Wednesday, December 07, 2005


When we think of torture we think of physical injury
since that is the best way of producing pain. In
torture, one is helpless to act in a way that
satisfies the warning to avoid self injury that pain
provides. And unstoppable pain is the goal of torture
in the hope that, in order to get his/her captors to
stop the pain, a prisoner will betray tactical secrets
quickly so that we may use it fast enough to preempt
enemy action. Indeed, sometimes it works. But here,
then, the issue is does torture work? If so, why not
use it, inflicting pain on captives in order to
acquired the desired information?

First of all, one cannot always be sure who the
captive is and, therefore, what he/she might know that
is of value. By torturing an uniformed (ie. wrong)
captive, one risks the captive rendered so short
sighted as to invent "information" in order to just
stop the torture, irrespective of the consequences
when it, sooner or later, is discovered that the
"information" was false.

Actually, torture, in more sophisticated form, is the
same thing as terror: both produce fear. Fear can be
an overwhelming physiologic stress that almost
operates on positive feedback, until, at some point,
it produces a "stress adaptation syndrome" by which
the fear and stress response shuts off. At that point,
your subject is in deep depression and as good as

Good terrorizing-- because that's what good torture
really is-- depends on a phenomenon exhibited by the
following experiment:

An animal is put in a cage with a grid floor. Every 10
seconds the floor is electrocuted and the animal is
zapped for 3 sec. After a while, the animal is zapped
only when a light goes on in his otherwise dark cell.
Eventually, when the light and shock are well
associated, a long interval is imposed between the
two. And, after many pairings, a pedal is put on one
of the walls of the cage which, when pressed, produces
the shock for several seconds. What is interesting is
that the longer the interval is allowed to grow, the
animal gradually comes to press the bar in order to
get the shock. Why? The reason is that physiologically
the shock "anticipatory response" is an unbearable
stress response; so much so that the animal prefers to
end it with the actual shock.

There is the frightful terror anticipatory response to
a known event to come, and there is the one to an
unknown event. The latter is more time-consuming to
develop but one that can actually be used to engender
affection from the subject. It can be manipulated in
all sorts of ways that makes the captive view the
interrogator's presence as an actual reward. All this
is a cognitive elaboration-- given the massive
neocortex of humans-- of the operation of behavioral
mechanisms elucidated in lower animals. Over time, the
neuronal circuitry involved and the neurotransmitters
at issue also came to be known. It is the latter
knowledge that has made for an entire pharmacology
that is an amazing will bender through treatment of
the brain. Will becomes servant instead of executive.

I mention all this because when we speak of torture we
ought to keep in mind far less distressful means of
obtaining cooperation through environmental and
pharmacological control of the will are far more
rewarding to the captor. Not that this is more
palatable to those of us committed to the freedom of
human will and respect for choice in all human beings;
but let us recall that a captive is a captive because
he/she is a dangerous individual who has knowledge of
plans designed to injure or devastate innocent people.
However, in view of the fact that captivity is not
proof of guilt, in the sense of pre-knowledge, it
behooves us to resort to means of mind manipulations
that are neither painful nor permanently disabling,
that way avoiding release of an innocent bent on
revenge. Fortunately, most pharmacologic-psychologic
manipulations are reversible if handled competently.
And morbidity and mortality is far less with
infliction of persuasion methods such as those
Col.(ret) Karpinsky in her book ONE WOMAN'S ARMY,
believes to have been inflicted at Abu Ghraib on
orders of Gen. Miller in order to get "timely"
tactical info.

It seems to me most important that interrogation not
be in the hands of men "juiced" to injure using, more
often, brawn rather than brain, even when they are
members of the general staff. It is hard to imagine an
infantry officer with stars appreciating the extreme
self-control and detached professionalism needed in
interrogation. Typically, I had found, there is a
tendency to excuse brutality of vengeful intent with
the claim of tactical urgency. However, considering
how long it takes to get a prisoner from the
battlefield to the interrogation center, his info
would probably have to be of more long range not to be
dated; it might have to be more strategic to be

Unless we kill all the captives we interrogate or
incarcerate them for life, it will be inevitable that
what we are doing will become known by the other side;
that is, that we employ mind-control techniques. As
the other side develops neutralizing techniques, we
will have to develop new ones. That's the same thing
as happens as soon as you use a weapon on the
battlefield-- it become obsolete.

Finally, I think there is little in military history
to make the case that I seek to make for sophisticated
pharmaco-environmental controlled interrogation. I
first came in contact with it as the so called
"brain-washing" of the Korean War, studied by
aerospace neuropsychiatry as "sensory deprivation." It
therefore cannot be simply described as a given
technique, like firing a cannon or dropping ordnance
from the air, but is to be synthesized from a massive
neurbiological literature, far beyond Mr. Rumsfeld's,
Mr. Cheney's or Gen. Miller's capacity to absorb new
knowledge. The CIA has a longer history of on-again,
off-again experience with it, but it is more empiric
anecdotal than systematic and less appreciative of the
neurophysiology already understood. Therefore, it
should be the province of medically competent
scientists who can use it effectively, expand its
limits, all without permanent deleterious effects on
the captives. Funds for this should be as plentiful as
for sophisticated weapons, for, when well done, these
techniques not only win wars but also save lives
without violating our humane Judeo-Christian

Daniel E. Teodoru

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