Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 22, 2009

The Sadism Report

Working through the quite detailed and long sadism and torture report Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody" (pdf) the most significant admission to me is the footnote 1219 on page 158:

Notwithstanding differences between the legal status of detainees held in Iraq and those in Afghanistan, the [Special Mission Unit Task Force] used the same interrogation approaches in both theaters. In addition, the [Combined Joint Task Force 7] interrogation policies included techniques that had been authorized for use at GTMO. By September 2003, interrogation approaches initially authorized for a war in which the President had determined that the protections of the Geneva Conventions did not apply, would be authorized for all U.S. forces in Iraq.

Abu Ghraib was not an accident but official policy promoted from the very top and many people knew that.

The report explains in detail how this developed. When the techniques used were taken from the SERE interrogation resistance training and pushed onto Guantanamo as "battle laboratory" and from there to Afghanistan and Iraq, a lot of people, mostly in lower positions, waved red flags and protested. But they were always pushed back from higher ups with the ultimate pressure coming from the White House and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. In between there were a lot of banality of evil cowards eager to further their careers.

How much of this is still going on in Bagram, Afghanistan, and the various CIA bunkers around the world?

The report also includes several tales that support my stand that these tortures were pure sadism as they had no other purpose than to entertain some higher ups. From page 140/141:

At one point in his interrogation, Slahi was also shown a fictitious letter that had been drafted by the Interrogation Team Chief stating that his mother had been detained, would be interrogated, and if she were uncooperative she might be transferred to GTMO. The letter pointed out that she would be the only female detained at '"this previously all-male prison environment."

On August 7, 2003, Slahi informed an interrogator that he had made a decision to cooperate.After questioning Slahi, his interrogator "congratulated [him] on his decision to tell the whole truth."

Five days after interrogators congratulated Slahi for his decision to '"tell the whole truth," the Secretary of Defense approved JTF-GTMO's Special Interrogation Plan. Notwithstanding Slahi's apparent decision on August 7,2003 to cooperate with interrogators, an August 21, 2003 email described preparations made to implement the Special Interrogation Plan. The email described sealing Slahi's cell at Camp Echo to "prevent light from shining" in and covering the entire exterior of his cell with tarp to "prevent him from making visual contact with guards.

Weekly Reports from the JTF-GTMO Commander in September and October 2003 indicated that Slahi "continue[d] to be cooperative." Despite that apparent cooperation, those same weekly reports stated that that the interrogations were continuing in accordance with the approved interrogation plan. A contemporaneous document suggested that the interrogation may have begun affecting Slahi's mental state.
JTF-GTMO produced written weekly updates on significant activities including certain detainee interrogations. The updates were sent to the SOUfHCOM Commander and, according to MG Miller, were forwarded to the Joint Staffand Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. MG Miller said that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was interested in the reports and his office would occasionally call GTMO to inquire about particular detainees.

Posted by b on April 22, 2009 at 13:55 UTC | Permalink


Do you by any chance have access to the Whisky Bar archives?

I remember very well our commenting on some of the goings-on in AG. I remember very well that some idiot inside AG was publishing a personal journal/blog on his day-to-day activities inflicting torture.

Including at least one visit from Rice.

Is there any way that material can be recycled for review???????

Posted by: John C | Apr 22 2009 14:33 utc | 1

The Unified Theory of Evil

Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link

In the grand tradition of the Inquisition, SS and KGB, True Believers used their power to prove that their faith was true. Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were linked.

'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'

Posted by: VietnamVet | Apr 22 2009 15:30 utc | 2


At the risk of sounding like a broken record I'll mention this again; these bosses, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest are bred and selected for that psychopathic quality: total lack of empathy. Couple that with a program to get and keep power, in which these players are really just the worker bees. We now have a regime well established that doesn't have to rely on any of these individuals to succeed.

I'm all for hanging the perps - that would help if it turns out to be possible, but in the end it has to be recognised that there really is a dark force intent on destroying our civilisation. Without such an acknowledgment the people are always victims.

I recommend listening to an interview on Project Camelot with Duncan O'Finian, who was trained from childhood, programmed with multiple personalities as a servant of this "dark force", and is now able to remember some of it and talk about it. One estimate is that as many as a million folks have been programmed this way. Estimates vary. A surprising number anyway.

