Monday, December 04, 2006

The Ground Truth

The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends shows a recruiting day at Venice Beach in California, a Marine boot camp in 2002, just months prior to the Iraq Invasion, scenes from combat in Iraq, and interviews with returning soldiers and their families.
At one point in the movie, the film’s producers reproduce footage from behind an airborne camera (in a drone perhaps?) showing the distant ground images of maybe 20 or more Iraqis walking through a street intersection.  You hear a spoken order to destroy these people and then a countdown to the launch of a missile.  You see a big explosion that destroys all of the Iraqis.  Then you hear the voice of a young white male, one of the military personnel involved in the attack.  He says “Dude.”  He says it in a very awestruck way.  It’s like a video game, he knows, but this time it’s real.  Those were actual flesh and blood human beings he just eliminated with the flick of a switch.

The Long History of American Torture

This is disturbing.
There are several methods for achieving water boarding’s perverse effect of drowning in open air: most frequently, by making the victim lie prone and then constricting breathing with a wet cloth, a technique favored by both the French Inquisition and the CIA; or, alternatively, by forcing water directly and deeply into the lungs, as French paratroopers did during the Algerian War.

After French soldiers used the technique on Henri Alleg during the Battle for Algiers in 1957, this journalist wrote a moving description that turned the French people against both torture and the Algerian War. “I tried,” Alleg wrote, “by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me.”

Let us think about the deeper meaning of Alleg’s sparse words--“a terrible agony, that of death itself.” As the water blocks air to the lungs, the human organism’s powerful mammalian diving reflex kicks in, and the brain is wracked by horrifically painful panic signals--death, death, death. After a few endless minutes, the victim vomits out the water, the lungs suck air, and panic subsides. And then it happens again, and again, and again--each time inscribing the searing trauma of near death in human memory.