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Torture.

Eddie Mair | 16:23 UK time, Wednesday, 6 June 2007

I've just recorded an interview with Tony Lagouranis, who says he tortured Iraqis for the United States. I think you'll find it interesting.

Comments

  1. At 04:50 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    It saddens me greatly that we can go about the world beating our chests about bringing democracy to the world and yet this sort of thing happens. Extraordinary rendition, enemy combatants, Gitmo, Abu Graib, etc etc.

    We had Magna Carta and the Rule of Law. We threw it all away in the interests of the "special relationship".

    I do wonder if Mr Lagouranis comes out of this as surprisingly-well as Richard Fairbrass did the other day.

  2. At 04:53 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    Did he get tips from Brian Perkins and his fire alarm?

  3. At 04:58 PM on 06 Jun 2007, ian wrote:

    Did you shut him in a room with a fire alarm until he admitted it?

  4. At 05:20 PM on 06 Jun 2007, James Pickett wrote:

    "The US army told us that the Geneva Convention didn't apply to Iraqi prisoners" I think he just said.

    Groucho Marx was right: 'military intelligence' is a contradiction in terms...

  5. At 05:28 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    All tomfoolery aside. I was mesmerised.

    I must read his book and I just hope he manages to find some kind of redemption working for a human rights organisation back in Iraq.

  6. At 05:32 PM on 06 Jun 2007, stoneface wrote:

    why did we throw away Magna Carta in the interests of the "special relationship"?

  7. At 05:32 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Karen wrote:

    Fascinating interview but I still cannot comprehend his basic assertion that he believed what he was doing was OK because it was exempt from the Geneva Conventions.

    The suggestion that he was "following orders" makes him little better than horrors that have gone before and for which the perpetrators have been held to account. There is also the ability now to confirm with the Red Cross whether the status of the people in his charge (or care) were actually covered by the Geneva Conventions if he felt that he was unable to make this judgment for himself.

    I admire his courage in talking about what he did and how he plans to make amends but they ring hollow for me. Everyone involved in these activities (ordering, providing "legal" advice and actioning) should face the consequences.

  8. At 05:35 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Tony Volpe wrote:

    I wish you'd arrange your 'Listen Again' section as individual interview clips Eddie. That interview with Tony Lagouranis was dynamite. I'd like to be able to leave a link to it on one or two discussion websites frequented by Americans who believe that they as a nation, can do no wrong. Leaving a link to the whole programme isn't the same somehow.

  9. At 05:35 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Tim wrote:

    He wanted to learn arabic so he decided to become an interogator? Wouldn't an OU course have been simpler?

  10. At 05:35 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Tony Volpe wrote:

    I wish you'd arrange your 'Listen Again' section as individual interview clips Eddie. That interview with Tony Lagouranis was dynamite. I'd like to be able to leave a link to it on one or two discussion websites frequented by Americans who believe that they as a nation, can do no wrong. Leaving a link to the whole programme isn't the same somehow.

  11. At 05:42 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Bedd Gelert wrote:

    Perhaps Gordon Brown could inflict one of his jokes on the 'terrorists' and they would spill the beans on their dastardly plans immediately..

  12. At 05:51 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Chris Barker wrote:

    I suppose we should not be surprised, but I am particularly appalled. As I understand it, such treatment was outlawed in the UK in the early 1970s (after IRA prisoners complained). When I underwent Resistance to Interrogation training we were told as such.

    But now we have different standards in Iraq it seems: we are in the same quagmire as the Americans, in the pointless attempts to win agains the insurgence and in our amoral treatment of prisoners.

  13. At 05:52 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Shan Lancaster wrote:

    I thought Tony Lagouranis was very honest in this interview...it must have been very hard for him to actually admit firstly to torturing another human being and also to admit that what he did was wrong. He will have to carry that guilt with him for the rest of his life. We all make mistakes, some great some small, but I applaud the fact that he wishes to redeem himself by working for a human rights orgnisation like Amnesty International, everyone deserves the right to make themselves a better person. I look forward to reading his book.

  14. At 05:53 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Chris Barker wrote:

    I suppose we should not be surprised, but I am particularly appalled. As I understand it, such treatment was outlawed in the UK in the early 1970s (after IRA prisoners complained). When I underwent Resistance to Interrogation training we were told as such.

    But now we have different standards in Iraq it seems: we are in the same quagmire as the Americans, in the pointless attempts to win agains the insurgence and in our amoral treatment of prisoners.

