Archive for April 5th, 2016|Daily archive page


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 5, 2016 at 12:11 am

Donald Trump has made a return to waterboarding terrorism suspects a prime issue in his campaign for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.  

And a recent Reuters/lpsos poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the use of torture can be justified to force suspected terrorists to talk.  

A growing fear by Americans of Islamic terrorism has been ignited by a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. 

Humiliating a prisoner in Iraq

In fact, however, torture, generally, and waterboarding in particular, have proven worthless at obtaining reliable information.  

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.   

Yoshia Chee, a Special Forces veteran of Vietnam, recalled his use of torture against suspected Vietcong:

“One of the favorite things was popping one of their eyeballs out with a spoon….

“If I had one of my eyeballs hanging out, I’d say I killed Kennedy.  I’d agree to anything in the whole world.  

“We would do that, and they still wouldn’t talk….You rarely got anything out of them. Just more hatred. More reason to fight back.” 

Click here: Strange Ground: An Oral History Of Americans In Vietnam, 1945-1975: Harry Maurer: 9780306808395: Amazon.com: Books 

During the George W. Bush Presidency, the CIA relied on harsh physical punishments–beatings, humiliations and waterboarding–to convince suspects to talk. These were euphemistically referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  

Upon assuming the Presidency in 2009, Barack Obama ordered an immediate halt to such methods. Since then, Republicans generally and their Presidential aspirants in particular have harshly criticized Obama’s decision.  

Like Trump, they claim that Obama has endangered American security in the name of Political Correctness. In turn, Obama has argued that the use of torture produces unreliable information and inflames Muslim hatred of America.

Meanwhile, the FBI has applied its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation. And agents found this yielded far greater results.

For one thing, most Al Qaeda members relished appearing before grand juries.

Unlike organized crime members, they were talkative–and even tried to proselytize to the jury members. They were proud of what they had done–and wanted to talk.

“This is what the FBI does,” said Mike Rolince, an FBI expert  on counter-terrorism. “Nearly 100% of the terrorists we’ve taken into custody have confessed. The CIA wasn’t trained. They don’t do interrogations.”

According to The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror (2011) jihadists had been taught to expect severe torture at tha hands of American interrogators. 

Writes Author  Garrett M. Graff:

“Often, in the FBI’s experience, their best cooperation came when detainees realized they weren’t going to get tortured, that the United States wasn’t the Great Satan. Interrogators were figuring out…that not playing into Al Qaeda’s propaganda could produce victories.”

And the FBI isn’t alone in believing that acts of simple humanity can turn even sworn enemies into allies.

No less an authority on “real-politick” than Niccolo Machiavelli reached the same conclusion more than 500 years ago.

In his small and notorious book, The Prince, he writes about the methods a ruler must use to gain power. But in his larger and lesser-known work, The Discourses, he outlines the ways that liberty can be maintained in a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

For Machiavelli, only a well-protected state can hope for peace and prosperity.  Toward that end, he wrote at length about the best ways to succeed militarily.  And in war, humanity can prevail at least as often as severity.

Consider the following example from The Discourses:

Camillus [a Roman general] was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp. 

And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”         

Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.  

This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.

It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

This truth should be kept firmly in mind whenever Right-wingers start bragging about their own patriotism and willingness to get “down and dirty” with America’s enemies.

Many–like Newt Gingrich,  Rudolph Giuliani, Rick Santorum, Eduardo “Ted” Cruz and Donald Trump–did their heroic best to avoid military service. These “chickenhawks” talk tough and are always ready to send others into battle–but keep themselves well out of harm’s way.

Such men are not merely contemptible; they are dangerous.

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