Cruelty as a weapon of war

Linked with Alberto J. Mora – USA, with Nieman Watchdog, and with Ten lessons from recent torture hearings.

Published on Nieman, as a COMMENTARY, June 17, 2008.

Former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora tells Congress that the adoption of interrogation techniques that violate human dignity is not just contrary to our core American values – it weakens our defenses …

… All of these factors contributed to the difficulties our nation has experienced in forging the strongest possible coalition in the War on Terror. But the damage to our national security also occurred down at the tactical or operational level. I’ll cite four examples:

  • First, there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And there are other senior officers who are convinced that the proximate cause of Abu Ghraib was the legal advice authorizing abusive treatment of detainees that issued from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002.
  • Second, allied nations reportedly hesitated on occasion to participate in combat operations if there was the possibility that, as a result, individuals captured during the operation could be abused by U.S. or other forces.
  • Third, allied nations have refused on occasion to train with us in joint detainee capture and handling operations because of concerns about U.S. detainee policies.
  • And fourth, senior NATO officers in Afghanistan have been reported to have left the room when issues of detainee treatment have been raised by U.S. officials out of fear that they may become complicit in detainee abuse.

Mr. Chairman, Albert Camus cautioned nations fighting for their values against selecting those weapons whose very use would destroy those values. In this War on Terror, the United States is fighting for our values, and cruelty is such a weapon. (full long text).

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