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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Torture: 9 Steps of Denial

While doing research for an article I am writing, I came across this excerpt from John Conroy’s book, “Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People,” written back in 2,000, that deals with acts of torture coming to light and the varied reactions that accompany it.

In an examination of British reaction to the revelations of torture used on the Northern Irish, in 1971, he found a predictable route of denial which can be charted in thematic, if not chronological, stages. I have extracted nine stages that he describes as they are very relevant to the defensive posturing of our current Administration. In updating the author’s work I have made editorial changes, but I believe that they are in keeping with the spirit of the original piece.

• The first stage of response is absolute and complete denial, accompanied by attacks on those who exposed the treatment.

• The second stage is to minimize the abuse. To refer to it not as torture but as "interrogation in depth."

• The third stage is to disparage the victims as "thugs and murderers,"

• The fourth stage is to justify the treatment on the grounds that it was effective or appropriate under the circumstances.

• The fifth stage of a torturing society's defense is to charge that those who take up the cause of those tortured are aiding the enemies of the state.

• The sixth stage is the defense that the torture is no longer occurring, and anyone who raises the issue is therefore "raking up the past."

• The seventh stage of a torturing bureaucracy is to put the blame on a few bad apples.

• The eighth stage in a society's rationalization of its policy of torture is the common torturer's defense, … someone else does or has done much worse things…they were not as evil because they were not designed to induce terror, but rather to induce a state of mental disorientation so that the victim's will to resist was lost.

• The ninth stage is the rationalization of a torturing nation: the victims will get over it.