Torture Won't Stop Terror

If we had to rely solely on the word of George W. Bush about the progress in the war on terrorism and the value of information obtained from Muslim prisoners in U.S. custody, we would be in trouble. Bush's speech Wednesday from the White House was both self-serving and misleading. I give the president credit for one thing -- he's a great propagandist.

Let's ignore for the moment that terrorist attacks in which people have been killed or wounded have quadrupled since 2001. Are you getting this? We have had four times as many attacks with people being killed and wounded by terrorists, and Bush wants you to believe you are better off. But I digress.

According to Bush, secret prisons and torture have kept America safe. Not entirely true. While fessing up to the secret prisons, one of the critical things Bush failed to tell the American people was that CIA interrogators learned the hard way that torture was not an effective interrogation method. Books written by Jim Risen and Ron Suskind during the past two years provide compelling accounts that torture against people, particularly Khalid Sheikh Mohamad, was ineffective. Suskind recounts that Mohamad, one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 attack, was waterboarded, a technique designed to make you feel like you are drowning. Interrogators also threatened to rape and murder his family. Mohamad reportedly replied, "Do what you will, my family will be with God."

Bush also neglected to mention that, despite his previous criticism of the Clinton administration for not fighting terrorism as a military threat, almost all of the Al Qaeda operatives cited in his speech were captured through intelligence operations. In other words, most of the successes we have achieved as a nation in tracking down and capturing terrorists has been the work of law enforcement and and intelligence officials, not our soldiers.

Another thing not mentioned by Bush in the speech concerns the CIA officers who first told Washington Post reporter Dana Priest about the secret prisons; they spoke up because they were alarmed by the administration's violations of the Geneva Accords and its refusal to recognize that torture was counterproductive.

Bush, being Bush, can't help himself and fills his speech with genuine bad guys and hapless souls who had no means or ability to carry out terrorist attacks. Iyman Faris, for example, is once again trottted out as an Al Qaeda terrorist who was going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge. Yet, subsequent investigation demonstrated he was a man of wild dreams with no competence to harm the bridge. He was the type of guy who could be conned into buying the bridge, but he had trouble blowing up balloons.

The Bush con game -- to persuade the American people that we are safer only if Republicans are elected -- is wearing thin. Wednesday's speech was remarkable in one regard. Bush at least fessed up that he was witting of the secret prisons. This is good because at least the CIA won't be fingered as the rogue elephant who took it upon itself to torture Muslim prisoners. That was a decision made at the highest levels by political officials. If Congress decides to take up this issue and put in place a legal procedure for trying and punishing those individuals who are serious about killing Americans, they can help start the process of removing this stain on our national honor.

During the Cold War we fought the Soviet Union, which was a master at using secret prisons and torture. We won the Cold War in part because we at least knew such behavior is reprehensible. Now, in the midst of a newly declared nonwar war, we have met the enemy and surrendered our nation's integrity and honor. Republicans and Democrats need to come together on one critical point -- when it comes to fighting terrorists, we cannot and should not act like terrorists. That's a point George Bush still does not grasp.

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