Tuesday, March 17, 2009


That U.S. government and military personnel routinely tortured prisoners, many of whom were just guilty of bad luck (many were, in fact, ordinary people sold to the Americans by Pakistani bounty hunters), has long been a matter of public record. One of most chilling aspects of the testimony contained in the recently leaked secret ICRC report is the presence of doctors during the American torture sessions.

From Abu Zubaydah's testimony:

I was then made to sit on the floor with a black hood over my head until the next session of torture began. The room was always kept very cold.

This went on for approximately one week. During this time the whole procedure was repeated five times. On each occasion, apart from one, I was suffocated once or twice and was put in the vertical position on the bed in between. On one occasion the suffocation was repeated three times. I vomited each time I was put in the vertical position between the suffocation.

During that week I was not given any solid food. I was only given Ensure to drink. My head and beard were shaved everyday.

I collapsed and lost consciousness on several occasions. Eventually the torture was stopped by the intervention of the doctor.

Mark Danner's New York Review of Books exposé contains several references to medical doctors who assisted torturers in bringing prisoners to the "verge of death and back again." Who are these doctors? Do they also practice medicine?

Andrew Sullivan provides some historical context here and here.