The inside story
From M, fall 2007
In an interview for the July-August 2007 issue of Minnesota magazine, Steven Miles (M.D. '76) discusses medical complicity in the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay. A medical professor in the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, Miles read an estimated 60,000 pages of declassified government documents, which became the basis of his 2006 book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror and were posted this spring in an archive on the University's Human Rights Library Web site. Below is an excerpt from the interview with Miles:
You've spoken to some medical professionals in the prisons. Did they talk about the pressure they were under to participate in abusive interrogations?
"There was pressure. And some of the pressure can be seen in the documents as well. But what I don't see in the documents or in their personal stories is the type of pressure that is brought to bear against health professionals who protest torture in countries like Chile or Uruguay or the Soviet Union or Turkey, and risk being disappeared or tortured or killed or having their family members killed for that resistance. The pressure that was brought to bear was peer pressure, in some cases the threat of a transfer. But when I look at my colleagues in other torturing countries, I see them taking absolutely heroic and in some cases suicidal risks to protest torture. So I don't accept--I simply do not accept--the notion that the pressure was of a degree that should have caused [our doctors] to be silent or complicit. And because of the fact that pathologists universally failed to disclose the torture deaths, they turned off a critical early warning system that something had gone seriously wrong in our prisons."
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