Striking fear into my own heart was the president's assertion last night: "We are off to a good start, but it is just a start." Oh may the next 1,300-plus days of this presidency pass quickly. That, of course, is wishful thinking, forgetting that ultimately God is on the throne. Here on Earth, however, the assertions from Obama are breathtaking, and particularly so last night in regard to interrogation techniques used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and (but a few) other high-level terrorists:
"Could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques?" the president asked, seeming to know the answer. "And it doesn't answer the broader question: Are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?"
Are we safer as a result of having dropped a bomb on Hiroshima? Are we safer as a result of lowering the speed limit to 55 mph on some highways? Are we safer for limiting liquids on airplanes?
Such questions cannot be answered in the hypothetical, unless, of course, you are God. By mortals they can only be answered in the aggregate, and the aggregate on the safety of Americans since 9/11 is that, yes, we are safer as a result of a whole range of security measures (that could include the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists) put in place following the attacks on New York and Washington.
But since this administration and this congressional leadership see themselves fully up to the task of answering a hypothetical, they might try one proposed by the former head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, writing in Sunday's Washington Post:
In surprisingly good English, the captive quietly answers: 'Yes, all thanks to God, I do know when the mujaheddin will, with God's permission, detonate a nuclear weapon in the United States, and I also know how many and in which cities." Startled, the CIA interrogators quickly demand more detail. Smiling his trademark shy smile, the captive says nothing. Reporting the interrogation's results to the White House, the CIA director can only shrug when the president asks: "What can we do to make Osama bin Laden talk?"
Scheuer calls this a worst-case scenario now possible since the publication of the Justice Department interrogation memos. His point underscores the reality that Obama in feeding the memo controversy is willing not only to go after Bush and Cheney but an array of military and intelligence leaders, analysts, and other experts who spent years before and since 9/11 tracking and thwarting terrorist attacks on the United States.
The former CIA official actually likens Obama to Bush as "a genuine American Jacobin," with both former and present commanders in chief "seeing the world as they want it to be, not as it is." And so as the political farce plays out in coming weeks---and farce it is, else Democrats, for whom the memos are old news, would actually be moving toward prosecutions rather than wringing their hands over the prospect of them---Scheuer concludes that "Americans can be confident that both parties will play politics to the hilt while letting the nation's safety take the hindmost."