Research: Commentary

Tortured Logic, Continued

The Huffington Post, May 6, 2011 | Article

By William D. Hartung

The Obama administration got Osama bin Laden through a combination of persistent intelligence gathering, extensive surveillance, and well-coordinated military action (for an excellent summary of these efforts see the National Security Network's account, here). But now a rogue's gallery of right-wing ideologues and Bush administration operatives are trying to argue that the key to the success in finding Bin Laden was torture (or "enhanced interrogation," to put it more gently and less accurately).

One of the first responses to these absurd claims came from Brian Beutler, whose piece, "GOP's Tortured Logic: How We Got Osama Bin Laden" appeared at the Talking Points Memo web site. Rep. Steve King tweeted "Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?" Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went on Bill O'Reilly to claim (falsely) that "We got that information through waterboarding. So for those who say that waterboarding doesn't work, who say it should be stopped and never used again, we got vital information which led directly to Bin Laden." The two Kings (Steve and Peter) were joined by Bush administration stalwarts like Karl Rove, John Woo (author of the infamous torture memo that described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint"), and Dick Cheney (the man who infamously claimed that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of getting nuclear weapons).

So, we can believe this discredited group, or we can listen to people with actual knowledge of what happened (the "reality-based community," as a prominent neo-con once called people of this sort). Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated flatly that "I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used." And as Tanya Somanader noted in her post on Think Progress, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the Bush years, said "I am skeptical that [waterboarding] was the 'critical info' to our week-end success," noting that it "ended years ago." And the National Security Network cites a statement by Mark Fallon, a former interrogator and head of the criminal investigation task force at Guantanamo: "I've seen no information that the infliction of pain equates to the elicitation of accurate information . . . it's a shame to diminish the incredible work that went on through the intelligence community with analysts and case officers that led to bin Laden's capture."

So, if you want to refute the claims of the right about the "value" of torture, the information is available. But we need to do it repeatedly, wherever and whenever these outrageous claims pop up, as they surely will in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections. To paraphrase the old adage, a lie repeated often enough starts to sound like the truth. We can't let them get away with that on an issue this important.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2011).

Copyright 2011 The Huffington Post. Original article published here.

CIP in the Press
  • Trump ready to approve weapons packages to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain that Obama blocked

    William D. Hartung quoted, 02-08-17

    The Trump administration is poised to move quickly to approve major weapons packages for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that President Obama blocked during his final months in office over human rights concerns in both nations, U.S. officials and congressional sources say...Read More »

  • Ex-Diplomat: Congress to Scrutinize Tillerson Efforts to 'Make Deal' With Russia

    Harry Blaney quoted

    Sputnik International, 02-02-17

    On Wednesday, the US Senate in a final vote confirmed Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as President Donald Trump's secretary of state by a 56 to 43 vote, with Republicans backing the nominee and most Democrats opposing him...Read More »

  • Memorandum

    Bill Goodfellow


    John Niles, the Center for International Policy’s board chair, has announced that I will be stepping down as executive director. After 42 years, I need a change and I believe CIP will benefit from a leader with new ideas and new energy. With Donald Trump in the White House, we face enormous challenges and we will have to dramatically ramp up our activities to respond to what I believe is the greatest threat to world peace since the end of World War II...Read More »