Bush Administration’s Dark Side: Torturing a Clerk


american torture.jpg
Joseph Margulies in the Los Angeles Times offers anyone who wants to defend the Bush administration’s embrace of torture a chilling retort.
His bottom line: the administration sold out the values Americans cherish most to torture not a kingpin in the al Qaeda network, but a clerk.
Margulies writes:

First, they beat him. As authorized by the Justice Department and confirmed by the Red Cross, they wrapped a collar around his neck and smashed him over and over against a wall. They forced his body into a tiny, pitch-dark box and left him for hours. They stripped him naked and suspended him from hooks in the ceiling. They kept him awake for days.
And they strapped him to an inverted board and poured water over his covered nose and mouth to “produce the sensation of suffocation and incipient panic.” Eighty-three times. I leave it to others to debate whether we should call this torture. I am content with the self-evident truth that it was wrong.
Second, his treatment was motivated by the bane of our post-9/11 world: rotten intel. The beat him because they believed he was evil. Not long after his arrest, President Bush described him as “one of the top three leaders” in Al Qaeda and “Al Qaeda’s chief of operations.” In fact, the CIA brass at Langley, Va., ordered his interrogators to keep at it long after the latter warned that he had been wrung dry.
But Abu Zubaydah, we now understand, was nothing like what the president believed. He was never Al Qaeda. The journalist Ron Suskind was the first to ask the right questions. In his 2006 book, “The One Percent Doctrine,” he described Abu Zubaydah as a minor logistics man, a travel agent.
Later and more detailed reporting in the Washington Post, quoting Justice Department officials, said he provided “above-ground support. … To make him the mastermind of anything is ridiculous.” More recently, the New York Times, relying on current and former intelligence officers, said the initial assessment was “highly inflated” and reflected “a profound misunderstanding” of Abu Zubaydah. Far from a leader, he was “a personnel clerk.”

— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Bush Administration’s Dark Side: Torturing a Clerk

  1. Alfred says:

    who work hard to keep up appearances, follow the letter of the law, but avoid at all costs the intent and spirit behind it all…


  2. pauline says:

    Dougie Feith’s Little Shop of Tortures?
    By: emptywheel Tuesday May 5, 2009 8:46 pm
    I just happened to find Dougie Feith’s responses to Questions for the Record the Senate Intelligence Committee asked him in 2003. They wanted to know how his little intelligence shop at DOD–the Policy Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG)–bridged the line between intelligence and policy.
    He said his little intelligence shop helped formulate policy on:
    * DoD response to the presence in Iraq of the al-Qaida affiliated Ansar al-Islam terrorist group.
    * DoD response to the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his CB W network.
    * Helping to formulate requirements for the debriefings of al-Qaida fighters detained at Guantanamo and Bagram.
    “Helping to formulate requirements for the debriefings of al-Qaida fighters?!?!?!?!”
    What the hell does that mean? How do you formulate policy requirements for interrogations?
    I don’t know, really, but I wonder if it has something to do with this (from a psychiatrist advising on interrogations at Gitmo):
    [T]his is my opinion, even though they were giving information and some of it was useful, while we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between AI Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful in establishing a link between AI Qaeda and Iraq. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish this link, there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.
    Or this, coming from Dougie’s boss, Paul Wolfowitz:
    Mr. Becker also told the Committee that, on several occasions, MG Dunlavey had advised him that the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz had called to express concerns about the insufficient intelligence production at GTMO.
    Or this:
    Mr. Haynes’s memo stated that he had discussed the issue with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz,Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) General Richard Myers and that they concurred with his recommendation.
    Anyone want to speculate whether or not Dougie Feith was giving the torturers a script to focus on Iraq’s specious ties to al Qaeda?
    see —


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    Give me back my country.
    Too bad they didn’t torture Michael moore like that, eh?
    You’re next if you say nothing.


  4. ... says:

    some people are quite content to get their hands dirty from monday to saturday, just so long as they can wash them on sunday… that summarizes ‘some’ of these same folks, who work hard to keep up appearances, follow the letter of the law, but avoid at all costs the intent and spirit behind it all…


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Apparently people who are regular churchgoers are more likely to support torture than those who are not regular churchgoers”
    Thats not at all suprising. They are more confident in God’s support for their self righteousness. Besides, after all, they’re “forgiven”. If nothing else, centuries of religious war and carnage should have long ago taught us that for most religious wack-jobs, a “loving God” means “loves me, hates you”.


  6. David says:

    Here’s a truly sad note for you. Apparently people who are regular churchgoers are more likely to support torture than those who are not regular churchgoers. Brings immediately to mind, “And Jesus wept.”


  7. jc says:

    This piece about Zubaydah is plenty disturbing on its own– but many of the comments it generated at the L.A.Times prove to me that too many of our people are losing touch with the goodness America once represented in the world.
    Too many of the comments demonstrate the kind of mindless nastiness that could be this nation’s downfall. One can not reason with such people. All they can do is spout fountains of ugly, hateful right-wing propaganda…they are so lost.


  8. JamesL says:

    But what if the clerk knew where the bomb in New York was buried, and when it was set to go off?
    I think we just better torture everybody and be done with it. In this dangerous world, even one percent is too much to be left to chance. On the other hand you just can’t be sure the first time around, can you? We would need torture re-ups. A sign-up sheet. A minimum age would cut the numbers to process, say 8. Better make that 6 just to be safe. The wonders it would do for unemployment!


  9. silver slipper says:

    Doesn’t this show the wrong picture with this article? This looks like a picture of Abu Ghraib. The types of interrogation techniques stated in the article doesn’t mention shocking a suspect nor is it one of the methods under dispute right now in the news.


  10. Cato the Censor says:

    I just want to second KB’s previous remarks. Good for you for describing barbarism for what it is.


  11. Kansas Boy says:

    I just want to commend you for your sober, common sense to these
    foreign policy issues. We all owe you for so regularly stirring up
    discussion and debate on important issues facing the country.
    I start my day reading your blog each and every morning.
    Your friends in Kansas


  12. Josh Meah says:

    This is just so horrendous.
    On tape and elsewhere, “terrorists” frequently
    claim that they attack the citizens of America and
    Europe, because the citizens of those countries
    are “free” and part of a democracy. However, don’t
    mistake the cause of their frustration for their
    Is it hate for “Freedom” and democracy or is it
    sometimes the desire for a real response from
    citizens within democracies?
    In some cases, Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of
    Civilizations?” thesis has some real weight. But
    then you have stuff like this, useless and
    senseless torture, that will pulls real, murderous
    enemies out of the shadows. “Shadows” not because
    the people aren’t real, but because we probably
    won’t know where they come from.
    The family unit is so important and, for Middle
    Easterners, it frequently extends far out of their
    own country.
    A torture here easily translates into a
    recruitment anywhere.
    This has to stop!
    Despite all of its detractors, I’m still in
    support of commissiononaccountability.org
    Enough delaying. Please sign up.


Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *