USAF interrogator says torture caused thousands of US troops’ deaths in Iraq

Matthew Alexander is the pseudonym used by a former US Air Force interrogator. He served for fourteen years, undertook special missions in over 30 countries and conducted or supervised over 1,300 interrogations. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his tour in Iraq, which he completed in 2006. Alexander has authored an editorial in The Washington Post, titled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq”. The article is deeply critical of what Alexander describes as “the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the US military conducts interrogations in Iraq”. Alexander has also authored a recently published book titled How to Break a Terrorist: The US Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. He has also sued the US Pentagon for unnecessarily delaying the vetting of the book and for attempting to censor a significant amount of information that is contained in the book, but which is already unclassified and publicly available. In his recent editorial, Alexander describes witnessing in Iraq numerous interrogations conducted “according to the Guantanamo Bay model” and thus “often resulted in torture and abuse”. In his book he explains how his team of interrogators managed to extract vital information leading to the extrajudicial assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, whom he describes as “one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation”. Although the legal basis of Zarqawi’s assassination by US forces in Iraq is debatable, Alexander stresses the fact that the information that led to the killing of the al-Qaeda leader was extracted by captives using strictly non-torture-based interrogation methods outlined in the US Army Field Manual. He goes on to state that “the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked [to Iraq] to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq […]. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse”. Alexander also gave a radio and TV interview to Democracy Now!, which is available here. [JF]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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