Archive for May 5th, 2011

More on the torture distraction.

May 05, 2011 in Politics

Complete smackdown by Dahlia Lithwick here makes me wince for not knowing everything she says already. Good bit:

Lack of facts can also be highly probative. For example: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was water-boarded 183 times in 2003, lied about knowing Bin Laden’s courier, as did Abu Faraj al-Libi, who was interrogated in 2005. They offered no useful information. Yet torture advocates now say that because both men denied knowing the courier—thus tipping off the CIA that he must be someone important—torture must work. Got it? Torture works when the prisoners disclose information, but it also works when they don’t. It’s win-win!

She links to Tonya Somander’s great piece also (click to get all the embedded links):

If there’s anything to be learned from the intelligence officials involved in this long-standing intelligence operation, it’s just that. It takes a long time. Interrogators first learned of the courier’s existence in 2002. Mohammed was caught in 2003. Jump two years and 183 waterboarding sessions later, and many inside the CIA conclude that “the bin Laden hunt ha[s] grown cold” and now they should “overhaul” their operations. Cue Operation Cannonball — “a bureaucratic reshuffling that placed more C.I.A case officers on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

From that, they learn the courier’s family name. Then, by the often preferred technique of intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages, they got the courier’s full name. In July 2010, they spot him driving to Abbottabad. May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden is pronounced dead. The killing of bin Laden was a long process, spanning three presidents, two wars, and multiple layers of intelligence gathered over nearly a decade. In that long process, one thing has become clear. Mohammed was waterboarded and nothing “direct” resulted from it. The White House’s spokesman Tommy Vietor lays out the bottom line: “The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003.”

Maybe if we’d crushed some infant skulls we’d have found out more sooner? Torture begets more torture. Also, lots of radicalized bastards who counterbalance the psychological gains of offing bin Laden. The suggestion that torture ever had any part in tracking bin Laden only detracts from the psychological value of his death.

-hw

What if it had gone wrong?

May 05, 2011 in Barack Obama, War on Terra

Two alternative scenarios here and here.

Both imagine the SEALS getting in a disastrous firefight with no bin Laden to show for it and lots of dead troops. And oh, how the usual suspects would have sang:

UPDATE: Roundup of the latest Republican responses to Operation Geronimo.

Sarah Palin on Fox and Friends: “What is truly upsetting to me is that while our brave men in uniform were being sent on this errand, the president was laughing it up at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner with his pals from the mainstream media and Hollywood. Maybe if he was actually at his desk instead of golfing and rubbing elbows with elites — and spending so much time resurrecting the birth-certificate issue — this would have turned out differently.” [FOX]

Mitt Romney: “I’ve said before that we can’t afford to have a president who is learning on the job. Before I was referring to the damage he has done to the American economy, but now it’s clear that that extends to national defense as well. Never before has there been more glaring evidence that this president is unequal to the task of leading the free world. We need a president who can handle the economy and the war. Right now, that’s something we do not have.” [WSJ]

John Huntsman: “This single ill-conceived operation has done more damage to our delicate diplomatic relationship with Pakistan — a needed ally — than anything we have seen thus far. I hate to say it, but it’s a rookie mistake by a man afraid to reach outside of his closed circle of advisers, and a costly one.” [NYT]

Michele Bachmann: “You know what, running the military is not the same as reading a TelePrompTer, not the same as giving a pretty speech. What we had last night was a president sacrificing the lives of fighting men and women in a political ploy to distract us from real problems. It’s Jimmy Carter in Somalia all over again.” [CNN]

Donald Trump: “If he was willing to be as tough with bin Laden as he was with his buddy Matt Damon at the Correspondents’ Dinner, we would have all been better off. [The timing of the mission] is pretty transparent. His approval rating is lousy. His radical agenda has failed miserably at home, so he needed a distraction. Simple. Sadly, many of our brave soldiers paid for this with their lives.” [FOX]

Newt Gingrich: “Anyone who knows anything about the War on Terror knows that bin Laden had been marginalized, that he no longer posed any real threat. He was done, isolated, living in a concrete bunker with no phone or Internet, for God’s sake. What was he going to do? We already beat him. Well, if bin Laden can’t kill American soldiers, our president sure can. [FOX]

The more I think about what could be on the news and internets, the more unbelievable Obama’s dice roll was. I know he almost had no choice but to do it, but the risk could have been seen as prohibitive in the hands of someone less courageous. Obama put his presidency on the table, and deserves the payoff.

-hw