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CIA Vets comment on prisoner abuse reports

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From: "John V. Whitbeck" <jvwhitbeck@awalnet.net.sa>
To: "William R.Polk" <williamrpolk@wanadoo.fr>
Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2005 12:46:13 +0100
Subject: Re: [Fwd: CIA Vets comment on prisoner abuse reports]
Dear Bill,

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

For some time, I have noticed, with the same distress that you feel,
that American commentators on various subjects seem to feel that the
only way to argue (at least to an American audience) in favor of what is
right, just and decent -- or even against what is illegal -- is to
suggest that there is some personal / national benefit to be derived
from doing what is right, just and decent -- or not doing what is
illegal. Presumably, acting justly, decently or even legally for its own
sake is for wimps, not for red-blooded American patriots.

In this context, I have read with astonishment on several occasions
statements by "statesmen" as well as pundits that the rich and
comfortable countries really should make some enhanced effort to
alleviate the abject misery in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa because,
otherwise, such misery could produce "terrorists". Like you, I "guess we
should be grateful" that someone notices this misery, but I find this
line of agument ludicrous and the felt need to make such an argument in
order to advocate doing what is right, just and decent grotesque.

Best regards,

William R.Polk wrote:

> Dear Bob,
> Thank you for sending me this pair of notes from Ray Close and Mr.
> Stolz. I am glad to read that Mr. Stolz is opposed to illegal
> detentions and torture. I have to admit, however much I value any
> support of action against them them, that I wish he had said that he
> opposed them because they are illegal and immoral rather than just
> because using them puts our fellows in danger of having the same done
> to them and because they are unlikely, at this late date, to produce
> useful information. Anyway, I guess we should be grateful for what he
> says.
> The interesting question he raises, "How did we get into this?" has an
> interesting background: of course, the Nazis tortured suspected
> terrorists during World War II and probably also occasionally
> uniformed troops; the people who first learned from the Nazis were the
> French in Algeria. What we might term "casual" torture of prisoners
> has a very long history in Algeria. It is alleged that every French
> provincial police captain had a "telephone," a device to deliver
> electric shocks, on his desk. The local tradition and the Nazi
> experience were brought together by Roger Trinquier in his book /La
> Guerre Modern/. There he argues that torture is to modern war what the
> machinegun was to trench warfare in the First World War. His book was
> translated under a CIA contract and published in English by Fred
> Praeger about 1961. I understand it was widely used by the Agency
> during the Vietnam war as a training manual for such operations (but
> certainly not restricted to them) as the Phoenix Program. The torture
> "egg" that Trinquier laid has long since hatched into a medieval
> monster. Many people simply did not want to see it until we all had
> our noses rubbed in the squalor of Abu Ghuraib etc. So, the truth is
> that we got into this mess long, long ago.
> I think our stand should not be, what in a sense is opportunistic --
> let's not do it or /they /might do it to /us /-- but rather let's not
> do it because it is wrong.
> Best, Bill
> William R. Polk
> williamrpolk@post.harvard.edu

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