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World War II Interrogators Denounce Administration | The Nation

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World War II Interrogators Denounce Administration

On Friday, President Bush lied to the American people, as he has many times before, telling us that "this government does not torture people." But the metastasizing record shows that Bush and a compliant Justice Department have repeatedly authorized harsh CIA interrogation techniques, such as head slapping, frigid temperatures and simulated drowning. Such techniques have been condemned by many decent and reasonable people in these last years. But the critics who gathered this past weekend to denounce these methods made for an unusual group. Meeting for the first time since the 1940s, World War II veterans who had been charged with top-secret interrogations of Nazi prisoners of war lamented "the chasm between the way they conducted interrogation during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects." [See the Washington Post's cover story, "Fort Hunt's Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII," by Petula Dvorak} John Gunther Dean, 81, who became a foreign service and ambassador to Denmark, told the Washington Post, " We did it with a certain amount of respect and justice." Another World War II veteran--one of the few who interrogated the early 4000 prisoners of war, most of them German scientists and submariners, who were brought in to Fort Hunt, Virginia for questioning for days and weeks--spoke of how "during the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone. We extracted information in a battle of the wits." He added that he was proud that he "never compromised my humanity." Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist, told the Post, " We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or ping pong than they do today, with their torture." Several of the veterans used the occasion, upon receiving honors from the Army's Freedom Team Salute, to state their oppositon to the war in Iraq and methods used at Guantanamo Bay. Peter Weiss, a longtime friend of The Nation, a fearless champion of nuclear sanity, international law and human rights, spoke movingly. " I am deeply honored to be here, but I want to make it clear that my presence here is not in support of the current war." Another veteran, Arno Mayer, a professor emeritus of European history at Princeton University and a longtime contributor to the Nation, refused the award out of concern that he and the others were being used by the military today to justify their acts. "We did spooky stuff then, so it's okay to do it now." But what the Veterans' revealed so strikingly was the disgust these former interrogators-- in a war that posed a greater threat to America's survival than the so-called "war on terror"--have for the cruel, inhuman, degrading and illegal techniques called for --and condoned-- by the Bush Administration.

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