Michael's Dispatches

TORTURE: Some Thoughts



04 March 2009
On 24 February 2009, President Barack Obama said during his speech: “The United States of America Does Not Torture.”
The President’s words were cast LIVE, around the globe, and I was literally on the other side of the world, a dozen time zones away watching it on CNN.  I made a small entry on the website with a few thoughts, unleashing a torrent of criticism, which was expected; I don’t write to please, but in an attempt to deliver truth about the war.

Anytime I deliver bad news, such as back in 2006 that we were losing the war in Afghanistan while nearly everyone “knew” we were winning, there resulted an avalanche of criticism and insults, along with a decline in readership and support.  But that’s the way it goes.  If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear.  Yet to win the war, tell the truth.

Today in 2009, we are shipping another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan because we are still losing, and in fact our casualties this year will likely be double what they were last year.  But there certainly were a lot of journalists and bloggers out there during 2006 who were making folks feel good about Afghanistan.  Those were often the same people who quibbled over the definition of “civil war” in Iraq, even while Iraq was falling apart in 2006.  Many people were politically charged to avoid the term “civil war,” and at least partly as a consequence we nearly lost the Iraq war.  Today they quibble over the definition of the word “torture,” and probably wonder what in the world happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Judging by public commentary and private communications, many people now assume I am a fan of President Obama because I support his anti-torture stand.  Yet in fact, during probably dozens of radio interviews last year, I made clear to millions of Americans that I was hoping that Senator McCain would take the Oval Office.  McCain demonstrated better understanding of the wars.

Other folks said they have never seen me talk or write about torture, though I have probably done so on dozens of occasions, again to millions of Americans, long before the elections, and probably before I ever knew the name “Obama.”

Had President George Bush, or Secretary Rumsfeld said, “The United States of America Does Not Torture,” bets are on that those same people who reflexively attacked when Obama took an anti-torture stand, would have cheered and agreed had Bush or Rumsfeld delivered the same message.  Under Obama they seem to see anti-torture as too soft, though under Bush they might have viewed the same position with great national pride.  An unequivocal stand against torture might have been viewed as undeniable evidence of moral rectitude and great internal strength.  It is fair to ask, Why, if we did not torture prisoners during the first part of the war (which is just getting started), did we not come out and state, “The United States of America Does Not Torture”?

To be sure, I believe there is one circumstance when the United States should reserve the right to torture, which will be explained later.

While Bush was President, millions of people around the world wanted us to lose the Iraq war, apparently because they hated George Bush.  It was also obvious to me, during periods between war stints while traveling inside the United States, Europe and Asia, that many people relished the idea of so many Americans being killed in Iraq, and the idea that Iraqis were dying, because they hated George Bush.  Most of the American “anti-war” people were not “anti-war” at all.  If they were truly anti-war, they would be protesting the deployment of 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.  They were anti-George Bush.  And today we have a similar species of thought, only it’s anti-Obama from some of the very people who previously complained about the anti-Bush reflex.

When it comes to Iraq, AfPak and torture, truth beyond politics is incredibly rare.  In fact, last year when I started calling the AfPak war the “AfPak” war, there was a volume of flak for that, yet today the administration has adopted the same term.  The fact is, there is no “Afghanistan” war per se.  Again, politics eclipses reality.  Rock, paper, scissors, POLITICS.  Politics covers rock, tosses paper out the window and uses scissors to cut up anyone who stands in the way.

Back during my war reporting of 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and now 2009, one week people would accuse me of being a Bush supporter.  Next week people would say I was a Bush-hating liberal.  It seemed that most such comments were made after someone read a single dispatch, or perhaps a single sentence in a dispatch, and then decided to comment.  This week they say I am an Obama agent and that I have displayed my “true colors.”  Bets are on that it won’t be long until I write something from the battlefield that convinces people I am on the Republican payroll.  When I talked about my intention to sue Michael Moore for copyright infringement, there were probably thousands of comments on the net that my motivations were coming strictly from a rightwing political agenda, but those comments fail to account that I also stood ground on the same issue with the U.S. Army, TIME Magazine, ABC, and many others.  I still intend to file suit against Mr. Moore, and it will be the first lawsuit I have ever filed.

When I am actually in Iraq or Afghanistan, hanging by an internet thread, I rarely have an idea what the President is saying, and so have little idea if my words are supporting or undermining the office.  War is a full-time job, writing is a full-time job, and photography is a part-time job.  So that’s two full-time jobs and a part-time.  There is no time to pay attention to what the people at home are saying.

It is perhaps just a matter of time before millions of people, many of them Americans, who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama.  Schadenfreude is alive and well.

While in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, I’ll support President Obama in the same fashion that I supported President Bush: Some days in favour, some days not.

Now let’s talk about torture.

End of PART I

Original Comment on Torture.

Reader comments and thoughtful scrutiny are encouraged.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    CFH · 13 years ago
    I wasn't aware that the Bush administration ever endorsed torture, so Obama's announcement didn't strike me as anything new. Moreover, as impressive as Obama's statement might sound at first blush, a few moments' reflection reveals that it utterly begs the two central policy questions: 1) just what _is_ torture and what is not; and 2) who gets to decide?

    For perhaps the most obvious example, consider waterboarding. Bush's critics routinely claimed that this is torture, but is it? (As someone observed, can something that journalists submit themselves to voluntarily, and that our service members are subjected to in training, really be _torture_?) And who gets to decide? The media? Do we put it up for a vote?

