What the heck is going on down there?
Posted by Ken Gude
I fail to understand how the Bush administration could have screwed up its detainee policy so badly. Yes, their record is a long catalog of catastrophic failures, from the grossly flawed strategy in Iraq to the complete indifference during Katrina. But the issue of detaining and interrogating suspected al Qaeda terrorists is different--they cared as much or more about it as they did getting rid of Saddam Hussein, but they gave the job to a whole bunch of Brownies, and they sure have been doin' a heck uva job.
The latest evidence comes from a story in today's Washington Post and a book excerpt that ran in the Guardian last Saturday. The Post story details allegations from Guantanamo detainees that they were forcibly drugged during interrogations, transfers, and to restrain them in their cells. While it seems unlikely (though not impossible) that there was widespread use of drugs during interrogations, the most plausible explanations for the consistent accounts from detainees is that they were given chemical restraints to subdue them and those administering the drugs had no idea what they were doing.
Philippe Sands, in his new book Torture Team, portions of which were re-printed in the Guardian over the weekend, uncovered more stories of mind boggling inexperience and incompetence. Topping the list was the revelation that the source of greatest inspiration during the development of interrogations techniques at Guantanamo was none other than Jack Bauer. Yes, the guy from 24, and no, I am not kidding. The junior staff lawyer responsible for approving the list of techniques told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas."
The Bush administration believed that interrogating terrorist suspects was so important that bedrock principles which formed the basis of our military culture for decades were "obsolete". The reason why they thought it was so important was that they feared we were all going to die in another al Qaeda attack and information gained from interrogations was in some cases our first and only line of defense. But instead of bringing in experienced interrogators and knowledgeable regional and al Qaeda experts, we got Dr. Quinn and Jack Bauer. This is the nature of my confusion.