The Torture Question
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Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

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Dear FRONTLINE,

I am an Army veteran of Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most recently, Iraqi Freedom. My last tour of duty was as an interrogator in the Baghdad Area of Operations.

I was disturbed, yet glad, to see that the experiences of the interrogators interviewed on the program were similar to my own.

I heard accounts from detainees that they had been abused by their interrogators early in the war, and I also heard accounts from detainees that they had been mistreated by the units that had detained them. Most prevalent, however, were the accounts of torture at the hands of the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Police, usually with American liaison officers present or at least knowledgeable about what was happening. In one instance, an US Army Captain wrote a sworn statement that a detainee's injuries were self-inflicted -- these injuries included extensive bruises on the back which the detainee said were caused by being beaten with a cane. When I documented what I thought was a falsified sworn statement in my interrogation report, I was verbally reprimanded.

Like the interrogators who were interviewed, it was also my experience that approximately 95% of all detainees were most likely innocent of what they were accused of. Most of these cases came either from false statements by informants, or by overzealous infantry patrols who had just been attacked by the insurgents and who swept up everyone in the area. The unit I was assigned to, however, felt that a 1:20 guilty to innocent ratio was too low -- I was told that 60% were to be found guilty. When I refused to comply with this policy, I was removed from my job as an interrogator, even though I had more experience than the person who replaced me.

The Frontline episode was completely accurate, to my knowledge, but it only scratches the surface. The American People should be made aware of what their tax dollars are paying for in Iraq.

Michael NowackiStaff Sergeant, US Army

Michael Nowacki
Chicago, Illinois

Dear FRONTLINE,

These people have little regard for their own countrymens lives why should we of theirs. They would think nothing of torchering and american soldier. Proof being the beheading of innocent people. I say do what we have to to protect our boys. They know nothing but violence.

Bob Fred
chicago, illinois

Dear FRONTLINE,

It's very easy for alot of people of out there to remark on the treatment that these prisoners get. I am active duty navy and so is my husband. My husband was medivaced back home after his humvee was blown up in an IED blast, he almost lost his life and his children almost lost their father. Do you think these people care that he has a family, no. Do you think the families of the soldiers, marines or sailors over there should care about the "unjust" treatment these prisoners get. These people aren't soldiers or marines, they're terrorist and the don't abide by the geneva conventions when it comes to us as their prisoners, so they should not be affored any of the rights that protect the military under the conventions.

Natalie McElhinney

Dear FRONTLINE,

I thought this episode was well done but I had a problem with Frontline making the prisoners into victims. I felt there should have been more footage of soldiers dying by the hands of Iraqi insurgents, more images of September 11 and the consequences of radical Islam. A lot of these people were innocent as the show says which does make me guilty about our tactics but the show, I thought, was way to liberal in how they portrayed Iraqi prisoners..

Kevin Flesch
Chicago, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

In response to Ed Patterson's comment, "Let me remind you that our fore-fathers, whom most people hold in high esteem, including myself, did vigorously interrogate, castigate and even tar and feather Tories during the American Revolution. The difference is that the British did not have the ability to kill thousands within seconds."

Your statement is entirely accurate, however, you should realize that in terms of parity, the Americans Revolutionists would be the terrorists and the British Army would be the equivalent of the American Army in Iraq. If you look at it from this perspective, would you still hold your stance on the topic?

D Silva
Calgary, AB

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have to admit that I had not even heard about Abu Ghraib until just recently where I gained the knowledge from a seminar at my school. I am disgusted by the way Americans, of all people, have acted! I feel that people are being extremely hypocritical. Everyone I am aware of, has been taught fighting is not the answer. Now I don't know if soldiers are acting this way because of orders they've been given or if it is because they feel it's the necessary thing to do, but I do know it is horrible that soldiers were put in that situtation.

Couldn't there have been other ways of getting information?

Did anyone think this over before deciding to use torture?

Monique Taylor,Sickened Sophomore In WI

Monique Taylor
Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

Torture!? As a former US Army sergeant, I am thoroghly disgusted that anyone in our military would stoop to the methods of our enemy. If our political leaders are involved in any way, they should serve lengthy prison terms. The US is a signatory of the Geneva convention. If we do not uphold our standards, then what are we over there for? Those who torture are spitting in my face and that of every other soldier not involved in such activity. Not to mention all those who have died to protect our nation from the 20th centuries most evil dictators, who used,,,,TORTURE!

Chuck Walsh
Salem, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I consider myself well-informed and I follow the news about Iraq carefully through many sources in print and on the Web. There wasn't much in your Torture story that I hadn't known about in bits and pieces. But it is extremely hard to maintain a coherent picture of these issues, given the usually disjointed and erratic coverage in the mainstream media. You really put it all together vividly and truthfully. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Many thanks to your Frontline team.

Jeffrey Klein

Dear FRONTLINE,

It's difficult to win a guerrilla war with bullets, even against a technologically inferior opponent, because the enemy melts seemlessly into the population after an attack. The British lost the war for America's independence. America lost it's war in Vietnam. And now we're struggling in Iraq. Perhaps our best hope of getting the insurgents to lay down their arms would be to win their hearts, and the only way to do that is to convince them we have their best interest in mind. Unless the Iraqi people believe the U.S. is truly there it help them, they will probably not offer their support in quelling the insurgency. Tales of torture fuel animosity against the U.S. and enflame, rather than abate, the insurgency. We are losing the P.R. war, and that is perhaps the only one we could win.