    Or is it not determined by law and by policy? If so, then doesn't that mean that the Legislature and the Executive decide whether any given practice is or is not torture? And hasn't that always been the case? Did Congress and/or Bush ever declare waterboarding to be torture? If not, then when exactly did the Bush administration engage in torture? And what exactly is _any_ different now, under Obama?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike from the Republ · 13 years ago
    I have always had the ideal in my head that if your pissing off fanatics on both sides of the aisle then you must be doing something right. Keep telling it how it is and maybe more people will understand what is really going on.
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    Charles Glenn · 13 years ago
    Michael, you are right to acknowledge the fickleness of your readers, both here and abroad. We Americans have elevated being spoiled to an art form (it will be a miracle if my generation doesn't lead this country over the edge into permanent decline - can you imagine this generation fighting WWII? Good lord ... Normandy would never have happened - it would have been casualty of political turf wars before it ever got out of the planning stages). Many of us seem to think we are entitled to our own facts, or that truth is subjective.

    Thanks for telling the truth, Michael. Please don't stop.

    -Charles Glenn
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    ChrisAlb · 13 years ago
    What kills me is everyone thinks being a Republican or Democrat is some horrible thing. Like if I was Democrat and someone else was republican, I am somehow less informed as the other, or vise versa. It is so old, they throw around terms like your just a conservative, or just a liberal. Who cares? I mean hoenstly, both sides have their good points and bad points. I for one give each new president (regardless if I voted for him) atleast a chance to do something.
    I think the problem is that there is a far right and far left, the people in the middle agree and disagree on certain points but don't get into name calling because of an issue. I agreed with Bush an some things and didn't on others. I will do the same on Obama unless he is somehow a clone of myself. He like Bush, was voted by a majority to do what the majority thinks is best. I may not agree with all of it, but why should I put others down because of it?

    You can support ANY statement by ANYONE becuase you feel it is right. You may like a single statement Obama says and hate another, just post how you feel. I did the same with Bush and will with Obama. If these people comment hate messages or say you are a liberal or conservative then the hell with them. Maybe people should just think to themselves, "I don't agree with Mike on that but to each their own".......
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Eilert · 13 years ago
    Michael & others, I do not think we need to torture; and, value any leader's statement that "we don't torture." From what I've read, the US has enough psychological tools to extract information from prisoners. Also, as a non-com or officer, I would be skeptical of the value of information from a tortured prisoner - assuming I sanctioned it in the heat of battle. The officer's risk in my opinion is too high - is the information obtained useful & will I suffer penalty for the action?

    Regarding definition: Leader's decide - and, need to defend their position. One way is the use of interrogation techniques on our forces as part of training. Seems like a good standard & very defensib
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim burke · 13 years ago
    Never had a problem with any of your writing until recently. Would rather see you focus on what our guys are doing correctly not what the politicians are doing incorrectly. You have a point on torture as to what is it and who gets to decide. If I'm the leader in the field it's "damn if you do, damned if you don't. A position we shouldn't be putting our troop in.
    Very surprised people have bailed out on you both philosophically and financially. You are engaged in capitalism (entrepreneurship) so you can either do what works or do what doesn't work. Only you suffer the consequences.
    I wish you continued sucess and will continue to be a supporter and look forward to your views.
    Jim Burke
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    ramsis · 13 years ago
    as I recall on numerous occasions president bush addimitly expressed that at no time has torture ever been an accepted policy of the united states military. to quote him exactly he said ƒ??The United States of America Does Not Torture.ƒ?
    Sound familliar? I don't think anyone disagrees with that statement wether bush, obama or mcain said it. the true argument behind all this is the definition of torture and I don't think your wise to just dismiss that as quibble. by the standards of the geneva convention (wich applies to state sponsered armies only) prisoners in our own civilian jails are not given the same rights that ligitmate prisoners of war are granted. many of the things that are described by some as torture such as sleep and temperature manipulation are standard interigation methods in our own civil police forces. if its waterboarding that obama means perhaps he should outright say waterboarding and not the general term of torture wich is yet to be clearly defined.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim,MtnViewCA,USA · 13 years ago
    Hi Michael,
    thanks for your excellent reporting.
    based on what you're saying is it fair to say that you agree with war-on-terror critics that the US uses torture? if so, would you say that it occurs routinely? I don't recall your commenting much on torture in the past, so I did not have the impression that you saw it going on. in which case...what exactly is the change in US behavior/policy?
    best regards, keep safe--Jim
  • This commment is unpublished.
    william t. · 13 years ago
    when did Bush support torture?

    begs the comparison that by not running in "the cure for AIDS 10K," that I am somehow a homophobic redneck, standing in the the way of medical research.

    this is becoming a polarizing issue, making me want to delete your emails before reading them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marjorie from North · 13 years ago
    I must admit when I read your post that set everyone on fire, I was a little taken back, but I decided to wait for more of your postings. I have followed you for the last few years and have always felt better informed about what is actually going on in Iraq and Afghanistan because of you. You are a brave man to do what you do and I salute you for it and the reasons you do what you do. Thank you for today's posting; it clears things for me. I hope it has the same effect on the others who went off the charts with their rants. How can anyone sitting at home know more about what is going on there than you do? They can't. Some more of that Monday morning quarterbacking stuff. How many would go out on a limb and go where you have been just to bring us the truth? I dare say none of the ranters would. Michael, don't be discouraged by the few; know there are many, many of us who support you and your mission. Stay safe! Marjorie, the old lady from North Carolina
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    BlueJammy · 13 years ago

    I was one of the commentators that questioned "who was paying your bills" and I appreciate that you actually have responded to the criticism. If you had not have responded I would have called it a day and found someone else to read. (I can see the tears running down your face now)

    I have been waiting to see if you would actually man-up and respond, which you did. To that I am thoroughly impressed, considering your current location. Most writers who are sitting behind a desk in their comfy offices would not even bother to respond. I look forward to your comments on torture, it appears that you have a gray area where torture is OK, and so I am very interested in reading that piece.

