"We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant said. "This happened every day...We did it for amusement." Another soldier says detainees were beaten with a broken chemical light stick: "That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad." An off-duty cook told an Iraqi prisoner "to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a ... metal bat." The sergeant continues: "I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm."
Torture, condemned by civilized nations and their citizens since the Renaissance, has continued to be carried out in prisons and internment camps in every nation. But save for a few exceptions, such as France's overt torture of Algerian independence fighters during the late 1950s, it has been hidden away, lied about and condemned when exposed. Torture is shameful. It is never official policy.
That changed in the U.S. after 9/11. Current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authored a convoluted legal memo to George W. Bush justifying torture. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joked about forcing prisoners to stand all day and officially sanctioned keeping them naked and threatening them with vicious dogs. Ultimately, Bush declared that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would ignore the Geneva Conventions. By 2004, a third of Americans told pollsters that they didn't have a problem with torture.
Torture has been normalized.