Quantcast

«

»

May 03 2012

The Know-Nothing Torture Advocates

As a new book by the man who erased the tapes of 90 CIA interrogations restarts the torture debate, Matthew Alexander — the lead investigator who helped find Zarqawi in Iraq — writes at the Huffington Post about the differences between torture advocates and opponents. Like the fact that the opponents have actually participated in interrogations:

We’ve heard from Marc Thiessen, the former Bush administration speech writer, who argued that torture was moral according to his Catholic values. And then Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, who defended the use of so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and used his time at the agency to ensure there would be no accountability for torture. And there’s been a host of media pundits in the pro-torture camp, such as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.

And each year the anti-torture advocates offer up whom? Well, they offer up actual interrogators — people who have successfully interrogated terrorists and criminals. Let’s review who is in this camp:

• Eric Maddox, the Army interrogator who found Saddam Hussein (a remarkable story recounted in his bookSearching for Saddam) and has conducted over 3,000 interrogations;

• Jim Clemente, a former FBI serial profiler who was sent to assist interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, and is a first-class expert on criminal behavioral analysis;

• Steve Kleinman, a Colonel in the Reserves and career Air Force Intelligence Officer with vast knowledge on the science of interrogations as well as experience interrogating going back to the invasion of Panama;

• Torin Nelson, an Army civilian interrogator with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay;

• Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who investigated the USS Cole bombing and successfully interrogated detainees, including Abu Zubaydah;

• Robert McFadden, a former NCIS agent who worked withSoufan;

• Mark Fallon, a former NCIS agent who ran the Criminal Investigative Task Force at Guantanamo Bay;

• Don Borelli, a former FBI agent;

• Stu Herrington, a retired Army Colonel and one the military’s most respected intelligence officers who conducted numerous successful interrogations in Vietnam (see his book Stalking the Vietcong);

• Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent and Al Qaeda investigator…

And so we embark on another round where those who endorse torture, the men who have never done an interrogation, say it works and the anti-torture advocates, like me, who have successfully interrogated numerous detainees, say it doesn’t and/or it isn’t worth the long term consequences.

He also argues, correctly, that it shouldn’t matter even if it did work:

Well, count me in another group that says I don’t care if it works 100 percent of the time. Chemical weapons work 100 percent of the time and we don’t use those, even though (as the torture advocates assert), they would save lives. Flamethrowers are another weapon that work very effectively and could save lives, especially when clearing houses with suicide bombers, but we don’t use those either. Not because it wouldn’t save lives, but because these weapons cause unnecessary human suffering and the international community, led by the U.S., decided that they weren’t worth the moral cost.

The sad truth is that America is morally bipolar. The country that I signed up to defend with my life has become an endorser of torture, an evader of accountability, and a place where the rule of law is arbitrary, especially for government elites who craft torture programs. The accountability we preach to other countries that is so important for a just society is absent in our own when it comes to torture.

Which is entirely consistent with our country’s behavior from the very start on almost every issue.

15 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Spanish Inquisitor

    Wait! NCIS actually exists? I thought they made that agency up for TV? ;)

    Well, count me in another group that says I don’t care if it works 100 percent of the time. Chemical weapons work 100 percent of the time and we don’t use those, even though (as the torture advocates assert), they would save lives. Flamethrowers are another weapon that work very effectively and could save lives, especially when clearing houses with suicide bombers, but we don’t use those either. Not because it wouldn’t save lives, but because these weapons cause unnecessary human suffering and the international community, led by the U.S., decided that they weren’t worth the moral cost.

    This ^^^^. This is what counts.

  2. 2
    D. C. Sessions

    This ^^^^. This is what counts

    Yes and no. In order to justify an action, you would need to establish both:
    1) It is morally, legally etc. acceptable and
    2) It is effective, cost-effective, etc.

    Negating either one is all that’s necessary. Torture fails on both counts.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    It would seem that we have a perfect solution to the issue of torture: take everyone who supports it and “interrogate” them. Once they have participated, I suspect their enthusiasm for it will wane quickly.

