A Marine writes:

I applaud you for standing up on this torture principle.

Please allow to relay what I saw in Iraq from Feb 2005-Mar 2006.  I saw torture, definitely.  The Iraqi soldiers routinely beat, burned, electrified...etc. the folks they picked.  I never saw or heard of a U.S. Marine torturing anyone.  In fact, I remember distinctly one of my lieutenants (who is now an FBI agent) coming in from a long day of "advising" the local Iraqi company.  He said, "You know what sir, I think I just saved a terrorist today.  I'm not really sure how to feel about it." 

You see, he did a no-notice walk thru inspection of one of the Iraqi's barracks and found a poor fellow hanging by his feet from the ceiling.  The Iraqi soldiers were whipping his soles and heels trying to get him to turn in his neighbors for being, or helping, insurgents.  Well, after a few minutes of this, he was giving up his whole neighborhood.  Was it true?  Who knows?

This fellow was picked up from a street with a lot of bad activity on it (IED attacks, sniper hits, intimidation assaults on locals who were seen "cooperating" with us), so it might be the case that he was an insurgent.  But now we would never know.  Or at least not until the next time, when we might catch him in the act.  So my Lt. told the IZs to cut him down and give him up, then the Lt and his Marines escorted the fellow out of there and gave him safe passage to his house. 

I should note that this Lt and these Marines had been on patrols in that same neighborhood and had been hit with IEDs.  The Lt. later received a purple heart for wounds sustained on a foot patrol attack in that area.  Talk about an ethical dilemma.  But the fact is, there was no discussion, no hesitation, they stopped the torture and got that guy out of there because it was the right thing to do. In over a year on the ground,  I never heard of or saw any Americans torturing anyone (except on the news).  I heard of and saw Iraqis torturing on several occasions.  And generally, the "intel" they got out of those sessions proved to be worthless. 

It brought to mind the training I had received on POW handling a decade before as a 2ndLt in Quantico . We were told not to torture because (1) it was wrong and (2) it didn't work.  I remember our instructors noting that even the Soviets didn't torture for information. because it didn't yield reliable information.  The Soviets tortured for retribution, to make an example, maybe just for kicks, but not for information.  That contention was borne out for me on the streets of Fallujah. 

Torture doesn't work.  In fact, in a counterinsurgency it works against you because it turns the locals against you.  That is why the Marines took that guy back to his house.  Because they knew we were trying to win that neighborhood's trust, and torturing one of their own was not the way to do it, even if he was working with the Muj.  Kill him in open battle, sure, they would understand that, but not torture.  It backfires on you everytime.  Every story about our hapless spook operators torturing some terror suspect makes every Marine and soldier patrolling through the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan less safe.

To tell you the absolute truth, I had many moments in Iraq when I could see the benefits of genocide, and I thought that maybe we just put the wrong people in the ovens.  I came to really, viscerally hate Iraqis.  Everytime we had a marine, soldier, or sailor hit I felt that way.  But I recognize that as just a gut reaction to the frustrations of the moment.  In the end, acting out of that kind of instinctive urge for revenge will derail an operation of the kind we are trying to bring off over there.  You have to calm down and think rationally, and that is what I hope our countrymen do.  Calm down, think about it.  This is not who we are.  Our forces overseas will be more effective if we remember that we are supposed to be the good guys. I caveat all this by reminding you that these observations are now two years old.  Let's hope the IZ troops have improved, as is being reported.

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