Only psychopaths like Dick Cheney, GW Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld believe torture is acceptable and useful. I was tortured on a waterboard in the US Navy during training. It was not pleasant. The justification was that we as Naval Aviators needed to have an understanding and some experience with some of the “barbaric” techniques we would likely see in any future POW situation. In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined my own government sanctioning waterboarding and worse as legitimate interrogation protocol. God help this country, we are truly lost.
In response to Kidnapping, Torture, and Reflections on Alleged “American Values” I received many emails thanking me for my position. Here is one from Percy, whose father was an Army interrogator in WWII.
Percy writes …
That was an excellent piece on torture. My dad, a German Jewish refugee, became a US Army interrogator during WWII. Torture was never even on the table; torture was what Nazis did. Moreover, he and his colleagues found that they got the best information through careful, often calculated, always humane questioning. His interrogations were effective and earned him promotions. He was appalled at the introduction of torture into American warfare and policy.
Torture Doesn’t Work
Andrew J. Prasow, a senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, addresses the question “Does Torture Work?” in his report How Illegal Interrogations Hurt the U.S.
Whether torture can produce some truthful information has never been the right question. It can. But even if the victim of torture does provide some accurate information, there is no way to sift the truth from lies produced as the detainee merely tries to get interrogators to stop. There’s no way to know which lead is worth pursuing–risking human life and limited resources – and which should be disregarded. And by resorting to torture, experienced interrogators report, less truthful information can be produced than if traditional, lawful techniques were used. Results also come more slowly because detainees buckle down and resist. Former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who interrogated Abu Zubaydah among others, testified before Congress that the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques “are ineffective, slow, and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al Qaeda.”
National security is diminished by the false leads torture can produce, and devastating consequences may ensue. When Ibn Sheikh al Libi was tortured while in CIA custody, he claimed a link to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used in his speech to the United Nations to justify the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Of course, as we now know, that information was utterly false.
Each time the U.S. has strayed from core values there have been national security consequences. Senior military officials report that foreign fighters joined the war in Iraq following the release of the Abu Ghraib abuse photos, and the continued existence of Guantanamo has been used as a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Earlier this year when a detainee died at Guantanamo of apparently natural causes, the fact that it happened at Guantanamo made it a major focal point for anti-U.S. and militant propaganda. The Taliban issued a statement condemning the U.S. for violating international law and thousands attended his funeral in Afghanistan.
We will never know how much information the U.S. lost because it failed to use time-tested, effective, and humane methods of interrogation. We will never know how many years earlier bin Laden could have been captured and how many lives spared if, instead of whisking them off to a prison outside the law, the U.S. had instead charged Mohammed and al Libi in federal courts and treated them properly and in accordance with due process.
The best way to guard against future attack is by rejecting the use of torture outright and staying faithful to the rule of law and basic tenets of decency. This is true not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it works.
A close high-school friend, Dave, thanked me for my article a day after I wrote it. Dave wrote …
Your article is truly excellent. I am proud of you for writing it. It comes on a day when I have thought quite a lot about this subject and you have written much of what I have been thinking needs to be said.
I just finished listening to Ron Paul’s book Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues this morning. Although I do not agree with Paul on many things, his comments on torture and aggressive foreign policy are excellent. You should read the book and recommend it to your readers.
I replied to Dave that I had only received favorable responses to my article. One person even went so far as to say, “I generally hate it when you stray into politics and away from economics, but thank you for writing this”.
A Single Twisted, Tortured Email Response
Unfortunately, I spoke too soon regarding me receiving no unfavorable comments.
Shortly after I responded to Dave, one completely twisted mind, wrote a lengthy email calling me names and went on to say …
Torture is just what it is supposed to be. A method of getting information in a hurry. Waterboarding is for ******. Cut off a finger, fry his ****, stick a needle up his ****, jerk off some fingernails like the Chinese and Koreans and Japanese did (probably still do). That’ll get results damn fast.
Man up Mish and get some cojones! Having a SPINE and enough gumption TO TORTURE a bad guy IS the AMERICAN WAY!
Negative Results From Torture and Warmongering
I came close to posting Steve’s full name but his last name is common enough that I do not want everyone with the same name to stand accused. Certainly Steve deserves public ridicule.
Suffice it to say that Steve and his ilk are one of the many things wrong with this country today.
We wasted trillions of dollars fighting a senseless war in Iraq based on incorrect information gathered by torture. How stupid is that?
Results? We have enormously negative results from torture and war-mongering and quite literally we are on the road to fiscal ruin because of such tactics.
Those Who Condone Torture are a Disgrace to the Constitution
I replied to Steve …
“You are a disgrace to the constitution and everything it stands for. It’s precisely because of fools like you that Bin Laden attacked us in the first place.”
Ron Paul on Torture and Secret Prisons
Please consider Ron Paul in the 5/5/2011 Presidential Debate.
Ron Paul: “We do not need secret prisons, nor do we need the torture that goes on in these secret military prisons”
Ron Paul is correct and that is precisely the side of Ron Paul my friend and many like him admire.
In contrast, Steve R and those like him are hypocritical wimps who see torture as a means of strength, protesting when other countries use it, yet condone tortures when the US uses it. In reality, torture does nothing but bring you to the level of the opponent you are fighting.
Torture is what the Nazis did. It also helps Al Qaeda recruit. Al Qaeda wants the US to adopt the policy of Steve R so they can use it against us. Sadly that is exactly what has happened.
Torture should be no part of US policy, officially or unofficially.
I call on Congress to pass a law expressly prohibiting torture, with severe consequences for anyone who steps over the line.
Taking the high moral stand against torture is not only the right thing to do, it also works. Thus, the US should set a standard for human decency, not stoop to methods of those we are fighting. To do otherwise proves we are no better than they are.