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.

 

Syria army agrees to respect truce in Syria’s Aleppo

Davutoglu to step down after failing to escape Erdogan's shadow

Israel strikes Hamas sites in Gaza

UN urges to take action over rebel fire on besieged Yemen city

Will London elect its first Muslim mayor?

Egypt's Sisi touts economic accomplishments

US aid ship docks with food for Sudan war zones

Israel court recommends returning Palestinian attackers' corpses

Saudi allows Binladin Group tenders after mass layoffs

Long Erdogan-Davutoglu honeymoon coming to an end

Tunisia confident border trade with Libya will resume 'very soon'

Malta likely to become first EU member to open Libya mission

Qaeda threatens to target homes of Yemen security forces

Anti-ISIS coalition pledges additional military commitment

UN warns Eastern Aleppo may soon become besieged

London set to elect its first Muslim Mayor

Fierce fighting rages in Aleppo as diplomacy efforts intensify

Riyadh's $22.5 bn Metro project on track

Egypt court sentences prominent activist to six months in prison

UK to take in more Syria child refugees

France to host Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Turkey FMs for Syria talks

US expects more military resources for anti-ISIS fight

Standoff escalates between Egypt journalists and authorities

Turkey says ready to send ground troops to Syria 'if necessary'

Hamas accuses Fatah of organising military cell in Gaza

Egypt court acquits Mubarak's last PM

Israel to upgrade ties with NATO as Turkey lifts veto

Passengers injured as Etihad flight hits severe turbulence

Israeli tanks fire shots over Gaza border

5th edition of Middle East Homeland Security Summit to be held in Amman in November

Money and revenge push Syrians to jihadist ranks

EU conditionally backs visa-free travel for Turks, overhauls asylum system

Airstrikes resume in Damascus as fighting 'freeze' ends

Relief in Yemen's Mukalla after year of al-Qaeda rule

Saudi oil minister visits Sudan to cement improving ties

Warnings for Assad as Syria talks shift to Berlin

Is Erdogan-Davutoglu tandem coming to an end?

US troops facing growing risks in Iraq, Syria

Fierce clashes rage in Syria’s Aleppo

Yemen warring parties back to peace talks table

OPCW warns ISIS may be making chemical weapons

French court says 'Carlos the Jackal' must face trial for 1974 attack

UN demands protection of hospitals in armed conflicts

Jewish settler who led burning alive of Palestinian teen receives life sentence

Italy ready to raise shipwreck off Libya coast