The necessary prerequisite for the success of a guerrilla army against a vastly more powerful and technologically advanced foe is the support of the people among whom the guerrilla fighters circulate. They depend on them for food, shelter, intelligence reports, transportation and many other things. Torture is a counterinsurgency measure used against guerrilla fighters by the superior military power, not just for interrogation purposes, but primarily for intimidation. The more shocking, painful, degrading and humiliating the torture, the better, because it indicates to the population supporting the guerrillas that this too could be their fate. If prolonged and hideous enough in nature, torture has the additional advantage of creating a culture of despair in a country long after the guerrilla insurgency has been defeated.
Guatemala is a country where the police and military, who were trained by the CIA and the School of the Americas, were exceedingly savage and shocking in their techniques, utilizing such methods as torturing children in front of their parents, electric shock to the genitals, severing heads and placing them on pikes, etc. Sister Dianna Ortiz has testified before the US Congress that she was lowered into a pit full of rats and dead and dying people and a knife was placed in her hand and she was forced to stab another person. Her torturers gang-raped her and burned her numerous times with cigarettes. She has also stated that an American was present at her torture in Guatemala. Today, Guatemala is an ideal country for multinational corporations to build sweatshops and work children long hours for starvation wages in miserable conditions and thereby make exorbitant profits because many Guatemalans have given up hope for progressive change by political activity. It is simply too dangerous-the manifestation of a culture of despair.
The US corporate media will admit to the possibility of the use of torture in Iraq for interrogation purposes, but the limits of the debate preclude the possibility of intimidation being any factor. After all, the assumption of the corporate media is that the United States is in Iraq to help the Iraqi people by building schools and bringing them democracy and freedom. Savage methods of intimidation do not correlate well with this assumption of the great beneficence of US foreign policy. However, intimidation by torture does happen to correlate well with the idea that this US invasion of Iraq is a continuation of five hundred years of imperialist history and is motivated by the prospect of significant oil profits and the privatization of Iraq's economy for corporate benefit.