Monthly Archives: March 2015

Architect on torture

For Mitchell I have much sympathy — senior leaders came to this veteran Special Forces operator and said he was the only man for the job, then offered him a fortune to make an ill-conceived program a reality.

The hard truth is, if I had been asked to torture, I may have done it myself. A soldier who fights for his country is willing to sacrifice himself, and this can sometimes mean his values, when his superiors tell him it is necessary. We are conditioned to follow and to fight, to “man up” in Mitchell’s phrasing.

But a systematic program of abuse blessed off on and defended at the highest levels — where KSM is waterboarded again and again, and “rectally fed” — what is this? This has no place in information gathering or manliness. It’s dishonest to say it was not gratuitous.

I have no doubt that politics have poisoned the debate here and like Mitchell, both parties have sickened me, as a citizen, as a soldier, on various occasions with their cowardice. But it is a mistake to say the disagreements show ISIS that we are divided and therefore weak; it shows them that we are divided on torturing and abusing prisoners, a tactic ISIS doesn’t have qualms about. It shows them that we are a democracy that respects human rights, and that many of us believe that in order to tear apart and defeat ISIS one thing we must do is offer, unequivocally, an ethical, alternative view on how to treat prisoners.

I thank God my superiors never asked me to go down the dark road with detainees. Like others in my field, at the beginning I was eager to walk the line, especially when dealing with someone who had harmed civilians and children. Were it not for the wisdom of the warrant officers who set the high standards in the units in which I served — who enforced the law — I might have ended up next to Mitchell on Fox News, bending my words in service of a short-sighted and immoral methodology. I have all sympathy for those who were trained to do the right thing and then ordered to do otherwise.

— Marcus

European Jihadists don’t fit the mold

What attracts well-educated, wealthy young people to nihilistic death cults like ISIS?

“Apocalyptic movements under a charismatic leader have always appealed to people who suffer from social alienation or who are seeking some new source of meaning.”

Regardless of class or education some individuals find they don’t fit well in the culture into which they were born. The social alienation that results is painful. Therefore a system (a radical religion, cult, military force or what have you) that offers a chance to reinvent identity in a well-defined role with social value becomes an attractive option. I wonder if would-be ISIS adherents could just as easily become good soldiers? Militaries in the West have historically been institutions that transform aggressive, troubled youths into disciplined, productive members of society.



Al Qaeda agent’s view on Islamic extremism

A former religious leader in Al Qaeda opens up on his experience with the psychopathy of militant extremism: “The prophet Mohammed stated that there will come a time when there will be preachers at the gates of hell.” He also describes the background narratives of individuals who fall under the spell of jihad, and his views on abuse: “You have a duty of care — at least in your mind — that the people you are helping are abiding by basic rules of morality in war and conflict.” One wonders how many potential agents like Aimen Dean chose to stay in Al Qaeda because of our torture policies, prolonging a fight that continues to this day.