Thursday, October 22, 2009

Torture is Illegal, Immoral and Counterproductive

by Mike Pheneger, Colonel, US Army (Ret.), a participant in the International Human Rights Committee's teleconference on the CIA and the use of torture to combat terrorism

*Please click on the title of this post to read the post in its entirety.

I was stunned to learn that the United States government had authorized the torture of suspects captured during the War on Terror. I am not naïve. As a professional soldier, I know individuals captured by the US military have been abused in the past, but abuse usually occurs at the point of capture during or immediately after a fire-fight when tempers are hot and units have sustained casualties. Some prisoners were tortured, but this was an aberration not national policy. It is important that we ensure that the record of our involvement with torture is laid bare. That is the only way to ensure that we never again stride purposely and confidently down that dark path.

Our greatest presidents rejected torture and abuse. Washington refused to follow the British practice of torturing prisoners; he believed our new nation should be noted for its humanity. Lincoln believed that “military necessity shall not permit of cruelty.”

The Bush Administration abandoned our traditions and made a calculated decision to authorize torture as a matter of national policy. Immediately after 9/11, Vice President Cheney noted that we would have to go the “dark side” to counter the al-Qaeda threat. After 9/11, the administration “took the gloves off” and approved “harsh” interrogation techniques that individually and in combination amount to torture. Alberto Gonzales advised that Geneva Convention prohibitions against torturing and abusing prisoners did not apply to al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.

The torture policy and its “legal” justification were developed in secret by a small group of attorneys closely associated with the Vice President. They simply assumed that “harsh” interrogations would be necessary to obtain actionable intelligence. There is nothing in the public record to indicate that anyone with actual knowledge of or experience in interrogation participated in making the decision. Service Judge Advocates were frozen out of the process because they were considered “unreliable.” When Alberto Mora, then General Counsel of the US Navy, learned the Department of Defense was about to approve harsh interrogation methods, he brought his concerns to DoD General Counsel William Haynes. After unsuccessfully trying to bring Mora on board, Haynes froze him out of the process. The torture policies were not subject to the normal interagency coordination process that is designed to weed out really bad ideas.

The story of how we came to be torturers revolves around the case of Abu Zubaydah, the first significant member of al-Qaeda captured by the United States. Comments on the public record portray vastly different portraits of Zubaydah’s role in the organization and the importance of the information he provided. President Bush described him as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” He was touted as al Qaeda’s “operations chief,” the number three man. Bush administration officials claim Zubaydah provided critical intelligence on al-Qaeda and its future plans. Indeed, under torture he provided information on a massive number of plots involving attacks on all manners of US targets triggering a spate of early terror alerts. Many of the targets he identified did not correlate with those favored by al Qaeda. Many administration statements were self-serving - designed to demonstrate the administration’s effectiveness in the war on terror and, later to justify the decision to use torture to obtain critical intelligence.

Many intelligence officials who had direct access to Zubaydah paint a different picture. To them, Zybaydah was a functionary, a logistician, a personnel clerk and a “travel agent.” The personal journals captured with him indicate that he suffered from severe mental illness. One intelligence officer stated that “we spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms.” Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Solution, said we “tortured an insane man and jumped screaming at every word he uttered.” In one instance, he provided inaccurate intelligence that had profound consequences. Under torture, Zubaydah provided the “smoking gun” the Bush administration sought to justify the invasion of Iraq. He stated that Iraq and al Qaeda were involved in chemical warfare training. This was confirmed by another prisoner who had been rendered to Egypt and tortured. These statements were not true. When the torture stopped, Zubaydah recanted.

Officials who dispute administration claims of Zubaydah’s value do not deny that he provided some valuable intelligence. Even if he was not a “high level” al Qaeda member, he was positioned to provide insights into al Qaeda’s organization and personnel if not its future plans. The issue here is what agency obtained the accurate information and how. Would he have provided more and better information to the FBI had he not been tortured?

Zubaydah’s capture sparked a bureaucratic dispute between the FBI and CIA over which agency was to assume primary responsibility for interrogation of high-level prisoners and what interrogation methods were to be used. We know a lot about this dispute from Ali Soufan, the FBI Special Agent who was initially involved in Zubaydah’s interrogation; he testified under oath about Zubaydah’s initial interrogations, the contrasting methods used by the two agencies and the results achieved.

