The unity lasted about six hours.

Now we’re in a full-out, steel cage death match over the merits of “enhanced interrogation” techniques and what role, if any, they played in the successful mission to track down and kill Osama bin Laden.

Liberals are predictably taking the side that so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are ineffective, and that the critical information probably would have been obtained through other, more humane methods, methods more in keeping with our “values.”

Leon Panetta and Lanny Davis—both high-ranking Clinton Administration officials—have both come out recently and said that the enhanced interrogation methods did, in fact, yield significant, important data. Panetta equivocated a bit, preserving his Obama-Administration liberal bonafides, by saying that whether or not the same data could have been obtained by other methods remains an “open question.”

Liberal Dahlia Lithwick in an article in Slate entitled “Still Stupid, Still Wrong, Still Immoral” opines that nothing about the killing of bin Laden should renew any debate over the value of enhanced interrogation (or as Lithwick and other liberals call it, “torture,” very similar to the way that Global Warming hysterics call it “Climate Change” when what they are actually referring to is what a normal person calls “weather”).

Still, there are two points that the popular arguments on both sides have mostly ignored up until now, so let’s explore those.

The first is one that I suspect most people would rather not talk about, but it’s so central to the question, so critical to either side’s credibility that to ignore it is to refrain from discussing reality.

Simply: What constitutes “torture”?

That is the essential question, is it not? Is torture a continuum of actions, subject to interpretation and evaluation, dependent on situational scrutiny, or is it a black-white, yes/no determination? For those who define torture as physical injury or permanent disfigurement, then the previous Administration’s actions clearly fall well short of that standard. In contrast, the North Vietnamese’s treatment of John McCain in the mid-‘70’s was torture by any definition—they broke his bones, they put him on the “rack,” etc.

At the other extreme, subjecting a hard-core jazz aficionado to endless hours of Kenny G music at high volume could be construed as “torture” to that individual, could it not? That’s obviously a whimsically absurd example, but it gets the point across—outside of unambiguous physical injury, everything else is at least somewhat open to interpretation.

Waterboarding—which simulates drowning by using a soaked cloth stuffed in the subject’s mouth, turning them upside-down, blindfolding them, and running water down a board such that the water covers their face and imparts a helpless, desperate feeling of impending death and utter panic—is most unpleasant, to be sure. However, no permanent physical injury results. It is situated along that aforementioned continuum, somewhere between pulling out a suspect’s fingernails with super-heated pliers and forced listening to syrupy, effeminate soprano saxophone players. It is a judgment call, regardless of liberal protestations to the contrary. The “no permanent injury” aspect of waterboarding augers very strongly for its placement towards the non-torture end of that continuum.

The other main point where the liberal argument against enhanced interrogation falls short is that in preemptively announcing to the world exactly what we will and won’t do in our interrogations, we enable and embolden terror suspects to simply hold out, secure in the knowledge that if they refuse to cooperate, nothing more can or will be done to force their compliance. It’s like the manager of a baseball team in the World Series publicly announcing to the other team before the deciding 7th Game that no matter what, under no circumstances will we bunt. You can set your infield defense accordingly, secure in the knowledge that there will never be a sacrifice bunt, there will never be a squeeze play bunt, there will never be a hit-and-run bunt, no bunt of any kind under any circumstance. We just wanted you to know this in advance, because those are our “values.” You might have thought we would use it; after all, we have some great bunters. You weren’t sure. You were on edge.

Not now. Now you can cross that one off your list and feel—accurately—that we foolishly gave away a valuable strategic option for absolutely no return gain.

The “What constitutes torture” question is at least somewhat debatable. The “Don’t give away your game plan in advance” issue is not. It’s simply, to quote Lithwick, “Still Stupid, Still Wrong, Still Immoral.”

And to hear the liberal explanation for all this? That’s the definition of tortured.

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