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Ann Coulter Misleads, Defends Torture

Ann Coulter is either cynical or crazy. I'm hoping for the latter, because I'd hate to think my home state contains anyone willing to dissemble as freely and viciously as she does in her latest column -- a hot mess of half-assertions and quarter-truths too sloppy to illuminate anything even in the dark, violent alternate universe where Ann Coulter is right on the money.

The column's called "Next Time, Use FedEx." The dishonesty starts early, when Coulter writes:

American intelligence operations located Osama by following his trusted couriers, whose names were given up by al-Qaida members during harsh interrogations at CIA black sites under President Bush. Yes, the same interrogations endlessly denounced by the entire Democratic party (save Joe Lieberman), the mainstream media, and an especially indignant Jane Meyer in the New Yorker.

The minor dishonesty first: Jane Meyer's writing about America's black sites is hardly "indignant." It's clinical almost to the point of unreadability. If Coulter had actually read the stuff, she'd know it.

More important, though: If Ann Coulter knows the conditions under which the military obtained the real name of Bin Laden's courier, she's shooting herself in the foot by hiding away the news in her weekly column. That same information is being eagerly sought by the New York Times and Slate, to name just two of the media outlets that would pay top dollar for Coulter's scoop.

But Coulter probably doesn't have a scoop. In fact, the best available information suggests that the Bush interrogation revealed only the courier's code name; that it was Operation Cannonball -- an operation that resulted, in part, from the failure of interrogations, "enhanced" or otherwise, to yield information helpful in finding Bin Laden -- that put boots on terra firma in Afghanistan and ultimately rendered the name that led to Sunday's raid.

None of this is certain, which is why I'm not making any definite claims about it. Ann, who's a religious fanatic, is rather more adept at transforming an absence of evidence into dead certainty. This is the transformation she is enacting here, and why? To protect the reputation of torture, which she must suspect is ineffective or else she wouldn't feel the need to lie about it. To rephrase that: Ann Coulter is claiming to know something she cannot possibly know in a column read by tens of thousands of Americans, and she's claiming to know it in order to defend torture, which she apparently cannot defend by remaining exclusively factual.

Which is even weirder than it sounds, given that Ann Coulter isn't John Yoo. Her career isn't dependent upon the continued use and justification of torture. Why she's willing to travel such credibility-rending lengths to defend it is beyond me.

Nothing else in Coulter's column quite compares to her torture-fudging for sheer outrageousness, but a few things come close. Her attempts at humor, for example:

The most-wanted terrorist in the world was living in a moldy, million-dollar mansion in a gated community just outside of Islamabad. It took the CIA five years to figure out the four-digit code to get in.

One important missed clue was that Osama was living at 72 Virgins Way. He might still be alive today if only he hadn't borrowed his neighbor's shoulder-mounted rocket launcher and never returned it.

Our mighty Navy SEALs not only put a bullet through Osama's head, but carried off his computers, disks and hard drives. So far, all they've revealed is that Osama had multiple Netflix rentals of "Rendition," "In The Valley of Elah," "Farenheit 9/11" and "Love, Actually."

And then there was this:

The one Islamic country that openly cheered our taking out bin Laden is Iraq. According to reports from inside the country, TV stations are treating the raid as a great victory for Iraq -- the final battle in a war that was fought by Iraqis on Iraqi soil. They view bin Laden's killing as their own personal triumph in a war on Islamic terrorism.

Ah yes -- beautiful, Bush-democratized Iraq. I'm pleased to hear they share our ebullience over Osama Bin Laden's death, but I'm not sure Coulter quite understands why they do. A much as Bin Laden hated America, he hated Shi'a Muslims even more, and Iraq is the only Arabic country with a majority Shi'a population. The joy now being expressed in Iraq is partially to celebrate the death of a terrorist, sure; it is also an expression of delight at the death of a hated Sunni. The only other country in the world with a Shi'a majority is Iran, and there too,Bin Laden's death is being hailed as a victory for justice and sanity. But I doubt Coulter is ready to shower that nation with praise.

The pleased reactions of Iraq and Iran to Bin Laden's death could have been predicted years ago by anyone with even a passing knowledge of Islam. This is very elementary stuff, and that Coulter remains ignorant of such matters ten years into our War on Terror is pretty good evidence of her lack of seriousness.

She concludes her piece by referring to Iraq as the "one point of light in a sea of Islamic darkness." As a onetime supporter of the war in Iraq, I'm inclined to share Coulter's optimism about that country's fate, but I cannot quite come to peace with the numbers. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that Iraq has suffered well over 100,000 civilian casualties as a result of our invasion, which means American influence has caused as many Iraqi deaths in seven years as Saddam Hussein caused in 20. Coulter's "one point of light" isn't so much a beacon as a pyre. You'd think she'd know the difference -- that the moral weight of 100,000 souls would compel her to do a bit of research, Christian lady that she is. But no. She's just a massively cynical profiteer. Or crazy. Take your pick.

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Brandon K. Thorp

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