jueves, 27 de agosto de 2009

Typical left-wing version of the CIA/Cheney debate

Peter Bergan, of the left-wing New America Foundation provides the main talking points behind the continued criticism of Bush/Cheney's authorization of so-called torture.
The newly released CIA documents merely rehash the range of anti-American plots cooked up by KSM that the government had already made public three years ago. And though this second wave of attacks all sounded very frightening, there is no indication that these plots, like the plan to attack Heathrow, were ever more than just talk.

These plots were "just talk." Nothing to worry about, then. Let them talk. They're Muslim fanatics and that's what they do. Why worry? Be happy!

This is effectively countered by the WSJ editorial today:

Some will argue that these details could have been elicited without enhanced techniques. We'll never know. The question is whether Attorney General Eric Holder and his new special counsel intend to second-guess the decisions of CIA officials who were operating in the shadow of 9/11 and who, we now know, successfully unraveled terror plots and saved lives...

Left-wingers, like Bergan, will seize upon this argument to salve their own consciences as to the coming witch-hunt against the CIA by Obama. It seems convincing today but it's obviously an argument by hindsight—the worst kind of historical fallacy.

If we're going to debate history, we must put ourselves in the place of those decision-makers who made the decisions at the time they did it. Decision making in the real world takes place under conditions of extreme ambiguity. No one ever has all the facts they need to make the decision. Those facts may be more apparent today than they were back then but people back then did not have them at their disposal to form their opinions and their decisions.

For example, if somehow the Clinton administration had obtained information about the 9/11 plot back in 1999 by "torture" and then go ahead and disrupted the plot on that basis, Bergan would now be arguing that the plot was "just talk." How absurd is it to think that a bunch of Muslim fanatics could hijack airplanes and bomb the WTC, the Pentagon, and the US Congress with them?

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