Torture in the modern age

For a long time, this post was Google’s #1 result on the search “chemical torture”, when it was on the Never Too Late / realgem blogspot. Sitemeter stats showed it to be a strangely common search term. The original blogger post is not even on the first page of results any more; it was originally posted in 2006. (It’s now #14 — just checked — and so here, re-published on Medium for the internet to re-discover.

Picked up a New York Sun story via Google News in which Jose Padilla (alleged al-Qa’ida “dirty bomb” suspect) claims that the CIA dosed him with LSD to, presumably, help break him under interrogation — see here.

LSD was studied by the CIA as a possible “truth drug” during MK-ULTRA, without much success. But as a method of sheer chemical torture, it could be notably more successful. As a sensitiser, it could potentially make you feel really miserable, depending what sort of a set and setting you were subjected to.

Of course, there are worse things than LSD. As anyone who has read Bunker 13 will know, things like BZ: a scary deliriant guaranteed to give you an utterly incapacitating screaming psychotic nightmare trip and put you into anticholinergic crisis for good measure. Much like datura.

Oh yes: chemical torture. Too flesh-crawlingly terrifying to even contemplate.

Experts in coercive interrogation recommend (should you ever have to torture anyone for vital information) to avoid inflicting pain for as long as possible, as the fear of pain is often more potent than physical pain itself. Indeed, many people surprise themselves with how well they cope with pain, when it comes.

Imagine, instead, being placed in an immersion tank, floating in body-temperature saline and deprived of all sensory input whatsoever. You are, essentially, a “brain in a bath-tub”; consiousness floating in total darkness, total silence, total emptiness. Horror vacui. This, in itself, is enough to drive most people crazy. In a matter of a few hours or so.

But before they put you in there, you are injected with prolixin — developed as an anti-psychotic, this is something like being chemically flayed — and turbocurarine, which paralyses your body and denies you any outlet, through physical movement or flailing about, from the ghastly creeping torment and panic that is slowly drowning you. If necessary, of course, they will put a tube down your wind-pipe to keep you alive for the next few days.

The sadist genius of human beings knows no limit.

This is an unpleasant thing to think about, but almost certainly, someone somewhere is undergoing treatment like this now, perhaps under the aegis of your government, busy fighting their Great War on Terror.

[[recommended reading]] Excellent and thoughtful article from Atlantic Monthly on the dark art of interrogation, speculating what Khalid Sheikh Muhammad may have gone through

… Or maybe they just gave him the LSD treatment…

“After 48 hours, the suspect cracked and began to reveal vital operational intelligence. It was established that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, and that there is no such thing as death. Further, evidence was gained which seems to bear out suspicions that life is only a dream, and that we are merely the imagination of ourselves…” [remember Bill Hicks…]

Originally published at on October 23, 2006.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.