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Is Torture an Option in War on Terror?

Is Torture an Option in War on Terror?

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The French experience exemplified by retired French general Paul Aussaresses runs counter to that of neighboring Italy. In the 1970s Italy faced its own ticking-bomb scenario when ultra-left Red Brigade commandos kidnapped former prime minister Aldo Moro, then head of the ruling Christian Democratic party, after killing his bodyguard. An Italian police official suggested to Gen. Carlos Alberto Della Chiesa, the man in charge of the investigation, that a detainee who appeared to have vital information be tortured. "Italy," replied Della Chiesa, who himself later was killed by the Sicilian Mafia, "can permit itself to lose Aldo Moro. What it cannot allow is the practice of torture."
The French experience exemplified by retired French general Paul Aussaresses runs counter to that of neighboring Italy. In the 1970s Italy faced its own ticking-bomb scenario when ultra-left Red Brigade commandos kidnapped former prime minister Aldo Moro, then head of the ruling Christian Democratic party, after killing his bodyguard. An Italian police official suggested to Gen. Carlos Alberto Della Chiesa, the man in charge of the investigation, that a detainee who appeared to have vital information be tortured. "Italy," replied Della Chiesa, who himself later was killed by the Sicilian Mafia, "can permit itself to lose Aldo Moro. What it cannot allow is the practice of torture."

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Published by: Martin Edwin Andersen on Dec 05, 2013
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Insight Online / May 27, 2002By Martin Edwin AndersenThe scenario, seemingly impossible before Sept. 11, now is the stuff of dark and lurid conjecture. Credibleintelligence sources say a recently detained immigrant has specific knowledge about a terrorist cell that hasobtained a suitcase nuclear bomb and plans to use it within hours. Yet the sullen man in captivity will saynothing, demanding instead to see his lawyer. The clock ticks, but time appears to stand still. How can hiscaptors - the good guys - make him talk before it is too late?The terror and mass destruction wreaked on U.S. soil have, for many Americans, changed the moralequation that is used to plumb the deepest feelings about war and how it should be conducted. Intelligence breakthroughs of the kind that would let us sleep well at night, if they exist, doubtlessly are closely held.Instead, the worried faces of Washington's war counselors suggest that the hundreds of detainees capturedhere and abroad during the last nine months have offered up very little information through traditional legalinterrogations. The terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a Senate subcommittee on May21, are sure to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, "and they will not hesitate to use them."Recently, former CIA and FBI director William Webster appeared to add fuel to a simmering debate taking place in Washington and elsewhere about how to treat terrorist suspects in a world that has become a muchmore dangerous place. Uncooperative al-Qaeda and Taliban captives, Webster said, might be given "truthdrugs," such as sodium pentothal or other short-term anesthetics, or face other tactics he said fell short of torture to penetrate Osama bin Laden's shadowy network. "We ought to look at what options are out there,"Webster declared. Interrogation techniques, he added, should "go beyond name, rank and serial number."Other experts question both the morality and the effectiveness of using "truth serum," which they say lowersa subject's inhibitions but may not necessarily make him more truthful.However, Webster's comments were not made in a vacuum. Just after the Sept. 11 attacks, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, fond of presenting himself as a civil libertarian, published an op-ed piece in theLos Angeles Times in which he argued that "if we are to have torture, it should be authorized by the law,"with authorities required to apply to judges for "torture warrants" on a case-by-case basis. "We can't justclose our eyes and pretend we live in a pure world," he said, citing a "ticking-bomb" scenario similar to theone described at the beginning of this article.In January the television program 60 Minutes reported that "while FBI official policy strongly prohibits the practice, some FBI agents are getting so frustrated [with interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects] they have begun to think about what until now had been unthinkable: torture." More recently, a guest editorialist for the generally liberal National Public Radio averred that, while torture may be necessary, it is an uglynecessity and thus should be kept out of sight. The comment echoed an injunction offered up by William F.Buckley in the generally conservative National Review earlier this year. Dershowitz is wrong, Buckleywrote, because "to attempt to describe legitimate reasons for torture breaks the spiritual back of the law.""We should not torture an al-Qaeda prisoner as a general rule. But to torture the one who knows where thehijacked, airborne Boeing 737 is headed is an exemption to the rule," Buckley observed, though it is "notone we would wish to codify. Some acts of warfare, like some intelligence, are works of art, not articles of war."Meanwhile, questions are being raised about whether the United States can share information with securityand intelligence agencies of allied nations and still not be seen as condoning the types of mental and physicalanguish frequently visited upon their terror suspects. Egypt, for example, is well-known for inflicting brutaltreatment not only on suspected terrorists, but against political dissidents as well. For his part, in recentweeks Rumsfeld has reiterated his opposition to employing brutal interrogation techniques as a means of gathering intelligence.Yet the debate persists, with the fault line frequently running along the lines of the example of someone incustody suspected of having information about an imminent chemical, biological or nuclear attack.
 
