More and more, former interrogators and counterinsurgency experts are using Dick Cheney's recent ubiquity to expose his iniquity regarding the torture and abuse of detainees. Earlier this week, I wrote about Major Matthew Alexander, the former Senior Interrogator who conducted over 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised 1,000 more. Alexander relied upon conventional means of interrogation, and his efforts led to the capture and killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi. Yet Alexander also witnessed the perilous consequences of Cheney's torture policy.
In an exclusive interview with Brave New Foundation, Alexander said, "At the prison where I conducted interrogations, we heard day in and day out foreign fighters who had been captured state that the number one reason they had come to fight in Iraq was because of torture and abuse, what had happened at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib."
Today, MoveOn.org and VoteVets.org joined the growing movement to amplify the testimonies of former interrogators and reveal the repercussions of treating prisoners inhumanely. Their joint campaign features a video with Jay Bagwell, an Afghanistan veteran and counterintelligence agent, who reaffirmed Alexander's assessment of Cheney's torture policy. According to Bagwell, "Torture puts our troops in danger, torture makes our troops less safe, torture creates terrorists. It's used so widely as a propaganda tool now in Afghanistan. All too often, detainees have pamphlets on them, depicting what happened at Guantanamo."
Thanks to Alexander, Bagwell, and other former interrogators who have come forward, it's now abundantly clear that the Bush administration's highly controversial, unlawful methods of extracting information were both unsuccessful (read TIME's recent article "After Waterboarding: How to Make Terrorists Talk?") and counterproductive. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib now stand as evidence of the Bush administration's criminality and morally bankrupt behavior, and they have become recruiting tools for insurgents and terrorists to attack American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The MoveOn/VoteVets video comes in conjunction with a petition urging Congress to support Obama's decision to shut down Gitmo once and for all. Honestly, this campaign couldn't have come soon enough.
Last week, the Senate rejected Obama's call for funds to close Gitmo. And while Obama kicked off his administration by announcing plans to shutter Gitmo and release the Justice Dept's torture memos, as Jonathan Schell explains at the The Nation, Obama has since: hampered the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration's use of torture; reversed courses on the release of Pentagon photos documenting abuse; supported the continuance of the Bush administration's unconstitutional military commissions; and backed the indefinite detention of detainees.
That's why it's encouraging to see MoveOn throw their weight behind this issue right now, particularly since the video focused on a vet from Afghanistan. "The most powerful grassroots organization in the peace movement" took a lot of heat from activist Tom Hayden recently for largely failing to criticize the Obama administration's plans for military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hayden's absolutely right in that we need MoveOn to play a more active role in shaping public discourse about the long war and torture.
Rather than allow the Obama administration to buckle under right-wing pressure and fearmongering in the wake of Cheney's "Torture Tour," we have to encourage both the president and Congress to close Gitmo, restore America's reputation, and bring guilty members of the Bush administration to justice.