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Ed Driscoll

Christiane Amanpour: This Is CNN

January 21st, 2010 - 3:32 pm

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By now, you’ve likely read about Marc Thiessen, former chief speechwriter for President Bush clashing with Christiane Amanpour on CNN. You can see it in the video above, or if you’re like the vast majority of Americans, and prefer to avoid watching Amanpour on a TV screen of any size, Human Events probably has the most readable transcript of what went down, besides of course, CNN’s reputation for honesty, yet again:

Sparks flew on CNN’s Amanpour, when conservative author Marc Thiessen directly challenged the CNN’s chief international correspondent with evidence that she had misled her viewers about the CIA’s waterboarding techniques.  A stunned Amanpour was left momentarily speechless as Thiessen pulled out a transcript from a 2008 CNN broadcast from the Khmer Rouge prison S-21, where Amanpour had stood before a picture of Khmer Rouge torturers drowning an innocent Cambodian in a vat of water, and declared that the CIA had done the same thing to terrorists in its custody.

Thiessen told Amanpour, “There have been so many so misstatements told about the enhanced interrogation techniques, comparing them to the Spanish Inquisition and the Khmer Rouge, and I have to tell you Christiane, you are one of the people who have spread these mistruths.”

An incredulous Amanpour replied, “Excuse me?”

Thiessen pulled out a transcript of her story from her visit to S-21, and said “Let me read to you what you said.”  He then quoted Amanpour’s report:

“I stared blankly at another of Van Nath’s paintings.  This time a prisoner is submerged in a life-size box full of water, handcuffed to the side so he cannot escape or raise his head to breathe.  His interrogators, arrayed around him, are demanding information.  I asked Van Nath whether he had heard this was once used on America’s terrorist suspected.  He nodded his head.  ‘It’s not right.”

Thiessen told Amanpour, “That is completely false.”  Amanpour asked, “That’s false?”  Thiessen told her, “We did not submerge people in a box of water.”  Amanpour replied, “Excuse me a second, that is called waterboarding.”  “No it’s not,” Thiessen replied.  Amanpour tried to turn to the other guest, left-wing author Philippe Sands, but Thiessen pressed his point:  “Christiane you are absolutely wrong.  14,000 people killed in S-21.  Seven survivors …” But Amanpour cut him off, “Excuse me, you are trying to obfuscate the debate.  That prison was full of images of water torture.”  Thiessen responded, “Which is nothing like what the CIA did.  Do you have any evidence …” Amanpour cut him again off to go Sands, after which Amanpour tried to change the subject.

But Thiessen pressed her: “I want to answer this, because it is very important.  What you said was not waterboarding but a barrel filled with water.  You have no evidence whatsoever that the CIA did what you said they did.”

Amanpour insisted that there was no difference between what she had described and what the CIA did.  “Dipping people’s heads in water to simulate drowning.  Period.  End of story.”  But as Thiessen explains in his new book, Courting Disaster, the Khmer Rouge not “simulate drowning” at S-21 – they actually drowned their victims.  Only 7 of the 14,000 people who entered S-21 emerged alive.

In the shocking new book released this week, Thiessen takes Amanpour and other public figures to task for making false and shameful comparisons between the CIA and the torturers of murderous regimes like the Khmer Rouge. Among those Thiessen exposes for their lies and misstatements are Attorney General Eric Holder, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Christopher Dodd, Dick Durbin, former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis, Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan and others.

Thiessen systematically dismantles their arguments, and shows how the “techniques used by the CIA bear no resemblance to the techniques used by the Inquisitors of the Middle Ages or the murderous regimes cited by the critics.”

Thiessen writes, “It is important to set the record straight—not only to restore the good name of those who interrogated terrorists in our custody, but also to restore the good name of our country. One of the principal arguments made against enhanced interrogations is that they have harmed America’s moral standing in the world. In truth, what has harmed America’s moral standing in the world are the false comparisons made by those who declare that America has practiced the same techniques as the most reviled despots and dictators in human history—when in fact we have done nothing of the sort.”

Thiessen set the record straight on CNN – and set Amanpour straight as well.

Also note the mobius loop of CNN “logic” at work here. The network has always been eager to prop up regimes that specialized in real torture and lots of it, such as both Saddam Hussein (as Eason Jordan, former CNN chief news executive later acknowledged) and Fidel Castro, whom Jordan once credited for inspiring spin-off channel CNN International. But in an effort to bring down President Bush, inhanced interregation against terrorists was made to resemble the methods used by terror regimes…that CNN supports.

And this is coming immediately after former John Yoo caused Jon Stewart to actually apologize for not “getting” a Republican — which I guess is the job function listed on his contract with Viacom.

Of course all of this begs the obvious question:  President Bush left office a year ago yesterday. Why are we hearing about this now, instead of when it could have benefited both his own administration’s approval with the American people, and the odds of a successor winning election who understood the importance of the GWOT equally well?

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