Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Alternative Questioning"

Yesterday, Christine from over at Quiet Paths recommended in a comment that I read an article by Andrew Sullivan on torture, and specifically on why we should not allow politicians to hide behide the rhetoric of "alternative questioning techniques".
We have good questioning techniques already, questioning techniques that have not led people to confess to starting storms by taking off their socks and cursing their neighbors' cows to be dry. Apparantly, the easiest way to get information out of a person is to play on our basic nature as social animals. It involves such instruments as the comfy chair, talking to someone like they're a human being, offering a cup of coffee. You start chatting. It's much harder to confine yourself to name, rank, and serial number when your questioner is commenting on stuff like "Well, I'm sorry, all we've got in the way of food is this stuff, but there are dates and oranges, anyway. You want some fruit?" You pull classic body language tricks that shrinks have used for ages, like echoing the other guy's movements subtly. You forge a connection, and people tell you things.
I once met a retired intelligence agent from World War II, whose job it had been to ferret out Axis spies from shiploads of refugees. She was an extremely intelligent and friendly woman, who had used that charm to find out all kinds of things over and over again. She was the sort of person it was easy to confide in, and was able to say even long afterward that she was proud of what she had done. I think those who serve our country now should be able to say also in 50 years that they are proud of the work they've done. Let's help them to be proud by giving them work they can be proud of.

2 Comments:

Anonymous quietpaths said...

I have read that a cascade effect developed in using force and cruelty while questioning the detainees. Once the line was crossed by one person then there was an entire breakdown of conduct. (As we witnessed in the first reports of cruelty.) Being made to stand for hours in one position is cruel. Water boarding, extreme temps...We all need to question who we have become in this war. And, we should carefully query the prez. candidates on this issue. It would tell us much.

5/18/2007 8:32 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Once you've got that kind of thing going on, it spreads way too quickly. As one of my favorite authors put it, "You can't call yourself a good guy then do bad guy things." We have all allowed this to happen and it must be put a stop to.

5/18/2007 8:38 AM  

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