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The Price One Pays

In a tour de force column, Charles Krauthammer does what the White House press corps was incapable or unwilling to do: drill down on the absurd interrogation comments of the president, who is smart but not wise enough to know better:

There are two problems with the “good cop” technique. KSM, the mastermind of 9/11 who knew more about more plots than anyone else, did not seem very inclined to respond to polite inquiries about future plans. The man who boasted of personally beheading Daniel Pearl with a butcher knife answered questions about plots with “soon you will know” — meaning, when you count the bodies in the morgue and find horribly disfigured burn victims in hospitals, you will know then what we are planning now.

The other problem is one of timing. The good cop routine can take weeks or months or years. We didn’t have that luxury in the aftermath of 9/11 when waterboarding, for example, was in use. We’d been caught totally blind. We knew there were more plots out there, and we knew almost nothing about them. We needed to find out fast. We found out a lot.

The president likes to tell us our choices are false, but it is his construct for avoiding hard choices that is false. We couldn’t get the information any other way. He and the Washington press corps, who both presumably read the released memos and are familiar with Admiral Dennis Blair’s views on the matter, know that. Yet they are collectively engaged in an exercise in denial. They strike grand poses that assume President Bush and his advisors were dunces and didn’t realize the information could promptly have been gathered without mussing KSM’s hair.

Frankly, one prefers Jon Stewart’s candor on the subject. Yeah, Americans were going to die and what of it, he in essence argues. He at least doesn’t insult us by making up a hypothetical that removes the key facts.

In a parallel universe in which the mainstream media does its job, one of the reporters would have asked the president, “But since we couldn’t get the information any other way, might President Bush have made the right call to save American lives?” Then the president could have made clear: would he have done the same or did we elect a president who, like Stewart, thinks dozens or hundreds or thousands of American lives are the price one pays for a “free society.”



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