Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dishonesty, Incompetence, and Torture: A Profile of the Bush Administration

The Washington Post has a good review of Ron Suskind's new book The One Percent Doctrine.

Excerpts from the review:

The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now." Three months later, with bin Laden holed up in the Afghan mountain redoubt of Tora Bora, the CIA official managing the Afghanistan campaign, Henry A. Crumpton (now the State Department's counterterrorism chief), brought a detailed map to Bush and Cheney. White House accounts have long insisted that Bush had every reason to believe that Pakistan's army and pro-U.S. Afghan militias had bin Laden cornered and that there was no reason to commit large numbers of U.S. troops to get him. But Crumpton's message in the Oval Office, as told through Suskind, was blunt: The surrogate forces were "definitely not" up to the job, and "we're going to lose our prey if we're not careful."


One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. 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."

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now? Those questions form the spine of Suskind's impressively reported book.

...

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "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."


(via Metafilter.)

22 Comments:

Blogger Ezzie said...

I never understood why a guy trying to sell a book is believed completely just because he can write decently.

6/20/2006 11:20 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

It's not like he's just talking off the top of his head. He identifies his sources.

6/20/2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

So? A lot of people say a lot of things to strike political points. I'm unimpressed...

Does he give motive to the President? As in - what the heck does Bush get out of doing any of this?

Look - with all the claims made day in day out by the left, it's going to be really hard to know when they're finally right. That's a shame.

6/20/2006 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

They're not claims by the "left!" They're claims made by "top intelligence officials," including Tenet, FBI lead on al-Qaida Dan Coleman, etc. Yeah, they all have biases of their own. Nobody wants to accept blame, of course. Still, their stories are consistent with everything else we've heard about this administration.

When you have a plausible account corroberated by many different credible sources, you can't just point out that the person relaying the information is a leftist. Suskind, by the way was a reporter for the WSJ and won a Pulitzer.

Bush's motives? Incompetence doesn't require a motive. Motives involved in the dishonesty were saving face and taking down Saving. Motive in torture could be to prevent terror or to further save face by gaining info from someone who appeared useless.

6/20/2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

(that should be "taking down Saddam," of course, not Saving.)

6/20/2006 12:15 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Still, their stories are consistent with everything else we've heard about this administration.

What "everything else"? It's all the same garbage, most of which has continually been proven false. It's the drip drip drip of "Bush is terrible" over and over again - it doesn't matter that most (all?) of it isn't true, it still has this effect of convincing people that he's terrible.

When you have a plausible account corroberated by many different credible sources, you can't just point out that the person relaying the information is a leftist. Suskind, by the way was a reporter for the WSJ and won a Pulitzer.

Why is it plausible? It's plausible that they're following the tortured confessions of a lunatic? Come on. That's just stupid. The whole point of that story is to argue that they're doing things that are lunacy; yet you're arguing that they're plausible. It's either one or the other.

Incompetence doesn't require a motive.

Yes, he and everyone else are completely incompetent. Sure. And dumb.

Motives involved in the dishonesty were saving face and taking down Saving.

Ridiculous. To "save face" they carried out all this? That's just insane. They torture mentally ill people to 'save face'? When it comes down to it, the left is hard-pressed to come up with a serious, plausible reason that "BushCo" does all the things they claim they do. It just doesn't make sense. And yes, there DOES have to be a reason.

6/20/2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

It's all Bill Clintons fault. Once his sperm came in contact with the Earth's fragile atmosphere, all hell was unleashed. Without lies, war,and torture we would not be able to couteract the negative power of his spooge. The poor Jesus-like Republicans are just trying to fix all the Evil that Bill's satanic sperm released. Why can't you lefties understand that?

Damn you Monica and your temptress tonsils!

6/20/2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

SL-I'm trying to see the joke, but I'm just not getting it.

6/20/2006 3:42 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

CWY:

I think SL is just nostalgic for the time when the biggest problem with our president was marital infidelity (and lying about it.) Many of us Democrats simply shake our heads in dismay and wonder that, for that, Clinton was impeached, yet Bush misled us into war, condoned torture, made a huge executive branch power grab, fought the 9-11 commission, etc., etc. and... nothing. He was re-elected.

Try to overlook his crudity.

6/20/2006 4:38 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Republicans generally don't comprehend satire. No surprise there. Control freaks lack humor.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have it right. Since dialogue with conservatives is futile, these comic geniuses have devised the perfect way of expressing truth; they do it through humor. When truth finds expression through humor, we call it satire. Since the major news affiliates and government agencies aren't willing to offer a straight truth, we must rely on satire to make the point.

As long as we on the left are laughing, the Republicans assume that we aren't serious about the jokes we're telling, and political satire becomes, as it has for centuries, the only safe and effective means of telling truths. I have no doubts that the few Neocons who get the jokes wish they could outlaw comedy somehow.

Republicans like Classmate and Ezzie defend war, torture, and corruption yet are offended by a blow job joke? Are you guys for real? Your Republican Congress spent $40 million taxpayer dollars chasing that cum-stained dress and now you want me NOT to talk about it? LOL My taxes paid for part of that investigation and I will bring it up any time I damned well please.

6/20/2006 4:58 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

We've gotten off-track, though. Ezzie, Suskind is not some wacky liberal hack writing for Air America, this is a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter who worked for the WSJ for 7 years. Is it really your habit to simply dismiss out of hand anything negative about the president, regardless of source?

