Shaping America's Future Leaders

I support the call for accountability through an independent investigation and our country's continued commitment to the rule of law. In the military, every soldier receives training on the Law of Armed Conflict which emphasizes our adherence to Geneva Conventions, U.S. law, and military regulations during times of war, and accountability when there are violations. We also swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States in our oath of office. All of these legal documents make it unlawful to torture or abuse detainees.

Yet, one of the most important aspects of the torture debate and demand for accountability has nothing to do with the past. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director General Michael Hayden, along with others, have stated that torture and abuse has kept America safe. The notion that the policy of torture and abuse kept us safe is highly questionable, but the more important aspect is that in the long term, torture and abuse will cost us lives. These immoral tactics recruited new fighters for Al Qaida — a fact publicly endorsed by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Ray Odierno, Commanding General Multi-National Forces Iraq, Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, Retired General James Jones, National Security Advisor, and last, but not least, President Barack Obama.

While supervising interrogations in Iraq in 2006, I witnessed a majority of foreign fighters state that the number one reason they had come to fight was because of the torture and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. By recruiting for Al Qaida, this policy cost us hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives. Al Qaida is still using our past crimes to recruit new fighters, even as I write.

This does not take into account the other negative aspects of torture and abuse. It makes future enemies less likely to surrender and future detainees less likely to cooperate, because they don't trust us. Trust is a fundamental element to a successful interrogation. This policy also made our international partners less willing to support us in anti-terrorism operations. All of these negative effects will cost us American lives in the future.

Still, there's a stronger argument against torture and abuse, and that is the moral one. It is contrary to the principles upon which our country was founded. We cannot become our enemy in trying to defeat him. This country's greatness is not measured in its security but in the validity of our commitment to the ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice. We must uphold these principles while we conduct this war.

An independent investigation is an opportunity to look at those senior leaders who gave unlawful orders to torture and abuse prisoners and the senior military officers who followed those unlawful orders. It is a chance to emphasize again, for the next generation of America military leaders, that torture and abuse are inconsistent with our oaths of office, and that following unlawful orders is not acceptable conduct. It was the United States, along with its Allies, that rejected the Nuremberg Defense after World War II. A dangerous precedent has been set, reverting human rights principles back more than 50 years. Now is the time to correct that crime.

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist. He is writing under a pseudonym for security reasons.

Add a comment (13)
Read the Terms of Use

Lisa

Please stop with the torture talking. Those prisioners that were tortured are now sun bathing at taxpayers expense in Burmuda. They want to open a shop there and live happily ever after. STOP with the torture debate. There is no debate. When prisoners come out of Gitmo with blood and bruises then talk about it. Until then there are no issues to discuse. The End. ACLU please stop pushing your agenda on the American people. We are tired of you and the governments intrusion in OUR lives. Just Stop!

Maggie

If you move these detainees to an American Prison then they will see real torture! Not a pleasant place to be.

Paen

I salute the ACLU for standing up for simple decency not to mention freedom of speech even while the wing nuts make you their favorite target for their most ignorant tirades.

Reality check

The CIA has developed torture techniques that don't leave marks. They can make a person basically lose their mind quickly and make they say what they want. Why do any American's believe anything that this Obama or Bush government says/said is true? We have no proof of anything let alone that anyone in the prisons or Guantanamo is guilty of anything. History tells us that secrecy is used to cover up and the FOI requests thirty years from now will give us the truth if the documents aren't accidently shredded.

Fredia

i think you need to look at how American soldiers were tortured! Everyone is tortured in war!ACLU needs to wake up and stop name calling!

Martin Bregman

As a psychologist myself, I have protested to the American Psychological Association regarding psychologists involved in negative and torturous interrogation. It is not only contrary to effective interrogation, but is decidedly contrary to human sensitivity and our professional responsibility.

Martin Bregman

And who -- or what -- is LIsa (above)!

Fred

Another point: the reason for using torture, it now turns out, was to get prisoners to make false statements linking Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaida, which they could use to make a case for going to war against Iraq. How was that supposed to make us safe?

Joe Spenner

FOR DOCUMENTATION BY A SURVIVOR OF TORTURE BY GEORGE BUSH AND DICK CHENEY, GET A COPY OF THE AUTHOR AND HER LITTLE DAUGHTER'S EXTREME TORTURE BY THEN CIS DIRECTOR, GEORGE BUSH. (GET A COPY FROM INTERNET OR BOOK STORES:)
"TRANCE FORMATION OF AMERICA," BY CATHY O'BRIEN WITH MARK PHILLIPS.
(READ ON AND EMPTY STOMACH!"
I MET CATHY AND MARK, THE MAN WHO RESCUED HER JUST BEFORE SHE WAS SCHEDULED TO BE "USED UP," IF BRUTAL SEX ORGY.
Joe Spenner

Rafael

Far from being an intrusion into our lives, the ACLU serves a valuable purpose in keeping abuse of Liberty by our government out in the light of day. As a card carrying member of the ACLU I fully support your efforts to expose the facts about the abuse of process and torture of prisoners engaged in by the Bush administration. Time does not heal this type of wound, and justice demands that those who ordered and took part in these illegal, immoral and inhuman activities be brought before a judge and jury to answer for their crimes.

Pages

Sign Up for Breaking News