A poll released this week found 51 percent of Americans approve of the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Imagine what those numbers would have been on Sept. 12, 2001.
The NBC/Wall Street Journal survey is in synch with the results of similar opinion polls that show a majority of Americans are not naive about what “torture” is or isn’t or when it should be used.
About half of those polled called the CIA’s use of water boarding, sleep deprivation and other tough interview methods “torture,” but a majority still approved of it.
About 30 percent of Americans - most of them Democrats - told NBC they think the CIA went too far in the early days of the Bush administration. About 80 percent of Republicans approved the CIA’s tactics.
Dick Cheney got beat up this week by the liberal media, Senate Democrats and the holier-than-thou crowd for refusing to use the word “torture” to describe the CIA’s methods of extracting information from evil people who wanted to kill us or who knew where Osama Bin Laden’s home address was.
As for the future, 45 percent of those polled say the CIA should continue to use the same interrogation tactics while 28 percent said they should not.
Interrogating our enemies during war is a dirty business.
It’s not anything like that classy old 1950s quiz show “What’s My Line,” where a panel of well-dressed celebrities like Steve Allen had 10 questions to figure out the occupations of the mystery contestants.
“Mr. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, did you ever mastermind a plan to blow up the World Trade Center?”
“OK, panel. Eight down and two to go.”
I have a little story for anyone who thinks America’s rough interrogation tactics really deserve to be called “torture.”
During the mid-1980s, when I was on a vacation in Italy, my wife and I were being protected by the U.S. Secret Service and its Italian equivalent.
A few years earlier, the leftist Red Brigade had been terrorizing Italy, assassinating people, kidnapping business executives, setting off bombs, robbing banks and blowing off people’s kneecaps as they walked down the sidewalks.
In 1981, after the Red Brigade kidnapped U.S. General James Dozier, it took Italy’s counter-terrorism agency 42 days to rescue him -- without firing a shot.
I asked one of the unshaven, rugged, glass-eating Italian secret servicemen working in our motorcade detail how they finally found out where General Dozier was being held.
He told me that after his colleagues caught a few members of the Red Brigade they were taken to the basement and interrogated.
The terrorists became very talkative after their genitals were placed in a vise.
The agents who used this persuasive technique - which also led to the capture of hundreds of Red Brigade members and put the deadly terrorist group out of business - were disciplined by their superiors.
They were suspended for five days and went to the beach.
As the Italians proved, sometimes in war you have to use “enhanced” interrogation methods to get the successful ending you want.
In 2001 we found ourselves in a bloody war against terrorists. The White House knew it. The CIA knew it. Even the media and Democrats in Congress knew it. The American people figured it out too.
What the CIA did to extract information from the Islamist terrorists was not nice, but it was not really torture.
We shouldn’t be second-guessing and beating up on the CIA, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other men and women who’ve helped to keep us safe for the last 14 years.
We should be thanking them.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder of the email service reagan.com and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter