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Retired US Military Officers Urge Trump Not to Reinstate Torture

  • VOA News

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Jan. 9, 2017.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Jan. 9, 2017.

Nearly 200 military officers urged president-elect Donald Trump not to reinstate torture, according to a letter acquired by The New York Times.

"Torture is unnecessary. Based on our experience — and that of our nation's top interrogators, backed by the latest science — we know that lawful, rapport-based interrogation techniques are the most effective way to elicit actionable intelligence," stated the letter, signed by 176 retired officers from all branches of the military.

Among the signatories are two former Afghanistan war commanders and Adm. William H. McRaven — the Special Operations commander who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Trump said during the 2016 campaign and at a Republican primary debate in February that he "liked" waterboarding and that as president he would "bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding."

Citing their "over 6,000 years of combined experience," the officers expressed their concern over these comments, pointing out that not only is torture illegal under international law, but according to them, it is not the best way to get key information.

"Most importantly, torture violates our core values as a nation," the letter went on. "Our greatest strength is our commitment to the rule of law and to the principles embedded in our Constitution."

Waterboarding, which simulates drowning, was used against suspected terrorists in the early 2000s during the George W. Bush administration. Congress banned the use of torture on detainees in 2006.

FILE - President-elect Donald Trump stands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016.

FILE - President-elect Donald Trump stands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Nov. 19, 2016.

Mattis influence

Trump has since suggested he changed his mind, however, after meeting with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, Trump's nominee for secretary of defense. He said Mattis told him he never found harsh interrogation techniques "to be useful," adding that the general preferred developing trust with "a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers."

Republican Senator John McCain spoke out against Trump's comments in November, telling the audience at an international security forum in Canada that he didn't "give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do."

"We will not torture people... it doesn't work," said McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Opposition to torture has been strong and bi-partisan since the founding of our republic through the administration of President Ronald Reagan to this very day," the letter echoed.

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