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We deserve truth about torture

Last modified: 5/11/2012 12:00:00 AM
As Dr. Seuss's esteemed socio-political activist and commentator, the Lorax, once observed, 'A tree falls in whichever direction it is leaning. Be careful of which way you lean.' Since 9/11 many Americans have, for the first time in our nation's history, been leaning in favor of so-called 'enhanced interrogations,' the Orwellian euphemism for torture. Indeed, during the Bush administration, it was established U.S. policy.

More recently, with the exception of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, all the original GOP candidates said they supported enhanced interrogations including waterboarding. Mitt Romney has said he doesn't support torture but so far has been vague as to whether he believes waterboarding and other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' are torture.

Let's be clear about one thing. Waterboarding is torture. The United States has prosecuted both miscreant U.S. servicemen (in the Philippine War) and Japanese soldiers in World War II for waterboarding. Most nations consider it a war crime. It has an ancient history going back to the Inquisitions. In those days, it wasn't intended to be a search for the truth. It was devised in order to make people admit untruths such as heresy, treason and witchcraft. We have turned it upside down and inside out to argue it is a legitimate and effective interrogation tool.

The problem is that it is even less effective than other interrogation methods, such as rapport building. Not only that, it has proven to be counterproductive. We would be better served by not engaging in any interrogation than trying to beat information out of detainees. It imperils us rather than protects us. This is because enhanced interrogation/torture results in false information; it emboldens the enemy; it disinclines the enemy to surrender or change allegiance (there is a reason the Germans wouldn't surrender to the Russians but did surrender to us); and it complicates coalitions. In summary, it puts Americans in greater danger, not less.

Torture is the favored interrogation technique of the pseudo-tough. We will hear much ranting and raving from advocates who will claim that we gained important intelligence from enhanced interrogation.

Not true, says Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Not true, say our military leaders including General David Petraeus, now director of the CIA. Not true, say experienced interrogators from World War II to today.

In fact, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has written an over 6,000 page report that details the use of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the real story of torture, and the American people deserve to read it. This CIA torture report has been held up in committee for more than a year, but its findings must be made public if we, as a nation, are to close this chapter on torture and move forward.

Terrorists can't defeat us on the battlefield, but each time we torture someone, it is a victory for them. We must be better than they are. As Sen. John McCain said, 'This isn't about them, it is about us.'

The terrorists aren't smart, brave or honorable. We are. This is a fight we can't afford to lose. But we must win it the way we have won all the other wars, with our honor intact.

(Rear Admiral John Hutson served as the Navy's judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000. He recently retired as president and dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law.)


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