They said that it was accepted almost everywhere in the world that
beating a suspect was often a quick way of getting him to talk.

—Reporter talking to Royal Ulster Constabulary detectives,
Northern Ireland, 19771


22
What the Apologists Say

Torture apologists point to one powerful example to counter all the arguments against torture: the Battle of Algiers. In 1956, the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front) began a bombing campaign in Algiers, the capital of French colonial Algeria, killing many innocent civilians. In 1957, General Jacques Massu responded with a counterinsurgency campaign in Algiers using torture. “By such ruthless methods, Massu smashed the FLN organization in Algiers and re-established unchallenged French authority. He did the job in seven months—from March to mid-October.”2

It is hard to argue with success. Here were professional torturers who produced consistently reliable information in a short time. It was a breathtaking military victory against terrorism by a democracy that used torture. Yet the French won by applying overwhelming force in an extremely constrained space, not by superior intelligence gathered through torture. As noted war historian John Keegan said in his recent study of military intelligence, “It is force, not fraud or forethought, that counts” in modern wars.3

The real significance of the Battle of Algiers is rhetorical. It dates the startling moment when modern democracies began official torture apology. After 1957, politicians and generals regularly cited the battle to silence their critics.4 Archives on the Algerian war are now partially open, and many French interrogators wrote their biographies in the 1990s.5 The story they tell will not comfort generals who tell self-serving stories of torture's success.6 In fact, the battle shows the devastating consequences of torture for any democracy foolish enough to institutionalize it.

After discussing the Battle of Algiers, I discuss several other common counterexamples, including Gestapo policing and current American counterintelli

-480-

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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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