Monday, December 01, 2008

Interrogation for Dummies.

The information which led to the US tracking down the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was from old fashioned interrogating rather that the torture methods which the US came to favour in the war in Iraq.

In the Washington Post a US interrogator describes the technique his team used and how successful it was.

Our new interrogation methods led to one of the war's biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi's associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader's location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.


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.
It's an interesting point. The fact that the US was mistreating prisoners was a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda, so it really does beg the question of just how many US troops died as a direct result of people who volunteered because of the US torture policy.

The interrogator who wrote this particular article found himself censored by the US army who did not want any discussion of the dubious legality of the interrogation techniques which they were engaging in. And they insisted that the methods they were using were the only way to prevent an attack.
We're told that our only options are to persist in carrying out torture or to face another terrorist attack. But there truly is a better way to carry out interrogations -- and a way to get out of this false choice between torture and terror.
So, we find that, not only is torture US official policy - according to Matthew Alexander who led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006 - but that interrogators are being told that this is the only way to prevent another attack.

But, as Matthew Alexander points out in this article, the torture actually made US soldiers less safe and it was actually the lack of torture which made some people co-operate.
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."
So, not only is the pro-torture argument immoral, it turns out it's also tactically dumb.

Click title for full article.

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