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Given the opening scenes in Zero Dark Thirty, which presents the case that it was the water-boarding of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed that provided the information that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, people will want to read Zero Dark Thirty -- Torture Is the American Way? by Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA interrogator and author of the book The Interrogator.

Let me offer a few snips.  

Do not be misled. Pay attention: The men and women who hunted, found, and killed Osama bin Laden -- and heroes they are -- did not need to use torture. Torture is un-America. It is evil. We found bin Laden using painstaking intelligence work, not waterboards.
Understand this, from someone who had some involvement in our "enhanced interrogation" program and who worked on terrorism issues for years (see my book, The Interrogator, which relates my involvement in the interrogation of a senior member of al-Qaeda.) I was there: Torture does not work; it makes it harder to evaluate what detainees say, and more suspect. It is unnecessary, it is counterproductive, it is illegal, and it is immoral. Torture besmirches the meaning of America. We become the evil we oppose when we engage in "enhanced interrogation" -- in torture.

Here we have someone from the CIA, someone who interrogated a senior member of Al Qaeda, saying bluntly what we all know -  "enhanced interrogation" is terror.  No ifs, ands, or buts.

Please keep reading.

We may remembers that the Judge Advocates General opposed the use of "enhanced interrogation."  We know that experienced intelligence officers in the military opposed it, and pointed out that the best way of getting information was the building of rapport with the subject being interrogated.  

There is more in Carle's post.  I strongly suggest reading it.

One thing that is a problem is that we did NOT hold to account those who violated the appropriate standards of interrogation, of treatment of detainees.

We allowed the CIA to destroy tapes of "interrogations" (that apparently included waterboarding) -  not everyone in that agency held to the standards Carle did.

We did not punish the likes of Gen. Miller, who was promoted and told to "Gitmoize" Abu Ghraib, with the consequences that at the time horrified those in Congress who saw all of the pictures, yet did not react with the appropriate outrage.

We did not hold to account those in the previous administration who distorted the law, who issued legal "opinions" that would be decimated in the average 1-L class.

The arts have the power to move us, to inspire our imaginations, to shape our perceptions of events and of history.   Picasso'sGuernica is hated by many on the right because it rightly drives home what Franco's air force did to that community during the Spanish Civil War.  Novels like The Red Badge of Courageand War and Peace making points about morality in war, its effects upon individuals caught up in the process.

Often art serves a propagandist purpose.  I do not deny that some of the art, especially film, that I admire is in part because it powerfully advances points of view with which I agree.

Torture does not work.

Torture is immoral.

Torture should not be acceptable to Americans, under any circumstances.

Torture betrays espoused American principles.

That the film is dishonest about how we obtained the information that lead to Bin Laden is bad enough.  That it may shape the nation's perception of how we achieved he death of Bin Laden is worse.   That it will lead to a justification of torture in other circumstances is horrible.

Read the piece.

Ponder what he says.

And oppose the justification of torture under any circumstances.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 08:52:34 AM PST

  •  If you bothered to actually see ZD30 (0+ / 0-)

    You'd realized the film emphatically shows how torture usually doesn't work, that it is degrading to all involved, and leaves the viewers at the end to question whether the costs involved in getting Bin Laden were worth it.

    The McCarthyite smear against this film is worthy of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. I am ashamed of many of my fellow progressives on how anti-intellectual their thought processes have become.

    •  question about bin Laden is who sold him out (0+ / 0-)

      He was in a compound evidently with only light arms and a couple of guards.  The location was in the middle of the high rent district with many generals and pols living cheek by jowl with him.  Evidently he felt he had protection from sources other than his own followers unless they were the ones who sold him out or he would have fortified his hidey house and also would have had a good many more guards on duty .

      Couple of fascinating possibilities or more for future movies

  •  The current situation (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    3rdOption, Avila

    Bush-era torture was (often) leave-no-marks torture. Techniques designed not to leave lasting evidence. Waterboarding, as prime example.

    Our current proxy torture in Afghanistan is not nearly so concerned about prosecution. They can bring out the wire cables for beatings with impunity.

    Our cutout arrangement with the American sponsored and paid-for Afghan N.D.S., to do this, is just very very thin.

    Asadullah Khalid has led the National Directorate of Security with great courage and determination. I wish this lionhearted Afghan patriot a speedy recovery.

    General John Allen

    •  irony is that many of the techniques were old (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      police techniques that were resurrected; for example, in the bad old pre-Civil Rights days, cops would beat a suspect with a "soft sap", such as a silk bag filled with sand, which would leave no marks or maybe compression torture, such as our Puritan ancestors used, where increasingly large stones were placed on a miscreant's chest until he either confessed or was crushed.

      Lots of precedence for the GWB era descent into savagery  

  •  Torture does work, if one defines what is to be (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dogs are fuzzy, JanetT in MD

    accomplished correctly. Engaging in disgusting behavior, like swallowing gold fish or participating in a gang rape, forges a bond amongst the participants and renders them compliant to future directives at little or no expense to the instigators.
    The culture of obedience thrives on association by guilt. Guilt is an incapacitating emotion and, contrary to what we might think, guilt spawns denial, rather than merely preventing a repetition of the guilt-inducing offense. The guilty become hardened until they persuade themselves there was nothing to feel guilty about in the first place.
    Why do you think George W. Bush boasted about having authorized the torture? The object was clearly to send a message to the American public that, if people didn't behave, they could expect the same treatment. It's the same tactic that was employed by the SS, when they rousted Jews out of their houses in the middle of the day. The witnesses were to be intimidated, and it worked.

    Breitbart's "behave yourselves" was un cris du coeur.