Interestingly, many of the strongest advocates of homeland security say such tactics have no place in thecounterterrorism debate."Anybody with real combat experience understands that torture is counterproductive," says F. AndyMessing, a retired major in the U.S. Special Forces and a conservative leader with the ear of the president."It is a downhill slope if you engage in it. Everyplace it has been used that I have studied - the French were big for it in Algeria - it comes back and bites you." And, it seems, keeps biting.In 2000, retired French general Paul Aussaresses, a one-time World War II resistance fighter, made worldheadlines - and created a political firestorm in France - when he admitted that he personally tortured dozensof suspected terrorists during the 1950s in an effort to crush an Algerian terrorist network. The Algerianssought independence from colonial rule by, among other means, hideous mutilations, wholesale butcheriesand a series of devastating bomb attacks. Then-Capt. Aussaresses, the region's chief intelligence officer,authorized his men to use torture and to execute detainees once their interrogations were finished. Torturingthese prisoners, he claimed, was the only way that real-time information could be gathered to act upon theinsurgents' cell structure before it was too late. In Algeria, Aussaresses worked closely with Col. Roger Trinquier, who had been responsible for resisting a similar terror campaign in Indochina with another brutal but ultimately unsuccessful effort to resist a "war of national liberation."In what became known as the "Battle for Algiers," which lasted from 1955 to 1957, Aussaresses'counterinsurgency campaign proved temporarily effective, bringing the terrorist bombings to a standstill.However, popular resistance to French rule was galvanized among an indigenous population terrorized by both sides, the issue was protracted in the countryside and the matter was settled by politics in a polarized but outraged mainland France. Eventually Charles de Gaulle made the decision to withdraw from thecolony.Meanwhile the French losses in Indochina and Algeria created severe headaches in Paris, with coup attemptsand planned political assassinations. The use of torture, wrote British historian Alistar Horne in his 1977 book, A Savage War for Peace, became "a growing cancer for France, leaving behind a poison that wouldlinger in the French system itself long after the war had ended."In the early 1960s, Lt. Col. Aussaresses served as the French liaison officer at the Infantry School at FortBenning, Ga., and was an adviser to the Counterinsurgency Department at the Special Warfare School atFort Bragg, N.C. In 1962, as the United States inched closer to a significant military commitment inVietnam, his former associate Trinquier meanwhile had written a polemical book, La Guerre Moderne,which was obtained by the Fort Bragg school and later published as Modern Warfare.According to retired U.S. Army Col. Carl Bernard, who befriended Aussaresses during that time and whoremains his friend, Trinquier's work on counterinsurgency was influential among some of the middle-ranking U.S. officers who later worked in Operation Phoenix, the controversial CIA-run effort. Billed as a program to eradicate Viet Cong infrastructure in South Vietnam, root and branch, Phoenix became in timewhat according to one field soldier who participated in it, was "in some instances, a torture and deathoperation visited upon anybody one of our local South Vietnamese allies wanted harassed or even killed.""We imitated the French army's torturing and killing of captured revolutionaries in Algiers in Vietnam,"recalled Bernard, who himself served as a senior adviser to the counterinsurgency effort in Hau Nhgia andVinh Binh provinces. "It did not work. We knew almost nothing of our so-called enemy; we knew very littlemore of our supposed allies beyond what we assumed to be common goals. And we knew far too little of our own forces and those who manned them."Even before Sept. 11, Bernard was one of those alarmed by the new U.S. Army focus on urban warfare.The frustrations that come from trying to acquire sufficient intelligence successfully to carry out urbancombat, Bernard warned, are enormous, particularly in areas of the world in which English is not spoken."My concern," he wrote to a friend in October 2000 in a letter made available to Insight, "is that our newfocus will delude us into using the same torture techniques the French used to get enough intelligence tokeep Algiers and other population centers under control. I think we must consider that now, before weconfront this situation. As the French found out, the early successes of torture producing information did not

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