Transcript of interview:
MACCALLUM: Let’s talk a little bit about Gitmo and what to do you know, as the president gets ready to close Gitmo. Where do you think those people should go?
PETRAEUS: Well it is not for a soldier to say. What I do support is what has been termed I think a “responsible closure” of Gitmo. Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has indeed been used by the enemy against us. We have not been without missteps or mistakes in our activities since 9/11. And again, Gitmo is a lingering reminder for the use of some in that regard. Having said that I also do not want to see those individuals back on the streets, trying to reactivate networks to return to leadership in some of these networks.
MACCALLUM: What about the concern, having been so involved in all of this, that KSM or anybody of that ilk might be tried here in a u.s. court and the possibility because of some of the treatments they were used on them, they could go free?
PETRAEUS: Well first of all I don’t think we should be afraid to live our values. That is what we’re fighting for and it’s what we stand for. So indeed, we need to embrace them and we need to operationalize them in how we carry out what it is we’re doing on the battlefield and everywhere else. So one has to have some faith I think, in the legal system. One has to have a degree of confidence that individuals that have conducted such extremist activity would indeed be found guilty in courts of law.
MACCALLUM: So you’re confident that those people will never go free?
PETRAEUS: I certainly hope that is the case yeah.
MACCALLUM: The former vice president has talked about waterboarding, which I know you’ve spoken against. He says it was only used on three people and that he believes it has saved lives.
PETRAEUS: Well my thoughts are that it is time to quit arguing about the past, probably, take the rearview mirrors off this bus in look to the future. And again if you start with the concept that we ought to live our values that is exactly what we should do as we move forward.
MACCALLUM: The argument for having the discussion now is there is always the possibility that a suspect could be in custody and an attack could be imminent.
PETRAEUS: Well I mean that’s always the debate — the doomsday scenario. I would be happy to leave that again with our judicial system to determine whether there might be an exception that would require extraordinary but very rapid approval to deal with.
But for the vast majority of the cases, our experience downrange, if you will, is that techniques that are in the army field manual that lays out how we treat detainees, how we interrogate them, those techniques work. That is our experience in this business.
MACCALLUM: So is sending this signal that we’re not going to use the techniques anymore, what impact will that have on those who do us harm in the field that you operate in?
PETRAEUS: What I would ask is, does that not take away from our enemies a tool, which again they have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion? When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Convention, we rightly have been criticized. And so as we move forward, I think it is important to again live our values to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.