I haven't written a lot of diaries, mostly because people here have much more insight, expertise, and perception than I. Nevertheless, I think I'll write this one up because it something I have personal experience with and the subject came up on another thread. I'm a SERE grad, and although the program, especially the Resistance Training Laboratory (RTL, or mock POW camp) is classified, I think that I can comment on what's been going on in the news about the program and correct a lot of misperceptions on the objective of torture.
I went through in November '87. Some of the best training I've ever had as one really learns about oneself. I mean really learns about oneself. I think the human ego quite naturally, for survival reasons, blocks out and denies mental weaknesses but with this training one is confronted by one's psychological weaknesses, which is a good thing in order to be able to compensate for them. That is the object of the training.
I was a weapons sergeant in 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) [before I went to college and switched to the Navy as a Naval intelligence officer] but when I went through SERE, I back-doored my way in while still a young infantry buck-sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The training was tough for me, psychologically, which made it even more worthwhile in my opinion. It was a cold November and I was the first to visit the "People's Pond" by the infamous "bearded one", a former A-Team master sergeant from Vietnam who had his camp overrun by NVA. A very big guy, and I am relatively small (5'6) and at the time had a build like a swimmer. I was never a Rambo type, that's not me genetically, but as every SF guy or SEAL will tell you, it's the size of the heart that matters; if you really want that profession you can succeed, it's all about will-power. In anycase, I was stupid and while wearing hospital pajamas, boots without laces, and a black canvas hood over my head, I rose my hand when they asked who would not sign their signiture for blankets. Since you are not supposed to sign anything, I rose my hand (assuming everyone else would also) and suddenly found myself jerked up and flung into the icy water of the "Peoples Pond", then "de-loused" by having a water hose put up under my hood (and those hoods stay wet for the entire duration!). During my first interrogation, my wet clothes were taken from me and the female interrogator made a big deal and laughed about my shrunken genitalia (yea, why don't YOU go take a swim, bitch!). Sorry, a little mysogeny coming out.
Funny thing is, I never gave them the information of our "mission" in the scenario. Not because I didn't break (I did, and I still have an aversion to ice cold water to this day), but because of the sleep deprivation and overwhelming stimuli, I simply FORGOT! Yep, and afterwards they said how well I did, heh. I guarantee you, I would've told them if I had actually remembered!
Most people break in the training, everyone has a breaking point. The object is to bounce back like a basketball and resist and live to come home with honor. Too many POWs in North Korea and Vietnam were psychologically ruined because they broke but still believed that they were traitors and weak and they were not prepared to deal with it. They thought interrogations were of the Hogan's Heroes type and if you gave more than name, rank, and serial number you were a traitor. That may have worked fine in WWII but our cold war communist adversaries were a totally different animal altogether.
That's why the late Col. Nick Rowe and his friend who was also a POW with him, Dan Pitzer, started the SERE program at Ft. Bragg. The program, though classified, is based on his experiences as a 5-year POW.
If you are truly interested in the SERE program, I highly suggest Rowe's book "Five Years to Freedom". It's all in there.
See, the point of this diary is not that torture is used to get information (forget 24 folks) but rather it is used to turn a person, exploit them and indoctrinate them. There is no such thing as brain-washing, you can't wash someone's brain of their thoughts, but you can indoctrinate, just watch "Outfoxed" again. The torturers of today know that, they don't expect the "ticking bomb" scenario, they want to drive a wedge between the victim and the other detainees; to exploit, indoctrinate, and turn them.
See, I learned that physical pain is NOTHING (but I confess to not have a branding iron applied to my genitals but that attitude sure adds spice to the sex life). No, the PSYCHOLOGICAL pain is much worse. Not knowing if you are ever going home to friends and family is much worse than the physical pain because at a point, the brain shuts off the pain receivers, but the psychological rollercoaster remains. These people at GITMO are not trying to commit suicide because of the physical pain, it's the psychological pain that's driving them; and consider that suicide is a mortal sin in Islam as it is in Judeo/Christianity and you have the extent of this psychological pain.
It's a damn shame, to put it mildly, that these techniques were developed by our Communist "enemies" and now we're the ones using them. I recognized the techniques immediately when Abu Graib first broke. I wanted to blog about it but I signed a sensitive information disclosure agreement and I wouldn't get the same kid gloves treatment as Uncle Karl.
Like I said, read the book, it's all in there.
So, I haven't revealed anything classified, just anecdotal and philosphical in regards to the purpose of torture post-WWII. So to you DIS types - screw you, revoke my clearance, I don't care, I live in Europe and am now a member of a socialist party - go do something usefull like catching Bin Laden or something.