Vicious cycle: US torture provokes more terrorism

In the wake of all the cheering about Bin Laden’s death widespread criticism has surfaced over why the Al-Qaeda leader was not taken alive. And it is not the first time US methods in its War on Terror have come under scrutiny.

­It looks like putting a pretty face on years of torture and abuse of law has become customary in America. And US officials are talking about the efficiency of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – as they call them – in locating Bin Laden.

“We obtained that information through water-boarding, so for those who say that water-boarding does not work and ask us to stop and never use that again, we got vital information which directly led us to Bin Laden,” said Peter King, Chairman of Homeland Security Committee.

However, no tangible proof has been presented as to how torture helped obtain valuable intelligence on Bin Laden.

Although a detainee named Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was reported to have provided information on a courier that led to Bin Laden’s capture, intelligence sources say he repeatedly misled interrogators about the courier’s identity, and stalled the quest for years. He was water-boarded 183 times.

“What we’re seeing is that water-boarding and enhanced interrogation techniques – just like professional interrogators – have been the same for years. And they always result in either limited information, false information or no information. I believe these techniques slowed us down on the road towards Osama Bin Laden and numerous other members of Al-Qaeda. And I’m convinced we would have found him a lot earlier have we not resorted to torture and abuse,” stated Mathhew Alexander, a former senior US interrogator in Iraq.

Attempts to justify torture seem outrageous to those who have been unjustly subjected to inhumane treatment at US prisons overseas.

Murat Kurnaz was captured in Pakistan in 2001. He was working for an NGO that helped young people there to quit drugs and adopt a healthier lifestyle. He was sent to Guantanamo and tortured – for five years.

“They wanted me to sign papers where I would agree that I’m a member of Al-Qaeda. Of course I refused to sign it, and that’s why I got tortured. Every time I refused they kept doing it. They tortured me until I passed out. Two guards would hold me and stick my head into water, and at the same time they would hit me in the stomach. They also tried to make me sign those papers by something like electroshocks,” recollected Murat Kurnaz.

Never charged with any crimes, Murat is now back home in Germany.

The vast majority of the hundreds of individuals who have been held at Guantanamo since 2002, just like Murat, are said to be of no intelligence value whatsoever.   

Some of them were children, when they were captured, like Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, who was just 15 when he was taken into US custody.  He said because he was tortured, he was ready to say anything the torturers wanted to hear to stop the pain.

The international community has widely condemned the unlawful practices at the US prison. Amnesty International called it “the GULAG of our times.”

Matthew Alexander has carried out more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and helped track down a number of terrorists.

He says torture that was used by the US authorities in Guantanamo and other prisons overseas, like the infamous Abu Ghraib in Iraq, contributed to more terror.

“When I was in Iraq, I oversaw the interrogations of foreign fighters, and the majority of those foreign fighters said again and again the reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse of detainees at both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay,” Alexander maintains. “And this is not my opinion – this statistics are tracked and briefed to every interrogator who arrives there that torture and abuse was Al-Qaeda’s number one recruiting tool. And this does not make America safer. What it did – it caused deaths of hundreds or thousands of American soldiers.”

Recently, amid America’s celebrations over Bin Laden’s death, when asked about torture, Leon Panetta, the CIA director said, “Whether we would have gotten the same information through other approaches I think it’s always going to be an open question.”

Just a few years ago, when Barack Obama was running for president on promises to shut down Guantanamo and stop the torture, it was presented as a done deal. But now with Bin Laden’s death, there is room for representation that the ends justify the means. The means which, as many experts say, have not only failed to make Americans safer, but have motivated more terrorists.

The CIA and many top-ranking American politicians insist that without torture they wouldn't have got Osama Bin Laden. However, Sara Flounders from the anti-war group the 'International Action Centre' considers torture unacceptable and illegal under international law.

“This idea that torture is going to provide any information – is really using terror. And that is really what the war on terrorism is all about – terrorizing whole parts of the population. And we should also keep in mind it is not just torture of individuals. There have been more than a thousand assassinations by drone attacks, where there is no question of even who is examined, what information they have – they are assumed guilty and eliminated. So, this is really international lawlessness,” says Flounders.

­Danielle Belton, the politics and pop culture blogger known as 'the Black Snob', believes the arguments that the American justice system is not tough enough to try international terrorists make absolutely no sense.

“Whenever the debate over trials would come up it becomes very ugly: whether we would have military tribunals or whether we will try them in the United States,” she said. “We have all these ridiculous arguments about how ‘oh, if we try them on our soil, it’s going to attract more terrorist attacks to us.’ Why, having Guantanomo open attracts terrorist attacks. By virtue of fighting the war on terror, it’s going to invite some criticism. You are going to take the risk that people are going to want to hurt you because of it.”