glimpse into the outside world - was a reminder of the power relations at play. If the Stasi had been spying on your family, they might leave copies of your brother's letters on the desk just to let you know that you were not the only one being watched. Or they might lie and tell you that your mother had committed suicide because she could not cope with having a child in prison. Everything, even the offering of a cup of coffee during interrogation, was deliberate, and expertly targeted at breaking your resistance.

Upon release into the community, many prisoners found it hard to describe the terror that had been inflicted upon them - after all, there were no scars on their body. And for many, their personal relationships were destroyed. It was impossible for others to relate to their suffering. And some left with the knowledge that it was friends or family that had landed them in prison. One prisoner discovered during interrogation that she was arrested only after her husband's betrayal. For so many prisoners, normal life could never be resumed. A number of prisoners have returned to the prison and now work as tour guides. For them, it is a form of emotional healing and is a way of passing on their experience to others. This is of no small importance - amazingly, some Germans who lived through the GDR still have no knowledge of the Stasi's activities.

And a short review published in the NY Post about "The Decomposition of the Soul,} a movie about the STASI and its prisons.

THE Stasi - which had 100,000 fulltime employees and 300,000 informers to spy on 17 million East Germans - is also the subject of the incisive Belgian documentary �The Decomposition of the Soul,� which is playing at Film Forum. This frightening companion piece gives a tour of a grim prison where the Stasi interrogated suspected dissidents, breaking them down - sometimes forcing them to confess to crimes they didn�t commit - by isolating them in bare rooms for hours and even days without moving. There are touching interviews with a couple of former inmates, who were �reeducated� for years after they were caught trying to help people attempting to escape to West Germany after the Berlin Wall went up. The most riveting part of �The Decomposition of the Soul� is their return to the prison, which was closed in 1989 and turned into a memorial to its victims.

And how does the NY Post refer to these same methods (and worse) when it writes of Bush using them?

Seeking to move beyond what he calls a "a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Obama said yesterday that CIA officials who used harsh interrogation tactics during the Bush administration will not be prosecuted.

The government also released four memos long held secret by the Bush administration in which its lawyers approved the tough interrogation methods used against 28 terror suspects, the fullest and now-complete government accounting of the techniques.

The rough tactics ranged from waterboarding -- simulated drowning -- to using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls.

So, it's "torture" when the STASI does it (and less physically rough things), but "harsh inteerogation tactics" or "rough tactics" or "tough interrogation methods" when Bush does it.

Why the double standard? Why the doublespeak?
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gratuitous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:12 PM
Response to Original message
1. Because Americans think they're special
And I should include myself in that statement.

See, when the East Germans did unspeakable things to persons, we thought it was horrible. When we did it, well, we had a darned good reason. Besides, the president said it was okay. And his personal attorney told the president it was okay. And everyone was very careful to cover their own asses, and some of us were really, really scared. Some of us are still really scared. And so it's all right. See?
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:25 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Really, really scared . . . .
So were the STASI torturers, of course.
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Fireweed247 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun May-03-09 11:32 PM
Response to Original message
3. K&R
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Djinn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 12:13 AM
Response to Original message
4. It's also torture when you pay/bribe or cajole other to do it for you
Yet strangely DU is virtually silent on Obama's approval of rendition continuing. All those sent into the hands of the worlds more distasteful police states are being sent there to be tortured, not for tourism.
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Hannah Bell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:40 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. US court rejects Obama position in 'rendition' case
Edited on Mon May-04-09 02:42 AM by Hannah Bell
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) A federal court said on Tuesday "rendition" victims could sue a company involved in their detainment, rejecting government pleas that the case should be halted on national security grounds...

Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who argued the case in February welcomed the ruling.

"It demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed 'secrets' in a court of law.

I think the lack of change in policy got lost in the post-election hoopla - I know it did for me, I wasn't aware of this.
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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:33 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. I'm not being silent. Thanks for anything you can do to pressure Obama on human rights.
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Senator Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 02:24 AM
Response to Original message
5. K&R
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ngant17 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 04:57 AM
Response to Original message
7. torture = cruel and unusual punishment
and this is unconstitutional. Scalia would beg to differ, of course.

As to whether non-US citizens are exempt from this, I would only say that human rights are not confined to a particular country.
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Supersedeas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 10:47 AM
Response to Original message
9. the de-evolution of torture from torture to 'rough tactics' to fit the political needs from the
not so independent GOP Media Establishment.
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