For those looking for a concrete example of how President Obama’s speech in Cairo makes us safer, let me offer one. His quoting of the Quran was monumental in bridging the divide between Western and Muslim cultures and ensuring our cooperation against extremists.
While conducting interrogations of high-level Al Qaida leaders in Iraq, my team and I often sat down face-to-face with some of the most hardened terrorists — the men behind the waves of suicide bombings. Instead of using waterboarding, we got to know our detainees and discovered that the key to securing cooperation starts with dialogue.
Former VP Dick Cheney has requested the release of additional memos showing that torture and abuse saved American lives by preventing terrorist attacks. If the Obama Administration decides to release these memos, then I suggest they also release statistics from Iraq showing the number of foreign fighters that were recruited because of our policy of torture and abuse. It was tracked. I know because I saw the slides and because I heard captured foreign fighters state this day in and day out. The government can also release the statistics that show that 90% of suicide bombers in Iraq were these same foreign fighters. These foreign fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers.
After these revelations, Americans can judge whether or not a policy of torture and abuse kept us safe. Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to evaluate the damage that was done to past or future interrogations. As I experienced firsthand, detainees were less likely to cooperate when they viewed us as hypocrites. We can’t establish the trust that is required to convince a detainee to cooperate unless we live up to the principles that we preach.
I had one detainee in Iraq, a previous Al Qaida fighter, who provided me with all the information he knew willingly without me having to run an interrogation approach. He told me that Al Qaida had accused him of being a mole and tortured him before we rescued him. He then proceeded to say that the reason he was going to cooperate was because we didn’t torture him and because of that, he knew everything that he’d been told about us by Al Qaida was wrong.
Before 9/11, the protection of American soldiers from terrorist attacks was a priority for our country. Consider our responses to the Beirut Bombing, Khobar Towers, and the USS Cole. When we talk about keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks, we need to include all Americans, especially those that serve in uniform.