Leading Expert On Security, War And Terrorism Says:
(1) Prosecuting Those Who Created Torture Program Will Reduce Attacks Against U.S. and American Troops; and
(2) Keeping Detainees in Confinement Without Trial is a Greater Threat Than Releasing Torture Photos
Terrell (Terry) E. Arnold was the number 2 counter-terrorism official at the U.S. State Department, and is one of the world’s leading experts on terror.
Arnold served as the Deputy Director, Office of Counter-Terrorism and Emergency Planning, at the U.S. State Department. He is also the former Chairman of the Department of International Studies at the National War College. Arnold has worked as a crisis management consultant for several Federal agencies, including The State Department, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Customs Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is the author of numerous books on terror. Arnold is a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean war.
I asked Arnold his opinion on torture by email.
Washington’s Blog: I’m interested in your views on whether releasing the photos of the “harsh interrogation” would create a wave of anti-American sentiment, and whether the additional risk it is alleged to create to our troops is justified?
Terry Arnold: I think the chances are pretty good that such pictures will increase the anger, but I fear that the real damage already has been done by:
(a) keeping hundreds of young men in confinement without trial;
(b) having it known by various channels that they were tortured, and
(c) reports that the Americans intend to keep many of these young people in confinement for the indefinite future because their captors are afraid to let them go.
The only thing I can add to that is the pictures are likely to reinforce the idea that if we can torture prisoners in the way we did, so can other people.
(Arnold’s statement is particularly relevant since Obama is considering indefinitely detaining the Guantanamo detainees without a real trial under the U.S. justice system).
WB: Do you agree or disagree with the following argument which I’ve previously made:
“It is true that photos of barbarian acts of torture could be used by terrorists to promote anti-American sentiments.
But only to the extent that those who ordered torture go unpunished.
If Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the others who ordered torture are allowed to go free, then that says loud and clear to the world:
“WE PROTECT TORTURERS. WE SAY ONE THING IN PUBLIC, BUT WE PROTECT AND NOD AND WINK AT THE BARBARIANS WHO HAVE DONE THIS TO BROWN-SKINNED PEOPLE.”
But if the people who ordered torture are brought to justice, then the world will look at these acts as an unfortunate chapter in America’s history that has been closed.
We will be looked on as a people who strayed, but have returned to our roots and stand up for human rights and justice.
On the other hand, failing to prosecute the criminals will weaken America’s defenses and subject us to attack for generations to come.
It is a matter of national security.”
I want to know if you agree with my gut feeling that prosecuting the folks who ordered the torture program would restore America’s image as a nation of laws and a good world citizen, and thus decrease the amount of terrorism against the U.S.
Terry Arnold: Punishing the culprits will help demonstrate the change in American attitude, but it will not clean the slate. The injuries to individuals and families that have resulted from torture will still be troublesome, and people will have to deal with them.
WB: Is it fair to say that the demonstration of the change in American attitude would reduce – even a little – the backlash against American troops?
Terry Arnold: I think it would help, but the real changes–improvements in international reactions–will be induced by how long and how well-demonstrated America’s retreat from torture actually is.
The overall uncommunicative style of present and past leadership is not helpful on this. It would be enormously helpful if Obama were not only to say he was closing Guantanamo, but then he went ahead and did it, decisively and permanently.
My ideal would be, as I have said in earlier articles, we close it and we give it back to Cuba. But even with that, if Obama fails to deal fairly with the prisoners who have been illegally held there, the public affairs benefit of closing Guantanamo will be greatly diminished. We must wait and see what decisions are made and implemented on the subject of prisoners who have not been charged. I’ve interviewed Arnold before on torture:
WB: Do you believe that torture decreases or increases the risk of terrorism?
Terry Arnold: It increases the risk. There is a school of thought that it is deterrence. But I do not believe that. If people’s grievances multiply, you will have more terrorism. For example, military attacks in Iraq increase terrorism. If you ameliorate people’s grievances, you will decrease terrorism.
WB: A high-level Special Ops interrogator said that torture by Americans of innocent Iraqis is the main reason that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the first place. Do you agree?
Terry Arnold: I agree with that. What went on at Abu Gharaib was on the street before it was in the [American] media.