Abu Zubaydah was severely wounded when he was captured. The FBI and CIA flew in a physician from the United States to tend to his wounds. In initial interrogations conducted by Soufan and his partner, they immediately began to obtain accurate, actionable intelligence.

Soufan’s testimony describes two very different approaches to interrogation. The FBI used the “Informed Interrogation Approach” which is based on leveraging the interrogator’s knowledge of the prisoner’s culture together with information already known about him to get him to open up. Prisoners isolated from their traditional support seek human contact. A non-threatening approach to detainees who expect to be abused adds to his confusion and makes him more likely to cooperate. This approach requires interrogators to do their homework. Soufan testified that, during the first interrogation, he asked Zubaydah his name. He replied with an alias. Soufan then asked, “How about I call you Hani?” Hani was the nickname his mother used to address him as a child. Zubaydah was surprised, but the conversation began. The FBI/Army Field Manual approach is not “soft”. It is a knowledge based approach designed to “outwit” the detainee. The informed approach works quickly and effectively when employed by skilled interrogators.

Initial FBI interrogations produced valuable information, but then the CIA brought in a contractor who introduced harsh techniques which caused Zubaydah to shut down. At that point, FBI interrogators were re-introduced to retrieve the situation. For a time the Bureau and the Agency alternated in the interrogation of Zubaydah using their contrasting methods. FBI participants quickly became alarmed that the CIA’s contractor was engaging in torture. Soufan told a high-level FBI official that he had considered arresting some of the CIA personnel. Director Mueller wisely decided to withdraw FBI interrogators. Similar events occurred at Guantanamo. FBI personnel on-site became concerned about the treatment of prisoners and reported abuses to their headquarters. They were ordered not to participate in harsh interrogations. Much of what we know about the Guantanamo situation came from documents obtained through the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act requests for documents on torture.

The administration ultimately charged CIA with responsibility for interrogating high-level detainees. Zubaydah then embarked on an odyssey of secret CIA sites in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, North Africa and Diego Garcia. He was finally sent to Guantanamo when the Bush administration decided to close the secret sites in 2006. During that odyssey he was subjected to increasingly harsh interrogation techniques.

CIA had dedicated, experienced case officers skilled in debriefing agents, but they had almost no experienced interrogators. Faced with a job for which they were ill-prepared, CIA consulted with James Mitchell, a psychologist who had experience with the Air Force’s Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) program. SERE was a defensive program to expose selected military personnel (under carefully controlled and limited conditions) to interrogation techniques employed by totalitarian communist, fascist and third-world states. Interestingly, despotic states most often employed these techniques to obtain confessions, not “actionable intelligence.” Torture was an instrument of social control not intelligence. The United States considered these techniques torture and consistently condemned their use on human rights grounds. None-the-less the SERE methods were “re-engineered” for “offensive” use and used by CIA interrogators. Subsequently, some people involved in the decision making denied knowing the origin of techniques they had approved for use by the United States.

Not surprisingly, CIA personnel charged with responsibility for executing the program were concerned about the legality - if not the morality - of their actions. John Yoo, of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, prepared a series of extraordinary Memoranda to provide legal cover for the new policy and approved specific interrogation techniques. A subsequent memorandum was prepared to approve techniques Secretary Rumsfeld approved for use by DoD elements. The New York Times’ Anthony Lewis correctly likened the memos to the “advice of a mob lawyer to a Mafia don on how to skirt the law and stay out of prison.” It is useful to briefly examine two of the memos to get an accurate picture of their Orwellian character.

The August 1, 2002 memo (called the Bybee memo) attempts to define torture out of existence. To be considered torture, the interrogator must cause physical pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture…it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g. lasting months or even years.” By contrast, the Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading (CID) Punishment defines torture as “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.” Yoo argued that actions that were merely cruel, inhuman or degrading do not rise to the level of torture and are not subject to criminal sanctions. Mr. Yoo also considered defenses that could be employed if the courts did uphold his interpretation; these included “necessity” and “self-defense.”

