Sunday Morning talk shows: ‘enhanced interrogations’ revisited

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Originally posted on The Nation Social Network

This is my first post on The Nation Social Network.  I won’t make a habit of cross posting either from here to my blog on the NSN or vice versa.   I’m doing it this one time because this is an important issue.  It’s important because water-boarding is torture and torture is a crime.

The real issue is a concerted efforted by various apologists for the Bush administration’s torture policy to justify it, and gain acceptance among Americans.  We saw the opening salvos throughout this week and later this morning will be the first obviously coordinated effort to persuade us that somehow torture isn’t torture if it’s called something else.  If it’s called something else and as the apologists will falsely claim, it’s effective, that should in theory take the sting out.  The hope is that they can con us into believe that what used to be indefensible, is now a necessity.

Much of who I am is about writing and everything about me can be seen in my posts. Like many writers, a part of me is reflected in my posts: be it about events in a far away place, or a political event occurring here in the United States. As the events of the world swirl around me, I write about them, the facts first, opinions later. Or at least, I try to.

More rants than smiles these days, as the Eric Cantors and John Boehners of America attempt to create an America that’s bears uncomfortably close resemblance to an Ayn Rand novel. The sort of country in which greed is good, compassion is frowned upon and euphemisms are used to describe acts that we used to prosecute. I cringe every time I hear someone say “enhanced interrogation techniques”  when what they really mean is water-boarding. Let’s be clear.  Water boarding is torture. Here is what it looks like.

Later this morning, apologists for the Bush/Cheney water-boarding program will make the rounds on the talk shows.

Here’s the schedule, according to politicususa

  • Meet the Press (NBC): Tom Donilon, Michael Chertoff, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Hayden
  • Fox News Sunday (Fox): Tom Donilon, Dick Cheney
  • This Week (ABC): Tom Donilon, Condoleeza Rice, Husain Haqqani. Panel: Liz Cheney, Tom Ricks, Lawrence Wright
  • Face the Nation (CBS): Sen. Kerry, Donald Rumsfeld
  • State of the Union (CNN): Tom Donilon, Sen. Lugar, Anita Dunn, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Tom Davis

The guess list reads more like a who’s who from the Bush administration. If the interviews that Bush cronies gave earlier this week, there is now doubt that the subject of torture will come up. Without question, the word torture will be side stepped in favor of the euphemism of the century: “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The message will be consistent and reminiscent of the “messaging” we got during the Bush years.

So in the name of providing just a little balance, I present a transcript of “Matthew Alexander’s comments during an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and, for further reading, his article on this topic in Foreign Policy.

O‘DONNELL: You just heard Donald Rumsfeld say that anyone—anyone who suggests that the enhanced techniques, waterboarding, did not produce an enormous amount of valuable intelligence just isn‘t facing the truth. Did we get an enormous amount of valuable intelligence from waterboarding?

ALEXANDER: Well, what former secretary Rumsfeld should explain to us then is how come we didn‘t find or locate Osama bin Laden back when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded in 2002 or ‘03, after his capture, and when these other detainees were exposed to other enhanced interrogation techniques.

Those techniques ended years ago, and never resulted in the critical pieces of information that would have handed us bin Lad and his exact location. This notion that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave us a critical piece, first of all, it came a year after he was waterboarded.So it wasn‘t those techniques that got that information. What he gave us was a nickname of a courier that bin Laden used. That nickname was Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti.
Now if you understand the way al Qaeda indicates, they often use nicknames to indicate positions, not people. It‘s the equivalent of saying somebody is loggy (ph) to indicate they‘re a logistician in the United States Army.
So that information not particularly useful when you‘re trying to locate somebody, to name them, get their real name, their location, and then to follow them to your target.

O‘DONNELL: Now here‘s what makes no sense to me: the administration that says, as Rumsfeld did just then, we got enormous amounts of valuable intelligence from waterboarding, that is the same administration that ends waterboarding. This thing that‘s enormously valuable, they say, you know what‘s enormously valuable, but we‘re not going to do it anymore because we don‘t need it.
Why would you ever stop doing it if it was enormously valuable?

ALEXANDER: The reason why—and this is what you‘ll never hear torture advocates talk about—is because of the long-term negative consequences of using torture and abuse, which greatly outweigh any benefit you get from them.
I saw in Iraq when I was overseeing the interrogations of foreign fighters that the number one reason they stated for coming to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse of prisoners at both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

So we had effectively handed al Qaeda its number one recruiting tool. Those statistics were tracked by Department of Defense. I saw them in briefings. And this resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of American soldiers in Iraq.
So these torture advocates, they don‘t want to talk about these long-term costs of having used torture, and how they far outweigh any benefit we ever had.

O‘DONNELL: I have always wondered about the torture discussion, whether, in your experience, the opposite of torture might actually work more easily. For example, treating someone very well, giving them the best food and the best blankets and making them the most comfortable, and then taking them away, Just taking those things away if they don‘t cooperate.  Trying to induce cooperation by giving them goodies.
ALEXANDER: What I found, Lawrence, is I never had to take things away. What I found is that when I treated people with respect, when I built a relationship of trust, when I changed their attitudes about me as an American interrogator, and what I stand for, I was able to get them to cooperate.

Our success rate in Iraq for my team was upwards of 80 percent. I have no doubt that American interrogators are more than capable of defeating al Qaeda terrorists in the interrogation booth, in the battle of wits.

O‘DONNELL: Matthew Alexander, former senior military interrogator, thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you for your service and your integrity in your service.

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