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Remembering Our Values

Remembering Our ValuesIn an op-ed in The Washington Post, Tufts graduate Gen. Joseph P. Hoar speaks out against the ‘torture techniques’ he says are condoned by the CIA.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.29.07] During a recent interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet was pressed about the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation practices, which he defended, reminding viewers of “the palpable fear” they felt after the attacks. But fear doesn’t justify torture, according to Tufts graduate Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, who co-authored a recent Washington Post op-ed denouncing the CIA’s “secret” interrogation program.

Hoar (A’56, H’06), a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who served as chief of the U.S. Central Command from 1991 to1994, and co-author Gen. Charles C. Krulak, who commanded the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999, said they are well acquainted with the power of fear “and the havoc it can wreak if left unchecked or fostered.”

“Fear breeds panic,” they wrote in the Post, “and it can lead people and nations to act in ways inconsistent with their character. It led the United States to adopt a policy at the highest levels that condoned and even authorized torture of prisoners in our custody.”

Hoar and Krulak noted that while it was natural for Americans to feel fear after Sept. 11, it was the duty of President Bush to “to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp.” Instead, the public was urged to accept the idea that “torture works”—which created a false sense of security, according to Hoar.

In reality, the public doesn’t know if the CIA program has been effective in bolstering U.S. security, Hoar and Krulak pointed out in the op-ed. According to the authors, Tenet maintains that the program has “disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives.” It’s tough to prove him wrong, they added, “not because it is self-evidently true, but because any evidence that might support it remains classified and unknown to all but those who defend the program.”

Hoar, who earned a degree in psychology from Tufts, said there are clear consequences of the CIA program that people need to consider, including a growing tolerance among U.S. troops for the abuse of prisoners.

“This underscores what we know as military professionals: Complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat,” Hoar and Krulak wrote. “The rules must be firm and absolute;if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality.”

Hoar and Krulak also pointed out that U.S. programs or policies that support the use of any type of torture methods can strengthen the enemy.

“This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy,” the generals wrote. “If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy.”

Setting standards for the treatment of prisoners and detainees will also safeguard American soldiers.

“White House lawyers are working up new rules that will govern what CIA interrogators can do to prisoners in secret,” Hoar and Krulak wrote in the Post. “Those rules will set the standard not only for the CIA but also for what kind of treatment captured American soldiers can expect from their captors, now and in future wars.”

According to the authors, it is not just the nation’s security that is at stake in a program that condones torture, but its character.

“It is time for us to remember who we are and approach this enemy with energy, judgment and confidence that we will prevail,” they wrote. “That is the path to security, and back to ourselves.”

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