In his book, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin described his experience being tortured by sleep deprivation at the hands of the KGB:
In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep ... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.
I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.
He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them -- if they signed -- uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.
Here's U.S. presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, speaking at a town hall event in Iowa yesterday:
And I see, when the Democrats are talking about torture, they're not just talking about even this definition of waterboarding, which again, if you look at the liberal media and you look at the way they describe it, you could say it was torture and you shouldn't do it. But they talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I'm getting tortured running for president of the United States. That's plain silly. That's silly.
Apparently, this is what it's like on the campaign trail:
Mr. Bashmilah was subjected to severe sleep deprivation and shackling in painful positions. Excruciatingly loud music was played twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. Guards deprived him of sleep, routinely waking him every half hour. Initially, the cell was pitch black, his hands were cuffed together, and his legs were shackled together, severely restricting his movement and causing him pain. Later, he was chained to a wall and the light in his cell was left on at all times, except for brief moments when the guards came to his cell ... Mr. Bashmilah's psychological torment was such that he used a piece of metal to slash his wrists in an attempt to bleed to death. He used his own blood to write "I am innocent" and "this is unjust" on the walls of his cell.
I wonder what Giuliani writes on the walls of his $4,000-a-night hotel rooms.
And given his outspoken belligerence regarding Iran, he must also find this pretty "silly" (from the State Department's official 2006 country report on Iran):
In recent years authorities have severely abused and tortured prisoners in a series of "unofficial" secret prisons and detention centers outside the national prison system. Common methods included prolonged solitary confinement with sensory deprivation ... long confinement in contorted positions ... threats of execution if individuals refused to confess ... sleep deprivation.
But these things can't be torture! We have memos saying they're just "enhanced interrogation techniques" fully consistent with U.S. and international law. Silly State Department.
Here's what Giuliani told the Iowa crowd about our preferred form of mock execution, waterboarding:
Questioner: "He [AG nominee Mukasey] said he didn't know if waterboarding is torture."
Giuliani: "Well, I'm not sure it is either. I'm not sure it is either. It depends on how it's done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it's been defined in the media, it shouldn't be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that's the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn't be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I've learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don't always describe it accurately."
You know we've come a long way as a country when the leading presidential candidate for the incumbent party suggests that perhaps one of the oldest, most iconic forms of torture known to man isn't torture at all, and we only think it is because we've been misled by our "liberal media." History no doubt also has a well-known liberal bias:
The first level of torture employed by the Spanish Inquisition was the "water cure." Water was poured into the accused's open mouth. The linen cloth was washed into the opening of the throat, preventing the accused from spitting the water back out. The overwhelming sensation of drowning forced the accused to swallow the water. The rules of torture as written by Torquemada, a man whom historians have compared to Hitler, stipulated that no more than eight liters of water could be used in a single session.
Perhaps the most revealing part of Giuliani's response was his comment that whether waterboarding is torture "depends on who does it." That pretty much sums up the prevailing right-wing view on this issue: It's not torture when we do it. It's American exceptionalism taken to an absurd and frightening extreme. It doesn't matter that we draft detailed reports every year chastising all other countries in the world who are known to engage in this activity. It doesn't matter that we've prosecuted people in the past for war crimes for engaging in this same activity. Somehow acts that we would all agree are torture when committed by other countries cease to be torture when they are authorized by the U.S. government (but only for us; it's still torture if others do it). If anyone thinks that the United States' standing in the world will improve if Giuliani becomes president, they're sadly mistaken.