First Published: 2008-12-04

 
Torture blamed for US deaths in Iraq
 

Former US interrogator in Iraq says torture policy led to deaths of three thousand American soldiers.

 

Middle East Online

‘We can’t become our enemies in trying to defeat them’

PACIFICA – A former US special intelligence operations officer who led an interrogations team in Iraq two years ago said that the number of Americans killed in Iraq because of the US military’s use of torture is more than 3,000, Democracy Now! reported Wednesday.

During an interview with Amy Goodman, Matthew Alexander (pseudonym) said torture techniques used in Iraq consistently failed to produce actionable intelligence and that methods which rest on confidence building, consistently worked and gave the interrogators access to critical information.

Alexander’s nonviolent interrogation methods led Special Forces to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, has served for fourteen years in the US Air Force and has conducted special missions in more than thirty countries. He personally conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than a thousand. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his achievements in Iraq.

On intelligence methods, Alexander said: “The methods that the Army was using were based on fear and control, and those techniques are not effective.”

But his team was different.

“We use techniques that are based on understanding, cultural understanding, sympathy, things like intellect, ingenuity, innovation. And we started to apply these types of techniques to the interrogations. And ultimately, we were able to put together a string of successes within the al-Qaeda organization that led to Zarqawi’s location,” said Alexander.

Alexander warned against using torture during integrations for two reasons.

The first is moral: “We can’t become our enemies in trying to defeat them.”

The second is that it is counterproductive.

“The number one reason these foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq was routinely because of Abu Ghraib, because of Guantanamo Bay, because of torture practices,” said Alexander

“You also have to kind of put this in the context of Arab culture and Muslim culture and how important shame, the role of shame in that culture. And when we torture people, we bring a tremendous amount of shame on them. And so, it is a huge motivator for these people to join al-Qaeda and come to Iraq,” he added.

Alexander stressed that “torture has cost us American lives. We know that it’s ineffective. And we know that it’s wrong, and it’s damaged our image.”

The publication date for his book was delayed for six weeks due to the Pentagon’s vetting of it.

“I turned it in the middle of July, and they’re supposed to do the review within thirty days, and they didn’t do that. I missed the first printing date. When they finally did come back with a review of the book after two months, they had extracted an extraordinary amount of material. There was ninety-three reductions made,” said Alexander.

“I sued the Department of Defense first to review the book and then to argue the redactions, because they had redacted obvious unclassified material, things that I had taken straight out of the unclassified field manual and also some items that were directly off the Army’s own website. So, eventually they acquiesced on eighty of the ninety-three redactions,” he added.

During the interview, Scott Horton, an attorney who specializes in international law and human rights, was invited to give his views.

Horton has written extensively about prisoner abuse in Iraq. He’s the legal affairs contributor to Harper’s magazine and writes the blog “No Comment.”

“Our discussion about torture and the introduction of torture, to date, has really focused on events that happened at Abu Ghraib, things that happened at Guantanamo...but...there is an entire another channel in which torture developed, and that’s inside of the Special Operations Command,” noted Horton.

When asked if he thought President Bush on down should be prosecuted, Horton said: “we have to start with a proper investigation before we reach conclusions about who should be prosecuted and for what crimes. I think there’s simply no question but that serious criminal conduct occurred.”

“There has been no accountability, however, for those who made policy. And I think as a matter of proper administration of criminal justice, it’s the policymakers who should most be held to account,” noted Horton.

Regarding waterboarding, Horton said: “We’ve had military officers who have been prosecuted for torture twice: in 1903 and in 1968. Both of those cases involved waterboarding.”

But US torturers may get away scot-free.

“The President, before he leaves office, may very well—and if he does it, I think it will be on his last day, on the way out—issue a pardon to all those who were involved in the formation and implementation of his enhanced interrogation program, what he refers to affectionately as ‘my program’,” Horton concluded.

 

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'

Israeli judge detains teen until trial for viral ‘slap video’

Arab league slams US freeze of Palestinian funding

Dubai billionaire to sell 15 percent Damac stake

Britain to put women at heart of peace work in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan

Saudi to give Yemen government $2bn bailout

US withholds $65 million from UN agency for Palestinians

Saudi Arabia intercepts new Yemen rebel missile attack