Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fighting Terrorism and Changing Hearts and Minds of the Disaffected

The other day while writing about President Bush's book, "Decision Points," I tried to remember, and searched for, those who performed non-torturous interrogations and who reported on how much more effective interrogations were when methods that cause pain and suffering are not used, techniques such as water-boarding, sleep deprivation, long and painful binding, loud music, and any method that is not respectful and dignified. I had forgotten the names of those I read about back then and I didn't find what I was looking. My memory was refreshed this morning as one of the persons I was looking for was a guest on the radio; Mark Fallon, who is now Senior Vice President of The Soufan Group. Back then, he was in charge of investigating the U.S.S. Cole bombing and was later involved in many interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq and he was outspoken against the interrogation techniques Bush approved. Having his name led me to another professional interrogator that I remember; Ali Soufan, who apparently founded The Soufan Group. Back then, Soufan was a senior FBI Agent in charge of a number of Middle-East counter-terrorist investigations.

When ask by a caller if water-boarding is torture or not, Mark's response was, "it doesn't matter if one legal advisor says it is and another doesn't. What matters is that it doesn't work, and never will work. Water-boarding will never get information that can be trusted and neither will any other inhumane method. The person being interrogated will tell you something, anything, just to get you to stop." He went on to say that the primary goal when dealing with terrorist is to reengage critical thinking, because when they are able to think apart from the terrorist cell-group, they always come around to seeing that terrorism is not the right approach to solving their problems. It is "group-think that sucks them in," he said. Terrorist recruiters use group psychology and mob-power to recruit disaffected people into their cause. He gave examples of the most common things he heard from those he interrogated. Two stood out:

"I expected to be tortured... I was treated with respect and dignity." The prisoner willingly and truthfully responded to questions.

"I tried to place the bomb in a place that would cause the least damage and injury."

These, or similar expressions, he said gave him insight on changing the mind of the person he was questioning and getting them to divulge important and very useful information. His many years of experience in the Middle-East, he said, suggested to him that using brute military force on poverty stricken people and countries will not work. It only causes disaffected people to be more inclined to be drawn to group (mob) anti-American beliefs. It helps, not hinders, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He claimed, as well, that Islam-o-phobia, such as opposing the New York Mosque and burning the Koran, hurt America's cause fighting terrorism more than helping it. I already knew that.

He went on to say that Bush claimed in his book that using those extreme techniques obtained information that thwarted the attempt to bomb London's subway, The Tube. The British, however, dispute that claim, saying that the information that led to thwarting that attempt did not come from the United States. In fact, Fallon said that he knew of no information coming from using techniques that cause pain and suffering that was useful. He should know. He was on the inside.

At the end of World War II, the United States prosecuted Japanese military leaders for war crimes for using the very same interrogation methods that Bush approved and which he continues to be proud of. The Geneva Conventions of 1949, treaties to which the United States agreed to, outlaws methods that cause pain and suffering and it is specific to humanitarian treatment of prisoners. Those terms came directly from the war crime trials conducted in Germany and Japan. Under its terms, President G. W. Bush would be a war criminal, and that doesn't consider the tens of thousands of Iraqis that died because of the war.

It is also ironic that while Rudi Giuliani was stumping for President and shouting out his support for torture, in private he hired Ali Soufan as Chief Operations Officer of the International Division of Giuliani Security and Safety, LLC and that Soufan expanded the "global reach" of Giuliani's company. It is hypocrisy to defend inhumane methods in public while in private hiring someone who opposes them. I haven't heard a single Republican oppose using the inhumane interrogation methods that Bush approved. Is there anything Republicans say and do that can be believed or trusted?

The most important point that I took away from listening to Mr. Fallon was that mob thinking, group thinking, destroys our ability to think rationally. The mob lashing out against the Mosque was a perfect example. The foolish preacher in Florida who would burn the Koran was a perfect example. Both cases are examples where Republican politicians and Right-Wing pundits took advantage of irrational fear and they instigated and agitated mob and group mentality. We really need to think before we hop on a wagon, especially a hateful one. Actually, if we think at all, we would loudly speak out against these things.


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