Richard Cohen’s tortured imagination

Dave Noon has already addressed the tired and misguided literary cliche — "Call him Ishmael" — that forms the lede of Richard Cohen’s new column on why torture opponents need to address the unanswered question of how to deal with the imaginary terrorist named Ishamel who lives in his brain. But the name is the ...

Dave Noon has already addressed the tired and misguided literary cliche -- "Call him Ishmael" -- that forms the lede of Richard Cohen's new column on why torture opponents need to address the unanswered question of how to deal with the imaginary terrorist named Ishamel who lives in his brain. But the name is the least of it:

No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor. The captured terrorist of my fertile imagination, assuming he had access to an Internet cafe, knows about the special prosecutor. He knows his interrogator is under scrutiny. What person under those circumstances is going to spill his beans?

Ah yes, the interrogator must build rapport with the captured terrorist. That might work, but it would take time. It could take a lot of time. Building rapport is clearly the preferred method, but the terrorist is going to know all about it. He will bide his time. How much time do we have?

Dave Noon has already addressed the tired and misguided literary cliche — "Call him Ishmael" — that forms the lede of Richard Cohen’s new column on why torture opponents need to address the unanswered question of how to deal with the imaginary terrorist named Ishamel who lives in his brain. But the name is the least of it:

No one can possibly believe that America is now safer because of the new restrictions on enhanced interrogation and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor. The captured terrorist of my fertile imagination, assuming he had access to an Internet cafe, knows about the special prosecutor. He knows his interrogator is under scrutiny. What person under those circumstances is going to spill his beans?

Ah yes, the interrogator must build rapport with the captured terrorist. That might work, but it would take time. It could take a lot of time. Building rapport is clearly the preferred method, but the terrorist is going to know all about it. He will bide his time. How much time do we have?

As long as we’re playing this game, I’m going to imagine my own terrorist — call him Queequeg — who knows the clock is running and he only has to stand up to interrogation for a short time, thus rendering torture ineffective. As fun as this is, perhaps constructing hypothetical scenarios isn’t the best way to design interrogation policy. 

There’s also this:

I am torn between my desire for absolute security and my abhorrence of torture.

Absolute security? That’s the trade-off? Well things certainly are straightforward in Richard Cohen’s imaginary war on terror. Why do I get the feeling that if Cohen would see the logic in nuking Imaginationland?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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