Bush Still Trying To Keep Torture Legal

I find it both deeply troubling, and severely depressing that so long after the Abu Ghraib debacle, there is still any debate whatsoever in this country over the usage of torture. Long after Bush assured the nation and the world that as a policy we don’t torture, we’ve had to actually mandate such an idea, first for the Army, and now for the CIA.

But while headlines are floating around that Bush has just mandated that the CIA is not to torture, I think it wise not to rest on your laurels that this is actually the case. David Cole, writing for Salon, makes it pretty plain that Bush’s ban on torture is anything but.

And why should we be shocked. In an attempt to appease the easily misled, Bush and his cronies, like Alberto Gonzales, have already went through great lengths to make it appear as though we don’t torture, making the practice illegal, but then they defined it so narrowly that just about anything short of killing someone slowly and painful escapes the definition of torture.

And even in one instance when one detainee did die under US treatment/torture, that death was never prosecuted.

What I find truly amazing, though, is that we are even having this debate. The administration sells its tactics as vital tools necessary to extract time sensitive information from uncooperative detainees. The image they want the public to come up with in their mind being one of a bomb about to go off and a terrorist in custody who will only divulge the location in time if he’s roughed up a bit.

The odds of something like this actually happening outside of a popular television program, however, are astronomical, and unfortunately, the chances that torture or roughing up the detainee are even worse.

This, dear reader, is because torture simply does not work. It does not provide actionable intelligence. The concept is very simple. Someone not willing to divulge information will take it on a matter of pride to resist torture until they can physically not stand it anymore. Once that threshold is reached, they will say anything to relieve the stressors placed upon him in the interrogation.

This is what communists were doing to Westerners back in the fifties to garner false confessions from otherwise innocent people. American courts won’t even take coerced evidence and testimony because the system knows that such information is compromised, its integrity severely damaged.

Put a simpler way, I’m pretty much a whimp. You start pouring spiders and insects on me, I’ll tell you the sky is green, convincingly and under oath, if it will get you to get the damn critters off of me. I know it’s false, you know it’s false, but that’s not the point. At that point I don’t care about the truth, I care about not being driven into a coma by my phobia.

So torture doesn’t work. Since 911, interrogations conducted with torture tactics have failed to produce any actionable intelligence, and they will continue to do so.

Even more interesting, according to Michael Otterman’s book, American Torture, the FBI had found that a totally different technique was actually very effective in obtaining actionable intelligence. It’s called “Rapport Building” and doesn’t require narrow definitions and contingencies spelled out in legal memos to make it legal. We don’t have to haggle over the definition of severe injury, or extreme pain. Wanna know why?

Because rapport building doesn’t seek to cause any kind of displeasure at all within the detainee. In the book, a pretty powerful anecdote is relayed where the FBI detain a pretty important al Qaida operative. The interrogator doesn’t even start with getting information from the man, instead allowing the conversation to begin naturally. They share coffee, talk about religion and family. They debate similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity.

In a comparably short amount of time, the detainee starts divulging names and under planning operations, but before the interrogation could turn up really good results, the CIA swooped in and took the operative away.

Further attempts at getting useable info from that detainee were unsuccessful.

So again, I ask, why the hell are we even debating this? Torture by any name destroys the US’s moral authority, doesn’t produce actionable intelligence, and through it all, there’s a better more dependable way to garner information from hostile detainees.

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