Euphemisms concealed crimes. Interrogations were described as “enhanced”, “special,” and “robust.” The Bybee memo is clearly intended to inoculate torturers against future prosecution.

In addition to providing a legal justification for torture, the Bybee memo articulates an extremely dangerous view of Executive Power. Yoo argued that, after Congress passed Authorizations for the Use of Military Force for Afghanistan, the president, in his exercise of his Article II “commander-in-chief” power, is not limited by statute law, treaties ratified by the United States, or even the Constitution itself. “…If an interrogation method arguably were to violate Section 2340A, the statute would be unconstitutional if it impermissibly encroached on the President’s constitutional power to conduct the military campaign.” Courts will not read “a criminal statute as infringing on the President’s ultimate authority” in the conduct of war. “In war time, it is for the President alone to decide what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.” There is a clear implication that in time of war the President’s authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces trumps other constitutional provisions. This presumably includes the President’s very specific constitutional mandate to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” This view of executive power clearly suggests that the “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” - concepts the Founders carefully built into the fabric of the Constitution – are suspended in time of war.

A second memo, also dated August 1, 2002, approves ten specific interrogation methods for the “Interrogation of al-Qaeda Operative” Abu Zubaydah. It is clear that this memo was written after the fact to justify methods that had already been used on Zubaydah who had been captured four months earlier. It does appear that waterboarding was only used after the memo approved it. After asserting that Abu Zubaydah was a high-ranking member of al Qaeda who was withholding information about plans for attacks on the United States, the memo lists ten methods to “encourage him to disclose …crucial information.” “The techniques are: (1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard.” For anyone remotely familiar with the actual use of these methods, the memo’s discussion of their use has a surreal quality. Several examples illustrate.

Walling is described as pulling “the individual forward and then quickly and firmly push(ing) the individual” so his shoulders hit a false wall. The individual’s head and neck are supported with a rolled hood or towel “to help prevent whiplash.” This “humanitarian” explanation is wrong. The actual purpose of the towel is to provide the interrogator with leverage to increase the force of the impact.

The facial or insult slap is not “intended to inflict physical pain that is severe or lasting.” The purpose is to induce shock, surprise, and/or humiliation. The problem is that method is repeated frequently over a short time. The correct name for this in practice is a beating.

The memo discusses the use of wall standing and stress positions. These methods can induce extreme pain and discomfort. The memo does not address duration.

Sleep deprivation “reduces the individual’s ability to think on his feet and, through discomfort associated with lack of sleep, to motivate him to cooperate.” Again, there is no discussion of duration. The KGB used the technique on Menachem Begin. He described the experience: In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep...Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it. The European Court of Human Rights considered it cruel, inhuman and degrading. At Guantanamo, guards used the “frequent flyer” program to deny sleep. Prisoners were denied sleep for days by frequent changes of cells 24 hours a day. A subsequent 2005 memo limited the use of sleep deprivation sessions to 180 hours (7 ½ days). This suggests that earlier sessions were longer.

Waterboarding requires that the subject be bound to an inclined bench with his feet elevated and a wet cloth placed over the nose and mouth. Water is then poured over the cloth from a height of 12 to 24 inches for 20 to 40 seconds. The procedure induces a “perception” of suffocation and incipient panic, the perception of drowning. Between applications, the cloth is removed to allow the individual to breathe “unimpeded for three or four full breaths.” The action could be repeated but only for 20 minutes in one application. The memo did not address the issue of frequency. Nor did the memo reveal that after WW II, the United States prosecuted Japanese who waterboarded US soldiers for war crimes. The 2004 memo imposed limits. The waterboard could only be used with a detainee during one 30-day period and no more than five days during that period. The waterboard could only be used for two sessions (the length of time the subject is strapped to the board) a day. Individual sessions could not last longer than two hours and no more than six 10 second applications during the session. The cumulative water application could not exceed 12 minutes in a 24 hour period. The CIA admits that it waterboarded three individuals. They subsequently destroyed tapes of the sessions.

