General Petraeus: Torture is Unnecessary, Hurts Our National Security and Violates Our American Values → Washingtons Blog
General Petraeus: Torture is Unnecessary, Hurts Our National Security and Violates Our American Values - Washingtons Blog

Sunday, February 21, 2010

General Petraeus: Torture is Unnecessary, Hurts Our National Security and Violates Our American Values

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.
General Petraeus is, of course, correct.

Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 states:

"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.


  1. I alway feel uncomfortable when persons that have a stake in the aggression that has been undertaken as policy over the last ten years speaks of torture only in its pragmatic aspect, that is to say, whether or not it "works". In the order of being, torture is wrong not merely impractical. When does that message penetrate sufficiently to end discussion of this kind, ever?

    Andrei Vyshinsky

  2. First, define what you consider torture. Is it putting underwear on the heads of prisoners, like at Abu Ghraib ? Is it water boarding ? Or is it putting cigarettes out on people or using electric shock ? Maybe you believe it is any or all of these actions, but if that is the case, I suspect that you are just playing a semantics game, in order to lump "underwear on the head" as torture. (It is surely disgraceful conduct, but reasonable people would not deem it torture.)

    As for "torture doesn't work"....

    That is simply not a true statement. If you want to deal in truth, just say "torture does not always work". It is certainly true that torture works on many people. That is easily documented, and is why torture continues to be used in many countries. In fact, just the threat of torture works on quite a few.

    The truthful argument is that torture (real torture, not playing Barry Manilow records at high volume) has a proven history of being effective in getting information from most people-- if they actually posess that information to begin with. But, torture also has a significant failure rate. The reason for that is that those who engage in torture are usually on a "fishing expedition", and don't know what-- if anything-- the subject knows. And, a person who does not actually have the desired information will cause the failure rate to increase. Also, there are some very tough people in the world who can and will withstand a great deal of pain, in order to deny the torturer the information. But most people can be made to divulge what they know by use of torture. That's just fact-- It is not a defense of torture, so just settle down.

    Torture is a poor tool for military field work because it is haphazard, random, and leans more to "pot luck" than an effective interview by professionals. That is why commanders in the field want nothing to do with it-- it does not work very well under those circumstances, and it often leads to more routine abuse. More importantly, Americans do not want their soldiers, who are their fellow citizens and neighbors, to be participating in torture. It is very un-American. We really are better than that.

    You will not win this argument by using the same tactics as the "Global Warming" crowd, who declared the science settled and the debate over. Now, their entire "movement" is crumbling and supporters are heading for the hills.

    Win the torture debate by clearly defining what you mean by "torture", and then making the honest case that the failure rate is too high for cruelty. But let's stop pretending that making somebody get naked or wear undergarmets on their head is torture. It's stupid, and it demeans us more than the victim, but it is not torture.

  3. Any mealy-mouthed moral moron bemoaning torture with the words of an American general, is clearly delusional, a cretin among those he assumes to be cretins, if he cannot ferret the embarrasssment of the foolishness of his posture that over-looks the very fact that the business the m---------ing general is in -is far worse than any torture, -John (I killed men, women and children by dropping bombs on them from 10,000 feet - and then later cried about being mistreated by my North Vietnamese captors who didn't kill me) McCain. Wah! Wah! Wah ! Wah!!!

    These condescending from-the-hip humanitarians who preach this sort of oral-hole ba-ba-ba-rup-blat -are all -holier than thou-.

    Kick them in the ass, -hard!

    Their intellectual scent stinks to high-holy-hell.

  4. It is Petraeus, and not Patraeus.

  5. RedTeam members defended torture and the total police state when their boy was in charge. Now that the BlueTeam is in the captain's chair they seem to be having a change of heart.

  6. His name is Petraeus and not Patraeus.

  7. How convenient. Spoken like a true politician, just rolling with the majority and skirting any real responsibility.

    With our neurotic culture, we'll be watching it on the History and Military channels in another decade, in 3D.

    Hell our grandkids will have torture and denial games for the Xbox in another 2-3 years.

  8. Maybe, if you were in the torture chair, you would be singing a different tune.

    Its easy to say we should torture everyone, but what happens when you get tortured, knowing damn well, you don't have any information the captors want.

    what than?

    We can't run around doing shit like that to people because in ten twenty years, they'll be doing it to use, using our actions as justification..

    put the shoe on your foot before you open your mouth


→ Thank you for contributing to the conversation by commenting. We try to read all of the comments (but don't always have the time).

→ If you write a long comment, please use paragraph breaks. Otherwise, no one will read it. Many people still won't read it, so shorter is usually better (but it's your choice).

→ The following types of comments will be deleted if we happen to see them:

-- Comments that criticize any class of people as a whole, especially when based on an attribute they don't have control over

-- Comments that explicitly call for violence

→ Because we do not read all of the comments, I am not responsible for any unlawful or distasteful comments.