March 22, 2007

Expert to discuss CIA's use of psychological torture

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — An historian who specializes in CIA covert operations, the global drug trade, colonial empires in Southeast Asia and the modern-day Philippines will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale to talk about how the CIA developed and has used psychological torture.

Alfred W. McCoy, J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will begin his free, public lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, in the auditorium of SIUC's Hiram Lesar Law Building. A reception will follow.

McCoy's talk draws on material from his most recent book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror," published last year by Metropolitan Books.

He will be available from 4:30 to 6 p.m. the day of the lecture at Rosetta Stone Bookstore in the Campus Shopping Center, 214 W. Freeman St., to sign copies of that book.

The CIA tried to block publication of McCoy's first book, "The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia," which explored links between opium and "The Company." Translated into nine foreign languages and now in its third edition, it has become a standard in studies of worldwide drug trafficking.

A later work, "Closer Than Brothers," published in 1999, focused on CIA torture training within the Philippine military, a book which led directly to his exploration of what 50 years of spreading and practicing psychological torture have done to America. McCoy maintains that so-called "no-touch" torture harms not just the victims but the perpetrators, too.

In an article for the political newsletter "Counterpunch," McCoy notes that Congressional hearings on the CIA's use of torture took place four times between 1970 and 1988, with no noticeable results. He hopes the photographs from Abu Ghraib and the widespread revulsion they engendered will at last force a change.

"Through these photographs from Abu Ghraib, we can see the reality of these interrogation techniques," he writes. We have a chance to join fully with the international community in repudiating a practice that, more than any other, represents a denial of democracy."

Sponsors of McCoy's lecture include the SIUC departments of anthropology, cinema and photography, history, psychology, sociology and women's studies, the University's Global Media Research Center and School of Law, the Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois, the Shawnee Green Party, the Unitarian Fellowship program committee and the Carbondale Friends Meeting.