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Why Torture Is a Complete Failure

Former war crimes prosecutor: Legally, morally, and practically, ‘enhanced interrogation’ does not work.
Why Torture Is a Complete Failure
Image: US Army / Flickr
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The United States had not held war crimes cases since the end of World War II. During that time, Sherwood F. Moran—a missionary to Japan and a US Marine during the war—was the most effective interrogator of Japanese POWs. His secret? Treat them humanely, or as he put it, “human being to human being.”

A legend among military interpreters, Major Moran knew Japanese culture intimately and spoke fluent Japanese, but decent treatment was his best contribution to America’s war effort against a fanatical and implacable foe. This humanity resulted from his Christian faith. Major Moran knew that all were created in God’s image.

America desperately needs more Sherwood Morans conducting effective interrogations in our war against terror. The U.S. Senate’s report on torture, released last week, brought disheartening details from recent cases to public attention, including the abuse of Abu Zubaydah by rookie contract interrogators.

These contractors failed to get actionable intelligence, and their techniques prevented the U.S. from moving forward with prosecution. They showed that abusive interrogations do not work and do not thwart future plots. (The tragedy of the Zubaydah case is compounded by the fact that the original FBI interrogators treated him humanely and were getting actionable intelligence—including the huge tip that “Muktar” was a code name for alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheik Mohammed.)

One highlight from my 30 years in the US Navy JAG Corps was working as a war crimes prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions in Washington DC and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Our historic mission was to bring justice to detainees who violated the laws of war and were ...

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