    I cannot agree with you more about Bush. People did hate him, and thus hated every word he said. I think a fair assessment of peopleƒ??s impressions of Bush where either you liked him or absolutely despised him, their was no middle ground.

    My impression of Obama is that he is a liar. I think it fair to say that the Democratic Party ran on an agenda that touted how much in debt we are because of wasteful Republican spending. But yet here we are 4 months into it and we have passed close to 1.4trillion dollars in spending, In addition to the cost of war. I didnƒ??t agree with everything Bush did and most likely I wonƒ??t agree with most of what Obama is going to do. I do know I never signed up to have my tax dollars be wasted on bailing out every business who cries ƒ??uncleƒ?. To me that was an enormous mistake that both administrations had and are making. Ultimately I am paying for someone elseƒ??s greed and people who were too stupid to figure out buying house worth 00K on a 50K salary was not a good idea. All indications also seem to point out that the more government gets involved the worse things seem to get.

    In the end though my expectation is that you will report on the war and give an accurate, clear, and concise assessment on what is happening on the ground. Honestly I donƒ??t care about your political affiliation as long as it does not interfere with your objectivity. Which seemed to be the case in your torture post.

    I will save future judgement until I read your second piece.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Eilert · 13 years ago
    Michael, Any leader that states, "we do not torture" has my respect. I do not recall Pres. Bush making such - instead I thought he was hedging by not condoning it while letting the enemy think it was a possibility.

    As an officer, I believe I have the same responsibility to make that statement. To me, the risk is too high - I cannot trust the results of torture of a prisoner in the heat of battle & the career/prison risk is unacceptable. In prisons, I believe the US has better psychological weapons which can be applied to obtain intelligence over time.

    As to the question of what is torture: the leader can easily make such decisions and defend them by showing what methods we use in our training exercises.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J C Gorman · 13 years ago
    If you want to know what torture is just speak to any liberal American. It is what ever the UN says it is. These internationalists really want world opinion to trump the laws of the United States. They have been trying to undermine the US system since right after WW II. The so called One Worlders take every chance to subvert the sovereignty of nations concept. It is their view they are advocating for it and Americans should be aware of it. Love it or hate it it is a reality.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Aaron Gus Goodrich U · 13 years ago
    People supported you to report the war honestly not necessarily your controversial personal feelings honestly. Let go of this and move on, report what you see and hear honestly. The damage from this has already occurred and youll not fix anything by talking about it, youll just get farther and farther away and loose more and more people. If you must talk about this make another page were people can fight about torture and abortion and a few unsolvable math problems. Look at the comments...what was the subject again? politics? Bush? Oboma? I thought it was the war ... maybe Im wrong tho and I need to look someplace else for the subject: the war.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AJ · 13 years ago
    Good job. Like it or love it, hate it or leave it, tell the truth regardless of how people feel. I've been reading your work on and off the past few years (prob since 2005) and it's always been nice to have the words and thoughts of someone embedded. Instead of listening to the general public or the "group thought" of different partisan sides in our nation during Bush's time, it was nice to have someone telling it how it is. Showing the good, the bad, and the ugly. The progress that the media wouldn't report, and the lack of progress as well (Afghanistan). Media being used very generally here.

    I'd like to see when you feel torture is a necessary act reserved for nations. I think that shows like 24 help soften people's tolerance for such things. Truth be told, the circumstances presented in the show are always issues of national security with the intel being able to save many many lives. That's Hollywood, and I don't know how or if those events would really play out in real life. Currently the show has two trains of thought going:

    Jack, the hero, tortures when necessary because he knows what's at stake.

    Most everyone else, doesn't want to torture...because of the idea that "torture is wrong" and regardless of the consequences of that mindset in dire situations, they cling to it.

    Makes for interesting TV...
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    Mad Mike · 13 years ago

    The reason I read you is because you have common sense. You keep the content concise and speak with a calm, level-headed approach. I have in the past disagreed with you, however slightly. The difference between you and others is you never insult your readers or the people you are writing about. In this issue about torture, I couldn't agree more with what you have said. Those who must revert to name calling and such could learn a valuable lesson if they would just open their eyes and minds to what is being said. It makes more sense to read the words and digest what is said before beginning to rant and scream. Hasty decisions and irrational thought have lead many into wrong and very dangerous directions. As usual, you contine to do an excellent job of explaining how things are and how things are not.
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    Swede · 13 years ago
    I've enjoyed the thoughtful comments...but can't resist some perhaps overlooked points:

    * The word Torture is inflammatory and no one seems to agree upon what the word means. A cold room... no light...uncomfortable positions... sleep deprivation.... mean speaking... water boarding? Some would say all of these are Torture... others not. Please define your terms and avoid Inflammatory rhetoric.

