“Close Enough for Government Work” Torture

A newly-released Pentagon-funded study entitled “Educing Information” examines the “concerns about recent U.S. interrogation activities, subsequent investigations, and the efficacy of contemporary tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

Surprise, surprise: the U.S. government has little or no idea what it is doing when it tries to beat the truth out of people. A Washington Post story on the study today noted that “no significant scientific research has been conducted in more than four decades about the effectiveness of many techniques the U.S. military and intelligence groups use regularly.”

But this does not mean torture is barren for purposes of state. Some of the key “evidence” linking Saddam and Al Qaeda was generated by torture. The fact that the “confession” later turned out to be false did nothing to resurrect the scores of thousands of people who have been killed in Iraq since the U.S. invaded.

Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor and an expert on the war on terrorism, observed, “Torture is what provides evidence for large important networks of terrorists where there aren’t really any, or aren’t very many, or aren’t enough to justify 800 military bases and a $500 billion military budget.”

The U.S. government has a pathetic batting average regarding alleged terrorists. The vast majority of the people the feds have accused of being terrorists or labeled as terrorist suspects have turned out to be not guilty as charged.

This has often proved embarrassing. And this may be where torture comes in. Cole asks, “How do you prove to yourself and others a big terror threat that requires a National Security State and turn toward a praetorian society? You torture people into alleging it. Global terrorism is being exaggerated and hyped by torture just as the witchcraft scare in Puritan American manufactured witches.” Cole explains that “Bush needs torture … to generate false information that exaggerates the threat to his regime, so as to justify repression. He needs the ritual of confession and naming others, to have it down on paper so he can show it to Congress behind closed doors.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency study did not examine this “benefit” of torture.

Comments & cavils on this topic are welcome at my blog here.