After some months of practice, I manage to sense the precise
instant when the prisoner is going to crack, the fraction of the
second when he loses his grip.

—Confessions of a Professional Torturer1


21
Does Torture Work?
Torture can be used in three ways: to induce a false confession, to cause fear, and to elicit true information. Can organizations use torture to intimidate prisoners? Yes. Can organizations use torture to produce false confessions? Absolutely. With enough time, a human being can be trained to say anything. These cases of torture “working” are not the important ones.The real question is whether organizations can apply torture to produce true information. Lt. Col. Roger Trinquier, one of the architects of interrogation during the Battle of Algiers, believed it did:

If the prisoner gives the information requested, the examination is
quickly terminated; if not, specialists must force his secret from him.
Then, as a soldier, he must face the suffering, and perhaps the death,
he has heretofore managed to avoid…. Science can easily place at
the army's disposition the means for obtaining what is sought.2

Dan Mitrione, the American torture instructor in Uruguay, also had this view of torture: “You must cause only the damage that is strictly necessary, not a bit more. We must control our tempers in any case. You have to act with the efficiency and cleanliness of a surgeon and with the perfection of an artist.”3Can torture can be precise, scientific, professionally administered, and yield accurate information in a timely manner? Let me spell out the components of this position as empirical questions:
1. Can torture be scientific?
2. Can one produce pain in a controlled manner?

-446-

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Torture and Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Torture and Democracy xxv
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Torture and Democracy 33
  • 1: Modern Torture and Its Observers 35
  • 2: Torture and Democracy 45
  • II - Remembering Stalinism and Nazism 65
  • 3: Lights, Heat, and Sweat 69
  • 4: Whips and Water 91
  • 5: Bathtubs 108
  • III - A History of Electric Stealth 121
  • 6: Shock 123
  • 7: Magnetos 144
  • 8: Currents 167
  • 9: Singing the World Electric 190
  • 10: Prods, Tasers, and Stun Guns 225
  • 11: Stun City 239
  • IV - Other Stealth Traditions 259
  • 12: Sticks and Bones 269
  • 13: Water, Sleep, and Spice 279
  • 14: Stress and Duress 294
  • 15: Forced Standing and Other Positions 316
  • 16: Fists and Exercises 334
  • 17: Old and New Restraints 347
  • 18: Noise 360
  • 19: Drugs and Doctors 385
  • V - Politics and Memory 403
  • 20: Supply and Demand for Clean Torture 405
  • 21: Does Torture Work? 446
  • 22: What the Apologists Say 480
  • 23: Why Governments Don't Learn 519
  • 24: The Great Age of Torture in Modern Memory 537
  • A - A List of Clean Tortures 553
  • B - Issues of Method 557
  • C - Organization and Explanations 566
  • D - A Note on Sources for American Torture During the Vietnam War 581
  • Notes 593
  • Selected Bibliography 781
  • Index 819
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