National Security Nominees Oppose Torture

Washington, D.C.Human Rights First welcomes the nominations of national security leaders who firmly oppose torture. Two of the most recent nominations follow an intense effort by some who authorized torture to claim that the killing of Osama bin Laden was only made possible by abusive policies. President Obama nominated General Martin Dempsey to become the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Raymond Odierno to become the new Army Chief of Staff. C. Dixon Osburn of Human Rights First said, “Leaders of our armed forces know what our politicians do not – torture is counterproductive, unreliable, immoral and illegal.” According to retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington’s introduction to Major Douglas Pryer’s The Fight for the High Ground: The U.S. Army and Interrogation During Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2003-April 2004, then-Major General Martin Dempsey, who was in charge of the mission to secure the city of Baghdad, opposed treating detainees harshly, telling his soldiers, “As you’ve heard me say before, we must remember who we are. Our example is what will cause us to prevail in this environment, not our weapons. I really believe that. We need to show the Iraqi people what ‘right’ looks like.” On September 21, 2003, then-Major General Raymond Odierno, who was commander of the 4th infantry that captured Saddam Hussein, issued a memorandum on the treatment of detainees to everyone in his division. “Soldiers will treat all detainees with dignity and respect, and, at the very least, will meet the standards for humane treatment as articulated in international law,” he ordered. “While detainees in U.S. custody may be interrogated for intelligence purposes, the use of physical or mental torture, or coercion to compel individuals to provide information, is strictly prohibited… Neither the stresses of combat, nor deep provocation, will justify inhumane treatment.” Another high-profile nominee, General David Petraeus, also opposes torture. President Obama has chosen him to direct the CIA. In a letter to all troops serving in Iraq, dated May 10, 2007, he wrote, “Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong.” And in 2010, in response to the question of how he would respond to those who urge a return to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, General Petraeus said, “We should not go there. ‘Don’t go there girlfriend,’ as they say in the United States.” A video of General Petraeus’ views on torture can be found here.


Published on June 1, 2011


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