Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Skatche » Sat May 30, 2009 10:39 am

Sorry for singling you out, Monocheres - it's for the sake of humour, not spite. Also because I think you were the only one arguing that torture is justified in certain circumstances, though I could be mistaken.

What he (Matthew Alexander) actually says is that Cheney is wrong. During all the interrogations he did, what he heard "time and time again" was that people had decided to join Al Qaeda and/or become a suicide bomber and/or otherwise attack American troops because of the torture that had been perpetrated against fellow Muslims by U.S. forces. Hence, says Mr. Alexander, interrogation has actually cost us hundreds if not thousands of lives - albeit the lives of military men rather than of civilians, but that's no less tragic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfYov5o5_2s

I'm posting this in a separate topic because the other one's too damn big. Can't we just sling one-line insults and cuss words like normal forum goers? ;]
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Re: Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Monocheres » Sat May 30, 2009 3:13 pm

No problem, Skatche. Love all the sparring, so long as it's civil, which it mostly is around here. Lets me really experience what it's like to be a minority -- good for the soul. :mrgreen:

[EDIT: Point of Order: Skatche are you saying that you think this is the interrogator I was talking about on the other thread? No this must be a different guy. Gotta see if I can dig up where I saw that ...]

[Reaction to the Alexander video:]

Interesting. Is there more of this interview anywhere, or is that all there is?

Okay, let's see: This guy Alexander was a lead interrogator, supervised interrogations. He didn't once say that he himself engaged in torture, or ordered others to, or was ordered to do so, or supervised torture, or witnessed it, or even heard rumors of clandestine tortures. He didn't describe any techniques he or others might have used to torture, he didn't even describe any interrogation techniques that he might have used that he was personally uncomfortable with or that gave him misgivings. He simply presented himself as an authority and stated a (rather political) opinion, and related some hear-say of what captured jihadis told him.

Of course, he was only there since 2006, years after the capture of high-value al Qaeda operatives like KSM. He was not part of KSM's interrogation. He did not see what techniques were used on him, or what information was obtained. In fact, he didn't actually say anything that refuted Cheney's assertion that the information obtained from KSM and others saved tens of thousands of lives. All he said was that jihadits cited all the propaganda about "torture and abuse" as the main reasons they joined up, and that those jihadists cost us hundreds or thousands of our soldier's lives. You know something, I don't actually dispute that! But does that actually contradict Cheney? And what is the source of that propaganda?

What Alexander does mention is Abu Ghraib. I went back and looked up Abu Ghraib to refresh my memory. Abu Ghraib was a bunch of chuckleheads who got out of control, and a chain-of-command that was asleep at the switch. No argument there. But notice that the Army itself was already investigating the crimes there long before the news media discovered the story, and in the end we court marshalled and incarcerated the chuckleheads, and demoted their chain of command. I agree that it was a public-relations disaster and a propaganda gimme to the terrorists. But did it represent the actual policies of the United States of America? I would say no. (What would you folks say? ... Oh, goodie, more minority status! heheh)

Did the actual policies of the US create an atmosphere that lead to Abu Ghraib? Well, you could make some argument there. There is no doubt Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, on down, pushed the envelope on authorizing "harsh interrogation techniques". And some chuckleheads took it too far. Does that make the Bush Administration a bunch of war criminals? I don't think so. And I think by the time this Alexander guy got onto the scene, that sort of thing had all been cleaned up. Do I have that right or is there anything I'm overlooking?

Now, beyond what we actually know about, did the Bush administration cross the line into war-crime territory? Well, whatever the dirt is on that, Obama's got it all now. It's interesting that Obama recently (gotta look this up...) made noises that he might investigate or prosecute some of the Bush administration, but then backed off that. Why?
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Re: Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Sat May 30, 2009 6:22 pm

There is one important fact nobody here seems to be using as the final, absolute word on the matter of torture.

Torture does not work. It cannot work. Torture NEVER works. Torture is completely useless.

The belief that torture is useful is a form of insanity; it is believing something in the face of overwhelming evidence, experience, and rational thought.

Whether you are a child being tickled mercilessly, or an adult having their fingers slowly, horribly sectioned with a chisel and hammer, suffering produces only one result (beyond a boner in the pants of the sick torturer) and that is an absolute desire for the misery to stop. The desperation is so great that a person can, and will, say or do anything -anything at all- to end the suffering.

