The Ballad Of Abu Zubaydah

(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)

(cross-posted from kos at buhdy’s request; thanks for all the recs, dd people!)

We know that one of the two destroyed CIA interrogation tapes documented the torture of Abu Zubaydah.

We know that Zubaydah was no “high-value” Al Qaeda operative, but an “insane, certifiable” gofer. We know that when this truth was conveyed to George II, his response was to personally press the CIA to pursue further “information extraction.” We know that Zubaydah provided no actionable intelligence, but that his desperate attempts to placate his torturers may have resulted in US-directed “dark side” operations that killed innocent people. And we know that George II, aware of all this, has nonetheless persisted in attributing an increasingly important role to Zubaydah as both Al Qaeda fiend, and key to “cracking” the 9/11 plot.

We can assume, then, that the tape documenting Zubaydah’s interrogation was destroyed not only because of the monstrous nature of the torture techniques inflicted upon him. It likewise represented a dangerous lever, one that could have toppled the tower of lies that BushCo has erected upon the tormented mind and tortured body of Abu Zubaydah.

It could have exposed the truth. That what has been done to this man may be the filthiest, most outrageous act committed by an administration that has redefined, in our name, filth and outrage.    

(I diaried on Zubaydah extensively last summer, here, here, and here. Some of the same sort of information was linked from mcjoan’s Saturday FP piece; the Kossack lysias has in recent days referenced pieces of the same puzzle. This diary is kinda long, true. But Zubaydah’s is a long, filthy, nasty, outrageous, unconscionable . . . jailable story.)

Because we can believe nothing about Abu Zubaydah that emerges officially from the Bush administration, we cannot even be sure that it is true that Zubaydah was captured in March of 2002, in Pakistan, after being shot three times, which included a painful wound to the groin. We do know that he soon disappeared into the CIA’s network of secret prisons; we are told that he is presently interned in the gulag of Guantanamo.

The truth of Abu Zubaydah begins with Ron Suskind’s 2006 book, The One Percent Doctrine. There we are informed that, at the outset of interrogation, US intelligence agents learned this:

Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries “in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3”–a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said.” Dan Coleman, then the FBI’s top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda’s go-to guy for minor logistics–travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”

When CIA Director George Tenet met personally with George II to inform him that Abu Zubaydah was grievously mentally ill, with no useful intelligence embedded anywhere in his sadly disordered brain, that the Abu Zubaydah George II had so recently described as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States,” was not the Abu Zubaydah of the real world, this is what George II said:

“I said he was important,” Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied. Bush “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports.

Thus–and make no mistake–it was at George II’s personal, explicit prompting, that:

over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make [Zubaydah] its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety–against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target.” And so, Suskind writes, “the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

As Suskind reiterated in a September 2006 interview with Salon:

In the case of Zubaydah, when it comes to some of the harsh interrogation tactics he was put through, what occurred then was that he started to talk. He said, as people will, anything to make the pain stop. And we essentially followed every word and various uniformed public servants of the United States went running all over the country to various places that Zubaydah said were targets, and were not.

Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.

George II, a being for whom I no longer have any appropriate descriptive terms, after the publication of Suskind’s book, long knowing that Zubaydah was an “insane, certifiable” gofer, not only no “mastermind” but not even competent to provide useful intelligence, a mentally ill man tortured, and then tortured again, on his, George II’s, own personal command–from sheer stubbornness and cussedness, sleek shimmering sadism, childish petulant desire not to “lose face,” or who knows what dark impulse–uttered these Owellian lies, on September 6, 2006:

Within months of September the 11th, 2001, we captured a man known as Abu Zubaydah. We believe that Zubaydah was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. Our intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived to liberate that country . . .

After he recovered, Zubaydah was defiant and evasive. He declared his hatred of America. During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information–and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the “nominal” information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed–or KSM–was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and used the alias “Muktar.” This was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM . . .

We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking. As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful . . .

Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th.

All of this a lie. A lie from top to bottom, front to back. Zubaydah was tortured–tortured mercilessly, nothing in compliance with “our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations”–and the information George II says Zubaydah provided, did not, in truth, come from Zubaydah. For example, George II’s Munchausen-like insistence that the torture of Zubaydah resulted in the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

Ultimately, we ended up getting the key breaks on those guys, KSM and bin al Shibh, from the Emir of Qatar, who informed us as to their whereabouts a few months before we captured bin al Shibh. That was the key break in getting those guys. KSM slipped away; in June of 2002, the Emir of Qatar passed along information to the CIA as to something that an Al Jazeera reporter had discovered as to the safehouse where KSM and bin al Shibh were hiding in Karachi slums. He passed that on to the CIA, and that was the key break.

