Why Torture Doesn’t Work And Is Un-American

Posted by | November 30, 2008 10:29 | Filed under: Top Stories

“Matthew Alexander” is the pseudonym used by a Special Operations air force officer, who led a team of interrogators in Iraq in 2006.  He wrote a book, How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, and a piece for the Washington Post where he explains why torture doesn’t work.  “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq” describes the “deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq” that has “Alexander” alarmed.

I’m not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me — both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn’t work.


The officer says interrogations were based on fear and control and often resulted in torture and abuse.

I taught the members of my unit a new methodology — one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they’re listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of “ruses and trickery”). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to [Iraq’s al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi.

“Alexander” goes on to write about how humane methodologies resulted in greater success, as Sunnis turned away from al-Qaeda and information obtained led to the death of Zarqawi.  And these more enlightened approaches also helped create the Anbar Awakening and a huge decreases in violence.

My experiences have landed me in the middle of another war — one even more important than the Iraq conflict. The war after the war is a fight about who we are as Americans. Murderers like Zarqawi can kill us, but they can’t force us to change who we are. We can only do that to ourselves. One day, when my grandkids sit on my knee and ask me about the war, I’ll say to them, “Which one?”

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Copyright 2008 Liberaland
By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.

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