Christopher Hitchens doesn’t even show his readers the respect of attempting to slyly deceive them:
After all, in the case of Abu Ghraib, it was not even seriously argued that the gross maltreatment of our Iraqi detainees was motivated by a search for information. The foul images from that jail were of recreational and pornographic torture, undertaken by bored amateur sadists and third-raters. Since then, as Philip Zelikow of the 9/11 commission has mentioned, the military-run Joint Special Operations Command, confronting some truly tough al-Qaida characters in Iraq, has succeeded in turning many of them, as well as tracking down and killing many more, without any recourse to the methods that the CIA excused itself for adopting.
What has the CIA to do with the abuses at Abu Ghraib? Hitchens’s own description of the Abu Ghraib crimes rightly notes that Lynndie England and company were “bored amateur sadists and third-raters.” Moreover, they were not in the CIA, nor were they following official policy.
The conflation of Abu Ghraib with CIA interrogations has been hinted at or implied by the uninformed and unserious for some time. But for an observer of Hitchens’s comprehensive knowledge and intellectual gifts to draw such a crudely deceptive line between the two is flabbergasting. Once again, if we’re to have this debate then let’s do so in maximum sunlight, without innuendo or conspiracy mongering. If not, let’s cut our (incalculably vast) operational and PR losses, come down from our high horses, and figure out how to build on the defense successes of the past seven years — one way or another.