Nearly an hour long.

Posted by: rapt | Apr 22 2009 15:45 utc | 3

I though we went into Iraq to, "remove an abusive dictator who tortures and kills his own people ... umm, and oh yeah, he has weapons of mass destruction ... umm, and hey, he's one of the 'bad guys'!"

Our country is run by idolatrous cretins and egregious thieves, and that's the most concise description of the American system of government you'll ever find.

Idolatrous Cretins + Egregious Thieves = USA

Posted by: Idiq Nb | Apr 22 2009 16:11 utc | 4

John C - It was Joe Ryan. A link to billmon at antiwar [dated] near the bottom is no longer active.

Posted by: beq | Apr 22 2009 17:00 utc | 5

More from the report, page 41, Gitmo 2002

MAJ Burney testified to the Army IG regarding interrogations:

"[T]his is my opinion, even though they were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between AI Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between AI Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link, there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Feith, Wolfowitz, Cheney ...

Posted by: b | Apr 22 2009 17:37 utc | 6

This needs to be reiterated here...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 22 2009 17:59 utc | 7


plitical culture becomes dominant in part because of secrecy but in large part by complicity. sometimes that complicity is there because it as integral part of society & sometimes that complicity is constructed

one can look at popular culture - & the trajectory of '24' & through close reading observe how a case was constructed that torture, gratituitos torture was completely acceptable - how its brutal tangents were melted into more oblique narratives

because i was in hospital & because i cannot sleep in such places - i used that time for close reading in this last week - noting only that fact - torture & all its euphemisms, 'hard interrogations' 'vigourous examination' etc

the production values of fox's 24 were so high because this has remained a central argument at the centre of all its dramaturgy. when imperialism is in defeat & i think we can say that was happening already by the end of the 90's - you required in popular culture - the construction of the immanence of power - of the endeless circling of appearances & dissapearances - that is revealed to us through jack bauer (one of life's little ironies is how this supposed leftish actor became the vehicle for the most extreme aspects of the right's ideology is a study in itself)

torture in 24 is not only one of the central aspects of its dramaturgy - i'd argue that in formal terms it is a fundemantal base

another thing i noted in rereading the series of how much the infantilism of social relations plays a crucial factor -i imagine the supposed dramatic reasons for that are poor & a much stronger argument could be made that the infantilism of all the characters is & corralling of the public who watched it - because what ctu represents in the series is an extremely perverted school yard with this or that character informing on the other, this or that character like some extremely bad teacher demanding 'in the clearest possible terms', ' do you understand' - i'm not being clear here but the language has been reduced to that of a head prefect or a bad teacher - in essence are you with us or against us - the complete absence of sexuality - in fact there exists only the utopian narratvise of infantile sexuality - no one 'is' - as bob dylan has sd - these characters 'float'

i have just left the hospital & so i am exhauseted but i do not think this cultural aspect is at all peripheral - i think all though u s imperialism is a dying imperialism - we are going to see this aspect the aspect of terror intensify on its part. it has always been there with fort benning, the school of americas - but in the last 2 decades we have witnessed two aspect in total symbiosis - the infantilisation or even the destruction of civil society & at the same time an intensification of terror as an integral part of the political & military strategy

& i think the utter brutality of israel can be explained by the absorption of that terror in public policy

that in fact the west are the terrorist in a very real & concrete way - i am not a conspiracy theorist but it is impossible to look at the actions of sept 11 as anything other than a very complicated interlacing of 'interests' because if indeed the 'terrorists' possessed real menace - that september would have been the beginning & not the end. & everything, i mean every event since has been soft - even spain - these were delinquants - these are not a disciplined cadre - it is clearer in the mahgreb - that again this is delinquency & it is not so surprising that many recruits are from prisons

not once, not even in iraq or afghanistan has there been an action that could perceivably been linked to a disciplined cadre that the political culture of america has tried to create. certainly there is resistance. certainly there exist organisation who want to wage an armed struggle against america for islam - but i am convinced that they are nop more than sects & while they may posses some political power with the youth - they posses no military power & certainly not the the completely fabricated 'base' that american political culture has created of them

& that is why i have always argued here that america will attack iran & that it will intensify its military adventures not reduce them

terror & its ancillary, torture are central to that enterprise

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Apr 22 2009 19:25 utc | 8

Let's never, never, never forget that Bush ran the show--above all where torture was concerned. He's a torture junkie. The others are mad with ambition and do the boss's bidding, and had he ruled out torture, they would have ruled out torture too.

