23 February 2007

Brainwashing surfaces in an unlikely place

During the Korean war, the world was introduced to the new and frightening term "brain washing." Practiced by the Chinese on their captives, the technique consisted of applying brutal indoctrination to change victims' basic beliefs. The Chinese didn't invent it, of course. It dates back at least to the inquisition.

It recently cropped up in a place we might not expect - the United States. Jose Padilla, arrested as a terror suspect in 2002, classified as an "enemy combatant" and entombed in a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina, now faces trial in Miami. For over three and a half years he was isolated in a tiny cell, allowed to see no one but his interrogators, and subjected to intense sensory deprivation alternated with intense sensory overload. He also insists he was drugged.

As a result of this treatment his lawyers, backed up by health professionals, claim he has been so damaged he is incapable of assisting in his defense. He now believes his captors are his protectors and his lawyers his interrogators -- classic signs of brain washing. According to one prison officer, he now acts like "a piece of furniture."

In an article in The Guardian on Padilla's trial, Naomi Klein discusses an entire section in Guantanamo filled with now-delusional prisoners, essentially driven insane by harsh interrogation techniques. If Padilla, an American citizen, can be treated the way he was in the United States, where his captors knew he would eventually have his day in court. one can hardly imagine how prisoners in Guantanamo are treated, foreigners who will probably never get a fair trial.

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