Anyone doubting the insanity and moral bankruptcy of America's use of torture in its "war on terror" has only to read this piece in today's Washington Post. In a review of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, Washington Post national security correspondent Barton Gellman tells the tale of what happened to Abu Zubaydah, a "high ranking" Al Qaeda operative captured in 2002. Except it turns out he wasn't as high-ranking as the Americans thought he was. Rather than masterminding terrorist plots, he was a low-ranking mook who handled travel for wives and families. And he was mad:
CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."
Not that any of this mattered. Desperate for a victory in his "war on terror", Bush publicly claimed that Abu Zubaydah was "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And then, in a classic example of the faith-based Presidency in action, he told the CIA to prove it:
"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
And all of this so the President wouldn't "lose face". It's positively medieval over there...
[Hat tip: Political Animal]