Pseudonymous Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander published an important item in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting what a disgrace the Bush administration’s embrace of torture has been. I think this section bears emphasis:
Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there’s the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.
Here’s former FBI Special Agent Jack Cloonan — who also had an op-ed yesterday calling for closing Guantanamo Bay — explaining why torture is bad policy.
CLOONAN: If you want to recruit young jihadis, if you want elevate [them] to mythical status, torture them. Admit that you torture them. Because when they’re ultimately convicted, or whatever their ultimate fate is, there will be poems, songs, and their images are going to be emblazoned all over that world.[…]
Because we haven’t been attacked in the United States since 9/11, we think [torture has] been a successful technique that we’ve used. Let me tell you what Al Qaeda says about that: “We will get revenge against you. It may take a generation, but we will get it.” The worst has not been visited upon us yet.
For a lot of people, support for indefinite detention and torture is a quick and easy way to signal one’s “seriousness” about national security, as if the true belief in American values required a willingness to cast those values aside. Jonah Goldberg’s enthusiasm for the practice notwithstanding, we have no evidence that torture has stopped terrorist attacks on Americans (As Cloonan notes, the “ticking time-bomb” scenario is a “red herring. It doesn’t happen.”) We do, however, have a whole lot of evidence that torture has caused terrorist attacks on Americans.