Dog Torture at Bottom of CIA Scandal


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The torture report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee has answered a big question we had about those “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA on prisoners from the first day we heard about them.  They were presented to us as a necessary evil to get to the bottom of the 9/11 attacks and to prevent such atrocities from occurring in the future.  That made no sense when it was evident that the captives were not the culprits in the attacks.  How could they have drawn up a plan that depended for its success upon a number of very improbable things happening, the most improbable of which was that America’s air defense command would sit idly by while one airliner after another strayed radically from its designated flight path?  It is akin to drawing up a pass play in football that will succeed only if the pass defenders all fall down.


If one of the captives might have been in some way tangentially involved in the 9/11 atrocities, the last thing we would have wanted to do would be to torture the truth out of him, for the truth would certainly lead in directions that we would rather not go.  We might as well have tortured Dick Cheney if it’s the truth we were after.


It struck me as overkill in the extreme if, by rounding up and torturing assorted unfortunate Muslims, we were simply continuing to carry through the fake, sort of like the quarterback who retreats from the line and goes through a passing motion after he has handed the ball off (to continue with our football analogy).  Now, in his analysis of the Senate report, Thierry Meyssan has shown that that was not the purpose of the CIA’s vile torture program.  Its purpose was to break down the captives in the manner in which noted psychologist Martin Seligman broke down his captive dogs, by random torture to condition them to do or say anything we wanted of them:


The Senate Committee did not discuss whether the confessions of the human guinea pigs were extorted or inculcated, but after explaining that supervisors were conditioning experts and not interrogators, the Committee explains at length the fact that none of these "confessions" has allowed us to anticipate anything. It demonstrates that the CIA lied by claiming that they had helped prevent further attacks. The Commission does not write that information on al-Qaeda in these confessions is fabricated, but notes that it all was verifiably false. In doing so, the Commission explicitly refutes the arguments that were used to justify torture and implicitly cancels the testimonies which were used to link al-Qaeda to the attacks of Sept. 11.


This report confirms, officially, several items of information we presented to our readers and that contradict and invalidate the work of Atlanticist think tanks, universities and the media since September 11, both in regard to the 2001 attacks themselves and with regard to al-Qaeda.


Following the publication of excerpts from this report, it appears that all the evidence cited in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the September 11 attacks connecting these to al-Qaeda is false. There no longer exists to date a shred of evidence for attributing the attacks to Al Qaeda: There is no evidence that the 19 people accused of being airline pirates could have been found that day in one of the four planes, and none of the former members of Al Qaeda’s testimonials confessing to the attacks is genuine. (Emphasis added)


The CIA torture regime, you see, was instituted under the supervision of two handsomely paid consulting psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, whose work was guided by the model of “learned helplessness” developed by the aforementioned Dr. Seligman.  “They were not intended to obtain a confession or information, but to inculcate a narrative or behavior in the subjects.”


Even so, the copious torture, including 183 waterboarding sessions, administered to the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was apparently insufficient to get him to say what we wanted him to say.  Only after the CIA kidnapped his sons and threatened to do who-knows-what to them did he finally ridiculously claim “to have directed just about every major terrorism attack against the United States over the past fifteen years. 


Dr. Seligman has objected mightily to an assertion made by Meyssan back in 2010 that he actually oversaw the CIA torture program.  He concluded his letter to this way:


I have never worked on interrogation; I have never seen an interrogation and I have only a passing knowledge of the literature on interrogation.


I am grieved and horrified that good science, which has helped so many people overcome learned helplessness and depression, has been used for such inhumane purposes.


Most importantly, I never did and never would provide any assistance in torture. I strongly disapprove of it. (Seligman’s emphasis)


Taking Dr. Seligman at his word, his objection to torture is based upon a very narrow, species-specific definition of the word, because his primary claim to fame is based upon experiments that can only be described as the cruelest of torture of man’s best friend.  Here is how it is described in Wikipedia:


In Part 1 of Seligman and Steve Maier's experiment, three groups of dogs were placed in harnesses. Group 1 dogs were simply put in the harnesses for a period of time and later released. Groups 2 and 3 consisted of "yoked pairs." A dog in Group 2 would be intentionally subjected to pain by being given electric shocks, which the dog could end by pressing a lever. A Group 3 dog was wired in series with a Group 2 dog, receiving shocks of identical intensity and duration, but his lever did not stop the electric shocks. To a dog in Group 3, it seemed that the shock ended at random, because it was his paired dog in Group 2 that was causing it to stop. For Group 3 dogs, the shock was apparently "inescapable." Group 1 and Group 2 dogs quickly recovered from the experience, but Group 3 dogs learned to be helpless, and exhibited symptoms similar to chronic clinical depression.


In Part 2 of the Seligman and Maier experiment, these three groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus, in which the dogs could escape electric shocks by jumping over a low partition. For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously learned that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn't try. Their lack of attempt was due to an effect called retardation of learning. Learning that response and shock are independent made it more difficult to learn that a response does produce relief by terminating shock. The emotional stress that the dogs experience when learning that the trauma is uncontrollable produced failure to escape.