  15. At 05:54 PM on 06 Jun 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Tim (10):

    I must have missed that course in the OU prospectus.

    [Imagines 3:30am TV programme in which woolly-tank-topped, flare-wearing academics demonstrate boring prisoners into confessions...]

  16. At 06:17 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Rachel wrote:

    I found him rather self-serving, I'm afraid. A man of genuine humanity would not need the Geneva Convention to tell him what he was doing was wrong. And did I miss the bit where he said profits were going to Amnesty?.

  17. At 06:40 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Jane Lewis wrote:

    killerThe "following orders" defence is implied all the time; the armed forces depend on it. The whole setup and how it functions depends on it.
    As far as I know there's no requirement for every soldier to have a full and detailed explanation for every political decision which sends him to where he might kill people and destroy everything they love and need. He is not required to state on record that he fully understands exactly what he's doing and why. The system depends on him not taking that responsibility.
    The thousands of Iraqis are expendable a) because they are not deliberate targets (so no-one's responsible?) and b) because their s were "only following orders, guv".
    Anyone who speaks out against any aspect of the situation must be respected.

  18. At 06:47 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    SSC (15): grin. They have to tell our servicemen and women such things or they might refuse to go overseas.

    Stoneface (6): Assuming your question was rhetorical, I have no idea why. I wish we hadn't.

    If your question was really "how did we", we did so by taking away the basic principals of the rule of law that it enshrined. If you are arrested under any of the terror legislation you will find you have very very few rights - even if you are a heckler at a Labour party conference. And if you are caught by the Americans you are destined for a worse fate as described by the interviewee.

    Rachel (16): I took him rather more as self-aware. I detest what he has done. I applaud the fact that he is telling the world about it and is apparently very sorry.

  19. At 06:48 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    I have a vague memory of research conducted in America by somebody who showed pretty conclusively that provided they were told to do so by an 'authority figure' (in his case men with white coats, assumed to be doctors) quite ordinary, decent people would deliberately give what they were told would be agonisingly painful electric shocks to other people whom they knew to have done nothing whatever to deserve such treatment.

    It�s nice to think 'oh I�d never do that, it�s wrong!', but it does rather seem that this simply isn�t true. In the interests of 'scientific research', people just like us *did* do it, and I can�t help feeling that being told that torturing someone will save one�s country or one�s comrades from being killed might be a genuine incentive.

    It may be naive to think that torture works -- mostly, it seems, it doesn�t, and by now nobody in US custody knows anything worth torturing them for anyway -- but no more naive than believing that giving people electric shocks is a good idea just because a doctor says so. EST used to be routine treatment for the sick, after all, and I think the �T� was meant to stand for �therapy�, not �torture�.

  20. At 07:00 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Karen wrote:

    Jane (17)

    Point accepted but there is a wealth of difference between a traditional battlefield situation where it is "kill or be killed" and causing harm to a blindfolded and handcuffed prisoner.

    The fourth Geneva Convention covers civilians in war zones and POWs and this education is supposed to be given to every member of the armed forces who have signed up to it - it certainly includes the US and the UK. These conventions are accepted as the "Rules of War" and if someone was acting outside what they believed to be the usual lawful situation then they should certainly be questioning it. It seems that he was well versed in this but believed what his superior officers told him. Does this let him off the hook as an individual? Probably not.

    The basic tenet of the US's choice to ignore the fourth convention seems to be that in the "war on terror" your enemy is hidden amongst civilians and collateral damage is inevitable. There is a need to decide whether we accept that this loss is inevitable by forces who are claiming to protect our interests or allow the innocent and the odd terrorist hidden amongst them to live.

    From the UK it's easy to say, "let them live," but if I was living in Baghdad I'm not honestly sure I'd find it as easy to make the same choice.

  21. At 07:20 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Aunt Dahlia wrote:

    Was he being brave, or self serving to be so honest - to mitigate the evil he has done by making it public? We all know the theory of the inhumanity we humans are capable of administering to each other, so why should this admission surprise us? And do we honestly think that we Brits use, or have used, any less tortuous methods of extracting information? All that being said - all I can think now, is Bravo, well done, one man has stood up, would that the rest would follow. That would be a quantum step for mankind.

  22. At 07:32 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Chris (19): The electric shocks was Milgram, a similar "prison officer" scenario was Zimbardo. Very important studies.