In late 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross was allowed access to the thirteen high-value detainees that were moved from CIA secret sites to Guantanamo. Detainees were interviewed separately and kept in isolation prior to the interviews, but the detainees’ accounts correlated. The 2007 report (leaked in April of 2009) called the CIA interrogation practices “inhuman” treatment that amounted to torture. The report provides insights on the duration issue. Several detainees reported being forced to stand for days in painful positions with their arms shackled overhead. Another reported being shackled for several months with a cycle of seven days of prolonged stress standing followed by two days of being allowed to sit or lie down. Prisoners were threatened with electric shocks, sodomy, and infection with HIV. Reading the report you cannot help but be struck by the similarity of what the detainees described and the techniques authorized in the memos.

In 2004, CIA Inspector General John Hilgerson attacked both the legality and effectiveness of the program. This led Jack Goldsmith, who replaced John Yoo in DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, to repudiate the earlier torture memos which he considered to be characterized by “deeply flawed” and “sloppily reasoned” legal analysis. The clear purpose of the 2005 Bradbury memo which addressed issues of frequency and duration was to place limits on what had been actual CIA practice. It revealed that Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times in August 2002. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003.

The United States torture program was not limited to secret overseas sites operated by the CIA. The Agency also ran the extraordinary rendition program. Suspected terrorists were kidnapped and rendered to other countries for interrogation. Most were countries known to use torture. Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer was widely quoted: "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt." There have been at least 57 renditions to Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Morocco, and Pakistan since 9/11. We know that at least two individuals were rendered by mistake: Mohammed Arar, a Canadian who was picked up at JFK Airport in NYC, sent to Syria to be tortured and released after a year. Kahled al Masri, a German citizen was picked up and rendered to a US site in Afghanistan. Masri’s was a case of mistaken identity. The ACLU tried to obtain justice for al-Masri after his release, but due to the application of the “state secrets privilege” there is no legal redress for him in US Courts.

The efforts of Ireland, Sweden, the European Union, and the ACLU exposed the details of the extraordinary rendition program. The ACLU is currently pursuing legal action against Jeppeson Aviation, a CIA contractor that provided leased aircraft to render CIA detainees. As an aside, the whole operation of the program reveals that the CIA tradescraft is terrible. An Italian prosecutor successfully indicted 26 Americans and 7 locals in the kidnapping of Muslim cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from Milan in February 2003. It is almost a case of keystone kops with CIA operatives overusing their personal cell phones and attempting to collect frequent flyer miles at hotels under their true names.

I doubt anyone in the Bush administration would like to discuss, on the record, the interrogation methods used on detainees in the extraordinary rendition program. CIA has not indicated how many individuals were waterboarded by other countries at our request.

The final element of the torture program involves Guantanamo and actions by the US military. A March 14, 2003 memo from the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel replied to a DoD request for guidance on legal standards governing military interrogations of alien unlawful combatants held outside the United States. The administration assumed that those who were sent to Guantanamo were dangerous terrorists. In justifying Guantanamo, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld declared in 2003 that the detainees housed there were “the worst of the worst.” General Dick Myers, then Chairman of the JCS and a War College classmate of mine, told the press that the detainees were so dangerous that if they were not hooded and chained to the floor of the plane, the detainees were “so vicious, if given a chance, they would gnaw through the hydraulic lines of a C-17 while they were being flown to Cuba.”

In the months after 9/11, we were desperate for intelligence on al Qaeda. Secretary Rumsfeld quickly became dissatisfied with the paucity of intelligence being generated through Guantanamo interrogation operations. Desperate for intelligence on al Qaeda, he issued he authorized 24 interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, and prolonged standing. In 2002 and 2003 Rumsfeld approved a variety of interrogation techniques including, stress positions, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress (fear of dogs), prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, forced grooming (shaving beards), sleep adjustment (deprivation), dietary and environmental manipulation (extreme heat/cold), false flag approaches, and isolation. Some have described these as “torture lite,” however, used in combination, they constitute torture. The application of these techniques is apparent in the logs of the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, believed to be the 20th hijacker who was barred entry into the US in August 2001.

