Never mind the fact that James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, stated, “There is an assumption that torture is an effective way of interrogation, but torture is not always an effective technique. People being tortured will say anything to stop the pain.” So what Bowden describes as unlikely was most likely the case.
As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in an article for The Times Online, (citing Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine) FBI sources believed “Zubaydah was in fact mentally unstable and tangential to Al-Qaeda’s plots, and that he gave reams of unfounded information under torture” which led authorities to spread public fear by fallaciously raising terror alerts, while wasting manpower and resources.
This would not be the first time the Bush Administration had someone tortured and received false information. One case Bowden ignores is that of Ibn al Sheikh al Libi, the former al Qaeda camp commander (see: “CIA Rendition: The Smoking Gun Cable”, by Stephen Grey). Al Libi was renditioned to Egypt, (one of the many countries to which we outsource torture ) where “information” (that proved to be untrue) was tortured out of him about Saddam Hussein’s assistance to al Qaeda in the use of chemical weapons.
According to Al Libi, after not providing his interrogators with the “right” answers, he was held in a small box approximately 20 inches by 20 inches for up to 17 hours to jog his memory. After being let out of the box for one last opportunity “to tell the truth”, what ensued was the divulging of “information” used by Colin Powell at the United Nations in his now infamous presentation to promote war in Iraq. “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al Qaeda,” Powell said. “Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”
Neither factual evidence, nor morality nor law influence Bowden, who gets on the pro-torture bandwagon along with Inky regulars Smerconish, Krauthammer and Santorum, and the quieter but implicit apologetics of Jonathan Last and Kevin Ferris. It is a sad testimony to the state of the country, as well as the Inky, that individuals like these are given such a prominent role in an important newspaper.
Rubin and the Inky on the Bush Middle East Policy and the Gaza Crisis
Trudy Rubin and the Inky editors have been critical of Bush for failing to follow through on Annapolis and do something more constructive to resolve the crisis in Palestine (Rubin, “Bush policy: Words over strategy,” Jan. 9; “Bush’s Mideast Trip: He waited too long,” Jan. 11). What hamstrings them both, along with the rest of the mainstream media, is that they are incapable of acknowledging the basic truth that the root of the crisis is the occupation, and that Israel will not voluntarily negotiate a two-state settlement that leaves the Palestinians a viable political entity because they want to continue to expand their settlements by seizing Palestinian land as they have been doing for decades. Both Rubin and the editors make the two sides equally guilty of non-progress, and seem to think that there was a serious chance that Bush might have done anything meaningful toward a just settlement. When Arafat died Rubin had two articles and the editors one claiming that this death provided a fresh opportunity for a settlement, which was utter nonsense—as shown by subsequent events, even the very Israel-accommodating Abbas would only serve as a “plucked chicken” (as Sharon described him), powerless to stop the Israeli juggernaut, then and now fully backed by the United States in the plucking.
The Gaza crisis shows the juggernaut at its most inhumane, with 1.5 million civilians under a brutal siege that a number of Israeli analysts have called a “slow genocide” (e.g., Ilan Pappe, The Israeli Recipe For 2008: Genocide in Gaza, Ethnic Cleansing in the West Bank), that a UN official calls a “cowardly Israeli war crime” , and that Chris Hedges refers to as “the final collective strangulation of the Palestinians in Gaza.” This siege is officially defended on the grounds of continued firing of Qassams and mortar shells from Gaza, but on the most generous interpretation the disproportion between the provocation and murderous attacks and killing and starving of civilians is gross. What is more, the excuse is a fraud—Hamas has proposed a comprehensive cease fire with Israel that was quickly rejected. You will hardly know this reading the Inky or other mainstream press apparently because it is so awkward. Uri Avnery in Israel wrote an article with the sardonic title “Help! A Cease Fire,” in which he says “Forget the Qassams. Forget the mortar shells. They are nothing compared with what Hamas launched at us this week,” namely an unwanted peace offer.
What kind of media is it that won’t call attention to that rejected peace offer and discuss its significance? What kind of media will fail to cry out in editorials and comments, as well as news articles, at the fact that Israel is “effecting a holocaust in Gaza”, with patients dying in hospitals without medical supplies, electricity and access to outside medical services, while the UN and other human rights organizations report angrily about a health and food crisis, and petition after petition is submitted for international action to condemn Israel and force it to behave with elementary humanity (not to speak of adherence to international law)? (Read “Gaza: An Israeli Call for Urgent Action “) There is also the sad fact that the United States is still defending Israeli actions, blocking any censure of the slow genocide process being imposed on Gaza (Shlomo Shamir and Barak Ravid, “U.S. Pressure Thwarts UN Censure of Gaza Blockade,” Haaretz, Jan. 22, 2008). This is a partnership in barbarism, and it depends on media cooperation…
Edward Herman is a Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, an economist and media analyst, with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He is the author of numerous books, including Corporate Control, Corporate Power (1981), Demonstration Elections (1984, with Frank Brodhead), The Real Terror Network (1982), Triumph of the Market (1995), The Global Media (1997, with Robert McChesney), The Myth of The Liberal Media: an Edward Herman Reader (1999), and Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis (2000, co-editor with Phil Hammond). The 1988 classic Manufacturing Consent (with Noam Chomsky) was re-released in a revised edition in 2002.
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