Confessions of an Army Torturer
March 3, 2007 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Confessions of an Army Torturer "...as an army interrogator, he tortured detainees for information he admits they rarely had. Since leaving Iraq he’s taken this story public, doing battle on national television against the war’s architects for giving him the orders he regrets he obeyed...
posted by Postroad (42 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting, at first I thought this might be a much more informative double, but it seems that they are different people in very similar positions.

While the subject matter is offensive, I think it's good that these kinds of stories are coming out. The American people should see what is being done in their name. It's the only way we will ever have a chance to make it stop.
posted by quin at 11:41 AM on March 3, 2007


Now do you understand why Dick Cheney is always warning people that if they question what is going on over there that they are aiding the enemy?

It is not in his best interest to have things like this come out.
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:01 PM on March 3, 2007


"You might think this is not a good defense either, but the things that I did weren’t really that horrible."

You're right, you son-of-a-bitch, I don't think that's a good defense. In fact, I think it's a lie.

I've read a couple of these things now, torturers throwing themselves a pity-party because they abused people and now they feel badly about themselves. I'm not buying it.

Karma's a bitch. Sleepless nights are the least of what they deserve.
posted by Jatayu das at 12:58 PM on March 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


The army wanted to be able to boast about the number of terrorists apprehended, and the four brothers with the striped stick, the two who ran the aid station at the potato factory, and the man with the shovel were close enough.

Keep stuff like this in mind the next time you read anything in the press about a raid that kills or captures a number of "militants," "terrorists" or "insurgents".
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:58 PM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


In my heart, America is still the country of the brave and free even if it trains professional soldiers to dehumanize, torture, sexually assault and murder enemy prisoners. Only a truly moral nation can bear the burdens that America has during the last years. It hasn't been easy and the people that we have saved might be ungrateful to us, but we have a moral obligation to help other people to freedom. Who, if not US?

9/11 NEVER FORGET.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:06 PM on March 3, 2007


The American people should see what is being done in their name. It's the only way we will ever have a chance to make it stop.

The American people have known long and well what is being done in their name. And 50+% of them voted to have it continue.

Regrets he obeyed. The "only following orders" defense expired at Nüremberg. This chump should be prosecuted, tried, and imprisoned. Enforce the rule of law and the Constitution. That's the only thing that will make it stop.
posted by three blind mice at 1:11 PM on March 3, 2007


TBM, it's not entirely clear he actually broke the law. The Administration asserts that the Geneva conventions don't apply. I disagree with that, but we need to go after the architect of the policy, not the soldiers carrying it out.
posted by Malor at 1:15 PM on March 3, 2007


Only a truly moral nation can bear the burdens that America has during the last years.

If we, I am American, were truly a moral nation, we would follow the rules that we have helped set up. It is immoral to ignore the Geneva Conventions at our convenience and invent new rules/ categories for war and prisoners. It works in a Tom Clancy book to grab a guy off the streets of Italy and fly him to some secret prison, but in the real world, it is doesn't. It makes us criminals. We have to take a high moral stance or we lose all of our credibility, as we have.
posted by lee at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2007


I've read a couple of these things now, torturers throwing themselves a pity-party because they abused people and now they feel badly about themselves. I'm not buying it.

Do you feel the same way about soldiers who've killed people?
posted by stammer at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2007


This war is an absolute atrocity.
posted by ageispolis at 1:38 PM on March 3, 2007


The American people have known long and well what is being done in their name. And 50+% of them voted to have it continue.

The American people are not outraged because they do not understand that torture neither protects them nor punishes terrorists. Even those who are "against torture" or "for human rights" often do not understand that basic fact.

The interrogators do understand. This one is speaking up, and it's a good thing. The exact color of his conscience is beside the point if he is out there carrying the message.
posted by zennie at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2007


This war is an absolute atrocity.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:58 PM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


For all his self-justification, he does provide a good deal of insight into the efficacy of current torture practices:

Another thing that made it easier was that I felt—and I think this is a flawed argument too—that it was all environmental things that were happening to this person. Like it was gravity that was making his knees hurt, it was the fact that it was cold outside that was making him uncomfortable, it wasn’t me, you know what I mean? As I said, those are flawed arguments, but it makes it easier to do it if you think of it that way.


