What we got from Abu Zubaydah

Natinonal Review editor Rich Lowry plucks a cherry from a sordid sundae.

Published September 15, 2006 8:44PM (EDT)

The National Review's Rich Lowry, last heard advocating an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, said earlier this week that he was "surprised" to see that Ron Suskind wasn't "as critical" of George W. Bush's speech on detainees last week as he'd expected him to be.

Maybe that's because Lowry read just half of Alex Koppelman's interview with Suskind in Salon. Lowry said that while Suskind had "plenty of criticisms of Bush, of course, and thinks he is guilty of 'a bit of an overstatement' in calling Abu Zubaydah a senior leader ... he also thinks we got some things of value from him." Lowry then quoted Suskind as telling Koppelman that the United States learned from Zubaydah that "Muktar," or "the brain," was Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- and that Zubaydah gave up the not-as-scary-as-once-suggested Jose Padilla.

Which is all well and good, except for the part of the Salon interview Lowry didn't mention, the part where Suskind said that the "real story of Zubaydah" is "more complicated than the administration would like, and maybe more complicated than the president at this point feels comfortable saying in an election season."

"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," Suskind said. "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."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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