Thursday, June 26, 2008

"... even the Soviets didn't torture for information"

Andrew Sullivan prints an e-mail on torture he received from a marine in Iraq (h/t Ed Brayton.) The whole thing is worth reading, but the following passage is something the Bill O'Reillys of the world might want to take note of.

In over a year on the ground, I never heard of or saw any Americans torturing anyone (except on the news). I heard of and saw Iraqis torturing on several occasions. And generally, the "intel" they got out of those sessions proved to be worthless.

It brought to mind the training I had received on POW handling a decade before as a 2ndLt in Quantico . We were told not to torture because (1) it was wrong and (2) it didn't work. I remember our instructors noting that even the Soviets didn't torture for information. because it didn't yield reliable information. The Soviets tortured for retribution, to make an example, maybe just for kicks, but not for information. That contention was borne out for me on the streets of Fallujah.

Torture doesn't work. In fact, in a counterinsurgency it works against you because it turns the locals against you. That is why the Marines took that guy back to his house. Because they knew we were trying to win that neighborhood's trust, and torturing one of their own was not the way to do it, even if he was working with the Muj. Kill him in open battle, sure, they would understand that, but not torture. It backfires on you everytime. Every story about our hapless spook operators torturing some terror suspect makes every Marine and soldier patrolling through the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan less safe.

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