Alfred W. McCoy – USA

Linked to our presentation of Again about Tortures on Jan. 16, 2006.

Added later: see his article ‘why the McCain torture ban won’t work, the Bush legacy of legalized torture’ of February 8, 2006.

See ALFRED W. McCOY’s new book: ‘Cruel Scienc – The Long Shadow of CIA Torture Research’. The photos from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison are snapshots, not of simple brutality or a breakdown in discipline, but of CIA torture techniques that have metastasized, over the past 50 years, like an undetected cancer inside the US intelligence community.

Alfred W. McCoy – USA

From 1950 to 1962, the CIA led massive, secret research into coercion and consciousness that reached a billion dollars at peak. After experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, electric shocks, and sensory deprivation, this CIA research produced a new method of torture that was psychological, not physical–best described as “no touch torture.”

The CIA’s discovery of psychological torture was a counter-intuitive break-through–indeed, the first real revolution in this cruel science since the 17th century. In its modern application, the physical approach required interrogators to inflict pain, usually by crude beatings that often produced heightened resistance or unreliable information. Under the CIA’s new psychological paradigm, however, interrogators used two essential methods, disorientation and self-inflicted pain, to make victims feel responsible for their own suffering. In the CIA’s first stage, interrogators employ simple, non-violent techniques to disorient the subject. To induce temporal confusion, interrogators use hooding or sleep deprivation. To intensify disorientation, interrogators often escalate to attacks on personal identity by sexual humiliation. (Read more on Counterpunch).

Alfred W. McCoy studied Southeast Asian history at Yale University. In 1971 he was commissioned to write a book on the opium trade in Laos. During his research he discovered that the French equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency (SDECE), financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade. McCoy also found evidence that after the United States replaced the French in Southeast Asia, the CIA also became involved in this trade. As he later pointed out: “Their mission was to stop communism and in pursuit of that mission they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism.”

Cord Meyer, a senior official in the CIA and a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, became aware of Alfred McCoy’s manuscript and made efforts to have the book withheld from publication. The publisher, leaked the story to the media and the book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, was published in 1972. Now in its third revised edition, this book has been translated into nine languages.

Now he is professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has spent the past thirty years writing about Southeast Asian history and politics and is the author of Closer Than Brothers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, a study of the impact of torture upon the Philippine armed forces), and The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, which made the list as one of CounterPunch’s Top 100 books of the last century. His publications include Philippine Cartoons (1985), Anarchy of Families (1994), and Lives at the Margin (2001). This column originally appeared in the Boston Globe. See also Spartacus Schoolnet.

The Hidden History of CIA Torture – America’s Road to Abu Ghraib, by Alfred W. McCoy: Around the world — and in the United States — Abu Ghraib has become a byword for our disastrous war in Iraq. The photos of torture, abuses, and humiliations of every sort that e-seeped out of that prison shocked Iraqis, the world, and many Americans. But as is so often the case, images can’t be fully interpreted without context.

Alfred McCoy offers the necessary — and shocking — historical context. He fills us in on a truly shameful story most of us remember, if at all, only in bits and pieces (those Agency experiments with LSD, for instance): A taxpayer-funded CIA, using up to a billion dollars a year for its research, plunged into a universe of torture way back in the 1950s and emerged with a new set of “no-touch” torture techniques which were then codified in manuals, used in Vietnam, and for over two decades taught to allied police forces and militaries around the Third World.


Tom Dispatch;;

Debate on the Kennedy Assasination;

Debate on the CIA and the Politics of Heroin;

Debate on Watergate;








And a german: Buchkritik.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.