CIA torture modeled from The Vietnam War

The CIA’s Torture report has quickly left the nightly news and Sunday talk shows.

tortureContinuing my read of the full report I was somewhat intrigued the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques were sourced from the North Vietnamese in a war fought over 40 years ago.

Have our intelligence teams not evaluated more recent torture programs from the former Soviet Union, East Germany or Chile?

With the revelations of the NSA high tech spying from Edward Snowden its somewhat surprising that more efficient forms of intelligence gathering were not deployed against Al Qaeda in order to capture high level leaders.

Abu Zubaydah’s capture and subsequent torture by the CIA is a key focus on the early CIA Torture report. It appears that most of the intelligence gained from Abu Zubaydah was a result of standard interrogation techniques, not the enhanced torture that serves has a source for the Senate’s report:

In May 2003, a senior CIA interrogator would tell personnel from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General that SWIGERT and DUNBAR’s SERE school model was based on resisting North Vietnamese “physical torture” and was designed to extract “confessions for propaganda purposes” from U.S. airmen “who possessed little actionable intelligence.” The CIA, he believed “need[ed] a different working model for interrogating terrorists where confessions are not the ultimate goal” 139

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program
Exec Summary Background and History Part I and II – Page 33

While this page serves as merely a sidenote to history, seemingly forever linking our military actions to Vietnam, there are more concerns regarding the actions taken by the CIA, The White House and the FBI in regards to withholding informaiton on the torture program from our elected leaders.

CIA torture report: The role of enhanced interrogation methods

Enhanced interrogation is simply today’s political spin to a torture technique used for over 500 years. Waterboarding as a method of torture dates back to Spain in the 1500s. The Senate’s declassified report regarding the role of the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror after 9/11 has been a most revealing so far. I wonder if the full report will ever be declassified. Maybe to further strengthen our democracy it should take less than the 40 year wait for the Pentagon Papers.

torture

In today’s instant twitter-world of “news” the world has learned of CIA techniques as abhorrent as rectal rehydration and a technique — so innocent at first glance — prolonged standing until you realize how this form of torture, as written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago is hideous to a human under interrogation.

Torture is simply inhumane. I am respectful of US Senator John McCain’s address on the floor of the Senate indicating his view that the CIA’s torture was wrong. The US can be better by not torturing prisoners. Proven, established interrogation methods (not torture) firmly established provide information needed in the war on terror. Senator McCain himself was tortured as an American POW during the Vietnam War. He speaks from a point of view that most Americans cannot fully understand. I applaud his service to our country during the War in Vietnam and more importantly his personal survival as a tortured prisoner of war. As outlined in the Pentagon Papers the US military used waterboarding in Vietnam.

In just reading the Senate’s executive overview the most chilling issue is that the CIA specifically withheld their acknowledgement of torture to the President. The second most important, but seemingly forgotten is the destruction of videotapes by the CIA of prisoners under torture. Clearly the CIA learned from Nixon’s Watergate.

I am beginning to feel again, after reading the Pentagon Papers that our democracy and leader of nations in today’s complex world has taken a temporary step backward.

Battle of Ong Thanh anniversary

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the Battle of Ong Thanh. This battle was a tremendous loss for American troops, ambushed forty miles northwest of Saigon during Operation Shenandoah II.

october 17
Ong Thanh Battle date 1967

On this weekend in 1967 the battle in Vietnam and a student protest turned riot in Madison resulted in a turning point for the State of Wisconsin. While affluent students were protesting Dow Chemical at Bascom Hill, blue collar boys from the south side of Milwaukee were dying in battle.

The soldiers including Danny Sikorski, Jack Schroder and football All American Don Holleder served under the command of Terry Allen Jr. on this fateful day.

In Madison Paul Soglin, (the city’s current Mayor) led student protests that turned violent. After this battle 64 Americans were dead. Even today this is a shocking number of American losses in a small battle. The Tet Offensive began less than 90 days later.

It was in David Maraniss’ award winning book They Marched Into Sunlight the Sikorski family in Milwaukee would receive ~$740 from the Army to bury their son Danny. He was one of the first Black Lyons killed in Bravo Company. Yet at the same time The Pentagon Papers reveal the Michelin Corporation secured a reimbursement agreement from the U.S. Government for ~$700 per tree destroyed in combat on their rubber plantations in Vietnam.

The Army’s report on the battle of Ong Thanh remained classified for almost four years until released in 1971.

Moyar on Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam

triumph forsakenMark Moyar really opens up on journalists Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam in Chapter 7: Attack July-December 1962.

Moyar is attempting to mislead with broad, inaccurate generalizations as if Sheehan and Halberstam fell off the turnip truck and landed on a Smith corona typewriter south of Saigon.

Both Sheehan and Halberstam won Pulitzer Prizes for their Vietnam war coverage. Moyar’s most outrageous statement is that Halberstam “did more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Really? Even more than Sheehan or Dan Ellsberg publishing the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times?

But Moyar’s attacking statements on all journalists regardless of political view really misses the mark:

Representing the United Press International was a twenty-five-year-old named Neil Sheehan, who arrived in Saigon in April. Having just entered the profession of journalism, he was the youngest and most inexperienced reporter in a country full of young and inexperienced reporters.

Upon graduation from Harvard where he was editor of the campus literary magazine Harvard Advocate Neal Sheehan joined the Army serving from 1959-1962 in Korea, and Japan editing a weekly Army newspaper called The Bayonet. During this timeframe in Japan Sheehan also moonlighted in Tokyo for UPI. Upon his discharge he landed in Vietnam as UPI’s Saigon bureau chief.  It fair to say Sheehan understood Asia and the US Military operating in Southeast Asia. But here Moyar over reaches:

David Halberstam, who like Sheehan hailed from the Northeast and was a recent Harvard graduate. Halberstam was twenty-eight when he came to Vietnam. Before he left, fifteen months later, he would do more harm to the interests of the United States than any other journalist in American history.

Moyar’s neocon gloves come right off with his last statement. His position that Halberstam was a recent graduate also misses the mark.  Halberstam was the managing editor for the Harvard Crimson. In 1955 he turned down offers from big newspapers to cover Civil Rights and race issues in Mississippi. He left after just ten months when his editor did not want him focusing on those topics in a small town paper. He continued to cover the civil rights movement at The Tennessean in Nashville beginning in 1956.

In 1960 Halberstam was hired by the New York Times. After covering the Kennedy inauguration for six months in Washington D.C. he was assigned to the Congo to cover the war against Belgian colonialism. Then he was assigned to Vietnam when Diem kicked out the standing New York Times reporter.  Halberstam well understood struggles with colonialism.