Sickening… but probably sort of appealing for a disaffected scholar stuck half-way across the world hurting people for no good reason. I encourage you to read the whole interview… it’s stunning, but also matter-of-fact. This is what we do. This is why we do it. This is why it doesn’t work. This is me screaming NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. This is business as usual.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:03 PM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Good point, zennie.
posted by wsg at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2007


Am I allowed to forget 9/11 now?

(Especially the atrocities, bad decisions, fear mongering, abuse, sheep-like behavior, cowering, spinelessness, abdication of responsibility, fraud, flag-waving jingoism, racism, xenophobia, all capped by four more years of idiots and criminals shitting on everything this country is supposed to stand for.)

Remember the Maine!
posted by maxwelton at 2:27 PM on March 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The chicago reader's readership < 24 tv watchers = forever support for torture.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2007


I believe psych studies have shown it's an empirical fact that most people would do the same placed in those conditions, given those orders. We're all potential monsters just waiting to be programmed. The real problem lies in the source of the policy.
posted by Shutter at 3:03 PM on March 3, 2007


[one could snarkily connect Shutter's comment with this thread, and point out how the discussions have reached a similar point from completely different directions.]
posted by quin at 3:23 PM on March 3, 2007


Good point...I better go say it over there too.
posted by Shutter at 3:27 PM on March 3, 2007


Unforgiveable crimes against humanity in an illegal and meaningless "war." I will never set foot inside the USA again.
posted by fire&wings at 4:47 PM on March 3, 2007


Great article -- he really goes into a lot of detail about how systemic the problem is, about the paperwork bureaucracy used to justify & sanction the torture.

Also, I found this paragraph especially chilling:
Lagouranis says the MPs were “willing and enthusiastic participants in all this stuff. A lot of the guys that we worked with were former prison guards or they were reservists who were prison guards in their civilian life. They loved it. They totally wanted to be involved in interrogations. It actually was a problem sometimes. I remember I would be standing guard at three in the morning outside of the shipping container with a prisoner inside and people would come by and they would know what was going on because they could hear the music and maybe see the lights. And they’d want to join in. [ . . .] I remember at one point the MPs came over from the facility and they were banging on the shipping container, one guy got on top and he was jumping up and down, they were throwing rocks at it, they were going inside and yelling at the guy. And I was like, ‘How do I control this situation?’”
posted by treepour at 4:51 PM on March 3, 2007


Unforgiveable crimes against humanity in an illegal and meaningless "war." I will never set foot inside the USA again.

Using that standard, you're not going to be traveling much.
posted by Cyrano at 5:38 PM on March 3, 2007


Using that standard, you're not going to be traveling much.

By all means hit me with examples of needless modern atrocities on the scale of the Iraq war.
posted by fire&wings at 5:43 PM on March 3, 2007


examples of needless modern atrocities on the scale of the Iraq war

Two examples off the top of my head, both far exceeding the scale of the Iraq war: Stalin and Pol Pot.
posted by Joe Invisible at 8:06 PM on March 3, 2007


9/11 NEVER FORGET.
posted by Foci for Analysis


Really? Here? Gosh. Where to start....
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 PM on March 3, 2007


Stalin and Pol Pot.

Fuck, why not throw in Roman opression of the indiginous peoples of the rest of Europe if you're going to use that definition of "Modern".

This new movie 300 probably has some material for you as well.
posted by Artw at 8:27 PM on March 3, 2007


Treepour, I found that chilling as well. It's a bucket of cold water for anyone who thinks that "Milgram" says everything there is to know about why we torture.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:38 PM on March 3, 2007


By all means hit me with examples of needless modern atrocities on the scale of the Iraq war.