It is no trick at all to get even the toughest he-man type to confess to having murdered Abraham Lincoln, despite the problem of a lack of time travel. It is easy to get even the most truthful man to begin inventing any fiction imaginable - from secret organizations to magical carnal parties with Satan himself (see: Inquisition), just to end torture.

Information from torture is not only unreliable; it can never be trusted, and it is almost always false in any case. Even if accurate information were somehow slipped into the mixture of babbling, screaming, and inventing stories and confessing anything, there is no way to trust it, even if it could be separated out -because a person will say anything to stop the pain. Anything. And no human can resist; it isn't just that 'in the end they all crack', rather it is that torture strips people of all self control or rational choice; they are driven by biology to do whatever it takes to stop the pain. The myth of resisting torture is as foolish as the myth that torture is useful.

Doubtless some total, fucking asshat would ask me to 'back my assertion up' - not that it is my assertion at all, but rather the consensus of all historical military minds throughout time. Worse, using torture corrupts people, and results in terrible consequences for both nation, and military:

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/10/fbi-interrogator-tor.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2302-2005Jan11.html
http://us-armed-conflicts.suite101.com/article.cfm/torture_does_not_work
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-torture-does-not-work-as-history-shows-777213.html
http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2004/06/21/torture_algiers/index.html
http://www.nowpublic.com/world/torture-does-not-work-cia-source
http://amfix.blogs.cnn.com/2009/04/21/fmr-cia-operative-torture-does-not-work/

And on, and on, for ten of thousands of articles. Just those immediately available through a cursory search, of course - a serious study could take a lifetime, a lifetime of getting the same point made over and over - that torture is useless.

So, why do people still torture?

There are strong, false myths about the effectiveness of torture that remain, there are still many ignorant people, and many sadistic people, and there is a certain 'macho' association to torture - it is dramatic, makes good dramatic/heroic storytelling, and some people get off on the idea of it sexually, as well as emotionally. It is a sociopathic kink, one which those drawn to power seem to commonly possess (you can look that assertion up on your own, if you must; try things relating to the psychology of power).

All discussion of torture begins and ends with the fact it does not work; it only serves the bonerization of the sociopathic.

Torture is one of the semi-sexual luxuries of Total War, war without rules or quarter, war without honor, just like rape, mutilation, and pillage. It has no justification, it cannot have a justification. It doesn't work as a tool to gain information.

Which leaves the only reason to do it is because it is fun - for a sick fuck who should not be allowed to be alive anymore.

If you support torture, then rationally, there are only two possibilities:

You are ignorant.
You are a goddamn sick fuck.

I don't think many people involved in actual torture are ignorant, or remain ignorant for long. It rapidly becomes obvious to anyone that torture cannot possibly work. I reiterate the statement about the corrupting nature of torture.

There is no excuse possible for torture, which is why it is outlawed, utterly, and without exception, by every civilized nation on earth.

No decent, rational, sane person, of any position, could allow torture to exist, at all, for any reason, ever.

This tells you all you need to know, right there.
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Re: Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Monocheres » Sat May 30, 2009 8:02 pm

Jennifer, one of the things that has been a bit sloppy about this whole discussion is whether what was done as the explicit policy of the Bush administration was actually "torture." A lot of people have asserted that it was but the Bush people's take on it was that it wasn't torture. Do they have a case or not?

The way you describe torture I would wholeheartedly agree with you about. It is beyond the pale. Certainly anyone doing those things for pleasure is sick and sadistic.

The things the idiots at Abu Ghraib did were completely unacceptable too. But did the Bush administration endorse those things? There are allegations to that effect but they never stuck. If there's any truth to them, Obama could nail them now. But in the meantime, the Bush administration treated the perpetrators as the criminals they were and meted out justice.

Is waterboarding torture? Well it's right on the edge, and if you want to insist that it is, there's probably nothing I could say to persuade you otherwise. But lawyers versed in that stuff advised Bush that it wasn't torture. If you want to dismiss them as shills for the Bush administration, again, there's not much I could say to persuade you. If Obama thinks that they were wrong and not giving an honest professional opinion, he could nail the whole crew now. If he doesn't will you think Obama's been corrupted?

