Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tortured Arguments

Liz Cheney tries to defend the indefensible, and it’s painful to watch. There’s so much wrong with this clip, it’s hard to know where to start. Really, the whole thing is just awful.

Watch it:

I feel sorry for Eugene Robinson, who at one point seems to throw up his hands because Liz Cheney isn't making any sense. She's still living in some wingnut post 9/11 fantasyland, Eugene. Reality does not live there.

One of the worst aaaargh moments starts at 10:45 when Liz Cheney makes what I call the “24” argument. Here’s my written transcription, if you don’t have the time--or blood pressure--to watch the whole clip:
Liz Cheney: Eugene let me ask you a question then. So, if you knew that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had information about an imminent threat on the United States. Information that would result in the death of your family members and the death of the people you care about and love, and that if he were waterboarded you would be able to get that information and prevent the attack, you wouldn’t do it? You’d let him go ahead and launch the attack?

Eugene Robinson: How would I even know that?

LC: That’s exactly the situation these folks were in. That’s the choice you’ve got to make.

I put the word “if” in bold face because it seems quite obvious to me that when your entire argument is predicated on an “if” situation, you’ve lost the debate.

The reality is, we weren’t in that situation, not one terror plot was uncovered by torture, but we got plenty of false information:

Libi was captured fleeing Afghanistan in late 2001, and he vanished into the secret detention system run by the Bush administration. He became the unnamed source, according to Senate investigators, behind Bush administration claims in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq had provided training in chemical and biological weapons to al-Qaeda operatives. The claim was most famously delivered by then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in his address to the United Nations in February 2003.

Powell later called the speech a "blot" on his record, saying he was not given all available intelligence and analysis within the government. The Defense Intelligence Agency and some analysts at the CIA had questioned the veracity of Libi's testimony, which was obtained after the prisoner was transferred to Egyptian custody for questioning by the CIA, according to Senate investigators.

In their book "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War," Michael Isikoff and David Corn said Libi made up the story about Iraqi training after he was beaten and subjected to a "mock burial" by his Egyptian interrogators, who put him in a cramped box for 17 hours. Libi recanted the story after being returned to CIA custody in 2004.

(Hat tip to Attaturk for that link, BTW.) This is the whole problem with torture as an interrogation technique: besides being immoral, it’s simply ineffective because the information obtained is always unreliable.

But I’m not sure efficacy was the point. I am starting to fear that obtaining a certain kind of information, accuracy be damned, might have been the point all along. But Bush-Cheney got their pet war, KBR and Blackwater got their lucrative government contracts, and Liz and Dick Cheney can continue to flog 9/11-related fear mongering, because without fear, the Republicans have got nothing.