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WPost Columnist Winks at Torture

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May 12, 2009

These days, the Washington Post has the look of one of those Southern newspapers in the 1960s standing firm for segregation as the wave of civil rights swept across the region. Except for the Post, the blind commitment is to neoconservatism.

The Post editors probably believe they are upholding some twisted journalistic principle, defying the views of most readers in a city that has a large African-American population, voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, and shows little sympathy for the neocons who rode roughshod over so many when George W. Bush was in power.

Even as the power balance has shifted--and many readers have dumped their subscriptions--the Post has chosen to remain a neocon bastion, turning its op-ed page into something of a clearinghouse for the excuses from all the ex-President's men.

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It also remains a comfortable home for pundits who pushed the Iraq War and seem to get a kick out of Muslims getting stripped naked and waterboarded.

The latest Post columnist to weigh in sympathetically on torturing Muslims labeled "unlawful enemy combatants"- by the Bush administration is Richard Cohen in a classically dimwitted column entitled "What If Cheney's Right?"

Cohen argues that former Vice President Dick Cheney had a point when he asserted that "enhanced interrogation techniques,"- including the near-drowning experience of waterboarding, elicited important intelligence information from the suspects and thus saved American lives.

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Cohen, who apparently considers himself quite clever and the issue of torture rather funny, starts the column off with the quip, "Blogger Alert: I have written a column in defense of Dick Cheney. He later adds about the torture debate, "this is not merely some political catfight conducted by bloggers."

While agreeing that torture is morally wrong, Cohen writes that "where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether "enhanced interrogation techniques' actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it."

Cohen apparently views himself as much more of a free-thinker than "those on the political left."- He notes that Cheney--through his declaration that critical intelligence was extracted by these means--poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?"

Bogus Intelligence

However, Cohen regrets that Cheney's credibility is lacking due to his pre-Iraq War claims, such as when Cheney "insisted that 'the evidence is overwhelming' that al-Qaeda had been in high-level contact with Saddam Hussein's regime when the 'evidence' was virtually non-existent."

If you were expecting that the next paragraph would observe that Cheney's "evidence"- for Hussein's contact with al-Qaeda was based on a coerced confession from one of the CIA's "high-value detainees," Ibu al-Sheikh al-Libi, you would be disappointed.

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Though al-Libi's case is precisely on point--and he is in the news since he reportedly just died (a purported suicide) at a Libyan prison--Cohen doesn't mention al-Libi, who concocted those stories about Hussein assisting al-Qaeda to escape torture.

Al-Libi's false claims had horrendous consequences, including the loss of much more life than occurred on 9/11.

A June 2002 CIA report cited claims by al-Libi that Iraq had "provided"  unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives. Al-Libi's information also was inserted into a November 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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