Saturday, September 6, 2008

What American Forces Are Doing in This War That Palin Calls God's Work and That Obama Has Refused to End Immediately

Excerpts from the Statement of Alberto J. Mora, Navy General Counsel
Senate Committee on Armed Services
Hearing on the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody
June 17, 2008

"Mr. Chairman, our Nation’s policy decision to use so-called 'harsh' interrogation techniques during the War on Terror was a mistake of massive proportions. It damaged and continues to damage our Nation in ways that appear never to have been considered or imagined by its architects and supporters, whose policy focus seems to have been narrowly confined to the four corners of the interrogation room. This interrogation policy – which may aptly be labeled a 'policy of cruelty' – violated our founding values, our constitutional system and the fabric of our laws, our over-arching foreign policy interests, and our national security. The net effect of this policy of cruelty has been to weaken our defenses, not to strengthen them, and has been greatly contrary to our national interest.

Before turning to this damage, it may be useful to draw some of the basic legal distinctions pertinent to interrogation. The choice of the adjectives 'harsh' or 'enhanced' to describe these interrogation techniques is euphemistic and misleading. The more precise legal term is 'cruel.'

All of these factors contributed to the difficulties our nation has experienced in forging the strongest possible coalition in the War on Terror. But the damage to our national security also occurred down at the tactical or operational level. I’ll cite four examples:

First, there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And there are other senior officers who are convinced that the proximate cause of Abu Ghraib was the legal advice authorizing abusive treatment of detainees that issued from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002.

Second, allied nations reportedly hesitated on occasion to participate in combat operations if there was the possibility that, as a result, individuals captured during the operation could be abused by U.S. or other forces.

Third, allied nations have refused on occasion to train with us in joint detainee capture and handling operations because of concerns about U.S. detainee policies.

And fourth, senior NATO officers in Afghanistan have been reported to have left the room when issues of detainee treatment have been raised by U.S. officials out of fear that they may become complicit in detainee abuse."

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