Courting Disaster

COURTING DISASTER…. A former senior military interrogator who uses the pseudonym “Matthew Alexander” has been rather prolific in recent years writing about torture (he’s against it). He had an especially interesting item the other day responding to a new book from one of the pro-torture crowd’s most prominent media voices.

My gut reaction on reading Marc Thiessen’s new book, Courting Disaster, was: “Why is a speechwriter who’s never served in the military or intelligence community acting as an expert on interrogation and national security?” Certainly, everyone is entitled to a voice in the debate over the lawfulness and efficacy of President Bush’s abusive interrogation program, regardless of qualifications. But if you’re not an expert on a subject, shouldn’t you interview experts before expressing an opinion?

Instead, Thiessen relies solely on the opinions of the CIA interrogators who used torture and abuse and are thus most vulnerable to prosecution for war crimes. That makes his book less a serious discussion of interrogation policy than a literary defense of war criminals. Nowhere in this book will you find the opinions of experienced military interrogators who successfully interrogated Islamic extremists. Not once does he cite Army Doctrine — which warns of the negative consequences of torture and abuse. Courting Disaster is nothing more than the defense’s opening statement in a war crimes trial.

While many of Thiessen’s opinions are appalling from a moral perspective (he justifies torture and abuse through the religious writings of St. Thomas Aquinas), the book is comprised of errors, omissions, and a whopping dose of fear-mongering.

Alexander concludes that Thiessen’s vision ultimately becomes a recipe for making the United States “less safe.”

And DougJ added, “Fred Hiatt recently hired Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post editorial page.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.