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…9/6

Four Military Options in Syria – Brookings Institution

Interesting piece laying out some of the options and strengths and weaknesses of each should the uprisings in Syria persist and the violence of the Assad regime escalate that a military intervention from outside forces needs to be imposed. The author is not advocating for any of them but in beginning the analysis helps to remind everyone that it is not that far from reality. Read the whole story here.

Turkey’s ambassador first to be approved by Libya’s NTC

In a sign that Libya’s new government is moving toward normalcy Turkey has officially appointed an ambassador and opened up its embassy to begin working with Libya’s new government. This is a positive sign for the country as they seek to get the country moving in a positive direction in this new era. More than 40 countries have recognized the NTC as the legitimate representative of Libya. Read the whole story here. – What Makes Evangelicalism Evangelical? A New Book Joins the Argument

As I’ve mentioned in various posts before the terms Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism) are highly contested and often times misunderstood. They are also becoming increasingly relevant in the political realm as a number of confessing Evangelicals are serious candidates for the Republican nomination. With that much in the background this forthcoming book looks timely. It is part of a Counterpoints series in which multiple contributors include an essay that is then responded to by each of the other contributors. This allows for the reader to benefit from the educated critique of each of those positions. This essay is an adaptation of Albert Mohler’s contribution to the book. Read the whole story here.

Reading Today’s Stories…8.25→

A few links to some interesting reading from today:

A new era in U.S. foreign policy – Global Public Square – Blogs

So I have not read much from Fareed Zakaria. I have watched his Global Public Square on CNN a few times and he is a well-respected thinker on political and international affairs. I hope to get to reading his most well-known book sometime in the near future. Today he offers some interesting commentary on how the U.S.’s role in the intervention in Libya represents a shift in approach in America’s foreign policy. I am a firm believer in the values of democracy and individual freedoms and am more or less proud of America’s history of supporting that around the world. It would be foolish however to not recognize that at times America has overstepped its bounds at a great cost to both America and those they were seeking to assist. Does the Libyan revolution represent a new model for American intervention in world affairs? Fareed say’s yes. Read the whole story

Why Assad Need Not Fear Qaddafi’s Fate – Council on Foreign Relations

The question on many people’s mind is “Qaddafi is gone so now when will Asssad go?” Is that the logical conclusion? While no one will argue that there are violent conflicts going on in some parts of Syria the story there is different than that of Libya. Much to the confusion of many westerners President Bashar al-Assad is popular with many on the streets, especially in the largest cities of Damascus and Aleppo (about 60 miles from where we lived last year). With international media being banned from the country it has been difficult for the global community to really get a clear picture of what is going on. The tweets and youtube videos that have been coming out of the country have showed atrocities that have been committed. These have led for some, President Barack Obama among them, to call for him to step down. Have those calls helped or hurt the situation? Ed Husain (author of The Islamist) gives some reasons for why this may actually have hurt the situation, rather than helped. Read the whole story 

Cathleen Falsani: The Trouble With Christian Labels

This is a good piece written on how little understanding there is in the wider public sphere of the discussions that take place within a particular religious tradition. In Cathleen’s article the New Yorker’s profile of Michelle Bachman provided the catalyst for needing to think about what the difference is between “Evangelical,” “Fundamentalist,” and “Born-Again.” In her article I feel like she takes a step in the right direction in promoting an understanding of what these terms are and what they represent for those who claim them as labels for themselves. Her piece is helpful especially as it regards the “Evangelical” label. I feel she lacks a firm grasp on what it means to be a “Fundamentalist” in the historic sense. I will not delve into that debate in depth here (perhaps at a later time) but if that topic is of interest to you I’ll include a couple of links to resources that may be helpful.

Let’s Get Clear on ThisIn the Nick of Time by Kevin Bauder has a whole corpus of writing that relates to this issue for what and why there is a distinction between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, if the labels is helpful, etc.

Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism by Douglas McLachlan

A Dialogue on Fundamentalism video from a dialogue between some evangelical and fundamentalist figures.





Reading Today’s Stories…8/23→

1. One of the first stories I read this morning I took from Chris Blattman. He shared a great piece that corrects some of the fundamental misconceptions concerning war around the globe today. For example, there are more wars and deaths now than ever before, right? Well…

Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper.

Read Joshua Goldstein’s full story.

2. Another major story of the day is the continuing conflict in Tripoli as the rebels continue fight to gain full control of the city. The Guardian has a great live update of the situation.

3. In Northern Iraq the conflict between PKK groups and the Turkish military are picking up again. This is disappointing as there had been diplomatic progress made over the past few months but now that has changed to violent raids and air strikes. 

4. A neat story from the Philippians about their national soccer team. I really enjoyed the biographical info that Mayin shared about these men who are hoping to succeed not only on the field but in inspiring the next generation to take the ball out of their hands and put it at their feet. Inspiration from the Azkals

5. Thoughtful post from Michael LaBossiere on Tea Partiers and Muslims. Michael walks through a couple elements of basic logic that are easy to forget to apply:

I also made the point that a group should not be defined by its fringe element or by the worst of those who claim to belong to the group. Rather, a group should be assessed on its actual values and the general behavior of its core.

and a second one:

I did the obvious move and pointed out that he had just agreed that a group should not be judged by its fringe or worst elements. To be consistent, what applies to the Tea Party should also apply to Muslims.



The Fall of Tripoli↑

Hope to post a few more links sometime later tonight but wanted to add a quick update on the top news story of the day.

Now six months after the beginning of the uprisings in Libya the rebel forces have now taken the vast majority of the capital of Tripoli. Gaddafi currently still remains at large. Two of his sons have been captured. There are warrants from the International Criminal Court for their arrests. Hopefully the rebels will conduct themselves in a wise and human manner as their are fighting for individual freedoms. A number of western leaders, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Obama foremost among them, have made strong statements for Gaddafi to recognize that he no longer is the legitimate leader of Libya and should surrender control.

This is a monumental day for Libya. When this all began six months ago there was a lot of trepidation about how it would go. It is exciting to see a relatively positive outcome even though there have been thousands of lives lost.

Now comes the hard work of setting up a new system of governance that is able to put actions to the hopes and dreams of the Libyan people.