General Petraeus – the military commander overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – told Meet the Press Friday that torture is counterproductive:
I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on in the 101st Airborne Division we’re just going to–look, we just said we’d decide to obey the Geneva Convention, to, to move forward with that. That has, I think, stood elements in good stead. We have worked very hard over the years, indeed, to ensure that elements like the International Committee of the Red Cross and others who see the conduct of our detainee operations and so forth approve of them. Because in the cases where that is not true, we end up paying a price for it ultimately. Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick in the Central Command area of responsibility. Beyond that, frankly, we have found that the use of the interrogation methods in the Army Field Manual that was given, the force of law by Congress, that that works.
“Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”
Indeed, all of the top interrogation experts say that torture doesn’t work in providing information which will keep us safe.
General Petraeus is also correct that we pay a heavy price for torture, and that the enemy uses it against us. In fact, top national security experts agree that torture reduces our national security.
And I agree wholeheartedly with General Petraeus that we should live our values. The father of our nation – George Washington – forbid the use of torture.
Torture has been used throughout history as a form of intimidation, to terrorize people into obedience. It is thus an authoritarian tactic, antithetical to democracy and the rule of law.
Finally, the type of torture used by the U.S. in the last 10 years is of a special type of torture created by Communists for the explicit purpose of extracting false confessions (see this, this, this, this and this). That’s about as un-American as you can get.