WSJ Screed on Torture Memos Dead Wrong

By Stephen C. Rose

The Wall Street Journal is typically knee-jerk wrong on many issues when it departs from reporting and moves to opinion. I shall quote sentences I find dead wrong from an extended piece today by Michael Hayden and Michael B. Mukasey. (Gen. Hayden was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Mukasey was attorney general of the United States from 2007 to 2009.)

WRONG: "The release of these opinions ... is unsound as a matter of policy." It is excellent policy. Openness does not mean weakness.

WRONG: "Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001." We had the intelligence. Neither Clinton nor Bush had Obama's capacity to act early and wisely.

WRONG: "... public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual." Terrorists should be sitting up and taking notice. Their risk is not of being captured and questioned. It is, for the first time, of being in danger of extinction because of consistent and intense operations aimed directly at them, not false war based on lies. Incidentally, one reason the left is in heat over this is because Obama has not entirely tied his hands on interrogations. Only on secrecy.

WRONG: "By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack." This is patently absurd. I suspect President Obama will set a pattern for effectiveness that will not be based on the falsehood that torture works or yields up good information but on the pin-point accuracy of attack that was demonstrated against the Somali Pirates, an event that I am rather certain our most recent Presidents would have botched. Our best hope is to keep Bush clones out of the White House.

WRONG: "Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies. Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens." No faux outrage here. Cynicism mixed with some hope in Obama and relief that Bush's capacity for harm and evil has been stanched to some extent at least. Anyone who believes that Obama is blind to the reality of the world is .... wrong. And the American people know it. We have a President who thinks Niebuhrian and acts with consummate intelligence.

WRONG: "There is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the claim that our interrogation of some unlawful combatants beyond the limits set in the Army Field Manual has disgraced us before the world." Wrong again. It is precisely our unwillingness to draw an acceptable legal line that has led to the very damage that the President is now undoing. There is no way Obama could not have released these memos. The implicit disgrace is obvious but better that liability than a continued question mark hovering over our unilateral and extra-legal actions during the sad and failed Bush years. Sorry, but Legacy Busters are on a Mission from God.