Former SAS man: Torturing terror suspects is a “moral responsibility”

Well, this will set the cat among the pigeons.  Andy McNab chimes in on the CIA torture debate

A former SAS soldier who survived weeks of torture at the hands of Iraqi interrogators believes it can be used to prevent terrorists attacks.

Andy McNab believes security services have a ‘moral responsibility’ to torture suspects if innocent lives hang in the balance.

A report released earlier this week revealed that brutal techniques used by CIA agents against Al-Qaeda suspects in the wake of the September 11 bombings failed to produce useful intelligence.

But the soldier-turned-author says torture can yield vital information if used properly – and will be used by authorities in the future to prevent terrorist attacks.

The former British Army sergeant told The Times he ‘wouldn’t think twice’ about ‘inflicting pain’ on someone if he thought it could prevent an atrocity such as the 2005 London bombings.

He said: ‘I would deem it a moral responsibility to interrogate, to physically torture him to get the information out.

‘Torture is a really blunt instrument but it is an instrument that if it used right can yield results.

People get waaaay too precious about torture.  There is a time and a place where the need simply makes it the only answer.  

‘There will always be legislation to make sure that we don’t do it, but we will do it… We could moan about tactical interrogation or we could moan about 24-28 people getting blown up on a Tube. It’s a tough call.’

CIA Director, John Brennan, admitted some agents had used ‘unauthorised methods’, but insists they gained some valuable information through techniques such as ‘water-boarding’ – which was used to save lives.

McNab, which is a pseudonym he coined after 20 years of military service, says there are a number of ‘quick, harmful, painful techniques’ which can be used to effectively extract information from a captive.

He conceded that he only supported the use of torture immediately after a suspect was captured rather than months later, when the information they possessed would be ‘out of date’.

Exactly.  Timeliness of intel to prevent some major loss of life would always be justification in my book.  But waterboarding people years later is where the CIA doesn’t have much of a justification they can offer.

The former special forces officer was himself tortured by Iraqi forces, after being captured on covert mission during the first Gulf War in January 1991.

He and three of his colleagues were taken to an interrogation centre in Baghdad where they were stripped of their clothing, beaten and held in isolation for over three weeks.

Each of the men were whipped until they bled – their wounds then sealed with a red-hot metal spoon. At one point, McNab, now 54, says his molars were forcibly removed with pliers.

He was eventually transferred to another prison in Abu Ghraib where he was beaten for another three weeks.

Despite the unimaginable pain he was subjected to, McNab maintains that torture is ‘a weapon misunderstood by those who were not inflicting or being subjected to it.

He said: ‘At the moment there is this moral revulsion at what has gone on.

‘However, if there was real time information that did actually save lives, we would be looking at it in a different way.’

For squeamish people to live in their cocooned little lives where they are allowed the luxury of not having to look a cow in the eye and kill it just so they can have some steak, it is better that they leave the professional to the job of keeping them safe.

There is nothing more irritating than bleeding heart liberals declaring there should be no torture, ever.   They do so from the luxury of ignorance.  If it was their family held up in a bus that’s about to be blown up, I suspect very few would be as principled.

– Mail Online


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  • Effluent

    ““We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
    ― George Orwell

    • cmm

      It is a misquotation, but does capture the spirit of what he said.

      Torture is indeed barbaric, but all war is so. There is no clean war.

      Those that tut-tut about how war is conducted yet benefit from it are no different than those that tut-tut about hunting while chomping into a hamburger, or the global warmists that fly to exotic locations to tell us we should limit our oil usage: hypocrites.

      • Effluent

        I did wonder about this when I went looking for the exact text of the quote to post it here, as my memory for quotes isn’t that accurate, and the web site on which I found it did not provide a source. However, prompted by your reply, I found the following in an article on the quote. (source-

        edit – correction to formatting
        ‘ 1942 Orwell published an essay about Kipling in which he referred to a phrase in the poem “Tommy”:

        A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling’s understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases. It would be difficult to hit off the one-eyed pacifism of the English in fewer words than in the phrase, ‘making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep’..

        • Pharmachick

          Slightly O/T but both Orwell and Kipling are enduring literary and philosophical Giants (and favorites of mine).

