Frank Rich and I use our Sunday columns to make the same core point. Rich:
The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq.
The problem with torture is the enormous damage it does to the possibility of finding the truth. Torture forces a victim to tell his interrogator anything to stop the pain. There may be some truth in the confession but there is also untruth and no way to tell the two apart. Every experienced interrogator knows this, which is why governments that are concerned with getting at the truth do not use it ... The reason totalitarian states use the torture techniques that Bush did is to produce false confessions to create a reality that buttresses their ideology.
The Bush and Cheney ideology was that Iraq needed to be invaded because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and had an operational relationship with Al-Qaeda that put America under an intolerable risk. When the facts could not be found to defend that idée fixe, they skewed the intelligence. When there was no intelligence to skew, they tortured people to get it.
Or, to put it more simply: on March 27, 2007, when Zubaydah went before his combatant status review tribunal at Guantanamo, the judge asked him: “So I understand that, during this treatment, you said things to make them stop and then those statements were actually untrue. Is that correct?”
Zubaydah replied: “Yes.” This is partly how the entire war was justified: on a tortured lie. And this much we now know for sure.