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SERE School: Where Americans Learned to Torture

April 23, 2009

The goings-on at the SERE school (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) have been known for some time. The details–how the school attempts to prepare American military personnel to deal with the difficult consequences if they are ever captured and tortured– have been made public before. But in light of the swirl of torture-related news and arguments in the news today, I thought it would be important to take another look at SERE. From Ben Sherwood, founder of the Survivorclub.Org:

Highly trained professionals serve as jailors and interrogators, putting prisoners through carefully choreographed chaos that’s designed to disorient and break them down. If you’re afraid of dogs, they may terrify you with snarling German shepherds just inches from your face. If you’re scared of snakes (or insects), they may throw you into a pit of writhing creatures or bugs. If you’re claustrophobic, they may stuff you into a series of smaller and smaller boxes or bury you underground in barrels. Throughout the experience, they wear you down with sleep deprivation, semi-starvation, and blaring music, including Sesame Street songs around the clock. They interrogate you constantly, employing enemy techniques copied from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. (According to The New York Times, those techniques include fake-drowning or waterboarding) They say they don’t use excessive force, but it can be physically rough. No one likes to admit it, but bones and eardrums have been broken in the service of preparing American men and women for the reality of captivity.

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