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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Right's Increasing Desperation to Take Credit for Bin Laden's Downfall

It's a case of hearing what you want to hear. The right is so intent on giving Bush all the credit for the death of Osama bin Laden that they're trying (and, perhaps, succeeding) on reopening the debate about torture. And, in doing so, they're practicing selective listening.

The Daily Caller:

CIA Director Leon Panetta stomped on the White House's political script when he told Tuesday night's broadcast of NBC Nightly News that the waterboarding of jihadi detainees contributed information that led to the location and killing of Osama bin Laden.

"We had multiple series of sources that provided information with regards to this situation… clearly some of it came from detainees [and] they used these enhanced interrogation techniques against some of those detainees," he told NBC anchor Brian Williams.


When asked by Williams if water-boarding was part of the "enhanced interrogation techniques," Panetta simply said "that's correct."

It's one thing to say that people you received information from were tortured eight or more years ago, but it's another to say that you got information because of torture eight or more years ago. And it's takes an effort to hear it the latter way when everyone else -- including Donald Rumsfeld himself -- is saying quite the opposite.

Besides, even if we take the argument based on a cherrypicked statement seriously, the right's "ticking time bomb scenario" just died the death it deserves. It's a very generous terrorist who sets the timer to eight or nine or ten years. Urgency is shown to be no reason to torture. And consider what the right's argument means -- the Bush administration discovered crucial information through torture, yet did nothing with it. In fact, Bush disbanded the CIA's bin Laden unit. Way to really get that ball rolling, huh?

Even CIA officials who'd performed waterboarding at "black sites" admit that they didn't get anything useful from it. The Associated Press ran an article yesterday reporting that CIA Bush apologists see the death of bin Laden as a vindication of other controversial methods, but not torture.

[Khalid Sheik] Mohammed did not discuss [bin Laden courier] al-Kuwaiti while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

So, in order to claim that torture worked, the right ignores all the evidence that it didn't and then gloms on to a statement that could be taken -- if you try really hard -- to say that it did.

And finally, get ready for the "waterboarding's not torture" argument to pop up again. You wonder why it's so important to them that you believe this. Is it that the crime of torture is so awful, so unforgivable, so contrary to what everything America stands for that even the normally shameless right is ashamed of it?

But if it's not torture, then what is it? "Enhanced interrogation techniques" are weasel words. Watereboarding has been around for centuries; what was it called before some PR whiz in the Bush White House cooked up EIT? There must be a plain English word for it and, if that word isn't "torture," then what is it? In the end, giving someone the experience of dying doesn't fit in any other box. If it's not torture, then waterboarding fans need to explain what it is -- because that's a lot less obvious than they're pretending it is.


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