  23. At 09:43 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Thanks, Jason: it's good to have information rather than vague memory to go on. I hope I'd got the results more or less right even if I conflated two studies!

  24. At 10:06 PM on 06 Jun 2007, admin annie wrote:

    I'm afraid I took the rather cynical view that he wanted people to buy his book, and that was why he was 'confessing' to be a torturer.However he did not seem to me to be accepting what he did; the worst case, making a prisoner think he was about to be executed happened apparently 'by accident' and in the scenario with the dog, 'the prisoner knew by day 3 that the dog wasn't going to hurt him'. Not much about what said prisoner went throguh in days 1 and 2.

    The second most interesting thing this guy said was that he wanted 'to go back to Iraq and work for a human rights organisation there'. I hope PM will catch up with him in 12 months time and see what he is doing and where.

    The most interesting thing was that none of this torture actually got anything in the way of useful information, and if this is true then I do rather wonder why they continued with it. And presumably still do.

  25. At 10:19 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Dr Hackenbush wrote:

    “Who taught you to toture? Who taught yer?”

    Sorry. Look up ‘Whip In My Valise’

  26. At 11:52 PM on 06 Jun 2007, Gillian wrote:

    Eddie conducted the interview brilliantly, with no apparent emotion or empathy on his part. The thing which troubled me was that the interviwee also came across as a person who lacks emotion and empathy, and he left me confused about his real motives in speaking out as he did. Is he truly looking for forgiveness, or redemption, or merely for a sympathetic audience who will rush to buy his book?

  27. At 12:25 AM on 07 Jun 2007, jonnie wrote:

    This was one of the most shocking interviews I have heard on PM

    The man is doing nothing more than profiteering from a book - and getting far too much publicity.

    The Whistleblowing was done in 2005 - he should have served time - he was honourably discharged from the army.

    What does this say about justice?

    I have spent the last hour trawling through various transcripts from past interviews - in an effort to seek some reason to why he would have treated other humans in such a way. I can find none. - He's a scholar - studied ancient Greek, intelligent.

    I can understand and forgive, even from my pacifistic angle, crimes of passion - but this 'control' - 'sadistic' element is obviously something deep within his psyche.
    I believe a leopard doesn’t change his spots - at least not that quickly.

    Re; Aunt Dhalia who said :-

    -------------------------
    all I can think now, is Bravo, well done, one man has stood up, would that the rest would follow.

    ---------------------
    Bravo to a person who was effectively freezing people and checking their internal temperatures with an anal probe in case they died.

    Terrorising them with blindfolds and German Shepherd dogs until they wet themselves!

    -- Bravo !! you say -- Were you listening to Radio 4?

    Shaun said:- 'I look forward to reading his book. ----- enjoy the read Shaun - you really need to join a book club matey!

    Rachel and admin annie:-

    Thanks for putting common sense in to the thread.

    Eddie:- You asked some very good questions.

    Are you profiteering from the book?

    Did I miss that one, as well as Rachel?

    Jane said :-
    Anyone who speaks out against any aspect of the situation must be respected.

    Can you really respect someone who has done these things Jane?

    In conclusion - telling the truth is actually very easy and a great way of clearing a bad conscience. He may in retrospect regret some of the disgusting things he did -

    He did them -
    He did *NOT* have to do them.

    Please - to my fellow souls - No Bravo's on this topic.

  28. At 02:48 AM on 07 Jun 2007, Highbury Al wrote:

    I've just listened to this for the 2nd time - great show today by the way - and I'm really really angry.

    All of this is done in our name????? What happened to doing unto others....?

    I hope that this man can sleep at night - there are many, many families in Iraq and Afghanistan that will not have the opportunity to write a book about their experiences because WE won't care....It's a sad indictment on our so called 'humanity'.

    The International Court MUST take action on this admission of the let down in the rule of law.

  29. At 09:07 AM on 07 Jun 2007, Robert Harland wrote:

    Re the 2012 Olympic logo: from 1976 to 1990 I worked for a major corporate sponsor of the Olympic Games and other major international sporting events. On nearly every occasion, when official logos were launched by the host countries reactions were generally negative, but in the end most logos were appreciated and liked.

    As for the 2012 London logo, I like it.

    Robert Harland
    Bacolod City
    Philippines

  30. At 09:08 AM on 07 Jun 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    A very very interesting piece and a well conducted interview. I must admit I hadn't made the self publicising connection; however, I do feel compelled to read the book (not necessarily buy as we do have a library....) if only to try and understand the man. In an interview of this length this can not really be explored.

