Torture the Grand Conspiracy


Gjennom tortur kan man få hvem som helst til å innrømme hva som helst. Opplysninger gjennom tortur er mildt sagt upålitelige.


“How is it that almost two centuries after the abolition of torture, that was once seen as a relic of medieval barbarism, has become a clandestine institution in many, possibly a majority, of the world states ?


In practical terms, the circumstances under which torture can yield the information necessary to forestall an act of violence are extremely limited. How can the authorities know that the man or woman in their custody has the information they want ? If they do get the information, will they be able to act on it before it is out of date ?


In a well organized guerrilla campaign, arms and explosives are constantly moved from one place to another. “Bomb factories” can be rapidly disassembled and dispersed as soon as it is known that a member of the team has been captured. Moreover, the hardened guerrilla or terrorist who continuously flirts with death and even welcomes it is perhaps the least likely of men to speak under torture.


Like the Cappadocian bandits, members of underground  organizations may learn the techniques of resistance. In practice, then, torture will be most efficacious against the “softer” targets – the “fellow-travellers” or sympathizers rather than the militant operators. It is these softer targets who provide the link between the small conspiracies of the militants and the Grand Conspiracy which is uppermost in the mind of the authorities.


The small conspiracies are implicit in the tactical operations of the guerrillas. The Grand Conspiracy is a fantasy in the minds of the authorities, born of a paranoid  response to the dissidence around them. The small conspiracies are only one manifestation of a much more general malaise or unrest permeating society, whether this resolves round the struggle for political independence, civil rights, better living conditions or demands for a more even distribution of wealth or property.


The Grand Conspiracy is the reaction of the elite groups, especially in militarized societies, who stand to lose by social change. Once torture is institutionalized on the basis of the need to deal with the small conspiracies, the Grand Conspiracy becomes a model of repression to be applied to every contingency. The softer targets embrace an ever widening circle of people. The “contacts” of the terrorists who must be arrested and tortured in order to control the security situation eventually include everyone who might possibly have had some remote dealings with them.


Lawyers, doctors, poets, journalists, students and scientists are eventually dragged into the net. The Grand Conspiracy takes on an increasingly ideological tone, as a growing proportion of intellectuals are interrogated. “Foreign” ideas are seen as the source of the poison that is corrupting youth and destroying society. Not only are political or social ideas (whether Marxist or “bourgeois”, depending on the context) attacked, but anything, including religion and psychoanalysis, that could lead an individual to question the prevailing military values. 


Behind the hideous contortions lie the familiar features of paranoid inversion. The torturer sees in his victim the agent of social poison, perhaps even the Enemy of the Human Race. Yet is this not a reflection of his own designation in the eyes of the rest of the society, even that which he sabotage his honour to defend ? Are not agonized grimaces on the face of his victims really a mirror images of his own hatred of mankind, projections of his inner self-contempt ?


So it must be also with the Grand Conspiracy in its relations with those institutions whose existence depend upon fighting and rooting it out. For what are these institutions dedicated to struggle against “subversion” if not themselves the principal agents of subversion ? The Grand Conspiracy is more than the freakish fantasy of deluded inquisitors, soldier or policemen: it is the scenario according to which inquisitors and police or military terrorists achieve their own subversive aims of subjugating society and destroying the rule of law in the name of the Order.


Torture which is invoked to defend the state in effect destroys it. It is the instrumentality by which the real enemies of society , the men in cassocks or jack-boots, attack that invisible solidarity between individuals and groups which is the basis of all social existence, and without which all human beings are reduced to a primal condition of slavery. The vilifying propaganda of these, the real subhumans, which withers and corrupts like poisonous vapours should not delude us. The real devil-worshippers was a Dominican friar, just as the twentieth-century terrorist is usually a man in uniform.”

Malise Ruthven 1978 

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The historical record consistently reveals both psychiatrys participation in human rights violations and CIA psychologists use of torture. Mitchell and Jessen are just the latest example in a long line of psychological and psychiatric abusers dangerously aligned with government entities for political purposes.
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