  • Nechtan

    These “bleeding hearts liberals” live in their in own world, where everything can be solved over a cup of organic tea with a slice of some ethically grown banana cake and a hug.
    In combating terror information is key, if some terrorist has to be kept in a stress position or whatever to provide some intel then thats what has to happen. Those screaming the loudest over this “torture” seem be the ones turning the blind eye to modus operand of the terror groups, it seems it is ok to target women and children and commit all many of atrocities but if the ‘”west” so much as yells at a terrorist…..

    • Michael_l_c

      It will never happen but let us see them get information from the enemy.

  • RightofSingapore

    So did McNab talk while he was being tortured? Surely that is relevant to what he is saying?

    • Emjay

      From memory the patrol had a cover story worked out about being rescue medics looking for a downed helo which they stuck to long enough so any real info they gave was out of date and didn’t compromise any current operations.

      • Pharmachick

        Really? My God… under that sort of torture it is beyond admirable if they stuck to that. Wow.

        • Emjay

          Yip. They weren’t kept in a holiday camp like Gitmo either. Small cell with dirt walls and floor covered in blood and excrement, , and a bucket to do your business in, add to that the injuries that the lads got leading up to being captured.

          • Pharmachick

            There are quiet heroes walking our streets every day Emjay. These guys are foremost amongst them.

  • luke

    Imagine, someone you love has been kidnapped and is in danger of being killed . You have one of the kidnappers and he smugly tells you he won’t reveal where your loved one is. Are you seriously saying you wouldn’t take a pair of pliers to his testicles to force him to divulge the information you need to save your family member?

  • Michael_l_c

    Sometimes, good men have, to weigh things up and, do things many consider bad. I thank god for them & hope I would have the inner strength.

  • mike

    And if you read his and the other survivors of Bravo two zero you’ll find that they held out for quite a while. And by the time torture had elicited any results the info was useless.

    Plus any info you do get is suspect unless you have another source. No intelligence agency will act on a sole source of info.

    Torture is not worth it.

    • Kevin

      In most cases it’s not worth it. But it has to be on the table as final option. Also I would say in most cases information is gained using psychological techniques rather than pain.

      • mike

        The point is by the time you break someone the info is most likely useless. In that regard torture does nothing.

  • Bombastic

    If a bit of creative homeopathy saves innocent lives, then so be it. In fact, when put like that, I reckon even the Greens could live with it.

  • fecnde

    There is no justification of torture. All nations supporting it should be held in contempt and all people engaged in it – from the top down to the individuals performing it – should be held criminally accountable.

    Some snippets from the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or degrading Treatment or Punishment”:

    A2.2: No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

    A2.3 An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

    A3.1 No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

    A4.1 Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
    A4.2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate
    penalties which take into account their grave nature.

    • luke

      There is no justification of torture. Really? As I said before imagine, someone you love has been kidnapped and is in danger of being
      killed. You have one of the kidnappers and he smugly tells you he won’t
      reveal where your loved one is. Are you seriously saying you wouldn’t
      take a pair of pliers to his testicles to force him to divulge the
      information you need to save your family member? No justification, are you certain?

      • Curious

        I have no doubts that i would react in the way you suggest. However, i would also expect to be held accountable under our laws for my actions. The problem with state sanctioned torture is that no one is accountable, the wheels of the state grind on, and individuals (without fear of sanction) become even more creative with what they are doing – irrespective of results. Moral authority is an incredibly powerful force in itself; giving it away must be done as an absolute last resort – and I would suggest in a tactical or operational sense, rather than used as the norm.

      • Nebman

        I would challenge that on the basis that the chance of it ever happening to anyone ever are so slim, you’ve a better chance of winning Lotto. Ignore the Hollywood nonsense as it’s sensationalism without reality.

        No-one will argue with your premise if it was their kids (I wouldn’t) but in my eyes, it still does not justify or excuse it.

        • luke

          This is the issue, people responding on an intellectual level. Hollywood nonsense? Sadly many have to confront this issue in reality. Nebman I would support you if you in ‘reality’ your loved ones were at risk.

          • Nebman

            I’m not some liberal pretending there’s no bad people out there doing bad things and all we need to do is hug them and talk to them and everything will be ok – far from it – I’d be the first to break out the hot wire and pliers etc etc.

