Cohen “Catapults The Propaganda” Of The “Past”

January 27, 2009

Witness one of our premier corporate media hacks in action today in the WaPo, where he tells us this…

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” So goes an aphorism that needs to be applied to the current debate over whether those who authorized and used torture should be prosecuted. In the very different country called Sept. 11, 2001, the answer would be a resounding no.

Around the same time, historian Jay Winik wrote about the usefulness of torture, how Philippine agents in 1995 got a certain Abdul Hakim Murad to reveal a plot to blow up 11 American airliners over the Pacific and send yet another plane, this one loaded with nerve gas, into CIA headquarters in Langley. After being beaten nearly to death, Murad was finally broken by the hollow threat to turn him over to Israel’s Mossad.

It would behoove Richard Cohen to read this post from, in which we learn the following (sourcing Cohen’s own newspaper, by the way)…

Advocates of the ticking bomb (theory) often cite the brutal torture of Abdul Hakim Murad in Manila in 1995, which they say stopped a plot to blow up a dozen trans-Pacific aircraft and kill 4,000 innocent passengers. Except, of course, for the simple fact that Murad’s torture did nothing of the sort. As The Washington Post has reported, Manila police got all their important information from Murad in the first few minutes when they seized his laptop with the entire bomb plot. All the supposed details gained from the sixty-seven days of incessant beatings, spiced by techniques like cigarettes to the genitals, were, as one Filipino officer testified in a New York court, fabrications fed to Murad by Philippine police.

Cohen continues…

(The Murad case took place in) the other country called the Past. In the country called the Present, certain people are demanding that the torturers and their enablers be dragged across the time border and brought to justice.

The best suggestion for how to proceed comes from David Cole of Georgetown Law School. Writing in the Jan. 15 New York Review of Books, he proposed that either the president or Congress appoint a blue-ribbon commission, arm it with subpoena power, and turn it loose to find out what went wrong, what (if anything) went right and to report not only to Congress but to us. We were the ones, remember, who just wanted to be kept safe. So, it is important, as well as fair, not to punish those who did what we wanted done — back when we lived, scared to death, in a place called the Past.

I’m not the biggest fan of “blue-ribbon commissions,” especially since the purpose of this one would be to confirm the stupendously obvious fact that this country is not supposed to torture, now or ever, Cohen’s feeble equivocating about the “Past” versus the “Present” notwithstanding. But if that’s the best way to one day achieve closure on the abuses of the Bushco years in this regard, then maybe it should be considered.

Oh, and just to reiterate more obvious points, torture is bad for at least two reasons: 1) It defies internationally agreed upon procedures and protocols of detainee treatment, to say nothing of standing in complete opposition to what we are supposed to represent as a country, and 2) As noted in the Murad example previously, it doesn’t generate good intelligence. And if you don’t want to believe me, fine; believe Susan Crawford, the “top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial,” according to Think Progress here, who told Bob Woodward that we couldn’t prosecute Mohammed al-Qahtani, one of the 9/11 plotters, because we tortured him (and Crawford is a Republican, in case you were wondering).

Finally, I want to go “on the record” with the following statement, using the clearest language that I can, as long as Cohen has apparently tried to lump me into this amorphous group of people who, to his mind, “just wanted to be kept safe” and thus condoned torture:

I have never condoned torture for any reason. I thoroughly repudiate the practice. It makes us absolutely no different from those who seek to defeat us. Besides, saying we accept it increases the likelihood that members of our military or others in our foreign service could be subjected to it one day were they ever captured and/or imprisoned (“waterboarding,” categorically – and correctly – described by Attorney General Designate Eric Holder as torture, is shown above).

Torture is, now, and has always been wrong, and though I am not a lawyer, I cannot imagine how it could possibly be legal. And those who engaged it in under the disgusting pretext of “protecting us” should face the full force of the law for doing so.

Update: God bless General James P. Cullen for this.

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