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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I agree with Ricks completely; and I
equate the present CIA torture apologists (and their political masters) with
the thugs in North Vietnam.