Wednesday, May 06, 2009

If You Have Time, You Can Do Worse Than Waterboard

The whole debate about torture really is silly. Because if you have time, you don’t need "torture", waterboarding or anything else that makes people physically uncomfortable. All you need psychology.
Most of us don’t know it, but we really, truly need other people. Really. An empty mind on its own goes mad, crazy. In its emptiness it searches for anything, anyone to connect to, to bond with. And it is this fundamental human feature is all that is needed to break someone.
It’s quite simple really. All that is needed is solitary confinement and the work of one dedicated individual. No physical pain is needed. No physical pressures of any kind. Just aloneness.
Leave someone alone for months. I mean truly alone. Absolutely no one talking to them. No physical contact or even seeing someone. I mean ALONE. Comfortable, well fed and nothing to leave them bad feelings – and someone to lash out against. No books, no writing, no outlet. Leave them totally alone in the isolation of a small room. And go away for a few months, even a year. Maybe two years, leaving food in small slot.
Then slowly, deliberately, give them just one person to talk to. Someone similar to them and a native speaker. Just a few minutes at first. Don’t ask them questions. Just show up. Just a sentence. “How you doing?”. Do this for a few more months. This becomes the only human contact they have in memory. Then lengthen the conversation. Just a little. Then a little more. And a little more. Always with the same person. The only person they see.
Over the course of time this solitary mind, in its complete abandonment and isolation, will open up to the only person it can latch onto. Because taking their new friend away – their only human contact – will be a psychological pain worse than any physical pain anyone could ever endure. And in order to avoid this psychological pain – to keep the company going and avoid the pain of isolation – this person will tell them anything and everything they want to hear.
The only problem is that this takes time. Months. Years. And in some cases we don’t have the luxury of time. In that case I am all for giving unbearable physical pain or waterboarding. But if you have time it really isn’t necessary.
Because – and think about this – psychological pain is worse than physical pain. Physical pain comes and goes with whatever is giving the pain. But psychological pain can last years, decades even, long after whatever is giving the pain is long gone. And it doesn’t fade like physical pain. Psychological pain can grow, become worse than the initial jolt, expanding to occupy all corners of the mind, especially a mind that is isolated. And in these cases people will do something, anything, to get rid of the psychological pain. Even if that means revealing secrets.

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