Ron Suskind comes out with his new book, The One Percent Solution. It looks to be an interesting and important book… which will be completely ignored by the punditocracy and the American public, of course, but it deserves a look.
Synopsis of the below: pursuant to Bush’s orders, we tortured a mentally ill travel agent for al Qaida, because the preznit called him a “top operative” and didn’t want to “lose face.”
One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind’s gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war’s major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.
Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3” — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”
Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.
Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. “I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety — against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.” And so, Suskind writes, “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”
I want to repeat and restate what we just read because I’m having trouble coming to grips with it.
We captured an al Qaida functionary. The guy, Abu Zubaydah, is (and was) mentally ill. His function was to do minor administrative tasks. Like make travel plans for wives of al Qaida people.
Bush called him “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States” knowing that this was a lie, because the CIA and FBI had told him the dude was a consierge (not consiglieri!).
Bush personally approved the illegal (also immoral, inhuman, and inexcusable) torture of Zubaydah after learning he was mentally ill and knowing that he was not an important cog in the machine, because Bush had called him a “top operative” in order to not “lose face.”
Under torture, Zubaydah, who has at least three personalities in him, told about all sorts of “plots.” Including ones against shopping malls, the Statue of Liberty, and your trash can. Or maybe your mailbox. Depends on what Hami3 had for lunch that day. We then wasted resources “protecting” these places from “credible threats,” and, not coincidentally, scaring the populace and increasing their bedwetting/need for paternalist figure feelings for domestic elections.
Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.
Update Wolcott, of course, summarizes the issue best:
The Bush Doctrine
…torturing the mentally ill.
…hiring the intellectually handicapped.
Update 2: Froomkin has more in The Cheney Supremacy