May
10
2011

Newsweek, Like Time, Clutching at Straws to Cheer for Torture

The argument that the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden shows that George W. Bush's torture policies were justified got another rehearsal in Newsweek fromYale professorStephen Carter (5/5/11):

In the end, we were able to track bin Laden because he communicated only through two couriers believed to be brothers. And what was the source of this vital clue? The intelligence apparently came from detainees imprisoned in secret facilities overseas and subjected to what has been euphemistically called "enhanced" interrogation….

So the information from the detainees was crucial, and we face an uncomfortable irony, both political and ethical. The finest moment of Barack Obama's presidency to this point came about precisely because of the detention system against which he railed during his campaign. Indeed, the only slip in what was otherwise an exemplary performance on May 1 was the president's failure to credit his predecessor, who established the controversial mechanism that likely led us to bin Laden's door. If we are cheering bin Laden's death, then we are also cheering, whether we like it or not, the methods that brought it about.

Three cheers for torture–because the "vital clue" that "led us to bin Laden's door" was that he "communicated only through two couriers believed to be brothers"? So without this "crucial" information, the U.S. government wouldn't have been looking for bin Laden's couriers? Or if it had found them, it wouldn't have realized they were important? Maybe it would have wasted time looking for couriers who were only children. "Bin Laden's door" it isn't.

Newsweek's rationale for cheering terrorism is no more convincing than the one advanced by Time (FAIR Blog, 5/6/11), which argued that the fact that detainees didn't give up any information about the courier under torture was key evidence that the courier was important.

One gets the sense that people who participated in torture, or helped to justify it–as Carter did in his book The Violence of Peace–recognize on some level that this was a horrible thing to do, and are desperate to assert that their moral collapse was not in vain.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.