Friday, January 23, 2009

Does Anyone Else Find the Right Wing's Hard-on For Jack Bauer Creepy?

National Review's Jonah Goldberg goes in for a hug.

I don't get it. I guess Kiefer Sutherland is OK looking, but he's certainly no Christian Bale. Yet the right wing seems to have a dual obsession with him. First, he really puts the dill in their collective pickle. Second, they seem to think that he, a fictional character, is the best possible argument for torturing people. It reminds me of those people in college who, when I told them I was a socialist, would tell me that Lord of the Flies had shown why I had it all wrong. I liked to respond that Star Trek had proven Marx was right.

So today we have the Wall Street Journal crying JB at Obama's executive order restricting intelligence service interrogation techniques to those specified in the Army Field Manual. The Journal sniffs that the CIA would "now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual's confines don't even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts." The Journal seems willfully unaware of what goes in some police precincts, but that's beside the point.

The article's main argument is same tired ticking bomb scenario. Alfred McCoy dissected the scenario expertly in 2006, and the argument hasn't changed since then. Here McCoy recounts the rather improbable sequence of events involved in the scenario:

—First, FBI or CIA agents apprehend a terrorist at the precise moment between timer’s first tick and bomb’s burst.

—Second, the interrogators somehow have sufficiently detailed foreknowledge of the plot to know they must interrogate this very person and do it right now.

—Third, these same officers, for some unexplained reason, are missing just a few critical details that only this captive can divulge.

—Fourth, the biggest leap of all, these officers with just one shot to get the information that only this captive can divulge are best advised to try torture, as if beating him is the way to assure his wholehearted cooperation.

David Rose has updated McCoy's argument recently in Vanity Fair. Rose interviewed a whole host of intelligence operatives, who uniformly told him that torture did not produce good intelligence. In fact, it tended to produce bad intelligence that caused investigators to waste resources following. Of the much hallowed waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one Pentagon analyst said “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

The WSJ article is useful in one respect, however: it disproves the self-righteous laments from Democrats who angrily shake their fist and cry "This never would have happened but for NADER!" Observe:

An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir "Against All Enemies" is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke's proposal for "extraordinary rendition," where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.

While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. "Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides," Mr. Clarke writes. "Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"