            But where do you stop/start and who gets to say what is ok and how far can you go? If you can quantify that and guarantee the process is free from political interference, I’d possibly see it differently but it never stays that way unfortunately.

            And I challenge the “many” in your statement. It gets thrown around somewhat casually I’ve noticed without any real substance or facts behind it.

            I’m happy to wear the intellectual tag if it means the argument explores all the ramifications. It’s why I’m opposed to binding referendum and online voting. I want people who are deciding serious issues to actually think it through rather than let the popular decision be seen as the “best” response – or worse the only one.

          • grumpy

            The chances of it happening to an individual are slim. The chances of it happening and the authorities having to deal with it are high.

    • caochladh

      So, we have the terrorist who has planted a “dirty” nuclear device which will kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Now, we are expected to sit around holding hands with him until the device detonates? Not me pal.

    • ex-JAFA

      I wouldn’t be too concerned about rules made up by a socialist organisation and attempted to be enforced on sovereign nations. We can simply stop paying the UN tithe, and its rules no longer have any weight. This is just yet another reason to withdraw from the load of socialist nonsense that is the UN.

      • fecnde

        Those rules were made with wwii fresh in peoples minds – partly written by those who would fight against the socialists in the cold war.

    • Nechtan

      Wonderful, while the terrorists are benefiting (ie hiding behind) from “laws” they don’t adhere to themselves innocent people die.
      The last time the UN was effective (perhaps even relevant) was 1950 when North Korea (aided by Russia then China) invaded South Korea.

      • Pharmachick

        LOL … did you just say “UN”?… ha ha ha ha ha

    • Kevin

      So if someone knows where a dirty bomb is going to hit and when, it’s not justifiable to use whatever means to get them to tell you?

    • Pharmachick

      My Grandfather was a POW in WW2 in Germany (a Stalag). He was treated well, no torture. My great Uncle was in Changi… that was different. Torture has no place for POWs. And for a living reminder, please see: Rep J McCain, USA.

  • JC

    Obama has correctly said that the US is better than that. He abhours torture and imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and has taken actiive steps to avoid these atrocities.

    And he has been very effective.. so far he has killed 3500 men women and children in drone strikes without torture or imprisonment.. truly an example to us all about humane treatment of enemies.


    • Effluent

      Good point. There seems to be much less squeamishness about the many people who have been inadvertently killed or maimed by drone strikes, but if I had been killed because I was standing too close to one of the bad guys, I would be very cross. On the other hand, if I was a bona fide islamofascist, I might welcome the martyrdom. Surely, on this basis, the torture victims ought to welcome their suffering, as it must undoubtedly entitle them to a quota of virgins, if not the full 72.
      edit- spelling

    • cmm

      Obama is preaching to his choir. His fan club are full of people who really don’t want to know what is going on.

      Of course he will say Guantanamo is abhorrent and promised to shut it down within a year, but has done nothing about it in the 6 years he has been in office.

      All that counts for these people is talking. That what you say is inconsistent with your actions does not matter.

  • unitedtribes

    I just interrogated a pukeko to death for eating mrs unitedtribes garden

    • Nebman

      Did you use the 12 gauge, 20 gauge or health and safety committee approved stick interrogating tool…?

      • unitedtribes


    • Saggy

      Cook it straight away. You won’t need to add vegetables..

      • dgrogan

        Reminds me of an old family story: Q. How do you cook a pukeko? A. You boil it in a pot along with an old boot and when it is tender, you throw it out and eat the boot.

  • Kevin

    That’s what people don’t get about war. You do whatever you can to win because if you don’t it lessens your chance of surviving.

  • Nebman

    The issue I have with both this topic and the death penalty is that the commissioning of it is both arbitrary and not consistent.

    If the argument is that you must torture to save lives, then you must also torture to find out what they know, then you must also torture to see what they know just in case. The logical extension is that the information gained that might identify further subjects to torture in which case picking up other people to torture is justified.

    And where do you stop? What if it is outside the traditional theatre of war? What about domestic situations? I get the “what if it were to save one of your kids” argument but that’s rhetorical hyperbole at best. Everyone would agree in that situation but that does not make it right or acceptable.

