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Tortured Rationale

Yesterday the Pentagon announced that it will try six inmates of Guantanamo Bay on murder charges related to 9/11. It was a stunning victory for the Bush administration’s argument for "enhanced interrogation" techniques, since there was no way FBI agents could have gathered the evidence against the 9/11 conspirators without waterboarding and other brutal approaches applied by the CIA.

Oh, wait. That’s not what happened at all. Reports The Washington Post:

The admissions made by the men — who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — played a key role in the government’s decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

FBI and military interrogators who began work with the suspects in late 2006 called themselves the "Clean Team" and set as their goal the collection of virtually the same information the CIA had obtained from five of the six through duress at secret prisons.

To ensure that the data would not be tainted by allegations of torture or illegal coercion, the FBI and military team won the suspects’ trust over the past 16 months by using time-tested rapport-building techniques, the officials said.

So we tortured these people, forever sullying the reputation of the U.S. during a time when we’re allegedly fighting a war for Muslim hearts and minds, when we could have offered them a cup of coffee for the same — and probably better — effect.

Well, not the same effect. If we didn’t torture, say, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, he would never have told us the lie that Saddam Hussein gave chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaeda, and Colin Powell would never have said that at the United Nations in February 2003, and the Bush administration (at the very least) would have had a harder time invading and occupying Iraq, and 4,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis would still be alive. So it’s a good thing the White House is still reserving the right to torture people. You never know when we’ll need someone to tell us that Iran is up to no good.

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