Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Veteran's Viewpoint on the Torture Debate

OIF VeteranI am a Marine who served in Iraq. I led a Marine company level intelligence cell in western Fallujah. I have seen firsthand the attitudes displayed by insurgents when threatened with the prospect of being interrogated by Coalition Forces. The most common response was laughter.

The insurgents know all too well how limited we are in what we can and cannot do to them, and they use it against us regularly. I remember one particular insurgent that we detained in Al Saqliwiyah.I knew he had information regarding a high value target I had been pursuing. He refused to cooperate, however, and practically begged us to send him to the CF detention facility. He told me that life in American prison was better than life in Al Anbar. He would get more sleep, more food, and better medical care. I would have had better luck using the prison threat as a bribe.

Now let me tell you why I wanted the information this guy had. I had been tracking his nephew for several months. The nephew specialized in recruiting adolescent males as suicide bombers. That January and February, three children detonated themselves outside of Iraqi Police checkpoints in our AO (area of operations). I received a tip that the nephew was back in the area, and the uncle (my detainee) knew where he was. Had I been able to use even some of the techniques Iraqi Police used, I most likely would have got the information. Instead, I was forced to release the detainee, and the nephew left the area shortly thereafter.

About a month later, three more young boys died when they detonated themselves following an attack on a local sheik. The sheik was friendly with coalition forces, and was killed in the attack also.

I've seen a lot of discussion about the latest witch hunt being conducted by liberals in Washington in blogs and on the news. I wonder, though, how much research anyone has really done on the subject. I researched the subject prior deployment, received training in it as we deployed, and learned a lot on the fly as we were pursuing terrorists across Iraq. I think a lot of people are confused as to what is really happening in the world.

ACLUThe ACLU has issued a call to "Demand Accountability for Torture!" and has published the "torture memos" on their website. They seem to feel that by not pursuing and prosecuting the senior government officials that were in place at the time the memos were published, we (the American people) are in danger of losing our civil liberties.

Read the memos, please. I am certain that you will find the idea of prosecuting the authors as ridiculous as I do. The fact that law enforcement personnel have to request permission, IN WRITING, to slap a detainee is ridiculous. How can you expect our military and intelligence agencies to protect you if you handicap them at every turn?

I do not condone the use of torture. At least not in the sense that most sane people would define torture. Beating people with sticks, burning them with branding irons, breaking their fingers; these are all torture in my mind. I might add being forced to listen to Britney Spears albums to that list.

Anyone in the intelligence field will tell you that physical torture will only lead to bad information, as the subject will say anything to make it stop. But the techniques referenced in the memos are an entirely different matter. These techniques are routinely used on military members undergoing SERE training. Read this excerpt from one of the memos:

"These same techniques, with the exception of the insect in the cramped confined space, have been used and continue to be used on some members of our military personnel during their SERE training. Because of the use of these procedures in training our own military personnel to resist interrogations, you have consulted with various individuals who have extensive experience in the use of these techniques. You have done so in order to ensure that no prolonged mental harm would result from the use of these proposed procedures."

SERE stands for Survival Evasion Resistance Escape. It is training that selected military personnel undergo to learn to resist interrogation efforts. Our government is not condoning any activity or behavior in intelligence gathering that anyone with a military background finds dishonorable.

At the end of the day, THAT's what matters. When the ACLU straps on a flak jacket, goes condition one, and steps out to patrol in a combat zone, then, and ONLY then, will I lend any credence to their opinion of what is right and wrong in warfare.

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