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.


Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Iran bars orchestra performance over women musicians

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey