Just ask an expert.
For much of his Army career David Irvine preached a kinder, gentler interrogation style: Legal under international military law, effective against the most stubborn enemy, and – above all – moral.
Satisfied that his instruction to would-be interrogators was consistent with Army-wide tactics, the retired brigadier general was crushed, last year, when he learned his nation’s flag had flown over prisons where U.S. troops abused suspected enemy fighters.
And the horror of it all, the Salt Lake City resident says, is that none of it ever needed to happen.
“What has gone on over the past few years is completely off the book,” he said.
That book, the Army Field Manual for Intelligence Interrogations, directs soldiers to use its principles and techniques within the constraints of the Hague and Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice – noting repeatedly that “the use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor condoned by the U.S. Government.”
Irvine doesn’t buy Bennett’s “anomaly” argument – or the contention the Defense Department is prepared to deal with abuses.
“The Army explanation that these acts are being ginned up by a half dozen low-ranking reserve soldiers just doesn’t ring true,” he said, noting that the photographs of abuses in Abu Ghraib have been followed by descriptions of abuses in other prisons – implicating many dozens of other soldiers and making the purported ignorance of senior officers implausible.
“It is obvious that there has been a complete breakdown of command discipline and a complete departure for the Army’s policy on treating prisoners of war,” he said.
Irvine disregards claims of those who say tougher techniques are necessary to extract information from religious zealots, noting that Israel, which “got very good at torture” in its struggle against its Arabic enemies, has banned the practice. The former chief interrogator for Israel’s General Security Services, Michael Koubi, has said the most important skill for an interrogator is to know the prisoner’s language – something the U.S. military has struggled with.
“We’ve lowered the bar ourselves – if X-Y-Z is OK for us to do, it’s OK for the same treatment to be meted out to our people if they’re captured,” he said. “It’s not rocket science; it’s the Golden Rule.”