Did the interrogators who administered the waterboarding to three of the most dangerous guys on earth do it just for the sadistic pleasure of it? Well that I will utterly dispute. The whole thing is documented down to the last pour, and they did it methodically and by the numbers, with a doctor standing by. They weren't sadistic perverts administering disfiguring mutilations for kicks, they were dispassionate professionals mechanically working a technique that leaves no damage. If you want to think of the latter as more chilling than the former, okay, but they weren't doing it for fun.

The armed services stopped training their soldiers against waterboarding, because they said it was nearly always effective in extracting information from them. You and (I grant you) a lot of other people insist that nothing like that could possibly have produced real information. Cheney asserts that it did. Obama has the proof in his hands right now. He could prove you right, or Cheney right. All he has to do is release the memos. According to the lifetimes-worth of readings you cite, what we should find on those memos is zilch. Nada. Zero information. If that's the case I'll eat my words, concede the whole thing, and shut up. But why did Obama only release the techniques? Why won't he release the results too? What is he hiding?

Well, Obama's banned waterboarding now, so except for retroactive retribution against Bush, it's a moot point anyway. Putting that aside, do you insist that any form of interrogation is beyond the pale? Where do you draw the line? We can't even make them uncomfortable? No harsh lights? No good cop/bad cop mind games? We just have to take them into custody and that's that?

My own take, if it matters, is that this whole subject is horrid whether it's torture or not. I take absolutely no pleasure in any of this. This isn't a sick thrill for me. And as a matter of policy I would hope even harsh interrogations ought to be rare. It's only those key players that know something important, and we have evidence that they do, that should even be grilled.

For me, this has all been about saving lives. Now that Obama has made his policy ... I actually, sincerely hope that you are right. I truly hope deep in my heart that we don't have another 9/11 because Obama refused to get harsh with someone who knew something.

And, all of you here who have insisted that if we "play nice", then the jihadi's will fizzle out for lack of recruits -- believe it or not, I hope are right too. But everything I know about the terrorists tells me that it doesn't matter a whit to them whether we're total bastards or absolute angels. They'll hate us either way. They don't hate us for anything we've done. They hate us for who we are: We're the most successful, prosperous, advanced civilization in history. And we're not Muslims.
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Re: Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Ambi » Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:19 am

OK, let's use neutral words. Let's say there is something called "strong interrogation". The idea behind it is to apply more pressure than in normal interrogation until the interrogated person "cooperates".

If you used that on a guilty person - let's say they already publicly admitted that before you caught them - could you trust the information they give you, or would you think it's a mix of truth, exaggeration and lies, and you don't know which is which?

If you used that on a suspect who hates you, but hasn't committed the acts you think they did - how would you know whether or not they are truly guilty?

And if you eventually found out they were innocent in this case, what would they do once they are released?

And how would others react if you didn't release the suspect even though you found they were innocent in this case?

And what if the suspect was originally harmless, but came to hate you because of the interrogation?
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Re: Former senior interrogator: "Monocheres is wrong"

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:29 am

Ambi wrote:OK, let's use neutral words. Let's say there is something called "strong interrogation". The idea behind it is to apply more pressure than in normal interrogation until the interrogated person "cooperates".


I have to go with the French officer in one of the articles I linked to - simply tell a prisoner 'talk, or die' and the result, as they -and others have found- would be exactly the same, only without the literally useless act of torture.

If you cannot get someone to talk using normal methods, or by threatening death, then nothing else will work, because if you torture them the information is unreliable, and therefore useless. Torture is pointless.

All you can do is use standard interrogation, as allowed under international law. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, torture is useless. The only remaining alternative is investigation. You know, that thing people do other than torture? Where you follow leads, make use of informants, send spies, use forensics, compile data, search, look, examine and study? All that stuff that has always worked, the only stuff that actually works, the actual business of finding out stuff?

Yeah, that.

Torture is, as I have mentioned, just bonerization for the sick and twisted. It doesn't work.

Actual investigation -whether in crime, or in war, is the only thing that does. Imagine that; there isn't any magical shortcut by hurting people. It all actually takes time and effort. Amazing.

I'm being snarky, but it really is this basic.

There is, as I have said, a mythos around torture. It is a stupid, wrong mythology.
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