Many Guantanamo abuses have been confirmed in FBI email and documents obtained by the ACLU as a result of its Freedom of Information Act request. Nearly half of the 450 agents working at Guantanamo reported observing or hearing about military interrogators using harsh techniques including religious abuses, sleep deprivation, and short-shackling (locking a detainee’s feet and hands together to prevent comfortable sitting or standing) for extended periods.

Unfortunately, Rumsfeld’s solution did not address the actual problem. Most detainees did not provide information on al Qaeda because they were not the dangerous al Qaeda members that Rumsfeld and Meyers described. Their characterizations of the Guantanamo detainees were totally inaccurate until late in 2006 when the CIA cleaned out its secret detention sites and deposited 13 “really bad guys” (including Khalid Sheik Mohammad and Abu Zubaydah) at Guantanamo. It is not clear whether Rumsfeld and Myers were purposely misleading the public or whether they simply didn’t know what they had. It might be a little of both. Of the 775 individuals detained in Guantanamo, 544 have been quietly released to 40 different countries. About 250 remain for the Obama administration to deal with. Only 5% of the detainees were actually captured by US personnel. 86% were turned over to the US by Afghan or Pakistani citizens for a bounty. Fifty-five percent of the detainees were determined not to have committed any hostile acts against the US or our allies. The actual number is probably higher.

When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the Bush administration characterized the situation as the illegal actions of a few rogue enlisted reservist prison guards. That is not true. When insurgencies broke out in Iraq and Afghanistan, local commanders were desperate for accurate intelligence. Interrogations were not meeting requirements. Secretary Rumsfeld sent Major General Miller, the Guantanamo commander, to Iraq to inspect detention operations at Abu Ghraib. Harsh tactics migrated from Guantanamo through “Tiger Teams” Miller sent to Iraq as trainers. Miller recommended that guards to soften up detainees for interrogators. General Miller has denied wrong-doing, but he subsequently invoked his right against self-incrimination in the courts-martial of two enlisted abu-Ghraib dog handlers.

In law there is a bright-line concept. This applies to interrogation operations. There must be a bright line that defines the difference between what is legal and acceptable and what is not. Once the line is blurred, violations escalate. I reviewed a number of documents obtained through the ACLU FOIA request that illustrate the problem. Once you begin to abuse prisoners, there are no effective limits. Escalation is inevitable. Abuse tolerated in one location will spread. In one case an Army interrogation Warrant Officer, persuaded an Iraqi Air Force general to surrender by threatening his family. The general was repeatedly beaten, held in isolation, and subject to significant abuse. The warrant officer staged a mock execution of one of the general’s sons. The general repeatedly refused to provide information on the growing insurgency. Finally, the warrant put the general head-first into the sleeping bag, bound him with communications wire and sat on him. The general died of a heart attack. The warrant officer was a trained interrogator – aware of limitations imposed by the Geneva Convention. He knew how to use approved interrogation techniques. However, he later claimed he did not know what was allowed and what was not. Maintaining a bright-line approach cures that problem.

Vice President Cheney and other Bush officials have continued to argue that what they authorized was not torture and that the methods they authorized provided critical intelligence. Evidence casts serious doubt on both assertions. In the case of Abu Zubaydah, it seems clear that FBI interrogations were productive, and CIA SERE based interrogations were not. There have been other claims that information obtained through “enhance” or “aggressive” techniques led to the disruption of terrorist plots. In most cases, there is insufficient information to verify the claim.

However, members of the Bush administration frequently used fear and claims of success to defend and justify programs that are illegal or unconstitutional. The recent report on the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP) (including warrantless wiretapping and other measures) by the Inspectors General of DoD, DoJ, CIA, NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence illustrates that the evaluations of intelligence professionals do not support extravagant claims of the program’s importance by members of the administration. The FBI’s Robert Muller said the program produced information that was “of value” and “useful.” Earlier reports of complaints from lower echelons of the FBI said they were kept busy following false leads that used scarce resources that should have been allocated to more productive activities. The CIA IG said PSP information was used with other sources so it is difficult to attribute success specifically to the PSP. CIA analysts reported that the extreme secrecy of the program made it difficult for them to evaluate information because they did not know its source. The report concluded that most Intelligence Community officials “had difficulty citing specific instances where PSP reporting had directly contributed to counterterrorism successes. Anyone with experience in the Intelligence Community looking at the IG report would conclude that analysts were extremely skeptical and high-level officials offered only faint praise.