    Who gets to do it? The army, the spooks, the police? Who gets to sign off on it? The Politicians? The Judiciary? Government Departments?

    My rather long winded point is best summarised by a man called Albert Pierrepoint. He carried out more judicial sentences of death than any other modern executioner and at the end of his “career” he was totally opposed to the death penalty and even gave evidence at a inquiry when the Brits were looking at turfing it in the 60’s.

    Because the carrying out of the sentence was and always remained at the whim of some politician, it could never amount to any kind of effective tool to achieve the ends it was designed to.

    The use of torture would always be the same.

  • fecnde

    This issue isn’t a left/right one. It is not a conservative/liberal or socialist/capitalist one. Its about whether there is anything at all that separates us from those we consider evil – is there anything we won’t do?

    Some replied to me earlier saying things like – if X happened to you it would be justified. Think about Republican John McCain – he was tortured by the North Vietnamese- yet he states

    “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will
    produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture
    will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their
    captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their
    torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.

    Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most
    distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even
    captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by
    international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most
    part authored.”

    (emph added)

    • Nechtan

      “whether there is anything at all that separates us from those we consider evil – is there anything we won’t do?”

      An interesting question, a few weeks ago there was a post about a humble WWII SOE agent (Pippa Doyle), she was dropped in to France in plain clothes and took active measures against the German forces, by being in plain clothes she was in volition of the “laws” of armed conflict and could have been shot out of hand on capture (or tortured, then shot or sent to the concentration camps)

      Her courage was praised and rightly so, and she violated the so called laws. A great many other SOE agents did the same.
      Theirs was a dark war, fought in the shadows, without rules. Yet we honour them.
      The war we are engaged now is not much different.

      And in answer to your question “No there isn’t, not if we want to win”

    • Lee

      Well it is about left and right actually. The vast majority of lefties are against it and the vast majority of right wing agree it should be done. If the world was left to left we really would be a dire situation as they’d cave in to terrorists and let them in to our countries en mass to eventually take us over. For all their collective brains the left wing are really stupid.

      • dgrogan

        In my opinion pacifism shows a weakness of character, pure and simple.

      • Coffee Connoisseur

        Spoken by someone who has never experienced any form of torture.

        • Lee

          So one has to experience torture to have an opinion it do they?

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            it helps give your opinion validity.

  • Andru

    I read a book on survival for civilians by an ex-special forces guy. He said if you are in a mall and it is raided and you or a security guard or whoever manages to capture one of them, then you need to establish how many other attackers there are. He said torture is the way. It is literally life or death information. Do what you have to to survive.

    • Ward_Boston_JAGC_Remembered

      Do you really think that the people who are involved in the attack would give up their comrades quickly. Or tell the truth immediately. . .

      • Andru

        Maybe the Navy SEAL wrote the book is misguided with his advice….

        • Ward_Boston_JAGC_Remembered

          I wonder what experience he is drawing his conclusion from? Some? Nothing?

          If someone is prepared to die for their cause, I guess that they may hold out long enough to make any information given up old news. In the case you quote, 10 minutes would probably be enough.

          And “squeamish people” as suggested by McNab? Maybe just people with a well developed sense of morality. . .

  • Benoni

    I do not trust anyone at any time to use torture in a responsible way. We are fallen creatures and we always get it wrong. No one is good enough to be trusted with the power of legalised torture especially soldiers obeying orders from politicians. Anyone of our people who tortures should get a life sentence in jail.

  • Jonathan P

    “For squeamish people to live in their cocooned little lives where they are allowed the luxury of not having to look a cow in the eye and kill it just so they can have some steak, it is better that they leave the professional to the job of keeping them safe.”

    A few people calling for war might like to think about this as they type from behind their keyboards without fear of dodging bullets.

  • Ward_Boston_JAGC_Remembered

    So I am guessing that Andy thinks that the Japanese who were prosecuted and executed for torture during WW2 deserve an apology and a retrospective pardon. . . .

  • Ward_Boston_JAGC_Remembered

    My my. Cam is precious. I note he censors people who he disagrees with. . .

    Can’t stand criticism Cam?