Monday, April 20, 2009

Senior US Interrogator: Torture Doesn't Work

The Daily Beast interviews a former senior US interrogator in Iraq: (read)

As the senior interrogator in Iraq for a task force charged with hunting down Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the former Al Qaida leader and mass murderer, I listened time and time again to captured foreign fighters cite the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as their main reason for coming to Iraq to fight. Consider that 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are these foreign fighters and you can easily conclude that we have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives because of our policy of torture and abuse. But that’s only the past.

Somewhere in the world there are other young Muslims who have joined Al Qaida because we tortured and abused prisoners. These men will certainly carry out future attacks against Americans, either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or possibly even here. And that’s not to mention numerous other Muslims who support Al Qaida, either financially or in other ways, because they are outraged that the United States tortured and abused Muslim prisoners.

In addition, torture and abuse has made us less safe because detainees are less likely to cooperate during interrogations if they don’t trust us. I know from having conducted hundreds of interrogations of high ranking Al Qaida members and supervising more than one thousand, that when a captured Al Qaida member sees us live up to our stated principles they are more willing to negotiate and cooperate with us. When we torture or abuse them, it hardens their resolve and reaffirms why they picked up arms.

If this person is legit, then I defer to his expertise. The argument here is whether torture is an effective technique. Obviously it isn't. When photos and evidence surfaced that the Japanese were torturing Allied soldiers, that stiffened our resolve to beat them. So why wouldn't it be the same for other people? Similarly, the Western Allies had an easier time near the end of WWII because the Germans were willing to surrender to them. They fought to the death against the Soviets, knowing that they were doomed if captured.

I've been hearing/reading many opinions that we're being too soft. These are guys that wouldn't blink to cut your head off. Their tortures make waterboarding feel like hugging Santa Claus. True enough. But that makes them the barbarians. It's a motivating tool for us. Beheading Nick Berg on camera made me mad as hell. People supported the war on terror because those extremists were so clearly the bad guys.

If the torture techniques hurt the cause, then you have no choice but to stop. We already knew this. That's the reason they were made illegal in the first place. It doesn't make us soft. It makes us smart.

UPDATE: I don't want to beat this issue to death. (No pun intended.) But here is John McCain's opinion. He doesn't agree that the memos should have been released, but makes it clear what his stance is on waterboarding and torture. Who out there can argue with him?


  1. The torture issue has shot down the moral high ground for the US. The whole John Wayne GI Joe goody two shoes image, is gone forever. I still think a lot people don`t realize that the US would actually disregard the Geneva Convention. It`s a huge step in the wrong direction. Sure we all hate the bad guys, but torture is just plain wrong. The negative effect from this policy will last for decades.

  2. Yes. To me it's very clear cut. The fact that they were sneaky about it shows they knew it was wrong.