America’s Torture Problem

Yes, I did change the name of my blog. I had fully intended the original name to be temporary until I thought of a better one. I think “Letters From Fort Living Room,” is a much better name. It came to me while watching the “Couch Commander,” that President Obama did. So, “Thanks, Obama!”

Couch Commander”

Well, torture is back in the news. Instead of it being about a law expressly forbidding torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” it is about the new President saying he believes torture works, and that it should be used. As he said, “To fight fire with fire.” He also said that very high placed people in the Intelligence Service told him that it works.

I am calling shenanigans.

If, and this is a big if, a high ranking Intelligence Officer told him that, then they have never once collected Human Intelligence (HUMINT) or worked with HUMINT Collectors. Most likely, he just said that to try and give his words some small amount of believability.

I have a very, very strong opinion on this topic. So do many of the people I used to work with in Iraq. Conducting interrogations.

Yup, for those of you that do not know, I am a former Intelligence professional. I was a HUMINT collector in the Army, and I mainly conducted interrogations. I was good, real good. I am not going to blow sunshine up your rears and say I was the best. Hell, I wasn’t even the best in my office. That title would have to go to my buddy Ryan, or maybe Jason. Collectively though, I think we were probably the best group of interrogators in Iraq.

We learned what worked, we learned what did not work. We walked right up to that line and stared at the other side, but we did not cross it. Not once, not ever. There are three main reasons we did not cross that line. First, ethically torture is wrong. Second, it is illegal and has been since the end of World War II. Third, we know it does not work. Let me say that again. IT DOES NOT WORK.

Vinegar and honey and all that. It is a bit trite, but it is true. We got more intelligence with a cup of good tea and a couple cigarettes than any negative approaches, approved by the DoD, combined. That is just human nature. We rally strength to fight those we see as attacking us. When people are pleasant, we tend to open up more. Even with our enemies. We would disarm them by being nice, by treating them in a manner they did not expect. They expect to be beat and tortured. When it doesn’t happen, and the guy talking to them is giving tea, some food better than you are getting, and a few cigarettes. Then it is just a conversation between two reasonable individuals that have many of the same fears and concerns for their future and the further of their families. That is where HUMINT is collected.

Not at black sites and not in torture rooms.

Torture only benefits the torturer. One of my favorite movies, Reservoir Dogs, does a great job of explaining why torture does not work, and the real reason why there is torture.

This first scene is between Nice Guy Eddie, played by Chris Penn, and Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi.

Eddie:  I take it this is the bastard you told me about.  Why the hell are you beating on him?

Mr. Pink:  So he'll tell us who the fuck set us up.

Eddie:  Would you stop it with that shit! You beat on this prick enough, he'll tell ya he started the Chicago fire.  That don't necessarily make it so.  Okay, first things fucking last, where's the shit?  Please tell me somebody brought something with them.

This next scene takes place a few minutes after the last one.  After Eddie and Mr. Pink leave.  The warehouse no only has a cop taped to a chair, a gut shot Mr. Orange, played by Tim Roth, and Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen.

Mr. Blonde:  Now I'm not gonna bullshit you. I don't really care about what you know or don't know.  I'm gonna torture you for awhile regardless.  Not to get information, but because torturing a cop amuses me.  There's nothing you can say, there's nothing you can do. Except pray for death.

	That right there is all you need to know about torture.  Yes, people talk.  Everybody talks eventually.  You just cannot trust anything that they say.  They will tell you the sky is neon yellow, if they think that is what you want to hear to make the pain stop.  

	As for the torturers, there has to be something wrong with them.  I have seen men break.  Not from physical torture.  From having their sense of self shattered. I have done it.  It is still haunts me.  To so reduce a person's image of themselves...I cannot explain how horrifying I find that now.  I do not regret anything I have done, and nothing was illegal.  But there are a few interrogations that I have conducted that have left a stain on my psyche.  One of the things I have had to come to grips with, is that at the time, I laughed about it. I had adopted the persona I played in the interrogation booth.  It was like a cloak that I pulled on to protect myself.  

	It was not until after I had left the Army that the words of one of my NCOICs came back to me, this might not be a word for word quote but I think I am close.  Chip, these are your words.  Did I get them right?  “You should be bothered by what we do. If the day comes that you find you are no longer bothered, come speak to me. That is when there is a problem.”

Torture is not something we should do.  It goes against every ideal we claim we uphold and honor.

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