Burkle Fellow Matthew Alexander discusses GOP support of torture as an interrogation technique on MSNBC's PoliticsNation
Former Military Interrogator Matthew Alexander: Contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination have indicated that they would use torture for interrogation, but that technique is ineffective and even counterproductive.
President Barack Obama has stated that "waterboarding is torture" and contrary to American ideals. But contenders for the 2012 Republication presidential nomination, including Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, have indicated that they will revive the harsh interrogation techniques of the Bush era. They cite the effectiveness of torture in obtaining valuable information. Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator in Iraq, discusses this topic with Al Sharpton on MSNBC's PoliticsNation. "In fact, the evidence against waterboarding is very simply put in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 plot, who was waterboarded 183 times, and then lied to his interrogators," Alexander says. "That's just one example of the many in which torture did not work, and it instead actually slowed down our ability to conduct operations."
AL SHARPTON: Joining me now is Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator who conducted or supervised more than 1,300 interrogations. He also is the author of Kill or Capture. And Dana Milbank, columnist for The Washington Post.
Matthew, you`re an expert at interrogations. Are Republicans right? Is waterboarding effective to save American lives?
MATTHEW ALEXANDER: It`s absolutely not effective. In fact, the evidence against waterboarding is very simply put in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 plot, who was waterboarded 183 times, and then lied to his interrogators and told them that Osama bin Laden`s courier had retired, when, in fact, he had not and ended up being the key to finding Osama bin Laden. That`s just one example of the many in which torture did not work, and it instead actually slowed down our ability to conduct operations.
SHARPTON: Now, wait a minute. Say that again slowly, because I want people to get this. He was tortured. He was waterboarded. And he gave wrong information?
ALEXANDER: That`s correct. He was waterboarded 183 times, and he lied to his interrogators. And he said that Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti, the courier for Bin Laden, was retired, when, in fact, he wasn`t retired. And our best chance to find Osama bin Laden at that time, as early as 2003,was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who refused to cooperate and continued to lie to his interrogators because he had been tortured.
SHARPTON: Now, Dana, when you look at the fact that even Senator John McCain said that he doesn`t agree with waterboarding, and, in fact, he made this statement about his fellow Republicans, saying - they support it - saying he was "very disappointed by statements at the South Carolina GOP debate supporting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture."
This is John McCain, their last standard-bearer.
DANA MILBANK: Yes. I mean, watching that debate, I got the sense that they weren`t so much debating to be the Republican presidential nominee, but sort of auditioning to be the next grand inquisitor. It goes even beyond where the Bush administration was.
President Bush would talk with some reluctance to use whatever techniques are necessary to elicit the information he needs. This went well beyond that. It was almost lustful about the benefits of waterboarding. And I think that you`re seeing a Republican Party right now that has gone significantly beyond where Bush and Cheney were.
SHARPTON: Now, maybe they are trying, Mr. Alexander, to pander to some extreme crowd because they have an uphill battle to put either of their - or any of their credentials - against this president. Look at this full screen of President Obama`s foreign policy achievements.
May: successful raid on Osama bin Laden.
September: the death of Anwar al-Awlaki.
October: Libyan rebels kill Gadhafi, announcement of Iraq withdrawal.
I mean, when you have these kinds of things that the president, who they said would be weak on foreign policy, and weak in this area, how do you run against them? I guess by trying to go to an extreme and act as though something that he doesn`t believe in could work when all the evidence that you`ve just given some concrete examples are to the contrary.
ALEXANDER: That`s correct, Al. I believe that these candidates that are pro-torture, who are for bringing back waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, are simply trying to make political points.
I mean, let`s remember that the convention against torture was signed and pushed through Congress by President Ronald Reagan, another Republican. The stance against torture was in this country, and to make it U.S. law by having it ratified by Congress was initially a Republican-passed initiative.
And so, you know, these candidates are really just trying to score points with Republican voters. But let`s also commend Representative (Ron) Paul and Mr. Jon Huntsman for standing up and saying no, that this isn`t what America is about, and that torture is inconsistent with American values. And plus, interrogators have been saying all along we don`t need it.
SHARPTON: No, I think you`re right to point out that two of them did say that.
Published: Monday, November 21, 2011