Torture or Deprogramming?
Amid all the abrasive and conflicting arguments prompted by the so-called "torture report" released by Senator Diane Feinstein, I am baffled by the absence of the crucial, indispensible question that never entered into the conversation, pro or con.
That question is simply why those men who were chosen to endure waterboarding never reacted to other, less physically aggressive tactics designed to reveal vital intelligence that could prevent more terrorist attacks.
If, as the report apparently alleges, less coercive measures were far more effective in extracting vital information, then why was it necessary to resort to more painful alternatives?
The gap between those who ran the CIA and who approved the aggressive tactics as a successful last-resort method of extracting critical intelligence, and those who believed that such information could have been gained by more benign methods, is wide and deep.
One must assume that these men had been deemed by the CIA’s most experienced experts as the highest level of captured Jihadist combatants who possessed vital information about the inner working of terrorist cells, plans, strategy, tactics, personnel, connections, financing, relationships, and other information useful for our defense against any future onslaught of terrorist attacks against Americans.
Surely they were subjected to more benign means of interrogation before the decision was taken to try more drastic methods. Why did they hold out? Why them?
In order to fully understand their motives, one must probe deeply into the theory of brainwashing, and how a cult can totally capture and control the motivations and actions of its followers.
Jihad, in all its various offshoots, branches, and incarnations fits all the criteria that defines a cult, roughly meaning a group obsessed by a rigidly unifying self-generated and imposed belief that it propagates as the ultimate truth, and for whom the non-believer is a mortal enemy who must be eliminated.
Jihad is a death cult, and is no different in concept and operation than thousands of other cults around the world. Its ultimate promise is that, by performing deeds in its name and welcoming death, one will be rewarded in the afterlife with an infinite existence dedicated to perpetual pleasure apparently of a sexual nature involving dozens of virgins. Hence its attraction for sexually-deprived young men. It has never been clear what the other gender has on offer in the paradise of the Jihad afterlife.
A Jihad cult is committed to kill all who do not commit to it. Fall into its clutches and fail to bow to its will and convert to its concepts and control, and you will be instantly assassinated without trial and without mercy. Beheadings are apparently a common method of disposal and proudly disseminated via the Internet. Indeed, viewing a beheading happen to a fellow citizen tests our own level of repugnance and outrage.
Like all cults, Jihad’s adherents have been brainwashed to believe that a supreme being, in spiritual or sometimes human form, has commanded them to achieve the goal of the cult, in this case, to take complete control of the planet and place it under the absolute control of this supreme being and its sycophants.
The most committed, the most brainwashed, are the cult leadership, the people who devise and plan these monstrous acts of killing. For murdering innocent people, as they did at the World Trade Center, their equally brainwashed subjects are lauded as martyrs who will be rewarded and welcomed into the afterlife. Their leaders cite their dedication and celebrate their entry into the paradise of perpetual pleasure.
Breaking into the mind of such brainwashed people is a daunting challenge. Some break faster than others. Sometimes it takes many months of intensive physical and mental provocation to unravel the mind of a cult follower. Some never break.
Deprogramming a brainwashed person takes skill, persistence, and very often, harsh tactics. Getting a brainwashed person to accept the reality of his locked mind is a massive task. Often the talking cure of psychiatry fails. Drug intervention, too, has been shown to be ineffective. Indeed, the very idea of deprogramming is controversial, and in our politically-correct environment it has been branded a process that is designed to impede freedom of thought. Many former cult followers, their minds unlocked, militantly disagree with such a conclusion.
The brain is a complicated organ, and mapping and understanding its billions of cells is still in its infancy. Jihadists are the most difficult of all to unravel because they hide behind religion and pervert its teachings to cloak their twisted aims in the guise of religious duty. Many have been programmed from a young age and are reinforced with its precepts on a daily repetitive basis.
Intervention with tactics like waterboarding, where the brain might falsely determine that it is being faced with imminent death, have, according to those who have administered it, broken through the locked mind, bringing evidence of a subject acting in an effort to prolong his life. It seems logical that when brainwashing recedes and reality reemerges, the basic instinct of survival kicks in and a rational window opens, perhaps not permanently, but long enough of an opening that it restores some sanity into a closed mind.
Lawyers, police, psychiatrists, and others whose experience with more benign interrogatory methods has been fruitful cannot make judgments of the effectiveness of more extreme tactics unless they have experienced the fierce mental resistance of a brainwashed cult follower.
Certainly one must wonder what goes through the mind of a Jihad cultist who wields a knife to slice the head off an innocent man or woman who has done him no harm, or worse, what goes through the mind of a teenager who pulls the lever that blows him up along with the innocent people in the vicinity of his tripped bomb. If the person who acts in this way is not brainwashed, then how else can one rationally explain such an act?
These are the brainwashed monsters who have been programmed to destroy us, to obliterate our way of life, to murder us and our loved ones unless we become like them. Where can we look for protection if not from those charged with our defense, whether they are battlefield soldiers, or members of the intelligence services like the CIA?
After all, if we are to protect our vaunted values we must first survive to practice them.
Warren Adler has written extensively on cults and brainwashing. His well-reviewed recent novel Cult delves deeply into the attempt to rescue and deprogram cult victims. He is best known for the iconic novel and movie The War of the Roses. His many novels appear in numerous languages and more than a dozen have been sold or optioned for film adaptation. A new novel, Torture Man, is scheduled for publication in 2015.