PETER T. "Puts the 'Republican' in Irish Republican Army" King is the US Representative from Amityville, and if you're old enough you may recall Amityville as the place where someone figured out you could lie through your teeth blatantly, transparently, and about shit no one with a third-grade education could possibly believe, and still make a mint in the modern era. King is presently the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a post he assumed this previous January when it turned out you could lie through your teeth blatantly, transparently, and about shit no one with a third-grade education could possibly believe, and still become the majority party in the US House of Representatives.
Now, in a certain sense, the fact that Peter King is Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee tells you all you need to know about our political system. You, a moderately normal American human, having reached the age of majority and possessing a high school diploma or its equivalent, would not hire Peter King to supervise anything, let alone your security. Just look at him. The man is the posterboy for everyone over forty having the face he deserves:
There may be even better examples. Lord knows there are plenty to choose from. Louis Gohmert and Jim Inhofe are Congressmen. Michelle Bachman reached the ripe old age of 55 without electrocuting herself making toast. There's a House Ethics Committee.
But it will certainly do to point out that The Greatest Nation On Earth either a) is so inept politically it manages to rest some portion of the responsibility for its Security on someone like Peter King, or b) that we actually consider things we claim are of the utmost seriousness to be so laughably unserious that we we will blatantly mock them in public, and don't give a shit who sees us.
Now, as you are probably already aware, King used this Possibly Serious (or Not) position of his to hie himself over the FOX News before the inkjet ink was dry on the office copies of that photoshopped bin-Laden death photo to announce that waterboarding had saved the day. Which then made it a topic of debate. Because, well, because Peter King and FOX News would like it to be.
As intelligence officials disclosed the trail of evidence that led to the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was hiding, a chorus of Bush administration officials claimed vindication for their policy of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.
A chorus of Bush administration officials! (correct collective noun: an "ineptitude". The Times might wanna update its stylebook). This is like saying that Jeffrey Dahmer revived a debate over proper food storage techniques.
But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier’s identity.
One: if a "closer look" disputes someone's pronouncement, then you don't have a dispute; what you have, technically, is a fucking liar. Two: that doesn't require a closer look. A closer look is what you were supposed to have taken back when there was a debate.
I followed along pretty closely at the time, and I think I can safely say that the argument for torture never included "Somebody might spill a name sometime that we could find useful in our lifetimes." No. It consisted of a) the 24 argument, that the inevitable next terror attack was locked in the head of someone we held, and could be unlocked as the clock cinematically ticked down only by inflicting excruciating pain; or b) that torture, or the threat of torture, was necessary to gain the cooperation of suspects who had no reason to cooperate otherwise.
So the pro-torture argument presents a corollary, or two: if the information obtained could have been obtained otherwise, elsewhere, and by other means in as timely a fashion, or if the important information took ten motherfucking years before becoming the tiniest (and debatable, at that) sliver in a major story then you don't have the "revival" of an argument. Because just for starters, you don't have an argument.
(By the way, let's just note here, for want of anywhere better, what Congressman Inside Information had to say in the period 2001-2008, when the Bush administration was keeping this sort of information from Congressional oversight committees, let along the whole of Congress, let alone the taxpayers; if I remember correctly it was, "This space left intentionally blank.")
Now we might at this point mention a couple of things which seem somehow to've escaped our friend Dave Weigel, for one. First, a declarative statement is either true, or it's false, or it's meaningless; it can't be "sorta true if you look at it the right way." Well, it can, but not when it requires metaphysical certainty for its continued existence. The use of torture did, because--yes, the idea seems quaint, now--the United States formerly renounced its use. That doesn't mean we didn't use it, just that we found it so distasteful when our enemies used it that we publicly proclaimed it morally repugnant. And--still quainter--a lot of us really believed it.
So the argument for torture was absolute, and has been absolutely disproven. Which was also the case at the time, but rationality somehow doesn't carry the day with these people under ordinary circumstances, let alone when the blood is up.
The other point which should be made here is that we have a long and indisputable history of involvement in torture--the Philippines, the School of the Americas, Vietnam--and of supporting brutal regimes when it, or they, served our purposes. It has to be the rare US field commander who doesn't believe he has the right to use torture if that is the only way to save lives in some mythical real-life 24 situation. The "debate" came about because that wasn't enough for the assholes of the Bush administration, the same ones who now try to ride piggyback on a successful Obama administration action. They wanted to use 9/11 as an excuse to act out their little inhumanity issues, and the Right's goosestep fetishes. This is where the real debate should have taken place all along: not whether torture is effective (it is, if you include sleep depravation, but sleep depravation will not get fast answers), but why we needed to make it another cog in the proud history of US foreign policy.
If there is a debate today it's over what the Obama administration is doing in our name. What third-rate Nixonistas like John Yoo, and worthless, overexposed two-bit grifters like Peter King have to say means nothing whatsoever. Shoulda caught him when it was your turn, you fucking punks.