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Recently, Krista sent around an e-mail saying she wanted to look into Darius Rejali as a possible show guest to explore the topic of torture. I was about to fire up Google when I realized I was already familiar with Rejali’s voice and ideas. Last year I worked on an American RadioWorks documentary called “What Killed Sergeant Gray” about Iraq veterans who’ve been psychologically devastated by their experiences with detainee abuse. Rejali was tapped as a voice for the program.

In that interview, as well as in his more recent conversation with Krista, I found myself drawn to his discussion of when and why people resist the group-think pressure to go along with what Rejali calls a “torture bureaucracy.” Rejali says that while these resistors haven’t been formally studied, they do seem to have in common an affiliation with a belief system — whether it’s derived from their family, religion, or a political party — that conflicts with whatever the torture bureaucracy is telling them to do.

Above is some audio from the unedited interview from the documentary in which Rejali talks more about these conflicts. Here, Rejali makes reference to French soldiers who refused to perpetrate torture during the French-Algerian war in the 1950s and early 60s. He also mentions social science experiments that would be illegal today but have taught us about the power of social situations in determining people’s propensity to obey or defy authority — specifically the famous Milgram obedience study. We decided to use some audio from the these experiments in our upcoming show.

*Thanks to American RadioWorks for permission to use this source audio and Michael Montgomery, Joshua Phillips, and Catherine Winter.


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The videos of Milgram's exetmirpnes are still both moving and troubling. I saw a screening a long time ago. Even for those who refused, it clearly took a lot of moral courage to refuse, and they often went on for longer than they really wanted to or should have. The screams everytime they hit the button were awful. Worse, of those who kept going, one of the men slumped lower and lower and looked more and more, I can only say, crushed, beaten. This was no sadist or apparatchik. Like most of us, he believed what he was told, believed it was important, and I think just couldn't believe that the man in the white coat would make him do something wrong, and actually suffered horribly to carry out the task.In retrospect, these exetmirpnes were unequivocally abuse by Milgram. To me what they show is not that we are capable of great evil. We know that there are evil people. Stalin, Ben Gurion and the whole list of eager killers great and small. But that yes, we are social, that we work together, and will often do hard things if we are convinced by people who should' know that it was right'. The big moderator is for the acts of evil to be be exposed. This is why it was so wrong for Mr Obama not to prosecute those who allowed us to start torturing. Because of this, I see that the junior mr bush is actually boasting that he approved waterboarding, instead of hiding in shame, and . This was not what the west stands for. If it now is, then we are now no better than the worst.it is not enough just to look forward. there will be new mr bushes, and they will take up the bloody instruments again, and they will find people willing to do it, without being shouted at or bullied or coerced. Worse, his victims are still suffering - because they deserved it, sure. I am sure you have all seen this great piece by Tony Keller. I read it and wept.