Torture and You: A Timeline



Obama’s second day in office was fun-filled: He signed an order to close Gitmo, he froze the pay of top White House staff and he signed an executive order ending “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the military and CIA. According to the Red Cross, the U.N., and Amnesty International that’s code for: torture. (And after seeing Christopher Hitchens get waterboarded, we agree.)

The Bush administration had put these techniques in place to fight terror, which is pretty terror-ble in itself, but what of torture’s grandiose history? As we put it to bed in America, let’s look back on how the forefathers of Western Civilization put it to use…

According to the U.N.:

“[Torture is] any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession…”

  • The Romans were the first kids on the block to hit all these defined marks of torture. They used it as an interrogation technique; usually victims were whipped with pointy metal things, and a slave’s testimony was ONLY believed if it arose from a torture session. Because the words of a bloodied, beaten body desperate to stop the pain are so reliable.
  • Medieval courts used torture to elicit the names of co-conspirators from men on death row. Um, you’re already going to kill them, isn’t this just rubbing salt in the wound?
  • During the Spanish Inquisition, Jews, Muslims, and Protestants were targeted by Spain’s Catholic leadership. They were asked to repent as heretics or suffer an array of less appealing options like beingstrung up and pulled apart by weights or being tied to the rack and being pulled apart by people. 
  •  In Colonial America, women were bound with wooden clips affixed to their tongues and subjected to “dunking” for the crime of talking too much. Goddamnmenfreakinjerksalwayssubjugatewomen…
  • During World War II the British government operated a secret torture facility to get info from German POWs. They were beaten, deprived of sleep, and forced to stand in one place for over a day. It’s kinda hard to feel bad for Nazis.
  • It’s supposedly ending at home, but Amnesty International’s Website gives us a bleak view abroad, estimating that 81 countries from around the world still use torture. President Obama has taken one step in the battle against torture, but the war’s not over.


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