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One Nation Under Psy-Ops

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In my view, Mary McCrory got it right when she said that the Project for a New American Century manifesto reads like it was written in a tree-house. Nevertheless, it is documentary evidence showing the direction the worst aspects of our government the ones who are now in power have been taking for the last thirty plus years. Their goal, as laid out in various PNAC papers, is permanent world domination, and for these people, there is no doubt that the ends justify the means. Professor Alfred McCoy talks about just that in his book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror, a history of the CIA's decades-long study of techniques of psychological control, including torture.

At first, McCoy says, the government dabbled heavily in drugs, including the notorious LSD experiments of the Vietnam era. But what really worked, they discovered after lots of trial and error (and billions of dollars), are a couple of simple principles: sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. When Professor McCoy saw the black-hooded figures from the abu Ghraib photos, posed in stress positions with electrodes dangling from their fingers, he instantly recognized classic CIA technique:

Oh, it's very simple. Dr. Donald O. Hebb of McGill University [Canada], a brilliant psychologist, had a contract from the Canadian Defense Research Board, which was a partner with the CIA. In this research, he found that he could induce a state of psychosis in an individual within 48 hours. It didn't take electroshock, truth serum, beating or pain. All he did was have student volunteers sit in a cubicle with goggles, gloves and headphones, earmuffs, so that they were cut off from their senses, and within 48 hours, denied sensory stimulation, they would suffer, first hallucinations, then ultimately breakdown. . . .

Now, then, the second major breakthrough that the CIA had came here in New York City at Cornell University Medical Center, where two eminent neurologists under contract from the CIA studied Soviet KGB torture techniques, and they found that the most effective KGB technique was self-inflicted pain. You simply make somebody stand for a day or two. And as they stand OK, you're not beating them, they have no resentment you tell them, "You're doing this to yourself. Cooperate with us, and you can sit down." And so, as they stand, what happens is the fluids flow down to the legs, the legs swell, lesions form, they erupt, they separate, hallucinations start, the kidneys shut down.

Looked at this way, you can understand their refusal to renounce their new "flexible" interrogation techniques and release Guantanamo detainees, even though prisoners who've been held for years are increasingly unlikely to possess urgent, actionable information. The fact is, Guantanamo is nothing less than a dream laboratory for those who've been working on psy-ops theory for decades:

Now, this produced a distinctively American form of torture, the first real revolution in the cruel science of pain in centuries, psychological torture, and it's the one that's with us today, and it's proved to be a very resilient, quite adaptable, and an enormously destructive paradigm.

Let's make one thing clear. Americans refer to this often times in common parlance as "torture light." Psychological torture, people who are involved in treatment tell us it's far more destructive, does far more lasting damage to the human psyche than does physical torture. . . . It is far crueler than physical torture. This is something we don't realize in this country. . . .

And under General Miller at Guantanamo they perfected the CIA torture paradigm. They added two key techniques. They went beyond the universal sensory receptors of the original research. They added to it an attack on cultural sensitivity . . .

And then they went further still. Under General Miller, they created these things called "Biscuit" teams, Behavior Science Consultation Teams, and they actually had qualified military psychologists participating in the ongoing interrogations, and these psychologists would identify individual phobias, like fear of the dark or attachment to mother, and by the time we're done . . . it had a three-fold assault on the human psyche: sensory receptors, self-inflicted pain, cultural sensitivity, and individual fears and phobias.

This uniquely American form of torture self-inflicted pain is entirely congruent with BushCo's general style of governance. Everything is ALWAYS the victims' fault. The victim ALWAYS does it to him/herself, from Dick Whittington to the black millionaire looters in New Orleans. To put it in Rovian terms, everyone's fair game.

After we found out that Bush was putting taps on the main switches at all the phone companies meaning quite simply that he's tapping the whole country BushCo managed to switch the conversation from the staggering proportions of their crime, to the question of the guilt or innocence of ordinary American citizens. After all, the spin went, if you haven't done anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about except, of course.

Alberto Gonzales unabashedly announced the Bush family's new legal interpretation at the NSA "oversight" hearings that Congress quickly convened. We have to protect America, he said, from a domestic fifth column movement. During his confirmation hearing, Samuel Alito explained that a fifth column is "a movement known to every war where American citizens will sympathize with the enemy and collaborate with the enemy." If that's not enough, for those who still don't get the point, he went further and pledged, "I stand behind this president being commander-in-chief, to pursue fifth column movements."

Gonzales claims that the commander-in-chief has inherent constitutional authority to order the military to spy on American citizens on the grounds that the continental United States, after September 11, is a theater of war ["The Memo," by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 2-27-06]. Eventually we're going to notice that that's just a nice way of saying martial law.

Allister Sparks, the crusading anti-apartheid South African journalist, recently talked to Amy Goodman on
Democracy Now!
about what it's like living in a brutal police state.

And . . . this is why I find it deeply disturbing to see what is happening in the United States today . . . everything from detentions without trial to wiretapping to the torture of prisoners, which seems to be blatantly done and obviously condoned from very high quarters. So many of the odious things that I lived with for so long in my country, that poisoned our society, I now see them occurring in the United States, which I've always admired, and it's tarnished my admiration most seriously. It's a country I really have no great wish to visit again.

Goodman pointed out to Sparks that there were ties between recently-indicted Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the South African apartheid regime. "Abramoff," Goodman explained, "helped launch the pro-apartheid International Freedom Foundation in the mid-1980s. . . . While Abramoff headed the IFF in Washington, in South Africa it was run in part by Craig Williamson, a notorious military intelligence officer known for carrying out a series of bombings and assassinations." In other words, Williamson worked for the CIA.

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Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at
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