Zero Dark Thirty bombed out at the Oscars, but in the view of an Army intel officer who served in Iraq while the Abu Ghraib abuses were going on, the movie got a bum rap. But I wonder, based in part on this observation he makes (not referring to ZDT): “When people see images of torture, most empathize with the tortured rather than the torturer.” Is that how most people experienced the torture scenes in ZDT?
More interestingly perhaps, he also writes about why torture is a dumb idea, based on his field experience:
I was not alone in my frustration with Abu Ghraib. For example, Kyle Teamey, the S2X (senior human intelligence officer) for 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Ramadi at the time, said: “The folks at Abu Ghraib not only failed to provide any intel of value, they turned the entire Sunni population against us. Meanwhile, we were getting actionable intel by giving detainees Skittles and a cup of coffee.”
Despite our nation’s and military’s gross failures at Abu Ghraib and several other detention facilities, most interrogators at Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan did not choose to torture. Why is this the case? One reason is that many shared the idealism expressed by Major Hoepner, which holds that torture is just something that Americans should not do.
But we should not dismiss professional competence as a reason, either. Those interrogators who had done their professional reading were less likely to engage in torture. In a future guest column, “Top 10 Books on U.S. Interrogation,” I will provide a list of some of these books. Interrogators had also learned doctrine and conventional wisdom at the military intelligence schoolhouse that taught that torture is an ineffective intelligence tool. This conventional wisdom included the proverb, “The longest list of lies in the world is that given by the tortured.” Many interrogators had taken doctrine and such conventional wisdom to heart, before they deployed.
We’ll check back in when that top-10 list appears.