A new article in the Washington Post confirms the proven, decades-old consensus on torture (surprise!) — it just doesn’t work:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other [forms of torture], they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. . . . None of [their earlier claims] was accurate, the new evidence showed.

I just want to highlight that bit from above, “not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions.”

So, we abandoned our cherished values and tortured al-Qaeda detainees for… what, exactly? Some kind of retributive feel-good whoop-ass?

We now have to suffer the indignity of a criminal war crimes probe by a foreign court because the Bush administration ignored decades of scientific, law enforcement and military research into torture (which have all consistently found that torture doesn’t actually work) so that some government officials could feel satisfied that we were inflicting grievous 24-inspired* harm on all those evil, brown-skinned towel-heads who made Bush interrupt his reading of The Pet Goat in front of all those nice children!?

I doubt whether I’ll be able to stomach the volume of shame and anger I’ll be forced to endure over the next few years as the mounting stacks of evidence of Bush’s rampant war crimes regime are unearthed.

* – Just to highlight the cold, sober, deliberative process our government used to devise its wide-ranging torture program, consider the testimony of one Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Beaver was charged with writing a document providing legal authority for harsh interrogation at Guantánamo. She describes the process by which they devised new techniques thusly:

“You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas.” Beaver also notes that ideas arose from other sources, such as the television show 24. Jack Bauer, the main character, had many friends at Guantánamo, says Beaver: “He gave people lots of ideas.” It was clear to Sands that Beaver believed that Washington was directly involved in the interrogations, and her account confirms what others tell Sands—that Washington’s views were being fed into the process by people physically present at Guantánamo.

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  1. DB says:

    we abandoned our cherished values

    That is the key to this whole thing! I don't undersatnd how conservatives, who claim to defend American values, are so easily persuaded that it is ok to sacrifice those values for information.

    I would also like to point out that while torture often worked in "24", those characters also "negotiated with terrorists" which worked as well. I wonder why conservatives don't start suggesting we "talk" with Iran since everything they see on tv is factual.

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