    * Apparently, water boarding did work. While reportedly extremely limited in use, it specifically saved the US from a further attack, which I've not seen refuted...seems even President Obama is learning the real stories about terrorism and is rethinking the subject..i.e. a year long policy review.

    * Iƒ??m not inclined to believe a US proclamation of no torture is going to be on the mind of a terrorist beset upon inflicting pain to an enemy. While it may be a feel-good gesture, I'm not sure anyone will really believe it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Maria W. · 13 years ago
    As my title states, I appreciate that in today's world of corrupt and biased media you choose to tell the truth, Michael. I agree with some of what you said, and disagreed with some. How I feel about this can be summed up in one simple sentence:

    The reason we are losing the war is because we are not prepared to do whatever it takes to win.

    Yes, this may be a callous statement. But it's also the truth, which I know you value. If our enemy played fair, I would have been 100% behind the "no torture" policy. However, our enemy does NOT play fair. Not only that, these people are notorious for taking advantage of other human beings' fairness, kindness, and decency. These are the people who use their own women and children as shields knowing we don't deliberately target them. These are the people who hide in mosques knowing we go out of our way to stay away from holy sites. These are the people who would not stop and think twice about torturing and killing, even when it comes to their own people. These are the people who don't respect our decency. On the contrary, they laugh at it, considering it a "weakness".

    How on earth are we expected to win a war against such people when we aren't even playing by their rules? This is like sending an unarmed man into a cage with a rabid pitbull and expecting him to tackle the thing bare-handed and gently neutralize it. It's never going to happen. Because the pitbull does not care about the man's intent to be gentle and fair, and won't suddenly begin playing nice just because the man is doing so. All the pitbull cares about is sinking its teeth into the man's throat, WHICHEVER IT TAKES.

    Our enemy is prepared to do whatever it takes. We should act the same. If we don't, we WILL lose. And not just the U.S., but the entire civilized world.
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    Seth · 13 years ago

    Given the flak you took I should have spoken up sooner. Here is my bottom line. I think that torture should be EXTREMELY RARE and yet possible. I think that is what you will say in your next piece. And yet I think that there is AMPLE EVIDENCE that torture was pretty common in the last 8 years. I don't think that I am wrong to say that torture happened as a matter of policy during the Bush administration. Some evidence for your readers to review and decide for themselves:








    Perhaps some of these works are set-pieces of the left...nevertheless there has to be SOME truth in them if not a LOT of truth.

    Micheal...you are SPOT ON as usual. If we do torture as a matter of policy then we are no better than our enemies. I am not a knee-jerk opponent of Bush. I believe history will commend him on many things and give him a black eye on this issue. I voted for McCain and I have been very dis-heartened by the first 0 days of the Obama presidency....but on this issue Obama is right.

    But I am also disappointed in conservatives (and I am one.). If the kind of reaction you got from this is typical then it doesn't bode well for conservatism in general or the Republican party. Because we should NEVER let party trump principle. And, torture, as a matter of policy, is wrong on principle.

    Kindest Regards and keep up the great work.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Brent · 13 years ago
    The Bush administration did say, "The United States does not torture," and I was just as much against that policy as when Obama stated it. My comments had nothing to do with political parties. They had everything to do with morality. It is the height of immorality and moral cowardice for our government to sacrifice American citizens to the moral low ground of "we don't torture." The stated American policy should be, "The United States will do whatever it takes to protect its citizens." No more than this, and no less.
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    Neil C. Reinhardt · 13 years ago
    Comparing if we are winning a war or not
    (which a FACT) to if Torture is SOME times NEEDED (an OPINION) is illogical, irratonal and as Talleyrand once told Napoleon, " --it is not only wrong, it worst than wrong, it is STUPID!

    Next, The odds of you EVER meeting someone more TRUTHFUL than I am is ZERO! And the TRUTH is, YOU ARE WRONG about Torture! Sayng torture does not work or is not somtimes needed is some pie-in th-ski, living with Alice in some make believe land of how you want them to be instead of in the REAL World of how things are.

    Neil C Reinhardt
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    Steve Tweddell · 13 years ago
    That's why I found your web stories, books , etc so compelling; you told the truth. Your stories were positive when they were positive, bleak when bleak. If I wanted the normal run of the mill 'copy' I could go to any of the networks, commentators, newspaper I had wanted to and got my 'desired version of the story rather than the facts and the truth. I'm looking for TRUTH not bull shit! You supply
    what I'm looking for! Keep it up, good, bad, ugly.

    Oh yeah, good luck, stay safe!
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    denis de Shon · 13 years ago

    I continue to support your positions. Sorry if honesty doesnt pay well.

    Keep the faith, brother.


    Maj Den
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    Tim Sumner · 13 years ago
    "Had President George Bush, or Secretary Rumsfeld said, ƒ??The United States of America Does Not Torture,ƒ? bets are on that those same people who reflexively attacked when Obama took an anti-torture stand, would have cheered and agreed had Bush or Rumsfeld delivered the same message."

    Actually, I recall the former (Bush) said it repeatedly, Obama did not (within his Executive Order) rule out ever authorizing the same aggressive interrogation techniques, and I have not attacked either over their stands.