Chechnya, Former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia...
posted by kid ichorous at 11:59 PM on March 3, 2007


Good post. I expect Mr. Lagouranis will be ignored or discredited. There were a lot of men like him in Vietnam, too...
posted by metasonix at 2:00 AM on March 4, 2007


Fuck, why not throw in Roman opression of the indiginous peoples of the rest of Europe if you're going to use that definition of "Modern".

Please. These things happened within the lifetimes of people still around. So often on the issue of the Middle East Americans want to ignore the (even very recent) past, and talk about NOW.

When NOW is so infinitesimally short, it's hard to learn.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:05 AM on March 4, 2007


Exactly, Meatbomb. I think that one reason for that is the very short attention span of most Americans. In addition, a surprising number of people under the age of 25 or so seem to feel that if it didn't happen during their generation, it's ancient history and doesn't really matter.
posted by leftcoastbob at 5:18 AM on March 4, 2007


Stalin and Pol Pot.

...

Chechnya, Former Yugoslavia, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia

So this list is brought as an excuse to continue travelling to the USA?

Wow. What a moral high ground. I'm with fire&wings on this one.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:29 AM on March 4, 2007


Good post. I expect Mr. Lagouranis will be ignored or discredited. There were a lot of men like him in Vietnam, too...

In the article, he mentions that the CID had already partially discredited him. They point to the absence of reports he claims to have made as proof he didn't make them.... Also, there's the fact that he seems to be depressed; his usage of antidepressants could easily be used to to argue that he's emotionally unstable. Credulous individuals (like myself) would argue that the reports were destroyed to cover up the abuses and that his mental instabilities are further proof of the things he saw and did... but that's not how it will play in the press.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:06 AM on March 4, 2007


By all means hit me with examples of needless modern atrocities on the scale of the Iraq war.

Actually, I was more hoping you would define the statue of limitations you're using. Will it be OK to come to the U.S. ten years from now? Twenty-five? Fifty? Never? Really?

Because you've basically cut Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia, Great Britian, France, China as well as the U.S., just to name the big dogs, out of your travel plans forever.

I think that one reason for that is the very short attention span of most Americans. In addition, a surprising number of people under the age of 25 or so seem to feel that if it didn't happen during their generation, it's ancient history and doesn't really matter.

That was kind of my point (except for the Americans bit. I think 25 year-olds pretty much everywhere don't think much past today.) The Iraq War is awful, but it's nowhere near The Worst Thing Evar. Other countries have done far worse in recent memory (and yes, in the grand scheme of things I think anything in the last century or so still counts.) That's not an attempt at moral equivalence. But if you can't justify an absolute like "never" and take a weekend train to Berlin, either.
posted by Cyrano at 7:02 AM on March 4, 2007


Cyrano, the difference here is that Germany, Japan and Italy lost the war and surrendered. They paid out in reparations, people were tried, their people lived through famine and destitution. On the other hand, the US declared victory in Iraq and has lost very few soldiers in the grand scheme of things. Britian (why still Great? let's call a puny spade a puny spade) is almost as complicit here as the US in the Iraq war. China does not go around 'spreading' democracy and talking about the importance of human rights. Germany has laws against holocaust denial ... they have gone out of their way to try and absolve themselves of their past sins (collective national guilt and so forth). The Japanese endured two nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, cities destroyed in one go.

What has the American public done? Voted out the Republicans from Congress by a margin of one seat!? Despite Abu Ghraib, the US public voted Dubya back into power, and as Langouris attests, the torture continued, and probably does to this day. At the same time, this administration continues to fete the makers of 24, a show that unequivocally advocates the flouting of international law and the Convention Against Torture. Most perturbingly, craven MeFites are still moaning Never Forget 9/11.

Remember that unlike Italy, Japan and Germany, the US in Iraq 'won' the war; toppled Saddam and will walk away with hands soiled but unharmed. No American life has been taken because of the Iraqi war anywhere American soil ... no US civilians have paid that price (civilian contractors in Iraq do not count).

The American public is still more interested in Anna Nicole's powder pink hearse and the next Idol, rather than what is going on in Iraq in everyone's name here.

