Richard Cohen is, supposedly, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post. Never mind that he embraced the Iraq war, belittling those who did not buy the Bush administration's trumped-up case for war as “fools or Frenchmen.” Never mind his defense of the Bush administration's outting of Valerie Plame, or his defense of Monica Goodling, or his defense of financial services executives who ran their companies into the ground and the business media that stood idly by while it happened, or his outrage that Stephen Colbert dared make fun of President Bush's low approval ratings at the White House correspondents dinner -- or the fact that he didn't seem to mind Bush's jokes at an earlier dinner about failing to find WMD in Iraq.
Never mind all that. Richard Cohen is the Washington Post's idea of a liberal. And Richard Cohen loves him some torture.
Here, Cohen describes the capture of a hypothetical terrorist:
Now he is in American custody. What will happen? How do we get him to reveal his group's plans and the names of his colleagues? It will be hard. It will, in fact, be harder than it used to be. He can no longer be waterboarded. He knows this. He cannot be deprived of more than a set amount of sleep. He cannot be beaten or thrown up against even a soft wall. He cannot be threatened with shooting or even frightened by the prospect of an electric drill. Nothing really can be threatened against his relatives -- that they will be killed or sexually abused.
“Harder than it used to be”? Only if torture works. If torture doesn't work, it may well be easier than it used to be.
Note, also, Cohen's nonchalant descriptions of torture: The repeated use of the word “even,” designed to make the tactics (physically assualting a captive, making her think you're going to drill a damn hole in her head) sound like no big deal. A prohibition on making a captive think you're going to rape and murder his seven year old daughter is turned into “nothing really can be threated against his relatives.”
Next, Cohen suggests that torture is little more than what New York Times reporter Judith Miller went through: “Special prosecutors are often themselves like interrogators -- they don't know when to stop. They go on and on because, well, they can go on and on. One of them managed to put Judith Miller of The New York Times in jail -- a wee bit of torture right there.”
Yes, that's right: Judith Miller's prison sentance -- during which she had to suffer the indignity of her newspaper arriving a day late, leaving her woefully uninformed for her frequent visits from people like Tom Browkaw and Bob Dole -- was kind of like being waterboarded and having your captors threaten to rape and murder your children.
Back to Cohen:
No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor.
Nonsense. If you think torture doesn't work -- and there is a great deal of evidence that it doesn't -- then of course America is safer for not torturing. We no longer waste time on tactics that don't work. We no longer enrage the world by engaging in barbaric and inhuman torture.
Cohen's claim is absurd on its face. But it is also a striking reminder of one of his darkest moments as a columnist:
Richard Cohen, in a column headlined “A Winning Hand For Powell,” declared that Powell's presentation “had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise.” Cohen was careful to make clear that he based his own conclusion not upon an examination of Powell's arguments and evidence, but on Powell himself: “The clincher ... was the totality of the material and the fact that Powell himself had presented it. In this case, the messenger may have been more important than the message.”
Once again, Richard Cohen mistakes his own inability to see through conservative talking points for the truthfulness of those talking points.
Sure, Cohen makes a late assertion of his “abhorrence of torture.” But after wading through his spurious claims about torture working, only a fool would believe him.