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Interrogation Techniques and the War on Terror

4:38 PM, Mar 13, 2008 • By JAIME SNEIDER
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The other night I attended an electrifying debate by Intelligence Squared U.S. about U.S. interrogation techniques in the war on terror. Despite the recent brouhaha about John McCain allegedly backtracking, I think it's clear that the presidential candidates of both parties will dismantle many of the Bush administration's policies once in office. Yet I left the debate feeling the question of U.S. interrogation techniques will not become irrelevant in the next year.

Many of the interrogation techniques employed by the CIA and now barred by the Army field manual do not amount to what most Americans would call torture. While it's easy to understand why waterboarding is controversial, I cannot say the same about depriving detainees of sleep, being disrespectful to them in a good cop/bad cop context, and subjecting them to loud music (unless it is Hanson's "MMMBop"). These are all practices currently barred by the Army Field Manual, but which the CIA is permitted to employ against high-value terrorist detainees.

Whether or not America should allow these techniques to be used, I found it very peculiar that opponents of the resolution took for granted that we would win the hearts and minds of Muslims if only we abandoned these techniques. Polls have shown that only small minorities of several predominantly Muslim countries believe al Qaeda was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Nothing we do or have done--certainly not the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo--is responsible for these delusions. To say otherwise is naïve, and evidence actually suggests that in the last four years, there has been declining support for Bin Laden and suicide bombing among Muslim populations.

The speaker who struck me as most loopy was John Hutson, a former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, who refused to draw any nuance about the different interrogation techniques used by the CIA. He called everything torture, and even proclaimed "This is not an existential war" and that "Killing us isn't their goal." I encourage Mr. Hutson to get to know our enemy a little better by reading about al Qaeda's field manual. That should give him a better understanding of what torture really is and the nature of their goals.