Interrogation vs. Torture↓

Today’s article from Public Discourse is an excellent commentary on the issue of interrogation and torture. The author writes from her own experience working as an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay. She articulates that these two courses of intelligence gathering are antithetical. By no means does she minimize the value of interrogation. What she does hope to discredit is the false dichotomy of “security” and “humane treatment of detainees.” Instead she argues,

the real contrast is between torture, on the one hand, and security through interrogation consistent with respect for the humanity of the detainee, on the other.

The United States of America has consistently articulated that it stands as a defender of human freedoms and dignity. In the past ten years this has been called into question on multiple fronts, but none more significant than this issue. How can a country that claims to be a beacon of freedoms willfully degrade human dignity?

Torture does this on at least three different levels.

(1) Torture violates the dignity of the detainee.

(2) Torture degrades the integrity of the interrogator.

(3) Torture betrays the dignity of those who suffer from intelligence failures; this includes those who may be victims of otherwise preventable attacks.

When we think of this issue we often consider the first level – the dignity of the detainee. This is not very difficult to understand when we consider some of the methods of torture that have been employed.

One that is not – as often – considered is the damage that is done to the interrogator. We are employing and commissioning American men and women to act in ways that are truly inhumane. Not only in reference to the aggression and physical treatment but also on a psychological level. To commit these kinds of acts requires considering another human being as less than human. Once this is done nothing is off limits. This is the very mindset that we decry as despicable. As history illustrates when leaders – like Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler – consider a people as non-human then unbelievable atrocities can be committed. This is not a path that the American public should be willing to walk. It is not a path that the American public should be will to force others to walk for us.

From the author’s experience interrogation was far more effective in gathering useful intelligence. In this approach the interrogator seeks to gather both a breadth and depth of information from the detainee rather than just reactionary surface information that is often extracted under torture. To do this the interrogator wants to understand who the person is and what they know.

As is true of any human being, a detainee is a unique, complex web of beliefs, values, behaviors, past experiences, relationships, loyalties, and culture which are carried around in the heart and mind. The information an interrogator wants is embedded in that web. To get at it, an interrogator must be able to find the most efficient and effective way to discern a route through the labyrinth of that web. From this the interrogator can find openings for rapport-oriented emotional connection and build on these.

In order to truly find out who the person is requires maintaining the humanness of that person. With these intact the interrogator is able to withdraw what the detainee values, is motivated by, and knows.

The author finally brings the discussion back to the upcoming presidential election. She feels that it is essential that the foreign policy articulated by the United States government is one that firmly supports interrogation but rejects torture. In this way the values of the American people are not forsaken in the efforts to ensure the safety of the nation. To violate your principles while fighting to secure them is an ignoble place to be.

Inspired by: Jennifer Bryson: My Guantanamo Experience: Support Interrogation, Reject Torture « Public Discourse


Reading Today’s Stories…9/5→

Why Turkey is bombing the PKK – Opinion – Al Jazeera English 

As I’ve posted about a few times in the last few weeks, the Turkish military has once again begun air raids into Northern Iraq. This piece from Mustafa Akyol sets these latest actions in their historical context. If you are not aware of the broad narrative of this conflict this is a good starting point. Read the whole story here.

Religion A Hot Issue In 2012 GOP Race |

A summary piece on how religion has become one of the early points of distinction among 2012 presidential candidates. One of the interesting trends that seems to be emerging is that faith is becoming more and more related to actions. It is not enough to merely say something but voters want to know in what way that will affect your policy decisions. Yet in another article (via @Slate)the argument is raised that thus far economic issues have completely overshadowed social issues. Read the whole story here.

Report: Iran links nuclear power plant to national grid – The Washington Post

A headline that sounds more significant than it may actually be. Iran reported that they have connected their first nuclear power plant in a test run to begin contributing to the countries energy needs.  As to what this will mean to the fears about a weapons program will unfold in the coming weeks and months. Read the whole story here.



Reading Today’s Stories…9/3→

I apologize for not posting over the last few days. I went away for the week with my wife and a friend on a tour of the northern Aegean Sea. It was beautiful. The water was probably the clearest I’ve ever seen. I do have to admit it was a little on the cold side though. Anyway, now on to a few a stories of the day.

Also…while I was away I started reading Island of The World, a book my wife had highly recommended. I’ve still got a ways to go but have absolutely loved it thus far. Check out her review here:

For Ankara, it’s time for deeds not words on Syria – Hurriyet Daily News

A story that continues to be of interest to me is the uprisings in Syria. Having begun to study more and more about Turkish politics and foreign relations this has provided one of the most difficult challenges that the Ankara government could possibly face. Over the past few years Turkey has made a concerted effort to improve their relationships with Syria. This has been one of the models for the “Zero-Problem with Neighbors” policy and yet now next door there are riots and killings taking place on a daily basis. Turkey has come out with public statements, private diplomatic visits and yet there seems to have been no change. This provides a crucial test case for Turkey to play a role as a peacemaking leader in the region. Will it be able to turn it’s talk into actions? Read the whole story here.

How the U.S. and the world can help Iraq – The Washington Post

Great article from a former Prime Minister of Iraq. With all the attention that has been given to the Middle East over the past few months in many ways Iraq has been somewhat forgotten. The US intervention that began in 2003 is still continuing. Yet the reality (as described in this article) is far from the promises that were originally made. As the Arab world moves towards democratic rule Iraq should be standing as a model of Arab democracy, albeit that it came about from foreign intervention rather than a popular uprising. This article gives some practical suggestions for things that the U.S. and other foreign countries can do to help bring freedom and hope to the people of Iraq. Read the whole story here.

BBC News – Gaza flotilla row: New low in Turkish ties with Israel

A continuing story in Turkey has been the reaction to 9 Turkish citizens killed on the Mavi Marmara by Israeli soldiers. This has led to the souring of a relationship that had grown cold already. While Turkey and Israel in the past had enjoyed relatively good relations they had begun to cool. This incident has only worsened the situation. The publication of a UN report on the incident has served to keep the wound fresh in the minds of those involved. Neither side seems quick to flex on the issue and until there is a need for a restoration of the relationship it will probably remain distant. Read the whole story here.