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Bin Laden's Killing Shows the Utter Folly of our "War on Terror"

The best outcome of bin Laden's death would be for us to declare victory in the "war on terror" and bring the troops home.

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As one might expect, some observers are claiming that the intelligence gleaned from these "high value detainees" is proof that torture works. But that claim isn't supported by what we know so far. According to Newsweek's Evan Thomas, al-Libbi was first interrogated by the FBI, “but when the FBI wanted to use its normal, go-slow methods, the prisoner was turned over to the CIA—who promptly turned him over to the Egyptians.” He was later returned to American custody, where former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insists that he yielded the information under “normal interrogation approaches ...[it was] not harsh treatment and it was not waterboarding.”

But we know that while being tortured by the Egyptians, “al-Libbi talked of plots and agents,” and the information he provided “was used to make the case for war against Iraq.” As Evan Thomas noted, “there was only one problem: al-Libbi later recanted, saying that he had lied to stop the torture.”

Mohammed was also subject to torture. It was under duress that he told interrogators that al Qaeda sleeper cells had "hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which will unleash a 'nuclear hellstorm' if Osama bin Laden is captured" -- yet more faulty information.

The torture which led to that bad intelligence would not have been embraced had we resisted the “war on terror” narrative. Everything that followed -- secret detentions, torture, the invasion of Iraq, the assault on domestic dissent -- flowed inevitably from the failure to challenge Bush's claim that an act of terror required a military response. The United States has a rich history of abandoning its purported liberal values during times of war, and it was our acceptance of that war narrative that led to the abuses.

That may have been the most expensive blunder in our history – hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians and thousands more Americans are dead as a result. And according to conservative estimates, the traditional wars that we chose to wage in response to 9/11 have cost us between $1.3 and $3 trillion in national wealth.

The biggest problem with the “war on terror” was that it was a conflict that offered no obvious point at which we could declare our victory – terrorism is a tactic that will be with us forever. With the death of bin Laden, we now have the opportunity to turn the page on one of the darkest chapters in our history. The war in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular with the American public, but much of the establishment has embraced it as the "good war" on which Bush should have remained focused. Bin Laden is now dead, the nation has its “closure” on the attacks of 9/11, and now we should declare victory, restore our civil liberties and bring those troops home.

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