We haven’t kicked around the torture question on this website yet. Not whether we oppose it (I presume we all do), but whether or not we need to see some upcoming prosecutions, truth commissions, all of the above, none of the above. The US presidency has a pretty shameful history of absolving the previous administration’s criminal actions (see Watergate, Iran-Contra, et al.), so I am not particularly hopeful about prosecutions. As for the 9/11 style truth commissions… if everyone already has immunity and prosecutions are off the table, who exactly in the intelligence community is going to come forth and sully their reputation? The best we can hope for is probably a few declassified memos and a newfound condemnation of torture practices.
To me, the speculation on whether or not Bush will preemptively pardon those responsible for the torture regime is a joke. The power players would never allow the new administration to make that kind of trouble. (Indeed, the apologists love to claim that big name Democratic congressmen were always in the know). So why would he acknowledge the criminality of his people’s behavior with a pardon? Honestly, I would love to see those pardons, because it would not only be an effective admission of guilt, but would also signify a real fear that “change is gonna come”.
All of this is a somewhat long way of highlighting this op-ed article from today’s Washington Post by a US interrogator in Iraq who was opposed to the use of torture techniques.
I know the counter-argument well — that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that’s not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, “I thought you would torture me, and when you didn’t, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That’s why I decided to cooperate.”
Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there’s the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.
This dude has evidently written a book about his experiences and the “false choice between torture and terror”. Sadly, he still feels the need to write under a false name for fear of reprisals. This truth stuff is serious business.