Bush is the torture story, and we must never forget this. We must pursue it and disclose it in all its demented details.

Why do we take our eyes off the guy for even a single second? Because he's so amiable, while his flunkies are so obviously disgusting? Well, this one thing is sure: Bush will do everything in his power to pass off the blame on everyone else. It will be a challenge for us to beat him at this particular game.

Posted by: alabama | Apr 22 2009 19:26 utc | 9

I respect your continued contributions, alabama, however I could not possibly disagree more with your #9 above.

I believe that there is a culture, and not an individual, that is responsible for these abuses and it does no service to any of us to reduce these issues into black and white Manicheanistic terms. It does not increase our understanding to say that the US Civil War was solely about slavery or to ascribe the horrors of the Second World War to the machinations of a single twisted individual. On the contrary, perpetuating our ignorance by what amounts to a superstitious ritual of scapegoating and absolution practically guarantees the recurrence of the pathologies in question.

We take our eyes off of the increasingly irrelevant person of George Bush the Lesser so that we may diagnose and treat the actual disease instead of fetishing its symptoms.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 22 2009 19:44 utc | 10

Charles I, Louis XVI, Goering et al. Hussein, Tojo. When a state judges its chief functionary it cannot do anything else but find him guilty and execute him. That is a very tough problem for the United States.

Posted by: jlcg | Apr 22 2009 20:40 utc | 11

John C @1
You can find the Whiskey Bar archives at the Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive. You can't search it, you have to know the domain and probably the date you are seeking, but you can get to a lot of now defunct web pages there. You can check the FAQs at the top of the page for more information about what is there and how it works. Sometimes individual pages are very slow to load. This is the link">">link for the billmon archives.

Posted by: xcroc | Apr 22 2009 20:42 utc | 12

Monolycus, perhaps you fetishize what you call "the culture"?

How else to account for "taking our eyes off of the increasingly irrelevant person" who ran the show, and whose lust for torture just happens to chime with the specific practices of torture--and their filming, and the viewing of those films--in this particular context? A context which reaches back to the President's tenure as the Governor of Texas, and no doubt to earlier contexts as well?

Perhaps we can agree, at least, on the proposition that Bush is exemplary, in the sense that he does as others do in his "set", but does so in a particularly clear and recognizable fashion.

As for scapegoating? That's not my intention here at all, and it never has been. I take the "set", of which Bush is the exemplary member, to be the chief object of my concern. And the identity of that particular "set"?

Well, to begin with, it includes every person who ever cast a vote for the man when he ran for office. It also includes everyone who accepted his installation in office. No exceptions here, because his record as a torturer was known to us all--in 2000 as well as in 2004.

I do not, and never will, fail to consider us Americans as enacting an "American" pathology --your own term, which (in my view) rather minimizes the force of our collective conduct. In truth, I have no use for medical terms here--I'm much more comfortable with the received moral categories of "good" and "evil". I take "sadism" in this political context to be a moral as well as a diagnostic term.

Torture, a pathological practice, is evil. When we see a torturer do his or her thing, and let that thing happen, then his or her evil--or "pathology," if you will--becomes our own. We comprise a community of "single twisted individuals", and it behooves us each, in our singularity, to untwist our individual twistedness.

Scapegoating is a practice, not only of purging, but of refusing to acknowledge one's complicity in the behavior of the one being scapegoated. I certainly do not exempt myself from such complicity. As an American citizen, I vote, I pay taxes, and I put up with the well-known behavior of our elected leader. And I find that focussing on George W. Bush's exemplary conduct as an American helps me to focus on the not-so-very-disassociated conduct of the individual who calls himself, in this particular bar, "alabama".