It is not an uneducated public. It chooses to be ignorant.
posted by Azaadistani at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Only a truly moral nation can bear the burdens that America has during the last years.

[snip]

9/11 NEVER FORGET.


Quit the whining already. Any number of third world populations has suffered more than that in the last year alone, while your poor shaken country spends more that the GDP of some of them - per day - to continue an atrocious and counterproductive war.
posted by uncle harold at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2007


So this list is brought as an excuse to continue travelling (sic) to the USA?

Suum cuique, but I'm not going to let the Algerian civil war stop me from visiting Paris.

The 'list' is more of a response to fire&wings daring the board to rack its brains for needless modern atrocities. There's no shortage to be found, even of genocides, unless you've a pet cause you can't see past.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:43 AM on March 4, 2007


"It hasn't been easy and the people that we have saved might be ungrateful to us, but we have a moral obligation to help other people to freedom". Er, yeah, they're saved but just don't know they've been saved. Especially the dead/tortured/bereaved ones. Moral nation is an oxymoron. Argh i've just been trolled. Should get back to downloading music.
posted by algreer at 12:09 PM on March 4, 2007


What a weird debate. fire&wings’ comment makes perfect sense in terms of nations currently committing barbaric acts with popular support (or even without). It’s not about how long ago various acts occurred. It’s the fact that it’s occurring now. Take the boycott of South African goods during Apartheid. It wasn’t a question of what other states had done in the past, or even what other states were doing then, but rather not adding coppers to the treasury of a particular state while it continued to act in this way. At the same time, it would make no sense to boycott South African goods now for the same reason.

So by all means: don’t visit the U.S.. Don’t buy American. Hell, I talk to enough U.S. citizens bemoaning the fact that their tax dollars are going to these efforts; you can’t begrudge others for not wanting to add their spending to the pot.
posted by dreamsign at 10:06 PM on March 4, 2007


Since everyone else seems to be patting this monkey on the back, I guess I will give another view a whack. I think I can voice an opinion here with some relative expertise. Mr. Conroy does a nice job of leading the reader. The title of his story is sensationalist and inaccurate. This isn’t so much news as it is an incitement of bullshit. As for Spc. LAGOURANIS he seems to be a bit of an attention whore. I don’t doubt what he directly witnessed. I think the inclusion of hearsay and generalizations in this story for color is IMO a poor choice.

First of all making people listen to James Taylor at 3 a.m. will make you bat shit crazy. It sounds like Sweet Baby James was on the road to being tapped before he went into the Army much less as a 97E. We had quite a few people at DLI that misplaced their minds. I think it is a combination of high stress and the proclivity of the free thinkers that are attracted to those MOS’s. I am sure spending a month having conversations with corpses didn’t help his mental state. 500 black bags is some freaky shit to think about. Can you say PTSD? Remember this kid was not trained as a pathologist, but an interrogator.

Curious that he was bounced around as much as he was, sounds like commands were trying to get rid of him. Either he was ineffective, or a hair splitting pain in the ass, or both. How else do you get a month’s vacation interrogating corpses? As for his piss rant about paperwork, yeah well, welcome to the information underworld.

Things are rarely as pretty and simple as we would like them to be. Stress positions suck and cooking someone’s brain to open it up is not the preferred method of extracting information. Not all Haj’s are innocent not all Haj’s are guilty. Not everyone tells the truth the first time. Being an interrogator and screwing with people’s heads can if you are not vigilant screw with your own. Perspective maintain it or you will loose it.
posted by MapGuy at 3:53 AM on March 5, 2007


Britain (why still Great? let's call a puny spade a puny spade)

Huh? It's not some kind of boast, the word 'Great' in this context has its old meaning of 'big'.

Or was that an example of choosing to be ignorant?
posted by boosh at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2007


""Stalin and Pol Pot...Fuck, why not throw in Roman opression ... if you're going to use that definition of "Modern"....posted by Artw ""

Poll Pot died less than 10 years ago in 1998. How modern does it need to be for you?

can't you just admit that you exagerated and eat your pride?
posted by Megafly at 12:48 PM on March 5, 2007


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