2009-09-10 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Do Morals Even Enter The CIA Interrogation Question?
By Charles Rogers

It's another dilemma. To me, anyway.

What would you rather have — the CIA being nice guys (and gals) and full of moral fortitude and treating those who would destroy our way of life with tenderness and gloves made of kid and mink because that's the "American way?"

Or would you prefer the old fashioned "hit 'em where they hurt" approach, with waterboarding and, yes, torture and fear and psychological arm-twisting so you can find out where the terrorists are and, perhaps, which skyscrapers they intend to attack next?

Yes, it does become a dilemma if you've been brought up in that same "American way" where you've been taught what's right and that right is might and all that stuff that made us come out on top time after time. The problem, though — according to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is trying to block an investigation by our current Attorney General Eric Holder into how the CIA used methods of torture against captured alleged terrorists after the attack on the twin towers — is how impractical that can be as realities are faced head-on.

Supposedly, according to Cheney, those realities entailed everything leading up to the original plot on September 11, 2001, the anniversary of which we are commemorating tomorrow, and for a few years thereafter. By using the harsh interrogation methods, such as waterboarding and threats against the lives of those being questioned, plus all those horrible tactics we've all read about but couldn't bring ourselves to believe our own CIA would commit, Cheney said we indeed saved lives.

During interviews as recently as two weeks ago, the former V.P. cited the investigation as "outrageous," and said, "it will do great harm, long term, to our capacity to have the CIA take on the difficult job of interrogating terrorists and others who would kill all of us." He said President Obama should, by this time, be looking at the tactics of his and Bush's administration for pointers.

For those of us who deeply and sincerely wish that the CIA could use "softer," perhaps more skillful methods of interrogating those we capture during wars or other conflicts, there has to be a time to be pragmatic. In my heart, I know that Cheney is morally wrong — maybe even morally inept, just like his former boss. He and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were (are?) war mongers whose thoughts were to win at all costs, no matter how many of our young soldiers would be hurt or killed — just because that's the job of the U.S. military, including the CIA.

Cheney, as we know, is a cover name for Dr. Strangelove.

But back to that dilemma: I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of being the bad guy. It's not my personal "thing" to support waterboarding or pulling out someone's fingernails or depriving them of sleep or harming their children or…. you know what I mean. As much as all of those immorals go against my morals, I can pray that we don't — and won't — have to use those tactics.

On the other hand…we have a dilemma.

According to some sources, it's almost a given that the Inquisition-like methods supposedly used at the time not only followed official military guidelines but, they say, nothing defined as "torture" was used. That's what Holder and his inquisitors are looking into. Maybe they'll find that nothing "bad" really happened.

All together now: YEAH, RIGHT!

But no matter. Even if they find discrepancies in the actions of some CIA agents during interrogation procedures and prosecute the alleged offenders, it won't put a stop to it. Oh, yes, "on the books," maybe, there will be rules, even laws, saying certain methods shouldn't be used and the CIA operatives will be prosecuted if they do. Meanwhile, don't try to tell me certain scornful actions won't still take place and won't continue. During war is no time to be naive. Nothing can be precluded. Nothing.

However, even some literary fiction enters the case when you think about Sir Ian Fleming's famous spy character James Bond who has "a license to kill." Bond's pact is just between him and his "good guy" immediate supervisor and means he can do anything to the enemy that he damn well pleases — as long as he gets the information from the bad guy.

Of course, we easily laugh that off. But stop a moment and give it a second thought. Cheney, playing the supervisor, puts the fear element into the mix: He logically points up how many were killed in the Twin Towers attack and, perhaps, how many lives might have been saved by "those" methods we sanctimoniously scorn.

Or do we? Thus — another dilemma!

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