By Michael Goodwin
Years ago, when my young son and I visited a dude ranch in Montana, a local rancher told us he butch ered his cows for meat. My son, Scott, who was only 7, was horrified. "You kill your own cows and eat them?" he asked with urban disgust.
The rancher answered with country logic, saying something like, "Well, how is that different from you eating cows that other people butcher?"
The exchange came back to me after yet another attack on the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation on Al Qaeda terrorists. It's a tiresome refrain under any circumstance, but especially now that the intelligence infrastructure built after 9/11 has paid such obvious dividends.
Indeed, critics can smugly mount their high horse of disgust only because somebody else was willing to do their dirty work for them. At least my son was a child when he showed a lack of knowledge about his hamburgers. So-called sophisticated adults have no excuse not to understand who and what is protecting them nearly 10 years after 9/11.
Numerous reports, including one from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, that waterboarding started the daisy chain that led to the courier that led to Usama bin Laden's hideout, qualify as a distinctly inconvenient fact for hard-line liberals. They call waterboarding and other harsh techniques immoral and denounce supporters as apologists for torture.
And then they and their families ride the subway or an airplane or walk the street, believing they are safe. By and large, they are safe, thanks to the dedicated patriots whose heroic work does not allow for the snobbery that passes for moral superiority. The reality of war, warriors will tell you, leaves little margin for nuance.
Being forced to hear the hard facts about interrogation was only part of the misery Bin Laden's demise caused the Michael Moore set. The communication and surveillance technology that made possible the raid into Pakistan for the kill mission -- capture was not the goal -- vindicated the black arts of the CIA and Pentagon intelligence, two favorite targets of the professional left.
Then there's the helicopter that crashed, which the SEALs tried to destroy before they left. Pictures show a tail system unlike any other, a feature thought to represent advances in stealth know-how. It's the kind of machine made possible only by a "bloated" Pentagon budget that must now be slashed so expanding entitlements and binge spending can be protected.
Even the praise conservatives showered on President Obama must mortify his party's base. His Dirty Harry "Make My Day" attitude about the killing of Bin Laden earned him a poll vault primarily because Republicans and independents saw a side of him they liked. You might call the raid "American Exceptionalism" in action.
Murmurs from some on the right that Obama is milking the moment for political gain were drowned out by the cheers for him. His dignified silence at Ground Zero was the best speech never given.
Finally, there are the computers and documents the SEALs grabbed, a trove one official called a "mother lode of intelligence." The first piece to be analyzed showed talk of a plot to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a fresh terror attack on American trains. It's a case of dividends compounded, with justice delivered for the past and a possible future attack thwarted -- making life safer for all Americans, even those who scorn their defenders.
The world is a better place for Bin Laden's death and, as the president said, May 1, 2011, was "a great day for America." It's a pity that some Americans won't honestly acknowledge how that greatness was achieved.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist.