Monday, March 22, 2010

Torture and Lies

In the New Yorker, Jane Meyer takes apart Marc Thiessen's pro-torture manifesto, Courting Disaster: How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack. "Thiessen," she writes, "is better at conveying fear than relaying facts." Thiessen makes every unsupported claim you ever heard about the effectiveness of the CIA's torture program, including the ones that were refuted years ago. Admittedly some of this history is very murky, and has been the subject of competing leaks from CIA operatives and FBI agents, but Meyer has convincing counter-stories for every one of Thiessen's claimed triumphs. And then there's this:
Tellingly, Thiessen does not address the many false confessions given by detainees under torturous pressure, some of which have led the U.S. tragically astray. Nowhere in this book, for instance, does the name Ibn Sheikh al-Libi appear. In 2002, the C.I.A., under an expanded policy of extraordinary rendition, turned Libi over to Egypt to be brutalized. Under duress, Libi falsely linked Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s alleged biochemical-weapons program, in Iraq. In February, 2003, former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave an influential speech in which he made the case for going to war against Iraq and prominently cited this evidence.
Thiessen also tries to pin the ending of the torture program on Obama and the Democrats, and writes as if Republicans and the CIA were united behind the program's effectiveness. Not so. The program was always very controversial in the CIA and most of the military brass was strongly opposed. Which explains why the program was ended (or so we are told) in 2006 by President Bush, something Thiessen ought to know about, since he helped write the speech in which Bush announced the change of policy.

The amount of lying that Cheney and his acolytes are doing to promote their savage war staggers me. Is there nothing they won't say in defense of their own immorality?

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