Category: Torture

Conflict Photography

Here are amazing photography and explanations tagged as “Conflict Photography” from the New York Times.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The Wilson Center. Students might be interested in this.

The Costs* Of War

This was written September 8, 2011, by Hugh Gusterson. It mentions a study sponsored by Brown University, and the link to the site – which has quite a bit of information and a video – is here.

*What are costs? Pages on the website include:

Human Costs

Economic Costs

Social and Political Costs

Are there Benefits

Alternatives and Recommendations

Free Documentary Site

This is a wonderful site! You can watch documentaries ranging the spectrum of possibilities.

Before We Were Free

In the short historical novel Before We Were Free, Julia Alvarez writes of the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, a tumultuous time of government secret police, the dictator el Trujillo, brave rebels fighting for justice, family, immigration, and adolescence – all from a young girl’s perspective. A good, informative, moving read that made me cry and think. It made me think of the immigrant experience in America, of what countries “resort” to (embargoes, invasions) to “help” other countries, and how (if?) it is possible to attain peace without such measures. There is always a short and/or long-term cost, to being a bystander, indirectly interfering, and directly interfering.

Here is a quote from Julia Alvarez in the “About the Author” section:

“I believe stories have this power–they enter us, they transport us, they change things inside of us invisibly, so minutely, that sometimes we’re not even aware that we come out of a great book as a different person from the person we were when we began reading it.”

The Center for Victims of Torture

This seems like a really wonderful idea.

The Selville Statement on Violence

Spain, 1986

Human violence is not biological. Check it out!

Here’s an article on the subject. It begins like this:

“It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors … that war or any other violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature … [and] that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”

These are the ringing words of the ‘Seville Statement on Violence’, fashioned by 20 leading natural and social scientists in 1986 as part of the United Nations International Year of Peace, and later adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was written to counter the pessimistic view that violence and war are inevitable features of human life.

The decades since have not been kind to these cherished beliefs. A growing number of psychologists, neuroscientists and anthropologists have accumulated evidence that understanding many aspects of antisocial behaviour, including violence and murder, requires the study of brains, genes and evolution, as well as the societies those factors have wrought. Continue here.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights, according to the website.  What a wealth of information! You can find information by country and topic, watch videos, and learn about how you can help, such as by writing letters standing up for individuals at risk. (i.e. Liu Xiaobao would be an example, as would someone convicted of the death penalty.) Here is Amnesty International’s blog.


PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, according to the website. PEN has many programs, including a Prison Writing Program, Translation Committee, and the World Voices Program. Here is the explanation for the Prison Writing Program:

Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative and rehabilitative power of writing, by providing hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. The program seeks to provide a place for inmates to express themselves freely with paper and pen and to encourage the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. The program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates whose writing shows merit or promise, conducts workshops for former inmates, and seeks to get inmates’ work to the public through literary publications and readings.

I believe that prisons need to be more related to peace in the rehabilitative sense, not only in the sense of punishment. Three Strikes, mandatory minimums, the “war on drugs,” and the tough political stance that politicians too often embrace must end. Putting people in boxes is not the answer.

What I Heard About Iraq in 2005

Oranges and Peanuts for Sale by Eliot Weinberger has a powerful section on Iraq called “What I Heard About Iraq in 2005”. Here are just a few of the many excerpts (which I think I am allowed to post, as they should be in the public domain as far as I know):

I heard a man who had been in Abu Ghraib prison say: “The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.”

Lieutenant General James Mattis: “It is a lot of fun to fight in Iraq…You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling.”

Monthly coverage on ABC, NBC, and CBS combined went from 388 minutes (2003) to 274 (2004) to 166 (2005).

Devout Christian in Iraq: “I said a prayer, stood up, and gunned them all down.”

Bush compared his War on Terror with Lincoln’s war against slavery.

Journalist: “Do you think that the insurgence is getting harder now to defeat militarily?”

Bush: “No, I don’t think so. I think they’re being defeated. And that’s why they continue to fight.

I’ve heard Condoleeza Rice speak about a “generational commitment” in Iraq.

Bush: “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of capitulate the propaganda.”

I heard that US troops had killed the #2 man in al-Qaeda in Iraq. I heard that US troops had killed another man who was the #2 in al-Qaeda in Iraq. I heard that US troops had killed yet another man who was the #2 in al-Qaeda in Iraq.

I heard that the US military was actively recruiting in Latin America, offering citizenship in exchange for service. I heard that Hispanic-Americans make up 9.5% of the actively enlisted, but 17.5% of those given the most dangerous assignments.

John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the United Nations: “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power in the world – and that is the US – when it suits our interest and when we can get others to go along.”

Abdul Henderson, a former Marine corporal: “We were firing into small towns. You see people just running, cars going, guys falling off bikes. It was just sad. You just sit there and look through your binos and see things blowing up, and you think, man they have no water, living in the third world, and we’re just bombing them to hell. Blowing up buildings, shrapnel tearing people to shreds.”

I heard that the US was now spending $195 million a day on the war and that the cost had already exceeded, by $50 billion, US expenses in all of World War I. I heard that $195 million would provide 12 meals a day to every starving child on earth.

Thanks to this blogger (who actually has the entire essay on the blog) I copied and pasted this list. I feel compelled to include it because it really makes torture more tangible, more of a reality than vague, half-formed, media-influenced, propaganda-influenced theories of the cruel and unknown capabilities of humans.

I heard that a human rights organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, was distributing a questionnaire to inmates released from Iraqi prisons. Those surveyed were asked to check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ after each question:

Stripped of your clothing (nude)?
Beaten by hand (punches)?
Beaten by stick or rod?
Beaten by cables, wires or belts?
Held at gunpoint?
Had cold water poured on you?
Had a rope tied to your genitalia?
Called names, insults?
Threatened or touched by dogs?
Dragged by rope or belt?
Denied prayer or wudhu [ablution]?
Forced to perform sexual acts?
Were you raped or sodomised?
Did someone improperly touch your genitalia?
Did you witness any sexual acts while in detention?
Did you witness any rapes of men, women or children?
Urinated on or made to touch faeces, or had faeces thrown at you?
Denied sleep?
Denied food?
Witnessed any deaths?
Did you witness any torture or mistreatment to others?
Forced to wear woman’s clothes? [Question for men only]
Were you burned or exposed to extreme heat?
Exposed to severe cold?
Subjected to electric shock?
Forced to act like a dog?
Forced in uncomfortable positions for a
lengthy period of time?
Forced to stand or sit in a painful manner for lengthy periods of time?
Lose consciousness?
Forced to hit others?
Hung by feet?
Hung by hands or arms?
Threatened to have family killed?
Family members detained?
Witnessed family members tortured?
Forced to sign anything?