On Validation and Inextricable Links

The Bush apologists have been crowing, based on initial reports that the name of the courier who led agents to bin Laden was given up by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that the bin Laden assassination validates Bush-era policies—enhanced interrogation techniques (i.e. waterboarding), extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention. As Brian Beutler points out here, they're not right. The AP reports:
Mohammed did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.
Unfortunately, because there was a background of interrogative torture, there's no way to say with certainty that the threat of being tortured again played no role in Mohammed's giving up useful intel. That is not a defense of torture; torture doesn't work. It is a lamentation that Bush's torture policies have muddied the process of illustrating that standard interrogation does work.

And then there's this problem: The Obama administration has largely continued the Bush policy of indefinite detention. That isn't considered torture, but there aren't many honest people who don't acknowledge that it's a pretty terrible policy, human dignity-wise, even if they support it. The continuation of that policy also frustratingly undermines any argument that standard interrogation works, unless one believes that such an interrogation happens in a void, and the circumstances of one's reality, e.g. being indefinitely detained in a foreign country without hope of trial or release, don't influence one's response to interrogation.

There's a lot of talk on both sides of the aisle about which president's policies are being validated, but that premise wrongly presumes that a clear line can be drawn between Bush's policies and Obama's policies, as if there is no crossover between their policies and as if the policies do not exist on a continuum when many terror suspects have been subjected to both policies.

The administrations, and their policies, are inextricably linked, frequently by virtue of the fact that the people being interrogated have been interred through parts of both administrations.

And if that doesn't underline the problem with the policies of both administrations, I don't know what would.

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