    It remains to be seen if this Congress will put forward legislation that defines torture, sets limits for interrogations, or flatly states that our intelligence folks and troops should read them "their" rights.
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    Naomi · 13 years ago
    I don't know why it takes so many tries to post comments, but I'll try again. Michael, I support your work in telling the facts of what goes on over there. Frankly, though, how do you sift fact from fiction when it comes to the Afgani (? short form) or Iraqi people? As for what Obama said, I don't believe anything he says. He has lied and uses rhetoric rather than fact. That's how he got elected. The fake "stimulus" bill is an example. Regardless of what side each of us is on, I prefer to hear the facts of what is happening over there as well as the "facts" of whether our troops are receiving adequate supplies and support from the government in order to win the war on terror. I have two cousins who were deployed twice over there and a friend coming home right this minute from his first stinit in Afganistan. I support our troops and appreciate your laying your life on the line as well to report the facts.
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    Rock6 · 13 years ago
    Michael, you are right. I know of what you speak.

    Will torture work? The answer is usually yes, for all people have some breaking point. Most will speak long before the effects of torture become lethal. Others will not and the torture will kill them before they talk. Had a different method been used, they too would likely have eventually cracked. Do people being tortured say what they think the interrogator wants to here? Of course they do. That occurs even in cases when prisoners are not being tortured. Do interrogators understand that? If they are well trained they do; absolutely - people say what they think the interrogator wants to hear. This is why no interrogator ever uses a single statement for proof. The process of interrogation takes days to weeks. Are there times when an answer is needed immediately (the so-called ticking time bomb scenari ? Occasionaly, but it is rare. It is usually a situation considerably left of bang when prisoners are taken (often in the reconnaissance phase, where skill levels are frequently lacking). If the bomb is truly so close to going off that torture might actually be strongly considered, it usually has already taken place. The time between a bomb being placed and it actually exploding is usually quite short, otherwise the bomb is more likely to be prematurely discovered.

    If an nuclear device were ever hidden somewhere in Washington, the fingers will start to come off one digit at a time - no question. If it comes to that, the Intelligence Community has really screwed up (again). The larger question is really whether the U.S. should torture in the more mundane cases, for instance where people are taken on the battlefield, even the majority of cases at Gitmo. I concur with you Michael. Some can be gained from torture, much will be lost. It usually doesn't work as well as hoped and should be avoided. Intelligence value has a shelf life, usually pretty short. No question about that. You can't wait forever for answers to questions posed. However, there are lots of ways to get answers from even the hard core cases. Mind games work and they work well. Aggressive interrogation works well, as does exploiting all known vulnerabilities. Some might call this torture. It is not.

    St. Thomas Aquinas said one is only allowed an opinion when one is ignorant of the facts. Does torture work, yes and no. Should it be used by a nation whose founding principles are based on personal freedom? No it should not. Will it be used by this nation again? Undoubtedly, even by this President who would like to make the world believe that he will not under any circumstances. He is lying when he says he won't allow it, although it is likely to take place in some other country that thinks of torture as a standard practice. He is too political saavy and morally arrogant to ever allow the blood to show on his hands.
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    STDog · 13 years ago
    Michael, you still haven't said, when/where did we use torture in the recent past?
    Your original post said "No more torture." That implies there was torture in the recent past, even still ongoing. Yet, I've never seen that reported by you.

    Someone please point me to the past reports where Michael witnessed torture, or got credible report of it.

    While I think it's folly to tell the enemy that, when captured by us, they will not be tortured I doubt they believe that to be true. We should be telling them that they will endue horrid pain for years. We also should not be bowing to their "religious beliefs" either. They pick and choose the tenants they wish to follow any way, so why should we bow to their whims. (And who think our soldiers when captured get copies of the Bible).
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    Phillip Jones · 13 years ago
    You and Bing West are my two favorite war journalists. It is obvious that you are both pro-American and pro-U.S. Military, but when it comes to politicians and inept military leadership, you both deliver critical analysis and do so without playing partisan politics. I would encourage you to stay the course with your approach.

    Sadly, we have become a society that tries to define everyone in a political "you're-either-with-us-or-against-us" box. Emotional partisan responses affirm this mentality. Even the radio talk show hosts who have you on as a guest play this role and encourage it.
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    Aaron · 13 years ago
    Thank you for taking time out to clarify this issue. Your comments about divisive politics ring true, and I had to pause a moment to really reflect on whether or not the "america does not torture" comment struck me the way it did because of who said it... after all I did vote for McCain. The answer is "yes" but not for the reason you might think. Bear with me for a moment.

    During the Bush Administration, especially the second term, I grew increasingly frustrated with the open hatred displayed for GWB in the US press/media. Love him or hate him, he was the commander-in-chief and the most visible spokesman for our country to the world, while we were in two wars no less. I firmly support the idea of free speach and constructive dialogue, but much of what I saw was not constructive. Does making our President out to be a babbling idiot strenghten or weaken our nation? As time went on the mockery got more and more bold, and I think the vitriole served no positivie aims for the US.

    So framed that way, I took Obama's statement of "America does not torture" to mean "America does not torture anymore like it did under my predecessor." In that way, Obama is impliciitly accepting guilt to our enemies and detractors who suspected it, and he is taking the moral high ground over the Bush administration, not the terrorists. I hope I am being too cynical on this, but frankly, I doublt it based on the "blame the last guy" pattern he has followed so far. Until last week, Obama was still constantly referring to the financial crisis he "inherited," again throwing Bush under the bus. OK Obama, we get it, it's not your fault. But you won now, you can quit pointing fingers at your predecessor and talk about how you're going to FIX IT!