And no, I would not agree to describe my take on this problem as an exercise in "masochism". I see it, rather, as one moment among others in an endless process of "reckoning". Clarity is the object here, not an easy thing to come by.

Posted by: alabama | Apr 22 2009 21:27 utc | 13

Speaking of the Wayback Machine and the Internet Archives, will that disappear now that Oracle has bought out Sun? Will Larry Ellison continue provide those thirty something terrabytes of storage as a mitzvah?

Posted by: rjj | Apr 22 2009 21:36 utc | 14

IOZ's take, quotable in full.

Listen. As a nation, we arrogate to ourselves the right to send flying robots over any country in the world and murder people, to topple governments, to impose economic blockades on entire nations of millions of people, and the great moral flap is slapping around some prisoners? Now I am not saying that torture is anything but abhorrent, wholly morally repulsive, but fuck you, America. The so-called debate over torture has preempted the already under-argued, under-reported actuality: that as we bicker about "enhanced interrogation techniques" and whether or not Barack Obama is a good guy for releasing them or a bad guy for not sending a bunch of spook hacks to jail, we are all over the world, killing the fuck out of people and blowing that shit up. The idea that our interrogations are a unique moral stain is cracked and insane. Waterboarding is not the disease, merely one observable symptom of a deeper and more pernicious pathology.

Posted by: ran | Apr 22 2009 23:27 utc | 15

Who, I wonder, has ever said, or imagined, that waterboarding was anything more than "one observable symptom of a deeper and more pernicious pathology"? Not only an observable, but also an instructive and reliable symptom--one among many, and exemplary.

One "moral stain" among others, but certainly not "unique".

It might even appear, from this citation, that IOZ knows nothing whatsoever about "part for whole" reasoning.

Indeed, letting "part for whole" reasoning serve as a part (an exemplary part) for reasoning as a whole, this citation may serve as a "symptom," as a clue, to the likelihood that IOZ knows nothing whatsoever about reasoning of any kind.

Maybe IOZ just doesn't have the courage and patience to study the facts of the case.

Maybe--who knows?-- the mere thought of reading "emptywheel" would drive IOZ completely crazy. He rather writes as though it would.

If so, I can certainly sympathize....

Posted by: alabama | Apr 23 2009 5:35 utc | 16


Some strange irony from your link – an ad for Frontline's story, "The Released: When mentally ill offenders leave prison"… appearing on the same page as the Holder story all I can think of is that the mentally ill have been elected to office.

Must be fallout from Reagan dumping the mentally ill on the streets when gov of California and also as president... looking around the net I found this paper pretty interesting Ronald Reagan and the Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Capital, Interest Groups, and the Eclipse of Social Policy
Some choice paragraphs:

Almost ten years after Ronald Reagan left office as president, the legacy of his administration continues to be studied. What is almost indisputable is that the changes in public policy that were implemented during the 1980s were sweeping and marked a turning point in American domestic policy. Faced with increasing competition from overseas, American business found it necessary to alter the social contract. This would require a realignment of the political economy so as to weaken labor unions and the social safety net. In Reagan, the Right found a spokesman capable of aligning conservatives, centrists, and working class whites. With this coalition, Reagan was able to bring about a number of reactionary changes in public policy (Alford, 1988).

In order to reduce corporate taxes, it was necessary to reduce the size of the welfare state. This objective was carried out by the Reagan administration (Abramovitz, 1992). After taking office in 1981, the administration set out on a course to alter t he (relatively) labor sensitive political economy to be more business friendly. Reagan appointed anti-union officials to the National Labor Relations Board, "implicitly [granting] employers permission to revive long shunned anti-union practices: decertify ing unions, outsourcing production, and hiring permanent replacements for striking workers" (102). Reagan himself pursued such a policy when he fired eleven thousand striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Mental health professionals were also concerned that patients were not receiving adequate care. Estimates of the homeless population ranged from 250 to 500 thousand people (Dear and Wolch, 1987; Jencks, 1994; Rossi, 1989; Wright, 1989). Of these, appro ximately a third were mentally ill (Rossi, 1989). In many cases, such mentally ill patients were arrested for vagrancy and other minor infractions and were processed by the criminal justice system. Concerned that this population was receiving no treatment at all, mental health workers advocated involuntary commitment as a means of getting the mentally ill homeless into treatment.

