Waterboarders are us

My friend Mike Otterman is the author of the fine book, American Torture, detailing successive US administrations’ role in the use and development of torture against perceived “enemies.” Over the last month he’s been travelling around America talking to a variety of audiences about the direction Washington has taken the country since 9/11. Torture is now the dirty, little secret of the Bush administration, largely defended by the Right.

Mike was interviewed by a leading PBS program earlier in the week, Tavis Smiley, and here he discusses how torture is a proven failure in terms of gaining intelligence:

Well, torture doesn’t work. It’s actually quite counterproductive. Look, I’m not going to say torture has never worked in an extreme case, because there are, maybe, exceptions to the rule. But when you look at it as a whole, any gains from torture are completely overwhelmed by the negatives. Say in the case – well, the U.S. experience with torture, quite recently.

Look at Abu Ghraib. There was a poll taken by the Coalition Provisional Authority about one month before the Abu Ghraib images leaked, and that was April, 2004. The poll showed that about 63 percent of Iraqis supported the U.S. mission in Iraq. One month after, the poll was taken again, after these images were splashed around the world, across computer screens everywhere.

That number dropped from 63 percent down to nine percent. So that shows the wider effects of the use of torture. It turns people against you. And the more immediate torture situation, well, it’s quite simple – under torture, under severe pain, people are willing to say anything to stop the sensation of the pain. And again, there are real-world examples to back that up.

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