Cheney’s Lies Undermined By Iraq Interrogator Matthew Alexander

15.5.09

I don’t normally cross-post other articles, but this short response to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s call to release classified memos which, he suggested, would show the success of the Bush administration’s torture program, succinctly demolishes Cheney’s claims. It’s written by Matthew Alexander, the principled interrogator in Iraq who chose to play by the rules, rather than embracing Cheney’s “Dark Side” (and later wrote an excellent book about his experiences), and was originally posted on VetVoice.

If We’re Going to Reveal More Memos …

Former VP Dick Cheney has requested the release of additional memos showing that torture and abuse saved American lives by preventing terrorist attacks. If the Obama administration decides to release these memos, then I suggest they also release statistics from Iraq showing the number of foreign fighters that were recruited because of our policy of torture and abuse. It was tracked. I know because I saw the slides and because I heard captured foreign fighters state this day in and day out. The government can also release the statistics that show that 90% of suicide bombers in Iraq were these same foreign fighters. These foreign fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers.

After these revelations, Americans can judge whether or not a policy of torture and abuse kept us safe. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to evaluate the damage that was done to past or future interrogations. As I experienced firsthand, detainees were less likely to cooperate when they viewed us as hypocrites. We can’t establish the trust that is required to convince a detainee to cooperate unless we live up to the principles that we preach.

I had one detainee in Iraq, a previous al-Qaeda fighter, who provided me with all the information he knew willingly without me having to run an interrogation approach. He told me that al-Qaeda had accused him of being a mole and tortured him before we rescued him. He then proceeded to say that the reason he was going to cooperate was because we didn’t torture him and because of that, he knew everything that he’d been told about us by al-Qaeda was wrong.

Before 9/11, the protection of American soldiers from terrorist attacks was a priority for our country. Consider our responses to the Beirut Bombing, Khobar Towers, and the USS Cole. When we talk about keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks, we need to include all Americans, especially those that serve in uniform.

Matthew Alexander spent fourteen years in the US Air Force and Air Force Reserves. An “investigator turned interrogator” who deployed to Iraq in 2006, he conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than 1,000. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in leading the team that located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed by Coalition Forces. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For more on Matthew Alexander, see these articles in Harper’s and the Washington Post.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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