  4. 4
    Bronze Dog

    I do appreciate someone who doesn’t care if it’s effective or not, but I do think it’s generally better to point out that it’s both immoral and ineffective. Either alone should be convincing, but we’re dealing with a lot of idiots and sadists.

  5. 5
    Chiroptera

    I suspect that arguments about effectiveness and ethics will both fail. We are dealing with a crowd that, I suspect, thinks that it is a good thing to cause pain and suffering to the enemy regardless of any other result, and as long as torture does that much then it “works.”

  6. 6
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    It would seem that we have a perfect solution to the issue of torture: take everyone who supports it and “interrogate” them.

    It worked for Christopher Hitchens, and he’s as stubborn as they come!

  7. 7
    richardelguru

    “torture was moral according to his Catholic values”

    We expected that—it’s the Spanish Inquisition!

  8. 8
    Anthony K

    We are dealing with a crowd that, I suspect, thinks that it is a good thing to cause pain and suffering to the enemy regardless of any other result, and as long as torture does that much then it “works.”

    That’s what it boils down to. Torture’s efficacy is totally irrelevant to these people, other than as a weak excuse. That it’s some guy we don’t like getting what fer is the point. The people who want to see torture happen are the same people who talk about being “tough on crime” and love seeing university students and OWS protesters getting pepper-sprayed.

  9. 9
    heironymous

    Well, government sanctioned torture certainly undermines any moral credibility we have on the world stage. So they’ve got that going for them…

  10. 10
    Area Man

    Chemical weapons work 100 percent of the time and we don’t use those, even though (as the torture advocates assert), they would save lives. Flamethrowers are another weapon that work very effectively and could save lives, especially when clearing houses with suicide bombers, but we don’t use those either.

    I was unaware that chemical weapons saved lives, but at any rate, the reason they and flamethrowers aren’t used anymore is because of a lack of effectiveness. It would perhaps be comforting to know that the military has a soft spot when it comes to nasty weapons, but that’s not really the case.

  11. 11
    abb3w

    To give America some due, “Morally Bipolar” seems to be the best countries ever manage.

    It’s still depressing.

  12. 12
    sosw

    It worked for Christopher Hitchens, and he’s as stubborn as they come!

    He wasn’t uncertain as to whether torture was acceptable. As far as I know, he was always anti-torture, his support of interventionist policies in the Middle East were based on (unrealistic) idealism, not racism.

    He was uncertain whether waterboarding should be considered torture. He concluded that it definitely is torture.

    Many people supporting torture don’t care how horrible or ineffective it is, and experiencing it or seeing it administered once almost certainly wouldn’t change their minds. They are “them,” even if they are innocent of what they are suspected of, they don’t deserve to be treated as well as “us.”

    I would guess that the reason many (most?) professional interrogators don’t share this attitude is that they are objective enough to see their subjects as people, not just an abstract “other.”

  13. 13
    Stevarious, Public Health Problem

    He was uncertain whether waterboarding should be considered torture. He concluded that it definitely is torture.

    I was speaking mostly facetiously, but upon re-reading my comment, I realize that that wasn’t at all clear and your clarification was necessary. Thank you.

  14. 14
    charlesbaer

    Viz. the “ticking time bomb” scenario:

    Since American soldiers are expected to be willing to risk death in the hope of saving American lives, likewise American intelligence officers should be willing to face prison for conducting or authorizing torture in the hope of saving American lives.

    If they aren’t even willing to face prison, exactly how patriotic are they?

    We can give them medals when they get out.

  15. 15
    Uncle Glenny

    Flamethrowers are another weapon that work very effectively and could save lives, especially when clearing houses with suicide bombers,…

    Because it’s safer for our troops and more profitable for the MIC to blow them up from drones?

    (Not that I don’t agree with and applaud him, but this seems like a bad example.)

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site