As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stories Of The Tortured

Just a news flash for the 10 people who still think we don't torture, or that the program wasn't widespread policy across all of our detention centers: we do.

(CNN) -- As one of the right-hand men to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef was one of the first Taliban leaders arrested when the United States began military operations in Afghanistan.

As a detainee, he was held both at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- spending more than three years in Guantanamo before he was released in 2006.

Now free, Zaeef -- who claims he is no longer a Taliban member -- alleges the military engaged in abusive treatment both at Bagram and Guantanamo. He says he is still bitter about his time there. Closing Guantanamo Bay, he told CNN, is only part of the justice those detained there deserve.

"It was a bad stain on American history," he said. "If they are closing Guantanamo for justice, they have to bring the people who are torturing people, who abuse people, to justice."

The military has classified those like Zaeef as "enemy combatants," although the Justice Department in March said it would dispose of that classification. The U.S. military in Afghanistan said it was not authorized to comment on Zaeef's or any other individual case.

"I didn't see a worse situation in my life than Bagram," recalled Zaeef. "They were beating me, they put me in the snow, in the cold, until I was unconscious."

Zaaef didn't "return to jihad," as the New York Times put it, but he certainly expressed how those beaten and tortured in custody would come out of that seeking revenge, even if they had no Islamist tendencies beforehand. Hard to say that these people "returned" to the fight. This is what former elite interrogator "Matthew Alexander" (a pseudonym) means when he says that torture cost us thousands of American lives and created far more terrorist attacks than it stopped.

"At the prison where I conducted interrogations," responded Alexander, "we heard day in and day out, foreign fighters who had been captured state that the number one reason that they had come to fight in Iraq was because of torture and abuse, what had happened at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib."

Read the story, too, of Lakhdar Boumediene, picked up off the street and falsely accused of terrorism, held at Guantanamo Bay and questioned about events about which he didn't know anything, stuck with a feeding tube and force-fed through a nostril for TWO YEARS, and finally released in Paris when the government had to admit they had no proof. He's a strong man that just wants his quiet life back.

This is why even David Petraeus understands the counter-productive nature of torture. It destroys our ideals and debases our values. It creates a recruiting tool for terrorists and leaves our own troops open to attack and abuse. As a practical matter as well as a matter of law, it makes no sense.

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