    Just for the record I have high hopes for our new president. Even though I did not vote for him, I think he is a good man who means to do his best, I respect his office, and refuse to root against him, as rooting for his failiure is rooting for our collective failure. We can't afford that.
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    Tommy Barrios · 13 years ago
    Okay so you say the U.S. does not torture. Well that is false because Barack Hussein Obomber is torturing me and the American public everyday he is in office! I do not see anybody crying foul about this painful experience! I also do not see him lasting the next four years for many reasons, the most obvious being the man is a fraud and not truthful, but that aside he is torturing our economy and our national security with the help of the Demoncratic terrorists in Congress!

    Rush Limbaugh says he wants Obomber to fail, so do I. I do not want any of things he wants and neither does the average American. I will not be silly enough to believe that we do not use extreme measures in order to get information on critical National Security issues. We have and will continue to do so where absolutely needed as was the case with Kahlil Sheik Mohammed! And really all they did to him was water board his terrorist nostrils and he cried like a baby I am told!

    So we do not torture, we just use extreme measures. But for some hard core really nasty types I reserve the right to keep my probes and hand crank generator at the ready;-)
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    NormD · 13 years ago
    1. Torture is being defined down. If you are against torture, but you do not define what you mean, then another guy simply says thus-and-such is torture and we are guilty of a heinous crime. I don't think loud music, sleep deprivation, good-cop-bad-cop, digging latrines, looking at dancing girls, being denied a Koran, Bible, Little Red Book, etc, etc. to be torture.

    2. Absolutest positions are always dangerous. Consider nuclear weapons. Other than WW2 (where they saved countless lives) we have never used them, but we have never said we never would use them. This is intelligent. I can imagine situations where I would consider real, pull out the toenails, torture. These include situations where guilt is clear and lots of innocent lives could be saved. To not torture in such situations is immoral. What kind of morality allows innocent people to die gruesome deaths so the potential torturer can remain morally pure? This sounds like cowardice.
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    Frank S. · 13 years ago
    I have been reading your work and have been impressed by your no nonsense approach to the issues you cover. I may not always agree with you (I don't agree 100% with anyone) but you have passed the integrity test in my book.
    What has impressed me the most is the fact that as I read your work, I do not get the feel for your political stance. Personally I do not care much for your political leanings, but it is your absolute devotion to our Military and their success and safeguard that greatly reinforces my respect for you, not to mention the fact that you don't just talk the talk, but actually walk the walk.
    Regarding the issue of torture, I also believe the US should not torture as a matter of policy, although I reserve the position that if the proof is irrefutable that a prisoner has information that can save even one American G.I. the necessary tools should be used to attempt to gain that info. Just my thought.

    I pray for your safety and that of all our troops in harm's way. Keep up the good work and thank you for your past and present service to our country.

    Frank "Semperpapa"
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    Brad Bonds · 13 years ago
    I sent you $5.00. I can't afford more. I support you. Period.
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    coastdaze · 13 years ago
    I think some got fussed up because when Obama says The U.S. does not torture, only an ignorant person would not know what he was saying. "Under my admin. the U.S. does not torture..." C'mon you know that. You think he was saying the U.S. does not torture and that includes the previous admin.? Don't think so. He was dissing the previous admin.

    Don't need to say much more about the extreme hatred of G. Bush that colored the media and world perception of the U.S. It was sad, especially our own media's display of disrespect for the Office.

    So, now Obama comes in on the promise of CHANGE and all he's basically done is SPEND MORE MONEY THAT ANYONE IN HISTORY. What's the change about that? Spending money to get out of debt does not work, never has, never will. He is the ultimate big government politician. Why is there no outcry about his spending? Because he's liberal.

    Let's wake up...enough of the "reaching across the isle" to our destruction. This admin. hates the U.S. system and is going to try and do whatever it can to destroy it, build it in their own image not caring who or what is destroyed in the process. Socialism does not work, taking the incentive away from the human spirit does not work, taking $$ from the rich to give to the poor only looked good in Robin Hood movies. There are wealthy criminals and poor criminals...let's treat them all the same and not take it out on those who have worked hard, made money and provide jobs to the rest of us in one way or another.
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    Robohobo · 13 years ago
    "...only itƒ??s anti-Obama from some of the very people who previously complained about the anti-Bush reflex..."

    Fair enough. I will give Obama the same consideration that the radical Left gave GWB when he was elected. If your memories are honest, you will know exactly how much support that is. None.

    "It is perhaps just a matter of time before millions of people, many of them Americans, who previously wanted to win the AfPak and Iraq wars, will want to see those places go sour, because they hate President Obama. Schadenfreude is alive and well."

    It sure is. See above. I do not support Obama because I do not believe he knows what he is doing. His recent actions vis-a-vis Iran and Israel show that his absolute level of not being prepared for the job. His cabinet picks of tax cheats and lobbyists show that his campaign promises of 'Change' and 'Hope' 'n stuff are just that, empty promises to win a campaign.

    I DO have faith that if Obama's large ego is kept in check and he lets Odierno and Petraus do their jobs we can win. But what is he going to do to supply the troops when Putin has essentially cut off access because he sees a rookie (Obama) making rookie mistakes? How is he going to keep the lid on the Paks? And he better or some of their nukes will find a way into this country.