And while I don't like the idea of involuntary treatment – I've picked-up more than my share of kooky hitch-hikers who... well they weren't 5150 (police code for crazy person) but many were certainly 5149&1/2. But on the other hand who decides who's crazy? I don't feel I'd trust any of the crazy buggers in office to decide this – Hell I'd end-up in jail somewhere in Brazil.

It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Posted by: DavidS | Apr 23 2009 11:01 utc | 18

Free the Torturers – and the Rapists Too!

by a Killer (aka Terry Jones)

Speaking as a multiple rapist and serial killer, I welcome the president's clear view that "this is a time for reflection, not retribution". Absolutely. We have indeed been "through a dark and painful chapter in our history" (in my case 17 years in the super-secure lockdown facility).

Now people may say that it is not safe to let me out, especially as I have never expressed any remorse for my actions and indeed have every intention of reoffending as soon as I possibly can.

But then has ex-vice president Dick Cheney ever expressed any remorse for killing a million or more Iraqis? Has he ever said that he wouldn't torture more people all over again if he had half the chance?

Posted by: beq | Apr 23 2009 16:34 utc | 19

oh phooey.

Posted by: beq | Apr 23 2009 16:41 utc | 20

morning beq

Posted by: annie | Apr 23 2009 17:07 utc | 21


all he's saying is that our vile government is up to all manner of despicable, murderous activity on a daily basis in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere and what its goons are perpetrating in its global torture gulag is not an aberration but what our government is and what it does.

what part of that would you quibble with?

Posted by: ran | Apr 23 2009 22:12 utc | 22

Halcyon sent the comment below by email


John C:

I believe you are referring to Joe Ryan's diary.

I also happened to have archived the WB entry to which you may refer:
The Joe Ryan diary, about 'Big Steve' Stephanowics/Stefanowics. It was
the May 4, 2004 entry, titled "An Iraq Prison Diary". It was mirrored
(missing the update).

Here's Billmon's update:

Update 8:50 PM ET: It appears it is at least possible that the "Steve Stefanowicz" mentioned in Joe Ryan's diary is not the same as the "Steven Stephanowicz" mentioned, according to Sy Hersh, in the Army's internal report.

There is a Steven Stefanowicz cited in a two-year old American Forces
Information Services article as being (at that time) a Navy petty
officer on active duty in the Middle East. A commenter on this thread
(peg, at 6:38 pm) asserts that official DOD records show this
Stefanowicz is an intelligence specialist. I have not been able to
verify this information.

It is possible, I suppose, that a Navy intelligence guy named Steven
Stefanowicz has been working as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison
at or about the same time that a CACI contractor named Steve
Stephanowicz was also working as an interrogator there. Stranger
things have happened.

It appears from Hersh's article that many, if not most of the
contractors working in the prison had military backgrounds. So it
would also seem possible that the Steven Stefanowicz mentioned by the
AFIS has since left the Navy and gone to work as a private contractor.

In other words, Stefanowicz and Stephanowicz may be the same person,
and somebody along the way may have simply messed up the spelling of
their last name. Once again, though, I cannot prove or disprove any of
these theories.

This was followed, the same day, by a post titled "Average Joe" for
which there is no internet archive that I can find [this is the post
linked in the Antiwar article to which beq linked in comment#5].
Billmon posted again on June 10, 2004: "Joe Ryan: The Lost Weeks",
with further diary entries (not online). Wayne Madsen posted "The Israeli Torture Template" at Counterpunch, mentioning Stephanowics.
Apparently the Wayback Machine did not archive Billmon's May 4, 2004
or June 10, 2004 entries. I did ;–) I can cut and paste, if asked.
The NYT posted 'Contractors
Implicated in Prison Abuse Remain on the Job'
also on May 4, 2004.
Here’s a better way to find Joe Ryan’s diary entries. Google search:
“Joe Ryan” diary


Posted by: b | Apr 24 2009 15:37 utc | 23

thanks for all your efforts b, here's an improved link for madsen's link above, i think yours if off a touch.

Posted by: annie | Apr 25 2009 15:37 utc | 24

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