    Yes, he admitted to being a torturer (after being asked a couple of times) but as pointed out why did he not question the statement regarding the Geneva Convention? Having said that, how many of us to question things of that nature when told by a superior? I don't think we as a species as are cynical as we make out and woudl go so far to say that must societal relationships and function are built on trust.

    However, he did what he did and had the intellegence/strength of character to acknowledge this through identification with a barborous (sp) system. This is not a 'bravo' but an acknowledgement that someone who has committed morally abhorent practises can recognise and try and make recompense for these acts. Thought provoking - thanks Eddie and Team.

  31. At 09:48 AM on 07 Jun 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    witchiwoman (29): You hit the nail on the head. He was an employee of an organisation that values discipline above most else. He was given assurances that his actions were both legal and necessary.

    Some points of interest for me are how did the realisation that this was not the case come about; did he change his working paractices once he had this realisation; what on earth possesses someone to do this work in the first place; etc.

    He mentions that reading of Nazi techniques in a book written by a holocaust survivor made him realise the inhumanity of what he was doing...I do not think the parallels between our actions post 9-11 and the actions of the Nazi regime as it came to power have been explored anywhere near enough. The difference being that our political masters are "good guys". Apparently.

    I will read this book - if his agenda was to sell his story then it has worked in my case - but not for entertainment. I will read it in the same way I had to read "Shaking hands with the Devil". We only repeat mistakes if we are unaware of the true consequences of them.

  32. At 10:53 AM on 07 Jun 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    My friends,

    One remaining vestige of my Christian heritage reminds me that forgiveness is always available to those who truly repent. It isn't a 'Bravo' and it isn't up to us.

    Houb Salaam
    ed
    07/06/2007 at 10:55:38 GMT

  33. At 11:55 AM on 07 Jun 2007, admin annie wrote:

    take your point Ed and we certainly can't know whether his repentance is real; my own feeling is that if you were really that horrified by the realisation of what you had done you wouldn't write a book and you wouldn't do a tour to publicise it.

    Still, in the wise words of Alec Nove:

    To understand is not necessarily to forgive; it is smply better than the alternative, which is not understanding.

    BTW well done Eddie for doing what must have been a very difficult interview to aproach; it's easy to say anyone could do your job (not that I would ever say that) but I think very few people could actually cope with being told that tonight they will be interviewing a self confessed torturer.

  34. At 12:02 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Piper wrote:

    ...I agree with Tony Volpe @ 10

    "I wish you'd arrange your 'Listen Again' section as individual interview clips Eddie. That interview with Tony Lagouranis was dynamite..."

    Would the PM team consider this please?

    I understand that Steve Wright's R2 programme now releases its' interviews e.g. Sir Paul McCartney this week, as individual Pod-Casts. Useful.

  35. At 12:29 PM on 07 Jun 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Ed:

    Jesus - speaking from the cross said
    'Forgive them for they know not what they do?

    I believe Tony Lagouranis knew exactly what he was doing. Torturing fellow human beings.

  36. At 12:45 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Peter Rippon PM Editor wrote:


    Those of you who ask us to segment the programme so you can listen again to individual items rather than have to trawl through the whole thing..... We've debated it but in the end on existing technology I would have to employ someone to do it and it would mean taking resources away from the product itself. Other programmes do it but the evidence is that it is not used enough to justify it. BUT there are things in the offing that may help including a little web tool that will allow YOU to easily cut and post bits of the programme for us. I'm told these things could be available 'in a few months'....... but then again I always told that.

  37. At 01:07 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Fiona wrote:

    As others have said I found it a fascinating, interesting interview and extremely well conducted. I am probably bordering on the side of Admin Annie in terms of being slightly cynical about his motivations but as was also said, the army does indeed pride itself in its discipline and obeying orders mindset. I just find it tragic that such acts happen in a so called "modern" world, sometimes I just despair of humanity.

    Anyway well done - a really good listen

    Also, Peter Rippon (36) - with regards to segmenting the programme, is it possible to create podcasts of certain items - or is that the option you considered which requires resource? It just occured to me as I had listened to Paul McCartney being interviewed on Radio 2 the other day and that interview part of the show is available to download as a podcast. Just a thought?

  38. At 01:09 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Fiona wrote:

    Oops just re-read the thread and realised Piper has already suggested the podcast idea.

