Ever since the Obama administration released memos describing the types of enhanced interrogation techniques used by the C.I.A. to extract information from top-level al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other terrorists, there has been a running debate on a myriad of questions, including:

† Whether the memos should have been released;

† Whether all or just some of these enhanced techniques and the related question of whether they meet some arbitrary threshold for torture, even when used on Islamic terrorists who have been trained to resist them; 

† Whether they are more effective than less controversial methods of interrogation (and the related questions of why they were needed if established methods were adequate, and how we could ever know one way or the other;

† Whether aggressive interrogation and rendition stoked the resentments of Islamofascists to make us “less safe” (and the obverse question of whether abandoning these methods makes us less safe);

† Whether they are always morally wrong and illegal, even if they are effective (and the related questions of whether they are morally wrong for the U.S. to engage in, irrespective of efficacy and the practices of other nations); 

† Whether these methods were as wrong and illegal during the seven years following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks as they are regarded now to be, most notably by the current commander-in-chief; 

† Whether those hitherto silent on the matter can deny their own complicity while calling for truth commissions or prosecutions; and 

† Whether we are a nation of Torquemadas because the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was an open secret (though the actual protocols were top secret until last month) and did not appear to “shock the conscience” of the vast majority of the public then – or eight years later.

Despite promises of a transparent government, Obama has been very selective in the information he has chosen to release, so the citizenry remains too uninformed to form an opinion on any of these questions – and, frankly, so are the vast majority of the pundits and analysts who churned out the hundreds of thousands of words The Stiletto has read about “torture” over the past couple of weeks all-too-often without citing any evidence for their assertions.

As luck would have it, an unintentional snafu provided a much-needed reality-check for us all. Earlier in the week, people on both sides of the Hudson River were scared witless by what turned out to be a photo-op of Air Force One and an escort of two fighter jets flying so close to office buildings near Ground Zero that “windows rattled” and people on both sides of the Hudson River poured out of their offices and ran for their lives. 

As their hearts were thumping, their lungs were aching and they were desperately trying to will their legs to move faster than they ever had before, do you think a single one of them paused to ponder how many times KSM had been waterboarded and whether it was wrong to “torture” him? No, they were wondering whether they were about to die because our government did not do whatever it takes to find out about a terrorist act in time to stop it. At moments like this, the average American knows – even if academicians, the media elite and our elected officials do not know, or have forgotten – it’s us against the terrorists.

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