by Brandon Smith
Torture, or what our government calls “enhanced interrogation”, is not a tactic so much as a darkly artistic process. The subject of this process has something that the torturer wants; it might be information, or a forced confession to a crime the subject did not commit, but most often, torture is designed to gain nothing more than psychological compliance.
The goal is to manipulate the subject into believing that submission is the only possible future, and that such submission is inevitable regardless of the will of the victim. The torturer often builds himself up as a kind of parent figure for the subject – becoming the only entity that can supply shelter, water, food, and comfort. The torturer is taskmaster and abuser, but also caregiver in the twisted relationship dynamic. A schizophrenic balance is struck in which the subject longs for the outside world and a return to the pleasures of the past (making him desperate and malleable), but he also partially accepts his prison walls as home (giving him a false faith that compliance will lead to a safer and more predictable tomorrow).
Until this compliance is achieved, the subject is exposed to endless and erratic crisis events in which his body is damaged, his mind is deprived of sense, perception, and sleep, and his life is overtly threatened. He may receive brief moments of rest, but these are designed only to make the next torture session even more raw and painful. If the subject does not understand how the process works, or if he doesn’t have a strong sense of his own identity, then he will quickly lose track of reality. Every moment becomes a waking nightmare, a warped and gruesome carnival, and life becomes nothing more than an absurd and obscure experiment barely worth living.