Over the past few days I have noticed another spike in media talking heads suggesting that the Obama administration will find it tough to roll back the Bush admin torture/interrogation policies. The case they are making is that it is these policies that have kept us safe over the last few years.
I wish that someone would respond by reminding these media types that last year the Washington Post ran an op-ed from a US interrogator in Iraq who made clear that when his team went against the grain and did not use torture they got the intel that led to the discovery of Zarqawi. He also notes that Abu Gharib and Gitmo caused foreign fighters to flood to Iraq and calculates the number of US troop casualties caused by this flocking of foreign fighters.
“I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.”
See here for more details from that piece.
It is also worth reminding these same talking heads that when Sen. McCain was interviewed by George Step (This Week) in Dec he noted that a high level al-Qaeda in Iraq member made clear to him that their success was driven by two issues – one of which was Abu Gharib and Gitmo as a recruiting tool.
“Let me just tell you a brief story. Not that long ago, a year and a half ago, Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Iraq. We were in the prison. The general, our U.S. general in charge of prison had us in a secluded area and met a former high-ranking member of Al Qaida, one of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen. I said, how did you succeed so well after the initial American victory?
He said, “Two things” — he said, “One” — he said, “there was no control by your troops. It was total lawlessness. There was rape, looting, pillage, murder, settling of old scores. So there was?lawlessness. Second, the greatest recruiting tool we had — we were able to recruit thousands of young men,” he said, “was Abu Ghraib.” So you can’t underestimate the damage that our treatment of prisoners, both at Abu Ghraib and other…”
Link here for more details.
The fact that this information does not seem to have penetrated the public discourse is why I believe we need an Independent Bipartisan Commission on Torture – an informed public is crucial to ensuring we don’t repeat the errors of recent years.