But truth, reality, means nothing to these people. They are beyond truth, beyond reality, as they are beyond good and evil. It was, interestingly, Suskind again, who, some years before his Zubaydah reporting, recorded the guiding ethos of this White House:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

And so we have, today, embedded across “unbiased” areas of reportage and history, utter falsehoods, at odds with “discernible reality,” but implanted by BushCo, “acting again, creating new realities.”

Such as this Zubaydah BushCo “new realities” Wikipedia entry:

Abu Zubaydah was a high-ranking member of al-Qaida and close associate of Osama bin Laden. . . .

Born in Saudi Arabia, Abu Zubaydah has been close to al-Qaida all his life, helping to operate a popular terrorist training camp near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the early 1990s. He became an associate of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and served as a chief recruiter for al-Qaida.

In the late 1990s, Abu Zubaydah played a lead role in one of the 2000 millennium attack plots, and a possible tangential role in a second. There were plans to bomb a fully booked Radisson hotel in Amman, Jordan, and three other sites. This targeted tourists from the United States and Israel. But on November 30, 1999, Jordanian intelligence intercepted a call between Abu Zubaydah and Khadr Abu Hoshar, a Palestinian militant, and determined that an attack was imminent.

Compared to this “discernible reality”:

[W]hat folks inside the CIA and FBI were realizing, even as the president and others inside the administration were emphasizing the profound malevolence and value strategically to the capture of Zubaydah, is that Zubaydah is psychologically imbalanced, he has multiple personalities. And he was not involved in various events that we thought he was involved in. During various bombings in the late ’90s, he was not where we thought he would be. That’s shown in the diaries, where he goes through long lists of quotidian, nonsensical details about various people and what they’re doing, folks that he’s moving around, getting plane tickets for and serving tea to, all in the voices of three different characters; page after page of his diary, filled, including on dates where, I’m trying to think, it was either the Khobar Towers or the Cole, where we thought he was involved in the bombing and he clearly wasn’t.

A Friday recommended diary from The Baculum King referenced work from the journalist Gerald Posner on the mystifying deaths of four people allegedly named by Abu Zubaydah as Al Qaeda conspirators. I diaried this same work from Posner last September, but with a more skeptical eye: Posner does not have nearly the track record of, say, Suskind–Posner’s chief claim to journalistic fame is his re-embrace of the “single bullet” theory in the death of JFK.

In any event, while the mentally disturbed Abu Zubaydah underwent torture beyond what most of us can imagine, he, as both Baculum and I can agree, allegedly screamed out the names of four men he claimed were Al Qaeda contacts and/or involved in the attacks of September 11. These men were Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, and Mushaf Ali Mir.

Since we know from Suskind that “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target” identified by the tortured and mentally disturbed Zubaydah, we can presume that appropriate agents were dispatched towards these four “targets” as well.

Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, one of the more westernized members of the Saudi royal family, a nephew of the king, who ran the largest publishing house in the country and owned War Emblem, the winner of the 2002 Kentucky Derby, was one of the members of the Saudi royal family allowed to leave the US without interrogation after the 9/11 attack. After he was identified by the tortured, mad Zubaydah as a man who had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz died at the age of 43 of a heart attack. Or maybe it was a blood clot. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus.

The tortured, mad Zubaydah also screamed out the name of Pakistani Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir as a man with foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. In February of 2003, Mir’s plane blew up in clear weather, killing him, his wife, and much of his staff.

While undergoing torture, Zubaydah screamed that Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, a nephew of King Fahd’s, and Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, a 25-year-old distant relative of the king’s, were Al Qaeda contacts. The day after Prince Ahmed died of his “heart attack/blood clot,” that is, on July 23, 2002, Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud died in a single-vehicle car crash. A week later, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir was also dead. According to the Saudi Royal Court, this prince died “of thirst.”

We know that Darth Cheney used 9/11 to unearth all the forbidden tools of war waged on the dark side, and that these tools include targeted assassination. It is not impossible that these four men identified by the tortured, mad Abu Zubaydah were “heart-attacked,” “plane-crashed,” “car-crashed,” and “dehydrated” into oblivion as a matter of state policy.