    And for the record, waterboarding is not torture. Never has been. It is rough interrogation and should only be used as a last resort. You want to know what torture is? See the Clooney movie "Syriana". In that the guys is getting ready to pull out the main characters fingernails. He pulls one and says: "You want to know what torture really is? Waiting for me to pull the next one out." As he walks away.

    The US has not tortured prisoners. But remember, for all this talk of Geneva convention rights for jihadists, they are unlawful combatants (= spies). Under the conventions, they may and can face summary execution on the battlefield. You know that. So saying that they deserve better treatment is a specious argument. They are already getting better than anyone else would give them.
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    michael t. egan · 13 years ago
    i believe that the united states of america should never take any negotiating technique off the table; nuclear arms, missle shield, torture.
    in fact, if you read john mc cain's book + admiral james stockdale's book, both said quite forcefully, that when we bombed the living crap out of north viet nam, the torture eased + treament got better.
    you do not negotiate or play fair with terrorists; you torture them + kill them.
    the president of the united states of america has a constitutional obligation to defend the country at all costs; including torture.
    sorry, liberals, war ain't pretty; ask the cia station chief in beruit who was kidnapped, tortured, + disembowled alive while hanging by his wrists, + bled to death.
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    camodeerhunter · 13 years ago
    Mike, you are a true American patriot that doesn't need to give excuses for what you write. You will never be able to appease everyone but you write the truth as you see it. Do people really think that some of our American soldiers were not tortured before they died? Does this give us the right to reciprocate? I'll bet there is far fewer enemy combatants that has died in the hands of the US military than there has been in the hands of terrorist/extreamest. Think people, ALL IS FAIR IN WAR IN THE EYE OF OUR CURRENT ENEMIES.
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    Justin Swanson · 13 years ago
    I've been reading your dispatches, and forwarding them to friends and family, since at least 2006. What makes your reporting excellent is that you report what you see, you have the experience to validate your views, you don't mince words, and you will speak Truth when no one else will. In a world where people cannot see past petty, short term political victories and losses, your words strike a chord of significance. Thank you for reporting Truth; a concept that has no party affiliation.
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    Vincent Dorsett · 13 years ago
    Hi Michael, thanks for what you do. I believe there is a place for torture, but that place and time should come from Generals who have a clue of what's going on. Let politicians make speeches, most are liars and not to be believed or trusted. But in war we fight to win and destroy our enemy. If the Generals say no torture, so be it. Let the soldiers conduct the war. Everyone esle shut the hell up!!!
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    Kudzu · 13 years ago
    Mr. Yon, your political views are not what I come to read your dispatches about and need no explaining to us. I am aware, understand, and sympathetic to your support for Sen. McCain during the campaign- I felt the same way as you. There are some comments by people who think that a snippet of is the entire speech or a blur is the picture. You've proved that is never the case with your reporting from both wars when reflected against the blurbs from the mainstream media.

    My point of contention with your original dispatch is the same with Obama's for his declaration the other night. "Since when"? Why is it needed? I'll wait till your next comments on torture to comment further. The thoughtful of us know your work better than those who spout of partisan shots of ignorance. But we are still perplexed by your need to proclaim your support for his declaration. If he had finally said in a national address to the nation that we have won in Iraq or at least reached a successful conclusion for our operation I'd gladly support his comments. But I see his comments about torture and our non-practice of it as political grandstanding to make points in the "that's nice" cookie jar.
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    Frank Ch. Eigler · 13 years ago
    Mike, the objections were not so much about Obama's statement, but about your editorializing about this representing "moving to the high ground". Obama only implied criticism about his predecessor, but you stated it outright.
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    Lloyd · 13 years ago
    Of course I would reflexively agree with former President Bush and Vice-President Cheney and former Secretary Rumsfeld were they to proclaim that America does not torture.

    The reason I do not cheer when President Obama says it is because he is saying it in the false context that America used to torture and NOW, on his watch, does not torture.

    And President Obama is of a political party that falsely accused America of torture.

    So I don't cheer him when he says we don't.

    And I am tired of the argument that you agreed with we must not in the slightest do anything that lets America be unable to "take the high ground" against those who terrorize and murder civilians and brutalize and maim and murder their military prisoners.

    For one thing, our enemies will always claim Americans have lost the high ground and claim we are just like them. They will always use our past against us if they can't use our present.

    And there is one political party in America that agrees with them privately and publicly.

    And a news media in America that agrees with our enemies and that party.

