Sometimes in the face of the large crime, it’s the little details that hit you the most. Take for example the torture memos released yesterday by the Obama administration. These four memos are part of the legal apparatus used by the Bush administration to conclude that waterboarding, “walling” (throwing someone against the wall) and confining a prisoner who was shot in the leg during his capture in a coffin-like box was not torture. This conclusion is contrary to not only the Geneva Convention but also the USA’s own laws (eg the Convention Against Torture, signed by Ronald Reagan).
The exact details in the memos are however more likely to make the most impact. Here’s just one: the government discussing to what extent an insect can be placed in a cramped box along with Zubaydah.
The method here, of using the prisoner’s own fear against him, is exactly the torture that breaks Winston Smith in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Room 101. The room were your worst fears come to take place. Remember that in the book, Smith–who grew up with his family in poor conditions–has seen many rat-bites of babies, and has a loathing of rats. At the novel’s climx, he is taken into Room 101, a box is tied to his face and a hungry rat introduced.
Smith breaks down completely, not only betraying Julia, his lover, but ultimately himself. The novel’s last line is one of the most chilling in modern literature: “He had won. He loved Big Brother.”
These memos are literally Orwellian.