Replace “dogs” with “detainees” and “electric shocks” with waterboarding, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, prolonged stress positions, rectal rehydration, and whatever depraved form of torture Mitchell, Jessen, and their CIA disciples were able to dream up, and what you have is Seligman’s “learned helplessness” for humans.  And the good Doctor Seligman is shocked, shocked that people would do such things.  His purpose in addressing a gathering of military personnel on the subject, he says, was to better prepare them for encountering the torture that the enemy might visit upon them.  This is a perfect echo of the rationale originally offered by the formulators of the CIA MKULTRA mind control program.  They were only reacting, they would have us believe, to the brainwashing to which our POWs were subjected during the Korean War. 


This writer is not the least bit shocked that psychologists, these modern day high priests of our secular humanist society, should be found at the very heart of this latest assault upon human decency.  See my most recent articles on the subject, “Abuse of Psychiatry in the Kennedy Assassination” and “More Abuse of Psychiatry in the JFK Cover-up.”  In the first of those articles we note that Dr. Howard Rome of the Mayo Clinic even prepared a “psychological autopsy” of Lee Harvey Oswald to explain his inner motivation for killing the president, in the absence of any apparent outward motive for doing so.  In the Vince Foster case Kenneth Starr trotted out “suicidologistDr. Alan Berman to pronounce, in the absence of good forensic evidence, “with a 100% degree of medical certainty,” that the “perfectionist” Foster killed himself.  Yale psychology professor Dr. Sidney Blatt did his part by pronouncing Foster just the sort of perfectionist personality type that is highly prone to self-murder.  The set-up for the assassination of Defense Secretary James Forrestal was all provided by psychiatrists, and the definitive cover-up book on his death, Professor Arnold Rogow’s James Forrestal, A Study of Personality, Politics, and Policy is nothing but one long psychological autopsy.  Topping them all, as we might expect with his background in both the CIA and the psychology profession, is Professor Jerrold Post of George Washington University who tried his hand at both the Forrestal and Foster cover-ups with almost comical results.


Surveying this sorry record, not to mention the nine psychologists/psychiatrists that well-heeled Maryland politician Ruthann Aron found who, for a fee, were able to persuade one juror that she plotted to kill her husband and his lawyer because she was abused as a child, we are inclined to agree with H.L. Mencken about the entire profession:


Barring sociology (which is yet, of course, scarcely a science at all, but rather a monkeyshine which happens to pay, like play-acting or theology), psychology is the youngest of the sciences, and hence chiefly guesswork, empiricism, hocus-pocus, poppycock. On the one hand, there are still enormous gaps in its data, so that the determination of its simplest principles remains difficult, not to say impossible; and, on the other hand, the very hollowness and nebulosity of it, particularly around the edges, encourages a horde of quacks to invade it, sophisticate it and make nonsense of it. Worse, this state of affairs tends to such confusion of effort and direction that the quack and the honest inquirer are often found in the same man. It is, indeed, a commonplace to encounter a professor who spends his days in the laborious accumulation of psychological statistics, sticking pins into babies and plotting upon a chart the ebb and flow of their yells, and his nights chasing poltergeists and other such celestial fauna over the hurdles of the spiritualist's atelier, or gazing into a crystal in the privacy of his own chamber. The Binet test and the buncombe of mesmerism are alike the children of what we roughly denominate psychology, and perhaps of equal legitimacy. Even so ingenious and competent an investigator as Prof. Dr. Sigmund Freud, who has told us a lot that is of the first importance about the materials and machinery of thought, has also told us a lot that is trivial and dubious. The essential doctrines of Freudism, no doubt, come close to the truth, but many of Freud's remoter deductions are far more scandalous than sound, and many of the professed Freudians, both American and European, have grease-paint on their noses and bladders in their hands and are otherwise quite indistinguishable from evangelists and circus clowns. (“The Genealogy of Etiquette”)


The main thing that has changed since Mencken made those observations in the 1920s is that Freud’s reputation has gone down quite a bit.


Americans Heavily Favor Torture


In the face of these revelations of organized depravity by the CIA, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that the American public overwhelmingly supported it.  By a margin of almost 2 to 1 — 59 percent to 31 percent — those interviewed said that they support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying that they produced valuable intelligence.


“In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified ‘often’ or ‘sometimes.’”


How can we explain this reaction?  Once again we must turn to Mencken, as he reflects upon the final political defeat of Illinois reform governor, John P. Altgeld: 


What lesson is in his career for the rest of us?  The lesson, it seems to me, that any man who devotes himself to justice and common decency, under democracy, is a very foolish fellow—that the generality of men have no genuine respect for these things, and are always suspicious of the man who upholds them.  Their public relations, like their private relations, are marked by the qualities that mark the inferior man at all times and everywhere: cowardice, stupidity and cruelty.  They are in favor of whoever is wielding the whip, even when their own hides must bear the blows.  How easy it was to turn the morons of the American Legion upon their fellow-slaves!  How heroically they voted for Harding, and then for Coolidge after him—and so helped to put down the Reds!  Dog eats dog, world without end.  In the Pullman strike at least half the labor unions of the United States were against the strikers, as they were against the more recent steel strikers, and helped to beat them.  Altgeld battled for the under dog all his life—and the under dog bit him in the end. (“Heretics”)


Oh, but the problem, you say, is that they just don’t know, in spite of all that has been reported.  And you would have a point, but my guess is that if they knew everything that Dr. Seligman did to dogs and the CIA did to captive Muslim suspects, their greatest indignation would be directed towards the illustrious psychologist.


David Martin

December 18, 2014





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