By Thomas Flemming
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Extra info for Berlin im Kalten Krieg
People in Argentina who 'disappeared' were made less likely to resist by being blindfolded. This practice, called 'walling up', also eroded their dignity by making them helpless and dependent on their tormentors. As Dr Norberto Liwsky put it, 'The normal attitude of the torturers and guards towards us was to consider us less than slaves. We were objects. And useless, troublesome objects at that. " '13 Sometimes the humiliation is linked to ethnicity or religion. The Argentinian torturers were influenced by a pervasive anti-Semitism, with conscious echoes of Nazism.
The paradox of using torture to obtain information raises the question of whether this is the real motive. The instrumental uses of torture and other kinds of cruelty are not enough to explain their prevalence or the artistry with which they are carried out. It is impossible to believe that what was done to Ahmad Qabazard resulted from some careful calculation of how to frighten the Kuwaitis. Deep in human psychology, there are urges to humiliate, torment, wound and kill people. Some of the appeal is that of exercising power over victims.
And the atrocities themselves do not just happen: people commit them. In a different moral climate, it could be harder to take part. Partly what is needed is to re-create ethics, giving more weight to the public dimension of individual conduct and character. It is easy to think this public dimension is unimportant. Most of the time what matters is the local and personal. But the great public disasters can strike the most unlikely places. A military coup in Argentina or the death of Tito in Yugoslavia can bring atrocities and war to towns and villages which seemed peacefully remote from politics.
Berlin im Kalten Krieg by Thomas Flemming