M L Le
Lakewood, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a 20 year veteran. I retired at Fort Bragg and was a Jumpmaster in the airborne corps. I did a year in Desert Storm and was stationed all over the world. In reference to the torture question. It is a difficult question. If you believe in the Geneva Convention then torture of a combatant would be illegal. In case of the terrorist, whom would behead you in a New York minute, time is of great importance. I would like to extract whatever information I could get from them at whatever means available. Put it this way. That terrorist would most likely have killed you had they not been captured. When it comes to saving the lives of my fellow soldiers and innocent civilians you do what you must. Thanks Sargeant Airborne.

John Tarpey
Fort Collins, Co

Dear FRONTLINE,

It's easy to look at the program through a divisive liberal or conservative filter, but the program gave a solid reason for examining this issue with a negative slant. It's likely that these actions violate both American and international law. And despite and public condemnation over a year ago , there is evidence these illegal actions are ongoing.

Daniel Kline

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was an Operation Iraqi Freedom 1 veteran assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st AD. We were in Khadymia, Baghdad from 06 April 2003 to 05 April 2004. The interrogation techniques used by the soldiers in Abu Gurayb were a well known fact to most of my unit, and all of my platoon. In addition, many of the soldiers withing my platoon, including myself, frequently used these techniques behind closed doors. This was not a topic of discussion within our unit. On the contrary, we typically would not speak of it. We understood the consequences, but the chain of command insisted that information be gathered. We understood what we had to do in order to make a safer environment for our fellow soldiers. But, in retrospect, we never recieved any information of extreme importance from these techniques. Were these effective interrogations? I sincerely doubt it.

William Goolsby
Gainesville, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

In reviewing the responses to your story on torture, I know that most of your viewers and responders are from the same liberal camp as PBS. I have occasionally found PBS fair-minded but this story was intent on trying to embarrass an over-stressed military, as well as the Bush administration. Most of the people interviewed appeared to have either an axe to grind or from people trying to be politically correct.

In my opinion, we are not justified to cause death or permanent physical harm. However, we should be able to deprive them of sleep, play loud music, yell at them, and make them believe they are going to be harmed and anything just below death or permanent physical harm. It disturbs me that most of your respondents are so quick to condemn American soldiers that see their comrades dying every day at the hands of cowards that hide behind women and children and mosques. Do you think these people are going to give us useful information by just asking them nicely? ... Inevitably, some interrogators and guards go too far, but most of your allegations were far short of death or permanent physical harm.

Liberals are so blinded by hate for the Bush Administration, the military, and their utopian views that they lose all sense of reality. We are in a fight for our lives and anything short of murder or actual physical violence should be used to get information that would possibly save American or our allies' lives. Let me remind you that our fore-fathers, whom most people hold in high esteem, including myself, did vigorously interrogate, castigate and even tar and feather Tories during the American Revolution. The difference is that the British did not have the ability to kill thousands within seconds.

Ed Patterson
Greenville, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

To a non-American outsider such as myself, it became increasingly clear as the programme unfolded that the defense department in the US is out of control. Sickness is percolating down as it always does in a bureaucracy.

The revelations in the programme should make any American who plans to travel have serious second thoughts. Since their own government has flouted the Geneva Accords, such people should expect no mercy from anyone who may have a grudge, justified of not, against the US. Similarly, pity the poor grunt who has the misfortune to fall into enemy hands in the future.

President Bush has called the US the "light of Freedom" on occasion. The claim would be ludicrous if it concerned a less serious issue. In light of the revelations in the programme, it is macabre--a perfect example of the newspeak which Orwell predicted.

Tom Regan

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a regular viewer of your program, and I have always found it to be balanced in it's presentation of events. But this show was just the most one sided piece of propoganda, I've seen. ... Have any of you so called "journalists" ever interviewed former VietNam POWs or soldiers from the Bataan death march to see what "torture" really is. I don't understand you people. Why are you rooting against your own country. When are you going to wake up and realize 9/11 was an act of war. I find it hard to believe you couldn't find one person to verify that some substantial information has come as a result of these interogations. What then has lead us to capture so many of Al Queada's highest leaders?

A thoroughly shoddy, biased presentation. Thank God we didn't have programs like this during WWII or we'd all be speaking Japanese.

Raymond Forsch

Dear FRONTLINE,

Following 9/11 I think it is natural to feel some degree of blood lust and hunger for retribution. Furthermore, seeing fellow service members die in Iraq must have a similar and much stronger effect. However, the excuse that "they" are doing it to "us" is no excuse for our military and political leaders to abandon the Judeo-Christian ethic this country is in large part founded upon. Instead of asking, "what would Usama do", we should be asking, "what would Jesus (or ML King for my fellow Americans who are not Christian) do?"

The actions of the MI community (from the lowest ranking soldier up to the highest ranking Civilian official involved) are a discredit upon the uniform and more importantly upon American values and principles. It only hampers our mission of spreading freedom and democracy in the Middle East by showing that we are only a few degrees different from Saddam Hussein rather than 180 degrees different. However, I believe that this is a problem that can be fixed and most of our soldiers over in Iraq are serving honorably.

Furthermore, al-Qaeda operates on terrorist cell theory in which there are many tiers and each cell in each tier act independently and anonymously of one another. It is unlikely that unless we have a detainee from the one or two highest (the leadership tiers) tiers they have any relevant intelligence. The information age has only made it easier for terrorists to operate independently. Secondly, once a person is broken they will say what they think their tormentors want to hear. Often this means the information they are giving is a fabrication, a fairy tale. In the end, this technique does not save lives and may have the opposite effect of taking more lives by flaming the propaganda fires of our enemy.

SrA Anthony Klenke, USAF
Bourbon, MO (Currently Republic of Korea)

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posted oct. 18, 2006

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