  39. At 01:22 PM on 07 Jun 2007, RJD wrote:

    Peter Rippon - Thanks for the feedback.
    And as for :"I'm told these things could be available 'in a few months'....... but then again I always told that. " - thanks especially for the honesty!

  40. At 01:41 PM on 07 Jun 2007, jonnie wrote:

    I think Peter Rippon's new tool can be played with here :-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/findlistenlabel/?programme=allinthemind20070501

  41. At 01:48 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Piper wrote:

    Peter Rippon PM Editor @ 36

    Many thanks for your response.

    Last evenings "Torture" interview, was one of the most interesting I've ever heard and one which I think also incorporated excellent interogation processes from Eddie (where'd he learn them I wonder AND, is a book coming..?)

    in fact, many of the PM interviews would be very useful to keep for future reference and discussion.

  42. At 01:58 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Piper wrote:

    Jonnie @ 40

    ... Peter Rippon may wish you'd constructed your comment just a little differently, but I THINK we all know what you mean...

    Anyway, well done and thanks for sharing the info...

  43. At 02:27 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Jonnie (35),

    I don't want to get too theological or pedantic, but Jesus was asking God to forgive them even though they weren't repentant, simply ignorant.

    In general, ignorance is no excuse, and Jesus was simply (and typically) going the extra mile. Repentance requires you to recognise what you have done, and is available even to those who knew they were doing evil at the time, or so I understand.

    xx
    ed

  44. At 04:08 PM on 07 Jun 2007, jonnie wrote:

    Re: Piper - Whoops - should I complain about myself? - The tool was reviewed recently on feedabck, I believe it went down well.

    Ed - you are of course correct - it was one of those of the cuff comments without enough thought.

    Thank you.

  45. At 06:04 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Paul wrote:

    I have to remain sceptical regarding this story, especially as he is promoting his book.

    I have a friend who lives in London. She told me that since 7/7 she feels tortured each time she is in an enclosed space with Asian people wearing ethnic dress. She suffers panic attacks etc. Our forces are in Iraq because of the threat of terrorism, not an experience which promotes good mental health in any person attempting to professionally deal with such a situation I would have thought.

  46. At 06:58 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Paul (45),

    How do you think the residents of Fallujah feel? Compared tomyour friend, I reckon they have more cause for unease.
    Houb Salaam
    ed
    07/06/2007 at 19:04:40 GMT

  47. At 08:29 PM on 07 Jun 2007, Paul wrote:

    Ed (46). How do you think the residents in Israel feel. They have been on the receiving end of suicide bombers for years, simply because they are Jewish. Has the media made a stink about that. Of course not. Yes, it must be shocking for all individuals to live with these fears.

    Yesterday, In the Telegraph I read an article by Zia Haider Rahman a writer and human rights lawyer titled 'Time to confront the Muslim conspiracists' He states that 'a quarter of British Muslims believe the Government were involved in the July 7 suicide bombings in London...an NOP poll last August showed that 45 per cent of Muslims believed that the attacks of 9/11 were a conspiracy between the United States and Israel'

    It is the mindset which Mr Rahman refers to which is at the crux of all this suffering. After all it is Muslims who are murdering the Muslim population in Fallujah. If that stopped the Iraqi population would be entirely happy to live in a peaceful democracy, that's why they went to the polls to vote eventhough their put their lives at risk.

    I hope you read Mr Rahman's article in the Daily Telegraph. It is enlightening.

  48. At 04:25 PM on 08 Jun 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Paul (47),

    "After all it is Muslims who are murdering the Muslim population in Fallujah."

    Not so. It was American shock troops who unleashed indiscriminate white phosphorous on a largely civilian population.

    "How do you think the residents in Israel feel?"

    A lot safer than the native Palestinians.
    http://www.btselem.org/english/statistics/Casualties.asp
    xx
    ed

  49. At 10:18 PM on 11 Jul 2007, TomFrumWA wrote:

    Great interview. Here is what happened to another interrogator: "Sgt. Ricky Clousing went to war in Iraq because, he said, he believed he would simultaneously be serving his nation and serving God. But after more than four months on the streets of Baghdad and Mosul interrogating Iraqis rounded up by American troops, Sergeant Clousing said, he began to believe that he was serving neither. " He refused to return, went AWOL, and now he is serving Time in a military prison. See the full story at http://www.ivaw.org/node/265

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