As it is not impossible that, because Abu Zubaydah was tortured and mad, these men were innocent.

George II was not elevated to the presidency to rage jihad across all the world.

Though, true, the zealots of PNAC wished he would at least strike the head off the snake of Iraq, the PNAC people were far from the most powerful and influential of those who worked to shove George II onto the throne.

As orginally envisioned, George II’s job, in what was expected to be a quiet presidency, was to serve the interests of capital–cutting taxes, easing trade restrictions, gutting regulation, keeping full open the tap to the military-industrial complex, through expenditures for the mindless “necessity” of missile defense (the theme, remember, of Condoleezza Rice’s scheduled speech on September 11, 2001).

The attacks of September 11 allowed a whole new approach to government. For people like Dick Cheney, who had flailed futilely to drive away the “gnats” of Congress under previous Republican administrations, 9/11 provided an opportunity to choke into submission all legislative/judicial oversight of the executive branch–which, in his mind, should reign as imperial as did the 1775 English throne.

For George II: more complicated. Anyone who saw his first speech, post-September 11, there at the White House, after he finally returned, having ducked in and out of various hidey-holes across the country over a couple of days, will remember that he seemed shaken, scared, embarrassed–yea, even mortified. It had happened on his watch, and he felt blameworthy. Clearly, he wished he’d read his papers, rather than gone fishin’, that day of August 6.

When they later came to him, all the sallow sober men, with their proposals for kicking out the jams, it all appealed to George II, I think, on two levels: (1) he wanted to make sure that America, under his watch, would never so embarrassingly be attacked again (for it must be understood, though it’s sometimes hard to see it now, that 9/11 was unprecedented in our history, and that, in the histories, he who was then our president will be portrayed as a clueless clown); and (2) the idea of a reaction involving “firmness”–i.e., torture, sadism, outre violent perversion–appealed to him on the atavistic level that had seen him, as a youth, torture frogs; as an adolescent, brand his fellows; as an adult, mock women he put to death.

He could become King of Pain.

Enjoy it while you can, George. Your family’s ever-handy Cubans may have set fire to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation tapes, but, in the long run, those tapes will consume you.

For there’s enough truth out there now, already, to know what you have done: tortured a mentally ill man, for no reason, on an off chance, because it could be done; lied about it; then, like a furtive masturbator, ordered that all evidence of it be undone.

Good luck. You, a creature of atavism, will not understand this, but the human race, even if in spastic fits and starts, progresses.

And: so: yes, we’ll forgive you: but, you will not be forgiven.


Skip to comment form

  1. we seem to have a theme thing going.

    • srkp23 on December 10, 2007 at 21:53

    blueness, I mean bottom!  

    • Temmoku on December 11, 2007 at 05:37

    I have been busy and have missed a lot of good posts on other sites, even orange ones ;-), but can easily find the best reposted here!


    • robodd on December 11, 2007 at 17:44

    of lying us into war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

  2. But what is your view of the Kiriakou’s interview yesterday  where he claims that the information was useful. (Even if this is true, the torture is still abhorrent.)  Kiriakou is probably just attempting to semi-cover his ass by saying that the information was valuable.  But as Kevin Drum points out above, his version is different from Suskind’s:

    That’s Suskind’s account. Over at ABC News, though, Brian Ross has an interview with a former CIA officer named John Kiriakou, who says just the opposite about Zubaydah: “He was highly thought of in al Qaeda, and he was very, very good at logistics….We knew that he was really one of the intellectual leaders of the group.” And he was waterboarded:

       Ross: What happened as a result of that?

       Kiriakou: He resisted [for] probably 30, 35 seconds….And a short time afterwards, in the next day or so, he told his interrogator that Allah had visit him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate because his cooperation would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured. And from that day on he answered every question just like I’m sitting here speaking to you.

       ….Ross: So in your view the water boarding broke him.

       Kiriakou: I think it did, yes.

       Ross: And did it make a difference in terms of –

       Kiriakou: It did. The threat information that he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.

    Same guy. CIA sources for both accounts. But diametrically opposite conclusions. So who’s right?

    I don’t know. But even if waterboarding worked Kiriakou has since decided that it was wrong. Why? “Because we’re Americans, and we’re better than that.”

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