TORTURE: ASIAN AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES | AUGUST 2012
VOLUME 01 NUMBER 03
by RON JACOBS
In 1960, when I was a first grader at a Catholic school near Washington DC, my teacher regaled us with horror stories about
torture administered to Christians by the Maoist government in China. Reading from a conservative Catholic newspaper, she told my classmates and me about soldiers placing bamboo under the fingernails and multiple other tortures. Of course, we were told the point of these tortures was to convince the Christians to give up their religion. Furthermore, our teacher and the priests at church emphasized that torture was never practiced by US forces. Imagine my surprise a few years later when I heard for the first time that US Special Forces and their Vietnamese trainees were torturing and killing suspected insurgents using tactics much more painful and “scientific” than those used by the Chinese forces. As my understanding of how governments and their police forces actually worked expanded, it became clear that torture was accepted by many more countries than I had been led to believe.
Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: Histoy of the Weather Underground (Verso 1997) He has also published two novels and a collection of essays. He is a regular contributor to Counterpunch and other webzines and journals. His reviews, essays and articles have appeared in journals around the world. A labor and an antiwar activist, he currently resides in Burlington, Vermont, USA.