Thursday, October 25, 2007


At the Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen discusses Rudy Giuliani's declaration that he can't say with certainty whether waterboarding is torture because he can't trust descriptions of the procedure -- "particularly in the liberal media." (See the transcript of Giuliani's remarks here, and also see this article.)

Steve is appalled at that, as I am -- but I want to point out another part of what Giuliani said about torture that Steve didn't mention:

"And I see, when the Democrats are talking about torture, they're not just talking about even this definition of waterboarding, which again, if you look at the liberal media and you look at the way they describe it, you could say it was torture and you shouldn't do it. But they talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I'm getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly."

Sleep deprivation isn't torture? Tell it to Menachem Begin:

Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83, was tortured by the KGB as a young man. In his book, White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, he wrote of losing the will to resist when deprived of sleep.

"In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

"I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

"He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them - if they signed - uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days."

Or John Schlapobersky:

John Schlapobersky, consultant psychotherapist to the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, was himself tortured through sleep deprivation, in his case in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s.

"Making a programme in which people are deprived of sleep is like treating them with medication that will make them psychotic. It also demeans the experiences of those who have involuntarily gone through this form of torture. It is the equivalent of bear-baiting, and we banned that centuries ago.

"I was kept without sleep for a week in all. I can remember the details of the experience, although it took place 35 years ago. After two nights without sleep, the hallucinations start, and after three nights, people are having dreams while fairly awake, which is a form of psychosis.

"By the week's end, people lose their orientation in place and time - the people you're speaking to become people from your past; a window might become a view of the sea seen in your younger days. To deprive someone of sleep is to tamper with their equilibrium and their sanity."

Or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

In The Gulag Archipelago, ... Solzhenitsen also describes sleep deprivation being used on a prisoner named Anna Skripnikova in 1952: "[The] Chief of the Investigative Department of the Ordzhonikidze State Security Administration, said to her: 'The prison doctor reports you have a blood pressure of 240/120. That’s too low, you bitch! We’re going to drive it up to 340 so you'll kick the bucket, you viper, and with no black and blue marks; no beatings; no broken bones. We'll just not let you sleep.' And if, back in her cell, after a night spent in interrogation, she closed her eyes during the day, the jailer broke in and shouted: 'Open your eyes or I'll haul you off that cot by the legs and tie you to the wall standing up.'" Elsewhere, Solzhenitsen writes: "Sleeplessness . . . befogs the reason, undermines the will, and the human being ceases to be himself, to be his own 'I.'"

Or 86-year-old Cyril Gilbert, who was asked to comment when Philip Ruddock, Australia's attorney general, said sleep deprivation isn't torture:

DURING World War II, Australian Diggers were subject to sleep deprivation when captured by the Japanese.

The victim is kept awake for days on end by being either shaken awake or forced awake by noise or light.

The 86-year-old former PoW Cyril Gilbert said he was tortured by the Japanese on the Thai-Burma border using sleep deprivation.

"You don't know whether you are coming or going. You don't know whether you are going forwards or backwards", Mr Gilbert said.

"I was lucky that I was only kept awake for a couple of days at a time. Others were kept awake a lot longer than that."

And what did he make of Ruddock's support of the technique? "He's never experienced anything, has he?" Mr Gilbert asked rhetorically.

That last remark fits chickenhawk Giuliani, doesn't it? Apart from not getting a full eight hours every night on the campaign trail, he's never experienced anything, has he?


(9/11? Giuliani witnessed it, but he suffered no physical pain as a result. Even his cancer treatment caused, in his words, "remarkably little pain.")

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