Comment of the day: CIA torturers are the moral equivalent of the North Vietnamese jailkeepers who tortured American pilots
I was intrigued by this comment, by "USAF Pilot-RET," which ran the other day in response to my post saying that if CIA officials want to practice civil disobedience, they should man up and take the consequences of civil disobedience:
During the end of the Vietnam war, I was the operational head of the USAF Resistance to Captivity program at Fairchild AFB. There we taught combat crew-members measures to resist interrogation and exploitation in captivity. Prior to my combat tour, I had previously undergone such training at Fairchild [our class swore to a man that they would never return to that base and several claimed they would not eject over North Vietnam but would rather "ride it in" -- as some pilots did, according to reports].
We exposed our students to brief, but clearly non-Geneva Conventions treatment [including sensory deprivation and approaching physical torture] that incorporated lessons learned from previous wars [especially Soviet prisons & Korea POWs], early Vietnam returnees, and the best intelligence available to us from the DOD and CIA.
All training was supervised by an O-3 or O-4 who was NOT involved in the training scenarios but rather acted as an observer to insure that: 1) the training didn't get out of hand, 2) that the training was effective, and 3) to provide records used in debriefing the students after they recovered from the rigors imposed by our training.
Three things became abundantly clear to me during that time based on: 1) my experience supervising [and formally studying the effects of our training on our students], 2) from the unclassified and classified literature that I avidly followed, and 3) from my many conversations with former USAF and Navy POWs, several of whom became my personal friends.
1. This business of guards whose job is to abuse captives takes a terrible moral toll on the guards as well as the captives. There is a rich and abundant contemporary theoretical and empirical literature to support this claim. Conditions or war exacerbate and intensify these perverse processes just as they insure that the inevitable negative consequences tarnish our nation. See Abu Ghraib and related consequences and reflect on how our programmatic torture "helped" our ongoing efforts in the Middle East.
2. The vast body of evidence clearly indicates that non-torture interrogation and internment strategies produce vastly more and better intelligence and yield positive rather than negative propaganda. View the movie "Taxi to the Dark Side" and compare the FBI interrogator with the army dolts who took the fall for their superiors. Then read a representative sample of empirical literature on successful long-term interrogation strategies. But of course that would require intellectual curiosity to replace ideology.
3. That the "V" tortured US prisoners of war, provided us with about the only lasting positive propaganda from that failed national effort. It gave us the fig-leaf to "Return with Honor" at the end of a war in which much of the non-nuclear forces of the US were soundly defeated by a third-world country.
My private view -- one I shared with savvy peers, informed superiors, and my POW friends [but not widely, nor publically with the POW community] was that the North Vietnamese did us a huge favor by torturing our guys -- my peers -- rather than treat them properly (but unexpectedly) according to the Geneva Conventions. They would have gotten far more US POW cooperation, intelligence, and great propaganda.
So I agree with Ricks completely; and I equate the present CIA torture apologists (and their political masters) with the thugs in North Vietnam.