    These are people who for decades have refused to accept that America helps the free world determine the 'high ground.' Without America, the words have no meaning.
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    Art F. · 13 years ago
    Politicians have a habit of using 'target' words without any specific correlation to what they may mean as opposed to what context the politician is putting them in. There apparently are several definitions of the word torture and many more regarding the experience of torture. For example, watching a Michael Moore film about anything would be torture to me, but possibly not to any Hollywood gladhander. The Army manual, which has frequently been referenced, presumably defines what is torture and what is not. I am not certain that corresponds with the Bush Administrations interpretation nor the Obama Administration. So for clarification, if only to your readers, maybe you should do a piece on the generally accepted definition of torture, examples and some explanation as to what makes it torture. I know some actions by Iraqi military may well have been considered torture as did the South Vietnamese when they threw captives out of airplanes (or so the story goes). Anyway, think about a good definition and explanation as this has apparently really created a divide. I will be interested in reading your one example of acceptable torture.
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    Matt from Hollywood · 13 years ago
    I feel that way about Venezula...watching Venezula go to pot under Chavez. I guess you want to see them fail so much their own people get sick of them. Same could be said for NK or Iran.
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    Kevlaur · 13 years ago
    IMDB for proof about torture? Are you kidding me?
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    Solo · 13 years ago
    Well Michael, I figure the subject of torture is not very black or white. It's easy when someone else is responsible and we don't have to consider the factors involved. The question I always ask myself is " Could I be the one to do it?" I quess it comes down to circumstances and passions of the moment. Yay or nay, I imagine I would question whether I did the right thing.
    I've appreciated your reporting even though at times I've wanted to disagree.Sometime the writing on the wall is just to obvious to ignore.
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    Phillip Russell · 13 years ago

    I recommend your book to everyone I meet!!!
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    LT Jones · 13 years ago
    Clearly Michael's loyalties lie with the American people, not a political party or lobbyist group. I remember reading dispatches back in 2005 that motivated me to join the Army and serve my country. After being on the ground in Afghanistan it is clear to me that Mr. Yon has what most of his readers do not: real-life, recent and relevant experience in places few dare to tread. Reporting the truth is something that Michael appears to do regardless of how well it will be received back at home; people who want to dumb his message down to politics should instead relish the dose of reality that Michael sends back to them in their safe, cozy American homes.

    LT Jones
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    Dale · 13 years ago

    Your most valuable asset that compels me to follow your writings is your genuine voice. Do I care about your opinions so much as to not care about the reports? That hasn't stopped we from watching the evening news - oh maybe that isn't a very good example. Also the likely explains why their ratings and audience are shrinking to marginal relevance. I'd only encourage you to stay on the truth as you see it and keep open the door or humility. Perception and quick attention spans are going to always be unfair to your free speech style; buck up and grow a pair. :-)

    The funny thing about warfare and strategy is that it involves real lives. Nevertheless the root of a battlefield success is preparation (forecasting, logistics, and strategy). Headlong mindless marauding hasn't been a part of our military efforts as far as I'm aware. However the nature of strategy is that it involves detachment and this is in my humble opinion the hardest aspect of warfare - the cold calculations of strategy while the same mind knows lives will be taken and given in the execution. Perhaps this is why the intra-military embattled Patton had so much loyalty ...and success; he went into battle with his men. I am reading a book called "The Soul of Battle" by VDH Victor Davis Hanson - great history read.

    Why Hitchcock? His movie making style was ground breaking, imperceptibly methodical, and was so powerful it captivated the audienceƒ??s attention to the point that his moves were successful even before they were released. The unspoken horror of the mindƒ??s imagination is strong and strong enough to alter the real decisions made by it. So is the open method of laying down your strategy in war for all to see a wise thing?

    Perhaps having an exclusive non-public ƒ??No Tortureƒ?? policy is impossible in today US military; I don't know. I do know having the knowledge of your enemy when you are a guerrilla fighter (which the tribal drug thugs, al-Qaida, & Taliban mostly are) only strengthens your only asset, turning your enemyƒ??s weakness against them. These are heady things but nevertheless critically important.

    It is unrealistic to expect you to be a philosopher of all knowing wisdom and I take your perspective for what it is, born of brave on-site firsthand experiences. Itƒ??s the same way I know that there is a difference between the ƒ??on a remoteƒ? highway sideline TV reporter being used by the TV Producer to report gridlock for the entire city on a snowy day, when in fact, the roads are clear in the area where I am about to drive. Generalities and perspective are relative to the truth being reported limited by the place it is being derived from and who is ƒ??the producerƒ??.

    This is exactly why having a broader group of reports and news agencies is supposed to help paint the balanced truth. Unfortunately these competitive derived truths go under the bus if the largess of media outlets get controlled or go the path of least resistance and report only to the appeal and faddish threshold of the audience. There isnƒ??t any true balance. I donƒ??t think Iƒ??m alone in reading your dispatches due to the impression that you are free to speak your mind and that this truthful and open reporting is sorely missing elsewhere. Please keep up the good work; now ƒ??buck up and grow a pairƒ??.

    Regards from Cincinnati - Dale
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    AO · 13 years ago
    I have always appreciated your honesty and integrity. I may not always agree with you but I can always trust you to call it like it is. Your book, Moment of Truth should be required reading. Thank you for what you do and I will continue to support you and other independent journalists like yourself.

    I would like to add to Seth's list a couple of books/movies/websites for your readers to check out for more information on this subject:

    *This is the report by the Senate Armed Services Committee on its Inquiry into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Carl Levin (D) is the Chair & John McCain is the ranking Republican

    For the "liberal" side read: The Dark Side- Jane Mayer

    For an inside account read: The Terror Presidency- Jack Goldsmith (a conservative lawyer who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel from 10/0 to 6/04)

    Taxi Ride to the Dark Side - A documentary that looks at the interrogation practices in Afghanistan, Iraq & Guantanamo Bay. Several soldiers that were prosecuted over the death of a detainee are interviewed. (they were not "bad apples" btw, they were following orders)

    I am looking forward to the rest of this discussion and especially your reporting on the AfPak War.

    Stay safe!

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