If it is reporting, it’s bad reporting. Saletan takes the claims of the most senior architects of torture at face value. These guys know more about the program than almost anyone, so we can’t afford to reflexively discount what they say about it, if we want to understand it, but let’s keep in mind that they are professional deceivers who, at best, skirted the law and at worst broke it. They see themselves as fighting an ongoing war and they know that what they say now will have implications for how that war goes. They have every reason to lie about what they did and how they did it.
Saletan blithely ignores basic critical questions like: If torture was so effective, why didn’t we catch Bin Laden during the height of the torture era? Why did it take over a decade?
He comes across as utterly credulous, producing lines like: “So, for what it’s worth, there were internal checks on the practice, at least because the CIA would be politically accountable for what its interrogators did.” Right. That’s why Jose Rodriguez deleted all those interrogation tapes.
Saletan resorts to pompous weasel words when he lacks the courage of his convictions. He’s too timid to come out and say that he approves of the “enhanced interrogation program” as it was used in the hunt for Bin Laden, but he keeps tipping his hand with the language he uses to describe the panelists’ arguments.
For example, he writes that the panelists “scorned the delusion that these methods hadn’t produced vital information.” By using the word “delusion” instead of “belief” or “claim,” Saletan implies that the pro-torture contingent is right without having to provide any evidence for their dubious claim that torture produced vital information that couldn’t have been gotten any other way. According to Saletan, the panelists “trashed the Obama-era conceit that we’re a better country because we’ve scrapped the interrogation program,” the word “conceit” implies that Obama is wrong or dissembling.
It’s all this good, so you should read it. Lindsay did, however, leave me one piece of low-hanging fruit. Amazingly, he actually buys the ol’ Jonah Goldberg “fraternity hi-jinx” routine:
4. We had tested enhanced interrogation techniques on ourselves.
Rodriguez said he quickly accepted the use of enhanced interrogation in part because “I knew that many of these procedures were applied to our own servicemen. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers had gone through this.” If these methods were safe and moral to use on Americans, weren’t they safe and moral to use on our enemies?
I have enough faith in our audience to assume that they know what “consent” means, and hence that I don’t need to belabor how pain one agrees to be subjected to knowing it’s of finite duration and won’t be escalated is not remotely comparable to being tortured involuntarily. I can’t believe that anyone is still trying to sell this argument, and it’s even more amazing that anyone would buy it.