Sunday, May 08, 2011

No it wasn't the waterboarding that got OBL

New spin from (certain) Republicans: waterboarding KSL repeatedly--which is not of course particularly harsh--broke him and got key information. Apart from being contradictory, this explanation isn't true. KSL gave false information while being waterboarding 183 times. I've always doubted the ability of "harsh interrogation"--some will call it torture, but labels aren't the main issue. At the conservative website Townhall.com, I posed the following mock scenario, around early 2002:

I'm captured and mistaken for a jihadist--maybe I'm reading the Koran or another book sympathetic to Islam--perhaps by Karen Armstrong or Reza Aslan. I am dunked under water a few times and forced to listen to very loud Brittney Spears music that I cannot stand. By the way, this scenario is not completely hypothetical--her music has reportedly been used in some interrogations!

The questioning begins:

Interrogator, which we'll assume is a man:"Are you the mastermind behind the horrific crime, Mr.Davis?"
Me: No, I'm a law-abiding citizen. I wasn't even alive when JFK was assassinated!"

Him:"No, Mr.Davis, that's not the crime we're referring to."

Me: "I can't take this abuse anymore. Sure, I confess to watching Keith Olbermann, but it was only once. I find him overly strident and partisan and haven't watched it since."
Him: "No, that's not the crime we're talking about, Mr. Davis.We mean 9-11. We believe you are a member of Al-Qaeda and you knew some of the conspirators. Your neighbor said you were reading jihadist literature."

Me: "Are you insane? First of all, my neighbor is an idiot who dislikes me and vice versa. Second, I'm not even Muslim, let alone any kind of jihadist. I don't speak any language other than English and a little Spanish. I've never even met any of the 9-11 terrorists. I was just walking through the bookstore and glanced briefly at Aslan's book. I saw him debate Sam Harris and was curious. I've never even met this bin Laten or whoever's in charge of this terror group. Al-Fida, is it?"

Him:"You're making this more difficult than it has to be. Fine, we'll keep up the dunking and we'll go through every song on Brittney's greatest CD, even louder than before!
Me: "Can we switch to Madonna or at least No Doubt? Even Colbie Caillat would be an improvement."

Him: "Unfortunately not. I like them better, too, but we find that Spears' music breaks prisoners much quicker. Caillat is more annoying than unbearable to most prisoners."

Me: "OK, OK, I did it. I was involved, in some way, I guess, whatever. Can we stop this? I'm really wet, can't breathe well, and my ears hurt. Do people actually pay to listen to this music?

Him (laughing a bit at my last remark):"I agree with you--Spears is pretty bad. My daughter seems to like her, though. I guess it's a young female thing. Anyway, now that you confessed we can stop this interrogation. I assume this confession will hold up in court, but I'm no lawyer. In any case, Cheney will be happy, we got the evidence he wanted!"

Me:(under my breath): Whatever.

The next day, predictably comes the spin from the right-wing pundits: Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, John Yoo,et al. In unison they agree: The criminal mastermind behind 9-11 broke under harsh interrogation. This proves that waterboarding (which is not torture, they quickly add) does work! Thank God for George Bush! John McCain weakly protests, pointing out that he confessed falsely under duress during the Vietnam War, but no one listens to him.

All of these people urge caution to my would-be sympathizers: Don't listen to the whiny left-wing blogosphere, which is defending Mr. Davis. That's a clear sign of his guilt. No true patriot would have any association with websites like Think Progress and Daily Kos. Of course, he claims to have been coerced. Isn't that just what someone with a guilty conscience would say? And he may be technically correct that he isn't a Muslim, but who other than a jihadist would be reading Aslan or Armstrong? Plus he has a subscription to The Nation. You might well wear a tatoo saying I heart Al-Qaeda.

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