Monday, October 22, 2007

Two problems with torture

Have you noticed how all those who publicly defend torture by the US and those such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney who not so secretly champion it's use have never interrogated a soul?

Stuart Herrington is a retired Army colonel, an expert in interrogation and counterinsurgency operations and the author most recently of "Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World" has lots of interrogation experience.
I served 30 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, which included extensive experience as an interrogator in Vietnam, in Panama and during the 1991 Gulf War. In the course of these sensitive missions, my teams and I collected mountains of excellent, verified information, despite the fact that we never laid a hostile hand on a prisoner. Had one of my interrogators done so, he would have been disciplined and most likely relieved of his duties.
The colonel's two problems with torture are that it's wrong and it doesn't work. These are the same two problems that everyone raises but this guy is a serious dude and he explains why.

Question: What do these three men have in common?

A wounded North Vietnamese Army sergeant, captured only after he exhausted his ammunition, brags that his Army is "liberating" the South and refuses to cooperate under harsh treatment by South Vietnamese interrogators. He then provides Americans with information about his unit, its missions, its infiltration route. He even assists in interrogating other prisoners. Granted amnesty, he serves in the South Vietnamese Army for the duration of the war.

A captured Panamanian staff officer, morose and angry, initially lies and stonewalls his American interrogator but ultimately reveals his role in his leader's shadowy contacts with North Korea, Cuba, Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization. He provides information about covert arms purchases and a desperate attempt to procure SAM missiles to shoot down American helicopters in the event of an American invasion.

An Iraqi general, captured and humiliated during Operation Desert Storm, is initially frightened and defiant but eventually cooperates, knowing that Saddam Hussein's penalty for treason was certain death. Before repatriation, the general hands his captor his prayer beads and a scrap of paper bearing an address, saying with emotion, "Our Islamic custom requires that we show gratitude to those who bestow kindness and mercy. These beads comforted me through your Air Force's fierce bombings for 39 days, but they are all I have. When Saddam is gone, please come to my home. You will be an honored guest and we will slaughter a lamb to welcome you."

Answer: All three were treated by their American captors with dignity and respect. No torture; no mistreatment.

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