A View From The Handbasket

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:05 PM
The only explanation I have for the relative obscurity of stories like this is that the country no longer cares about whether or not their leaders are amoral thugs. Narcotized on a steady diet of empty nationalism, superficial religion, shallow pop culture and brain-dead media, many Americans are somehow able to shrug off behavior like this:

[...] 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...

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.


"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."

Ron Suskind's new book, The One-Percent Doctrine, is apparently full of such nauseating tales. In another, Bush patronizingly tells a CIA briefer urging the President to pay attention to the infamous "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike In US" memo from the summer of 2001, "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

There's also the reassuring news that credit-card processor First Data has been offering up its records to the FBI post-9/11, without much tangible effect beyond the roundup of innocent people.

If the book lives up to its advance billing, it may be the clearest picture yet of how the administration is selling us a bumbling police regime in a box marked "security."

Yet, the debate rages on about gay marriage, flag burning and evolution, and Americans breathlessly follow the saga of Brangelina's successful spawning. Pass the freedom fries.

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