Monday, April 30, 2012

Ethical Dilemma Of The Unethical

Here's a brief exchange between George Stephanopolous and White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan on ABC's This Week program yesterday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Most of the attacks against Al Qaida over the last couple of years have been by unmanned drones. And they have decimated the top leadership. Are you concerned, though, that this is a technology that is now going to be exploited by our enemies? And do you stand by the statement you have made in the past that, as effective as they have been, they have not killed a single civilian? That seems hard to believe.

BRENNAN: Well, what I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed. Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties, including among the civilian population. We've done everything possible in Afghanistan and other areas to reduce any risk to that civilian population. Unfortunately, Al Qaida burrows within these areas, you know, safe havens as well as areas where there are civilians, but we've been very, very judicious in working with our partners to try to be surgical in terms of addressing those terrorist threats. And the president has told us, we want to make sure that we protect the American people. And unfortunately, sometimes you have to take life to save lives, and that's what we've been able to do to prevent these individual terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks. (bolding mine)

In other words, despite our precautions, it can't be helped that we kill innocent people to make sure we protect the American people. It's unfortunate that innocent people die when we kill people we believe are a threat. Drones are a murderous convenience for us.

Now read this exchange between Leslie Stahl and retired CIA agent Jose Rodriguez interviewed on 60 minutes. Rodriguez oversaw the use of torture enhanced interrogation techniques in extracting information from suspects. He's written a book about it.

Jose Rodriguez retired from the CIA in January 2008. He has spent the last year writing his book, published by the CBS company Simon and Schuster. In the book he says that by canceling the interrogation program, President Obama has tied the government's hands in the war on terror.

Jose Rodriguez: We don't capture anybody any more.

Lesley. You know their default option of this Administration has been to kill all prisoners. Take no prisoners.

Lesley Stahl: The drones.

Jose Rodriguez: The drones. How could it be more ethical to kill people rather than capture them. I never understood that one.

Imagine that. A CIA agent who admits to being extremely creative in torturing people (read the entire transcript) questions the ethics of killing people outright instead of capturing and torturing them instead. Not adopting a cynical attitude about America being the land of the free is a struggle when "Land of the Free" includes violating international law as well as simple moral code with impunity. We used to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Now we are so fearful and hold ourselves to be so precious that we are willing to justify inhumanity. We are under the delusion that we're saving ourselves.

In the actions of men, and especially of Princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means. - Niccol├│ Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.


Anonymous said...

Why don't Holder and Obama prosecute Rodriguez?

Why do they block access to the courts, even for Arar?

What are "the ends"? Isn't Obama instead pursuing a war without end or boundaries, by design?

Anonymous said...

Despite the media frenzy over the non-existant issue of who would have pulled the trigger harder to kill Osama, is there any significant, meaningful difference between the two parties on issues of endless war, punishment for torture, domestic surveillance, Gitmo, due process of law for American citizens, international law, etc?

Why vote?

injaynesworld said...

Just dropped by from One Minute Writer to say I got a kick out of your piece on "Vine." Then read this piece. I remember a time in this country when we never doubted that we were "the good guys." Never has that been more naive than now. Good piece.

Hank Greer said...

Jayne, thank you for the kind words. Glad you liked the "vine" piece.


Anonymous said...

Has there ever been a democracy that was able to resist the internal capture of the executive by Fascist ideology through subsequent elections, and without resort to civil or a boomeranged foreign war, coups, or all of the above?

I think you folks underestimate just how troubling Obama's decision to thwart a return to Constitutional democracy based on inalienable human rights may prove for our children's future, right here at home.

Republicans started our slide into "the dark side," but Democrats betrayed their mandate in 2008 to stop it. Now, they embrace and defend the same ideology.

The worst is yet to come, if the history of other nations is any guide. We blew our chance to be the exception.

Meanwhile, enjoy Obama's "due process" drone show, in Spokane, and abroad. The Party, call it Republican or Democrat, is bringing the war home, ready or not.