warprompts

Tasers, British gov’t sued, APA action

Check out this piece on the ethics of selling tasers to governments who torture:

Seldom are businesses in the developed world implicated directly in torture, but too often they avert their eyes as their products, purchases or independent contractors support abuses, according to Schulz, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C. He cited the case of Taser International, the Scottsdale, Ariz., manufacturer of “stun guns.” Taser’s devices, sold domestically to police departments and private citizens, shoot electrified barbs that cause a flash of intense pain and momentary muscle failure. Police use them in place of pistols and clubs to protect themselves and subdue unruly people.

The U.S. Commerce Department has documented the sale of Tasers to countries, including Saudi Arabia, that are known for using electro-shock devices as tools of torture, Schulz said. He debated Taser’s chief executive, Rick Smith, three years ago at Claremont-McKenna College in California. At the time, he asked Smith to stop selling his company’s wares to countries that the U.S. State Department had classified as torturers. Taser’s president indicated that the company “would sell to any country it pleased,” Schulz stated.

I’m reminded of what Darius Rejali said on Democracy Now

You know, one of the very important points I want to make in my book is that I know we’re all focused on international torture, but there is no sharp line between domestic and international torture. Practices that start in our prisons go out into the field. Practices in the field come back to us.

We all know what waterboarding is. What we forget is that waterboarding was a technique that, although it was learned in the Philippines—we’ve all seen the New Yorker article, I’m sure, on how that happened—those soldiers, when they come back, what kind of jobs do they get? They get jobs as policemen. They get jobs as private security people. And very soon, in the 1920s, all those techniques from the Philippine war started appearing all across the United States. They were used on conscientious objectors during World War I. The techniques that appeared in Chicago in ’72 to ’92 were all techniques that we have already documented in Vietnam that MPs were quite familiar with, right? So, after every war, people come back.

Tasers moved from domestic policing here, they’ve been out there in Iraq. We have a number of cases where people allege that they were tortured with the use of tasers. And the problem with tasers—the problem with any kind of device that doesn’t leave marks is this: if we’re going to use violence in a democracy, there has to be third-party accountability. It just can’t be that you take the cops’ word for it, right? There’s got to be a way in which somebody can say, “Hmm, let me look at that tape again and see if you properly used mace or that baton or something.” And with electrical weapons that leave very few marks, it’s very hard to know.

I always ask people, during the Rodney King video, which everybody saw, “Does everyone remember it?” And everyone says, “Yeah.” And ehtn I say, “Well, how much electroshock did he get when that video was running?” And everyone goes, “I don’t remember anything. There was just beating.” I was like, “No, he had a taser in him. He had gotten two bolts of 50,000 volts, and they were emptying out the remains of that charge in him while he was struggling.” Now, everybody can get outraged by violence they can see. Violence they can’t see, we barely have the opportunity even to raise the question.

Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, writes about learning that Americans were torturing detainees, as per the White House orders:

Simply put, American fighting men and women were abusing detainees. I later learned that they were doing so on the basis of policies being set by senior members of the Bush administration. As someone who had spent thirty-one years in the Army, I was appalled…

The worst horrors of our war have yet to be revealed—but they will be. Secret prisons, renditions, homicides, torture, and innocents swept up in a vast network of detention—all will be revealed. It is the nature of our openness that it be so. We must start now to recognize our crimes and our complicity. We are all guilty, and we must all take action in whatever way we can. Torture and abuse are not American. They are foreign to us and always should be. We need to exorcise them from our souls and make amends.

Excerpts of 29-year old British resident Binyam Mohamed’s diary were published in The Guardian in 2005. The paper reported that he described being flown by a US government plane to a prison in Morocco. One agonizing excerpt:

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. “You’re all right, aren’t you? But I’m going to say a prayer for you.” Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. “I need to see it. How did this happen?” I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. “Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night.” He gave me some kind of antibiotic.

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: “What’s the point of this? I’ve got nothing I can say to them. I’ve told them everything I possibly could.”

“As far as I know, it’s just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was “to show Washington it’s healing”.

Mohamed is now suing the British government. Andy Worthington reports,

On Tuesday, Binyam Mohamed, a 29-year old British resident in Guantánamo, sued the British government for refusing to produce evidence which, his lawyers contend, would demonstrate that he was tortured for 27 months by or on behalf of US forces in Morocco and Afghanistan, that any “evidence” against him was only obtained through torture, and that the British government and intelligence services knew about his torture and provided personal information about him — unrelated to terrorism — that was used by the Americans’ proxy torturers in Morocco…

Although he later reported to his lawyer — Clive Stafford Smith of the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents 35 prisoners in Guantánamo — that the British checked out his story, and confirmed that he was a “nobody,” the Americans were not convinced, and decided to send him to Morocco, where he could be interrogated by professional torturers who were not bothered about international treaties preventing the use of torture, and who were equally unconcerned about whether evidence of their activities would ever surface.

Speaking of his time in Morocco, where he was held for 18 months, Binyam told Stafford Smith that he was subjected to horrendous torture, which, included, but was not limited to having his penis cut with a razor on a regular basis. In spite of this, the regular beatings and other torture that he did not even want to talk about, Binyam said that his lowest moment of all came when his torturers produced evidence of his life in London, which could only have come from the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been abandoned and betrayed by his adopted homeland.

After Morocco, Binyam was transferred to Afghanistan, where he endured further torture in the “Dark Prison,” a secret “black site” near Kabul, run by the CIA, which was a grim recreation of a medieval dungeon, but with the addition of non-stop music and noise, blasted into the pitch-dark cells at an ear-piercing volume.

Make it Matter. Psychologists Acting with Conscience Together is asking APA members to sign the resolution —

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.

Psychologists Acting with Conscience Together reports that the resolution requires signatures from 1% of current APA members in order to be brought before the entire APA membership for a direct vote.

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May 14, 2008 - Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] The Ethics of Selling Tasers to Governments Who Torture Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Taser Zaps Critics – So Far […]

    Pingback by What’s Worth 72 Words in the Washington Post? « warprompts | June 3, 2008

  2. […] The Ethics of Selling Tasers to Governments Who Torture Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Taser Zaps Critics – So Far […]

    Pingback by What’s Worth 72 Words in the Washington Post? « warprompts | June 3, 2008


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