    How does one percent of the population exploit and control the 99% without the overt use of force? By making an example of a small sample. Neither the victims, nor the witnesses ever realize that the object of abuse is the subjugation and intimidation of the whole population. That's why it works. It is only when we step up to halt the abuse that we are freed of the bonds of intimidation. The U.S. fixation on death serves to distract from the fact that, not only does everyone die, eventually, but there are worse things than death. Torture is worse--for the victim, for the perpetrator and for the witness.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 09:37:12 AM PST

    •  GWB was the poor man's Reagan (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      GOP myth insisted Reagan backed down the USSR by convincing their leaders that he was insane and remorseless so that he would launch a nuclear holocaust at the drop of an ideological hat.

      Reality for that sort of mentality is if you make someone fear you to that extent, they generally launch a preemptive strike so if the Russians had truly feared him so much, it would have more likely have precipitated Soviet strike

      •  Although I am not a fearful person myself, (0+ / 0-)

        I suspect that a fearful person finds something real to be afraid of somehow reassuring.

        "See, I was right to be afraid of bees; one just stung me."

        We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 10:13:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Don't be sayin' as I missed", (0+ / 0-)

      said the old cowboy, "less'n ya know what I was aimin' at".

      Besides establishing that we live in a dictatorship, torture is useful in producing lies. If the government wants to invade Iraq, they can (and did!) torture someone into saying that Saddam was training al-Qaeda to use biological weapons.

  •  this is no sudden epiphany; even while it was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, AllanTBG, JanetT in MD

    ongoing, there were veterans  in the British M-16 service and American OSS early on who protested that they had learned that the German practice of torturing people did not yield accurate information as early as 1942.
    One reported that they put the captured German generals up in a castle with cigars, liquor, and fine food and the POWs fell all over themselves discussing German tactics and strategies and revealing all sorts of information while they reveled in their cushy surroundings.

    It seems this current crop of wannabe Secret Squirrel types have watched too many John Wayne movies  

    •  John Wayne's characters wouldn't (0+ / 0-)

      I have trouble imagining John Wayne sodomizing someone with a glowstick.

      In fact, I imagine his ghost growling over the election of Bush the Lesser "You sent a boy out to do a man's job".

      •  given his politics, don't be too surprised (0+ / 0-)

        though not a large success, the "Green Berets" more or less showed his world view and how he viewed his commie opponents.  The important thing is to remember the whole film is totally from the American perspective

  •  on reading and rereading (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Garrett, 3rdOption, blueness

    the ACLU files, Scott Horton, Andy Worthington, declassified memoranda, virtually every bit of writing to date on what Jane Mayer refers to as The Dark Side, over ten years of documentation, i'm always left with the belief that KSM was of infinitely greater interest to TPTB that bin-Laden or any other individual.  an entire family, including very young children, extended family, neighbors, anyone he named under torture . . . where are they now?

    i'm not planning to see Zero Dark Thirty.  if ever a film is made honoring Dr. Steven Miles for his heroic work against torture (yes, heroic), or Joseph Darby, who brought the horrors of Abu Ghraib into American living rooms through Sixty Minutes and Seymour Hersch, that'll be worthwhile.  but i don't expect either.

    Yes, we need to talk about this. Please sign the dKos Petition to start a national conversation about gun control.

    by Avila on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 10:26:18 AM PST

  •  THE REASON WE TORTURED... (0+ / 0-)

    ...was the same as the reason the North Vietnamese tortured our people,

    to obtain false confessions.

    The VC wanted proud American servicemen to be humbled, to confess, on film, to being war criminals. These confessions could then be shown around the world, to sway public opinion against the United States and to portray the VC as innocent victims of American Imperial aggression.

    The conduct of our guys in these harrowing circumstances has served as a testament to the character and strength of will of Americans to this day. (You can, in large part, thank Admiral James Stockdale, yes, that Stockdale, the Medal of Honor recipient, for his leadership under incredible duress in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. There is a reason why his fellow POWs put him up for the MoH. If you are interested, please consider reading In Love and War, by he and his wife.)

    Cheney wanted detainees to confirm that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Cheney knew this was false, so he needed to force detainees to lie and claim an Iraq connection that did not exist, in order to help justify the war to the American voting public.

    Oh, and another thing. To a certain caliber of human, torture is super-fun.

    This movie feeds that fetish.

    {insert Godwin's Law assertion here}

    "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism" - MLK

    by 3rdOption on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 10:36:55 AM PST

  •  Lt. Col. Robin "Tin Eye" Stephens (0+ / 0-)

    Some years back, during the Iraq Occupation, there was a story in the London Times about an Intelligence officer during WWII who had some definite ideas about torture.

    The officer's name was Lt. Col. Robin Stephens, but he was nicknamed "Tin Eye" because of his steel-rimmed monocle.  During World War II he commanded "Camp 020", based in a prison called Latchmere House in south London, and oversaw the interrogations of German spies.

    The British counter-intelligence efforts during the war was one of the Allies' best-kept secrets.  The British was able to identify virtually every German agent in the country, and turned many of them into double-agents, feeding false information to the Germans.  Stephens was in charge of interrogating and turning these agents.

    After the War, he was placed in charge of an interrogation center at Bad Nenndorf, a town near Hanover in Germany.  The prison was a hell-hole and many of the prisoners were mistreated.  An official investigation exonorated Stephens of responsibility for the abuses.  I don't know enough about the case to know if this was a cover-up, or if Stephens had walked into a situation that was bad before he arrived.  But at the hearings, he expouned on his own philosophy about interrogating enemy combatants:

    "Figuratively, a spy in war should be at the point of a bayonet," he said.  But nevertheless, he had a firm policy of never torturing or physically harming his prisoners.

    "Never strike a man.  It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise."
    You would think that is so sensible to be self-evident.  I suppose being sensible isn't macho enough for some people.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 04:20:56 PM PST

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