Phillips chapter 8 and the Finnegan article were especially difficult for me to get through this week. I had a hard time getting through both of these because the stories were so intense, but most of all, I was frustrated. In chapter eight, Phillips tells the story of Torin Nelson, an experienced interrogator that worked in both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Nelson went through extensive training in the United States, and was finally deployed to Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He mentions having a very positive experience there under the command of Major General Michael Dunlavey. Dunlavey’s main concern during his time at Guantanamo was the integrity and safety of their mission. The interrogations that happened during Nelson’s time there led to quality information, yet many of the men were not happy with what they were getting. Nelson talks about how many of the interrogators began working towards the wrong goal: confessions. In class on Thursday we discussed the Luban article about when Liberals are and are not okay with torture. One of the five reasons opposing torture was because the goal was to extract confessions from the detainees. Interrogating a prisoner in hopes of obtaining a confession is a completely backwards way of trying to find information- one assumes the guilt of the person they are questioning, without proper evidence. Steven Kleinman, an interrogator that Phillips talked to, mentions that confessions that come from interrogation are rarely of any value (169). Confessions extracted through torture could potentially be counterproductive in finding out what is really going on. Going back to the Luban article, I want to bring up the question of when does it end? Nelson mentions that many of the interrogators that he came in contact with throughout his time in GTMO, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan had the wrong goals when it came to interrogating prisoners. At the time he was leaving GTMO, many interrogators began to resort to inflicting pain to gain a confession. But to gain a confession from someone who did nothing wrong must take time and energy. How long does one keep a detainee, and torture them, in order to extract a confession? At what point do you stop and believe that they are telling the truth? How can you trust anything they say after weeks of torture? It’s frustrating to know that people like Nelson, experienced interrogators who were intent on maintaining the integrity of their mission, could end up not being able to find a job because they tried to do the right thing. How come, when the Abu Ghraib pictures and stories were released to the public, the demand for Nelson went down instead of up? It seems as though the amount of information received is more important to the military and US government than how the information was received.
The Finnegan article was also frustrating to me. Travis Twiggs was a well-loved man who acted as a mentor to the majority of the men that he worked with. He had a loving wife, children, parents, and siblings. Yet the war completely changed who he was. Although many people didn’t notice his PTSD at first, the more he returned to combat, the more severe it got. He was committed to Bethesda Naval Hospital twice for his PTSD, and was but on 12 (or 19) medications at a time to fight the symptoms. He wrote an article about the symptoms he was experiencing and his battle against PTSD. And yet the military never did anything to help him. He continued to volunteer his services to the war in Iraq. Despite all his signs and his hospital time he was continuously allowed to serve overseas. But at what point should someone say, “stop?” In the Finnegan article, Major Valerie Jackson states that there needs to be a point where someone says, “enough is enough. You’ve done your part.” When a soldier is so overcome by the guilt and trauma that they experienced, sending them back overseas into the line of fire can only worsen that pain and make it more difficult for them to ever lead a normal life. The military needs to know when to release soldiers from their duty. The source of the pain and guilt that the soldiers feel is the experiences that they have while serving our country. There is no doubt that we need these men and women to serve our country and protect us so that we can live our lives in safety and peace. But it is difficult for me to grasp the fact that the military pushes these men and women to fight for our country, yet once they exhibit any sort of PTSD or weakness they are made to feel incompetent and worthless. Not only do they feel guilt for their actions and what they saw during combat, but they feel that they are weak and unable to live up to the expectations that were set for them. When soldiers begin to lash out against their loved ones, like John in the podcast and Tebeaux in the Finnegan article, the military must recognize that their experiences affected them. I know its not this simple, but I think at some point something needs to be done to prevent this from happening, or to provide treatment when it does.