What, specifically, do you not believe?

*That they tortured Zubaydah?

*That he was insane and didn't know anything about terrorism?

*That Bush pressured the intelligence community to publically support positions merely to help him save face?

*That a CIA briefer flew to Texas specifically to call Bush's attention to the infamous bin Laden memo?

*That Bush said, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

*That Bush failed to heed advice about Tora Bora and consequently missed capturing or killing OBL?

What are your reasons? It's too easy to simply dismiss anything critical of the administration as "leftist" or whatever. Again, this is not some wacko. It's a serious reporter using serious sources. The Washington Post is a serious paper and the review is very positive.

6/20/2006 6:47 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/20/2006 6:47 PM  
Blogger The Jewish Freak said...

"Dishonesty, Incompetence, and Torture" - that sounds like Al-Qaida in Iraq. I would take this stuff much more seriously if he and others like him went after the monsters before going after the men.

6/20/2006 8:55 PM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

Jew Freak,

Ridding the world of 'monsters' is indeed a noble cause, but does it mean that one must become a monster to achieve that end?

The Bush Regime says that (paraphrasing the intent here) "In order to spread freedom around the globe, we must implement greater restrictions on liberty at home." Ok. So in order to rid the world of dictators who deceive, torture, and threaten other nations with war we must 1)deceive our own people into believing there is immanent danger 2)torture those who oppose our efforts and 3)threaten other nations with war if they refuse to comply with our demands.

Forgive me for asking the obvious, but why is this behavior considered criminal for Saddam Hussein and his regime yet, to some, a perfectly justified plan of global law enforcement when the PNAC does it? You may like it now because the usual suspect is you; it's an Arabic/Moslem or a Mexican worker. When those problems are solved, who do you think will be next?

"When they came for the dissenters, I was quiet. When they came for the homosexuals, I was quiet. When they came for the labor leaders, I was quiet. When they came for the mentally ill, I was quiet. When they came for the Gypsies, I was quiet. When they came for the Jews, I was quiet. When they came for ME, there was no one left to speak up." Incremental abuses of power and restrictions on liberty don't feel so bad at first.

Think about the analogy of a frog and the water heating slowly underneath him. This 'frog' thinks it's too hot already.

6/21/2006 6:39 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

Wow, SL, you managed to lump conservatives, neocons, and republicans together all in one short comment. I guess nuance is no longer found in the Left, unless of course it's John Kerry, who we all know was nuanced enough to vote for the 87 million before he voted against.

"In order to spread freedom around the globe, we must implement greater restrictions on liberty at home."

No, its "in order to protect our citizens from potentially devastating attacks we must impose limited restrictions on freedom at home." Not quite the same thing.

1)deceive our own people into believing there is immanent danger 2)torture those who oppose our efforts and 3)threaten other nations with war if they refuse to comply with our demands.

1) The President never spoke of an imminent threat, 2) we aren't torturing anti-war activists. Any alleged torture is carried out on people who are possible terrorists, 3) the only countries who are being threatened are the worst of the worst.

6/21/2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger The Jewish Freak said...

SL: You may have misunderstood my point. What I am saying is that when an author picks on debatable wrongs by a democatically elected administration rather than decrying clear and present horrors right in front of our noses I begin to suspect motive and credibility.

6/21/2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Shlomo said...

1) The President never spoke of an imminent threat.

Really? Wow. You were obviously not paying attention. Allow me to refresh your memory a bit.

"The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations."
• President Bush, 3/16/03

"This is about imminent threat."
• White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/03

Iraq "threatens the United States of America."
• Vice President Cheney, 1/30/03

"The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American. ... Iraq is a threat, a real threat."
• President Bush, 1/3/03

There are more. For example the statements concerning 'mushroom clouds over the midwest' made by Condie Rice and others. Now you would like to spin it otherwise, but the administration clearly intended for immediate action to be taken based upon imminent threat to the 'homeland'.

2)we aren't torturing anti-war activists. Any alleged torture is carried out on people who are possible terrorists.....

Alleged? Oh. So you wouldn't mind being held in stress positions for hours, subjected to naked pyramids, or hounded by attack dogs because you were a 'possible' suspect? Since when do we treat suspects as if they are already guilty? And when did human rights come to mean nothing to 'allegedly' civilized people?

Our nation has sunk very low when the issue of torture even has to be debated. Shameful. And no, I do not care one bit what THEY would do to their captives. If they choose to behave as savages, that is their guilt to bear, but I will never sit silent should my nation stoop to that level of barbarism.

3) the only countries who are being threatened are the worst of the worst.

Who gets to make that decision as to who is good or bad? There are regimes or situations far worse than Iraq.

6/21/2006 11:47 AM  
Blogger Nephtuli said...

1) I must have missed the statement where the President said Iraq was an imminent threat. And IIRC, the McClellan statement was referring to the threat to Turkey if the US invaded Iraq. There was no statement that Iraq was an imminent threat, at least not from the President.

2) I would mind being in prison for two minutes. The test isn't what I would mind. Torture has a legal definition that is independant of mine or your personal preferences.

3) We decide which regimes are the worst of the worst. And we haven't exactly been threatening France with military force, have we? We are only interested in containing threats to world peace and security.

6/21/2006 5:50 PM  
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