Impeach George W. Bush
As best as I can see, the balance of the probabilities is that George W. Bush spent this morning lying his head off. Is there any reason to believe him, rather than to believe Ron Suskind's sources?
George W. Bush today:
President Discusses Creation of Military Commissions to Try Suspected Terrorists: Home > News & Policies: Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as Abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived to liberate that country. Zubaydah was severely wounded during the firefight that brought him into custody -- and he survived only because of the medical care arranged by the CIA.
After he recovered, Zubaydah was defiant and evasive. He declared his hatred of America. During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information -- and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the "nominal" information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- or KSM -- was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and used the alias "Muktar." This was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM. Abu Zubaydah also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States -- an attack about which we had no previous information. Zubaydah told us that al Qaeda operatives were planning to launch an attack in the U.S., and provided physical descriptions of the operatives and information on their general location. Based on the information he provided, the operatives were detained -- one while traveling to the United States.
We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful. I cannot describe the specific methods used -- I think you understand why -- if I did, it would help the terrorists learn how to resist questioning, and to keep information from us that we need to prevent new attacks on our country. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.
Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives...
Me, quoting Barton Gellman, quoting Ron Suskind, last June:
Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Ron Suskind's New Book: Ron Suskind has a new book. Barton Gellman reviews it:
Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah.... Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations... shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here. Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill... nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be... 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.
How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now? Those questions form the spine of Suskind's impressively reported book....
[T]he intelligence and counterterrorism professionals whose point of view dominates this book... came to believe, Suskind reports, that "their jobs were not to help shape policy, but to affirm it." (Some of them nicknamed Cheney "Edgar," as in Edgar Bergen -- casting the president as the ventriloquist's dummy.)...
[T]he unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "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."
Two points in Barton Gellman's review cannot be allowed to pass without comment. The first is his description of how Abu Zubaydah was treated:
...water-board[ing], which reproduces the agony of drowning.... threatened... with certain death... withheld medication... bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep... 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...
Yet Gellman cannot write the word "torture." The most he can bring himself to write is "harsh interrogation methods."
The second is Barton Gellman's question:
How could this have happened? Why are we learning about it only now?
I know that I am not learning about "this"--if the "this" is the Bush administration's inept, cruel, and immoral botching of the War on Terror--now, and I don't think Barton Gellman is learning about it now. He may be pretending to be learning about it now. But the big picture has been clear for years.
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.