Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Chasing the fool’s gold of national security

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Very interesting commentary by Leonard Pitts Jr. in McClatchy. It begins:

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, hundreds of men identified as members of al–Qaeda were captured and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

There, they were subjected to sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, dehydration, extreme temperatures, waterboarding, being chained to the floor for hours in their own waste, and other so-called "enhanced interrogation" techniques even as the president was assuring the world that we don’t torture because we are America and America doesn’t do that sort of thing.

The president was, of course, lying. And having thus sold our national honor, you might wonder what we received in exchange.

The answer: nothing.

At least, not if the case of one Abu Zubayda is in any way representative. According to a March 29 report in The Washington Post, U.S. officials were convinced they had themselves a real, live al–Qaeda leader in Zubayda, who was captured in Pakistan in 2002. Under pressure from the Bush White House to get something out of him, they resorted to waterboarding and other coercive measures.

Out came a flood of names and plots and details. Security was tightened, millions were spent chasing it all down, and all of it was for nothing. Every investigation launched as a result of Abu Zubayda’s revelations fizzled. It turned out that, far from being an al–Qaeda leader, he was a mid–level associate. The Post says most of the information he gave that proved in any way useful came during ordinary interrogation. The things he said while being tortured by the nation that does not torture were apparently just to make the pain stop.

The Post report is but the latest in a litany of revelations all suggesting the same thing: that in the wake of Sept. 11, a frightened nation betrayed one of its core principles – the rule of law – for the fool’s gold of security.

We tortured and then rationalized with stark illogic. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that when this debate was at its zenith, proponents, including columnist Cal Thomas, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, defended torture by pointing out how well it seems to work for counterterrorism expert Jack Bauer. One wondered sometimes if they were aware that Jack Bauer is a character on a TV show, 24.

And it occurs to me that if we’re going to use TV characters to frame this debate, M*A*S*H might be a better choice…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 April 2009 at 10:21 am

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