There are numerous reasons why the United States should abstain from torture.

Torture is a moral abomination. Torture is not consistent with our national ideals and our commitment to justice, the rule of law, and human dignity. To justify torture, our enemy must be portrayed as beyond redemption and acting without justification. There is also an element of racism. In resorting to torture, we sacrificed our moral authority, our moral leadership, and the legitimacy of our cause.

Torture is illegal. The United States was instrumental in the adoption of the Geneva Conventions to protect both combatants and non-combatants in time of war. Our tawdry efforts to define a new category of “enemy combatants” for the sole purpose of creating an unprotected category are unworthy of our nation. We are also signatories to the Convention on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment. These treaty obligations have been incorporated in statute law. It is clear that actions sanctioned by the Bush administration violate US and international law.

Torture is not effective. A 2006 report by the Intelligence Science Board concluded there is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community's use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism. Experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information. Professor Shane O’Mara at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, argues that: "Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or enhanced interrogation."

Torture produces unreliable information. This does not imply that torture will never produce reliable information, but that the information it produces is inherently unreliable, especially just after 9/11. We were attempting to collect information on an entity we knew little about. During torture, the interrogator will signal their interests. To end the pain, the subject will manufacture a story to satisfy them. We may never be sure what they tell us is truth or fabrication. Daniel Coleman, a retired FBI official involved in Abu Zubaydah's interrogation, commented that after the CIA's use of coercive methods "I don't have confidence in anything he says, because once you go down that road, everything you say is tainted. He was talking before they did that to him, but they didn't believe him. The problem is they didn't realize he didn't know all that much."

Conventional interrogation techniques work. Perhaps the most astounding part of the administration’s decision to torture is that no one took the time to determine whether it was necessary. Skilled FBI interrogators have a solid record of success in obtaining critical information using the Informed Interrogation Approach. The decision to torture may be more about the psyche of the decision makers than the need for intelligence.

Torture is counter-productive in ways almost too numerous to recount.

The military Judge Advocates General oppose torture to protect the US military. They know that any interrogation techniques used by the United States will be used by now and in the future against captured US personnel.

Information obtained by torture corrupts the legal process. It will be extremely difficult if not impossible for the Obama administration to prosecute some al Qaeda detainees because much of the evidence against them was obtained by coercion.

Torture hinders cooperation with our allies in the War on Terror. Many European countries are reluctant to extradite terrorist suspects to the United States for fear they might be tortured. For a time, NATO forces in Afghanistan were prohibited from turning insurgents over to the United States because it was widely known that the US maintained a detention facility in Afghanistan where detainees were tortured.

Finally, it is bad strategy to adopt tactics than generate enemies faster than you can kill them. The photos of abu Ghraib and revelations about US torture radicalized many individuals in the Islamic world. The vast majority of Muslims do not support al Qaeda or terrorism, but there are fence sitters who can be tipped into their camp.

I would close by quoting several US generals who understand the dangers of torturing.

In September of this year, retired Marine four-star generals Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar responded the Vice President Cheney’s defense of torture. They wrote: ‘we never imagined that we would feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a vice president of the United States, a man who has served our country for many years. In light of the irresponsible statements recently made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, we feel we must repudiate his dangerous ideas – and his scare tactics.” “What leaders say matters. So when it comes to light, as it did recently, that US interrogators staged mock executions and held a whirling electric drill close to the body of a naked, hooded detainee, and the former vice president winks and nods, it matters. The Bush administration had already degraded the rules of war by authorizing techniques that violated the Geneva Conventions and shocked the conscience of the world. Now Cheney has publicly condoned the abuse that went beyond even those weakened standards, leading us down a slippery slope of lawlessness.”

When he took command in Iraq in 2007, General Petraeus sent the following to his soldiers. He said that, to win, we have to secure the population and “occupy the moral high ground.” He cautioned that "Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it may be, however, we must not let those emotions lead us… to commit hasty, illegal actions.” He noted that: “Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone 'talk;' however, what the individual says may be of questionable value… In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also human beings."

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