Former military prosecutor criticizes US use of torture

Retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis


By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: February 1, 2013

SMITHFIELD, N.C. — A former chief prosecutor at the war crimes court at Guantanamo Bay is making a tour across North Carolina to argue that torture is not only immoral, but also puts U.S. troops at risk.

Morris "Moe" Davis, a one-time Air Force colonel with 25 years of military service, said the belief that torture is acceptable contributes to the environments that created the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Joint Base Lewis-McChord-based "kill team."

Davis said that during the first Gulf War, Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse because the U.S. military would not torture prisoners and would provide food and water.

Now, he said, foreign fighters can either fight or face the possibility of indefinite detention and torture.

"I question whether Iraqis would do that today," he said.

He also said that condoning torture over the past decade put the lives of captured American troops at risk and may have created terrorists.

Morris lamented that the majority of Americans accept torture. He attributes the statistics to young adults who have grown up in a post-9/11 world.

He argued that torture does not elicit information that can be used in the court of law and said the practice has damaged the nation's image.

"We are not the shining city on the hill," he said. "If we're the country we claim to be, we've got to get back to the values we claim to represent. Regardless of whether it's illegal, it's immoral.

"War is hell. But the rule of law makes it a little less hellish," he added.

Morris said the United States helped write the international rules that bar torture, but opened the door to "exceptions" during the George W. Bush presidency.

He also criticized the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," which portrays the use of torture in the search for Osama Bin Laden.

Morris said he feared the film would "do for terrorism what Jaws did for sharks," spreading a belief that torture works and therefore must be a good thing.

Morris was critical of both the Bush and Obama presidencies, speaking against the use of drones to kill suspected terrorists and the failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He said the difference between drone strikes and torture is "six of one and half a dozen of another."

About 30 people attended the lecture at Johnston Community College, which was sponsored by North Carolina Stop Torture Now. It was the third of several lectures Morris is making at North Carolina colleges.

Earlier Thursday, Morris spoke at the University of North Carolina and Duke University. Today, he plans to speak at Campbell University and North Carolina State University.

Davis is a native of Shelby and the son of a former Fort Bragg soldier. He resigned from his position as chief prosecutor at Guantanamo in 2008 after objecting to the use of evidence obtained by torture. He teaches law at Howard University in Washington.

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